Thursday, December 27, 2012


It was a beautiful morning in mid-December when I mistyped a URL in my browser. I should then have seen something like this:

Instead I found myself looking at the sort of page I hadn’t seen in years, my Internet Service Provider’s own page of results, with nothing but links for various advertisers:

My typo was now serving my ISP’s profit motive. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports, the ISP practice of hijacking has been common with both searches and mistyped URLs. Not even the use of non-ISP Domain Name Service servers, such as Google’s and, will always stop hijacking

When I went to my ISP’s preferences page to opt out, I was told that my preferences were locked. When I deleted my ISP from Chrome’s list of search engines, it reappeared, again and again. And when I called my ISP to inquire as to what was going on, I found myself talking to a well-meaning fellow who knew much less about these things than I do — which, granted, is not that much. But I have figured out two simple ways to defeat this ISP practice:

1. In Chrome or Safari (I use both), clear the cache, disable all extensions, and attempt to opt out. For whatever reason, I was unable to opt out with my handful of extensions enabled. (I’m not patient enough to go back and try to find the offending extension by disabling one extension at a time.)

2. In Chrome or Firefox, use the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere. The downside: depending on the speed of your connection, this extension might make browing noticeably slower.

After looking closely at my ISP’s website, I realize that I cannot expect very much in the way of technical experise. Here, from my ISP’s directions for setting up a homepage, is the complete list of supported browsers:

I think that covers it.

¹ And anyway, another DNS might much be slower than your ISP’s DNS. Why? As they say in real estate: location, location, location. Google’s free app namebench gives a fast and easy way to find the fastest DNS for your location.

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