Sunday, August 19, 2012

Is your ISP selling your search?

Originally posted 08/09/2011 on lubbockonline.com

Karl Bode at dslreports.com reports that ISP's in the U.S. are hijacking our searches and redirecting them to a company called Paxfire. Paxfire is more than just a redirect service for ISP's, it's a revenue generator:

"Under specific conditions, the Paxfire proxies do not merely relay traffic to and from the search engines. When the user initiates searches for specific keywords from the browser's URL bar or search bar, the proxy no longer relays the query to the intended search engine, but instead redirects the browser's request through affiliate networks, as the equivalent of a click on advertisements. Using the names of popular websites, we have so far identified 170 brand-related keywords that trigger redirections via affiliate programs and result either on the brands' sites or on search assistance pages unrelated to the intended search engine results page."

There is also an article on the EFF website. In that article is a link to Netalyzr, which can be used to find out if you might be a victim of search hijacking. Don't use Netalzyr at work, it scans your network and could get you in trouble.

I ran Netalyzr at home, and found out that my ISP is probably redirecting my searches to make money off of them. Without asking or notifying me they are profiting from my work and effort. Or if it's not redirecting my searches, it's at least is doing some strange things with them.

To stop that I switched my DNS server from my ISP to Google's DNS. There is also OpenDNS and other options. As a bonus, with Google DNS I've lost a lot of latency (my connections are faster). Later this week we'll look at alternative DNS solutions and how to change DNS providers.