The Broadband Guide
search advanced

ISPs hijack failed searches

2007-11-17 by

As you know, you can search directly from the address bar in modern Web browsers. This functionality is built into the browser and is configurable via menus, preferences (options) or toolbar buttons. Some browsers let you select your search engine of choice to use for adress bar searching.

Many ISPs are now attempting to rake in a few extra dollars by using DNS redirects to "hijack" your address bar searches and feed the browser a dynamically created results page filled with sponsored advertisements that "match" what you are searching for.

What is DNS?

DNS = Domain Name Server. Think of this as the white-yellow pages for the Internet. All ISPs have their own DNS. When you type a Web site name ( into the browser address bar, the browser sends this info out to the Internet. This name is converted to an ip address that matches the name. The list of "who is who" is stored in the ISP's DNS.

If you have a home network with a router, or if you connect directly to the modem, the DNS servers your network (and Web browser) will use are setup automatically by the router or by Windows operating system.

Typing a name or word(s) without the .COM, .NET, ,ORG at the end will automatically invoke the browser's built in search function which is supposed to then display a page of results using your preferred search engine.

ISPs know how this works, and some are now configuring their DNS to handle names and word(s) without the .COM, .NET, .ORG, etc. in a special manner. They are calling these types of queries "FAILED DNS QUERIES".

That is entirely marketing hype. A failed query is a legit term used in comp networking, but these ISPs are applying the term for marketing purposes.

COX Internet is "testing" the use of DNS redirects and this breaks the browser's ability to search from the address bar. Thery are currently testing in the following zones:

Arizona, Gulf Coast, Hampton Roads, Kansas, Las Vegas, Macon, New Orleans, Northern Virginia, Orange County, Oklahoma City, Omaha, Palos Verdes, Roanoke, Sun Valley, and Tulsa area

Fortunately, they are giving subscribers the opportunity to OPT-OUT and they provide instructions for changing the DNS used by your network and computers:

If you have a network with a router and ALL computers on the network have static ip addresses, then all you need to do is change the DNS in the router. If your computers use DHCP then you need to manually set the DNS for each computer on the network.

You DO NOT even have to use your ISP's DNS. You can use DNS from other ISPs or other DNS providers. Your ISPs DNS is usually the most reliable though.

  User Reviews/Comments:
by Keilaron - 2007-12-01 10:58
About the DNS entries:
Isn't it the other way around? When a computer receives it's IP data from DHCP, it also receives the DNS configuration from the DHCP server (usually a router, but not always); Thus, it would be the computers with /static/ IPs that would need to be given the new DNS addresses. On the other hand, if all those systems use the router for DNS lookups anyway, then it doesn't matter: They're all going to use the correct information anyway, whether directly or indirectly.
by KD4SSS - 2008-10-27 09:16
You didn't finish.How to stop it woukd be very helpful
by anonymous - 2008-11-09 10:40
Why do users need to change their settings, they should complain to their ISP's instead. Is this practice legal?
by Cruentos Solum - 2009-06-08 17:06
Concerning DHCP, it doesn't necessarily provide DNS servers automatically. You can use the DHCP server to provide DNS servers as well as appointing IP addresses to computers on the network, but not necessarily.
If DHCP is activated then usually the computers use the DHCP server AS a DNS server anyways, which itself redirects all DNS queries / requests to the real DNS server. This is why you use your router's IP address ( for example ) as a DNS server and it still works. It's not actually a DNS server, it's just redirecting DNS traffic to the Real DNS servers. It's not 100 percent reliable which is why you have the option of setting the DNS servers manually on your computer, even if you use DHCP for obtaining the IP.
So actually, if you set the DNS address on the router you wouldn't 'theoretically' need to set up the DNS address on the computers, whether you are using static or dynamic IPs for your network, since the router will redirect DNS requests towards the DNS servers assigned. I think the author means if you are using static IPs ( i.e. you are not using DHCP ) then you have to assign the DNS addresses to each computer manually instead of using the automatic setting, and if using DHCP then you only need to set up the DNS server IPs on the router, which will then act as a DNS server to the computers through DHCP.

@KD4SSS: to disable the hijack you can simply use a different DNS server, that of another ISP which doesn't hijack your connection or from a free DNS service provider: is an example, and you can get more from To set up your DNS settings manually, go to start => connections => right click on your connection and then select properties. In the window that opens, click on the 'Network Properties' tab, select the line 'Internet Protocol TCP/IP' and then click on properties ( make sure you leave it checked ). In the new window, click on the 'Use the following DNS servers', and enter the IPs of the DNS server of your choice ( e.g. and ). Click on OK to confirm, then OK for all the windows that you opened to confirm the changes.
@anonymous: is it legal to force feed us with ads whenever the occasion arises? Don't we have a choice? Can't we pick our own search engine? Can't we refuse to let them make money off of our legitimate use of something that we're paying THEM for?
News Glossary of Terms FAQs Polls Cool Links SpeedGuide Teams SG Premium Services SG Gear Store
Registry Tweaks Broadband Tools Downloads/Patches Broadband Hardware SG Ports Database Security Default Passwords User Stories
Broadband Routers Wireless Firewalls / VPNs Software Hardware User Reviews
Broadband Security Editorials General User Articles Quick Reference
Broadband Forums General Discussions
Advertising Awards Link to us Server Statistics Helping SG About