Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rogers Internet Service Hijacks DNS Errors - How to fix the problem

I've been having problems with Rogers Internet services for months, so decided to post the process I have gone through to try and fix this issue. It appeared first with re-directing DNS errors - that is, you type an address into the address bar of your browser incorrectly and you usually end up with a page (from your browser) that says Error 404 - address not found.

[click the image for a good link to a Mozilla - Firefox support knowledge base article titled, " Can't load webpages".]

Or here is what the Internet Explorer page would look like -


What Rogers started to do was to redirect those mistypes to their own page, that looks like a search result, and says something to the effect that that address was not found - did you mean ... and then display a list of sites (a la Google) and ads -for which they earn revenue - especially with click throughs. This is hi-jacking the functions of most browsers (Firefox, IE etc) most of which allow you to simply correct a typing error without leaving the page result. Some have their own search functions or similar redirect add-ons like Google tool bar (with superior search results). Here's what the Roger's redirect page looks like...


Rogers High Speed internet services calls redirecting these normal types of errors "Supported Search Results" - supposedly an added feature of their ISP offerings.
From the Roger's support site -

Supported Search Results is an upgrade designed to improve your online experience. Normally, when you incorrectly enter a keyword search or web page address into the address bar, you see a generic error page which provides no further options or choices. With Supported Search Results, you are presented with helpful search results based on the search criteria entered. Supported Search Results does not require installation. It is a free service designed to enhance your web experience by providing choices when exact matches of your search entries do not exist. Supported Search Results will present a search results page whenever the entry in the address bar is part of a keyword search or a domain name that is: improperly formatted, currently unavailable, non-existent. Instead of seeing a “Page cannot be displayed” error, you will be presented with a page containing links and search results based on your entry in the address bar. There will be no change to your current browsing experience aside from the appearance of the new error page.

"Upgrade, Free service, no change to your browsing experience" - crap! It is still a hijack designed to generate ad and click through revenue for Rogers from simple typos. Of course, after much online negative chatter and complaints last year, Roger's posted and offered an "Opt-out" option. Here's where my connection issues began.

Roger's hijacks the browser function by using their DNS servers [Domain Name Service]. DNS is central to all your browsing - it converts web addresses you type in your browser and other programs into the actual IP address. Basically, you type in google.com for example, that is sent to a DNS server (Rogers for most customers uses automatic assignment of the DNS servers via DHCP) and google.com is converted to 209.85.171.100 (there are more...) and displays the Google website. It was all automatic, as are most ISP's and you didn't have to worry about it - until last July, when Rogers changed the way their DNS server treated the request.

So to opt out, Rogers posted instructions on how to change the DNS settings on your computer. Easy for some, a daunting task for many ordinary users, as it involves changing network settings on your PC or gateway router and using the Windows CMD window (remember DOS?) to ping your PC etc (note -Rogers only posted instructions for their supported router that they call a Home Networking Gateway but is just an SMC router - no instructions for any other brand like Linksys or D-Link etc) or using the Windows Control Panel to change the DNS addresses manually (see below). They end their step by step instructions with the encouraging warning "NOTE: Rogers will provide technical support when the option "Obtain DNS server address automatically" is selected. Other DNS server addresses will not be supported". So your $50 bucks a month gets you zero tech support for connection errors, unless you switch back. So anyway, somewhere in that process where they ask you to insert an alternate Rogers DNS server address eg. 64.71.255.198 - my configuration must have got messed up with different options on the gateway and the PC in the network. The result, increasing "address not found errors" and drastically reduced speeds. I'd have fixed it sooner, but the "no tech support" meant I didn't have the option of just calling my ISP and asking for help.

Thanks to Google and other dissatisfied customers I was able to find several solutions. All the best recommendations involved changing the DNS servers entirely to a non-Rogers IP address. The first I set up after some research was OpenDNS, at www.opendns.com - Their website is clean and simple and their instructions for making the changes are very easy to follow, even for a non-techie. They also have some other useful features, including filtering out undesirable websites - and even blocking the Conficker worm virus. If you're comfortable setting up DNS server addresses yourself, the addresses for the two OpenDNS DNS servers are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220


Use OpenDNS

(to be continued)

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