Google takes aim at browser redirection

Google has announced a service that it says will speed up web surfing and prevent browser redirection by malicious programs or internet providers.

Google has announced a service that it says will speed up web surfing and prevent browser redirection by malicious programs or internet providers.

The service takes aim at how the web addresses users type in, such as www.cbc.ca, are translated into the internet protocol numbers that computers use to communicate with each other. This Domain Name Server (DNS) resolution service is like the "switchboard of the internet," said Google product manager Prem Ramaswami in a blog post Thursday.

Typically, when a user types a web address into their browser, their internet service provider automatically translates it and connects them to their desired website. That connection, however, can sometimes be hijacked by malicious code on the user's computer, whereupon they can be redirected to a harmful website. Some ISPs also redirect users who have mistyped an address to a website they themselves operate.

Google says that by changing network settings to connect directly to Google Public DNS, users can experience faster and safer web surfing.

"The DNS protocol is an important part of the web's infrastructure, serving as the internet's phone book — every time you visit a website, your computer performs a DNS lookup. Complex pages often require multiple DNS lookups before they start loading, so your computer may be performing hundreds of lookups a day," the company said.

"By using Google Public DNS you can speed up your browsing experience, improve your security, get the results you expect with absolutely no redirection."

Google Public DNS is not necessarily intended for basic-level web users, as it requires changing network settings in the browser. Advanced users can change their DNS settings to connect through IP addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4.

Using the service will give Google data on what websites are being surfed, which is sure to raise privacy concerns. The company said it plans to share the data it collects.

"We plan to share what we learn with the broader web community and other DNS providers, to improve the browsing experience for internet users globally," Ramaswami said.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the group that governs web addresses, recently condemned the ISP practice of redirecting users who have mistyped as "destabilizing" to the internet. Users should only get error messages if they make a mistake, ICANN said.