Most people want to connect to their favorite websites. They don’t care about the process that gets them there. But once in a while, all internet users need to brush up on the latest technology trends. In this case, it’s the emerging web protocol, DNS-over-HTTPS.
Before your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. In a few minutes, you will know what DNS-over-HTTPS is and why you may need it. Also, you will get a few other tips that will increase your privacy and security online.
A Quick TL;DR
DNS-over-HTTPs (DoH) enhances privacy and security for all internet users. But it isn’t a bullet-proof method. Thus, you should use it in combination with other tools like VPNs and security browser extensions. Best of all, DoH doesn’t cost you anything and takes seconds to setup. Few things can beat that.
To enable DoH, copy and paste this into your browser address browser:
- Chrome: chrome://flags/#dns-over-https.
- Firefox: automatically enabled for all desktop users
- Safari: TBD but likely coming soon
What is DNS-over-HTTPS?
If you haven’t paid much attention to cybersecurity news, you’ve missed one of the most exciting internet battles in recent history. On one side, you have browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.
On the other side, you have internet service providers (ISPs) and governments. It’s gotten so heated that Mozilla has even accused ISPs of lying to Congress. Meanwhile, ISPs called Mozilla the “Internet Villain of the Year.”
During the last few years, the web has moved towards more high-grade encryption by default. You may have noticed the small “lock” icon in the URL bar of Chrome and other browsers. It means a site uses an HTTPS, a more secure connection type.
With HTTPS, nobody can tamper with web pages while you view them nor track your activity. For example, if you connect to CNN.com, the network operator, like your ISP, can only see that you’re connected to CNN. They don’t know what you’re reading or change any articles in transit.
HTTPs-over-DNS takes things a step further. DNS is the Domain Name System. It converts names like CNN into IP addresses you connect to. When you search for CNN’s website, your device sends a request that shows you’re looking for that IP address. ISPs, network admins, and other snoops all log this information for a variety of purposes.
DNS-over-HTTPs removes this ability for ISPs to monitor your internet activity. Now, your device can make secure, encrypted connections, and nobody in between will be able to see what you’re looking up.
Why DNS-Over-HTTPS is Useful
DNS-Over-HTTPS unlocks next-level privacy while you’re online. It is more than what sites you visit. It extends to conducting more secure financial transactions, submitting critical personal documents, and more. It prevents snooping, man-in-the-middle, and other potential attacks.
DoH not only makes browsing the internet safer, but it also increases performance. The explanation behind it gets technical. In a nutshell, DoH does a better job processing DNS requests than ISPs do.
Are There Any Downsides to DNS-Over-HTTPS?
For the average consumer, no. One of the arguments from ISPs and government agencies is that DoH makes it more difficult for ISPs to ban or restrict illicit content and track criminal activity. It is true. DoH makes it much harder for ISPs to block websites.
With DoH, it’s up to parents and guardians to set parental filters on devices. The flip side, though, is that technology also makes censorship much more difficult. It will help people have access to a more open internet.
When it comes to tracking criminal activity, it is only partially true. DoH is a modest enhancement for security and privacy. That’s why people still need to take extra security measures.
ISPs, governments, and hackers have a wide variety of tools at their disposal. If a talented hacker or programmer wants to see what you’re doing online, they still can even with DoH. It is a little bit harder but not impossible.
The average user still needs to take more comprehensive cybersecurity measures to defend against cybercriminals. DoH can be much more effective when combined with VPN technology. VPNs shield internet connections, ensuring all traffic that goes from a device through a VPN server to the target websites is private.
The Bottom Line
DNS-Over-HTTP is a fantastic step in the right direction for online consumer privacy and security. It’s free to use, easy to set up, and already available in most major browsers. But remember that DoH alone won’t be enough to cover your total cybersecurity needs.
DNS-Over-HTTPS works best in combination with extra tools. Don’t ignore VPNs, browser extensions, and other digital security apps. There are many threats to your privacy in the online world. Start using everything at your disposal to protect yourself from them.