The folks over at Apple and Cloudflare are looking to further help protect your privacy. The duo is releasing a new internet protocol, dubbed Oblivious DNS-over-HTTPS, or ODoH for short. The goal is to make it harder for your internet service provider (ISP) to track which websites you’re visiting.
In simple terms: when you go on your phone or computer and go to a site, your web browser uses a DNS (domain name system) resolver to convert the website into an IP address, which is then used to figure out where the site is on the internet. Think of it like traditional snail mail. You can’t just send a letter or package with just a name. You know who it’s going to, but the post office won’t. You have to put in a mailing address. A site’s URL is an easy way for you to know where to go, while the IP address is what gets you there.
Currently, this process isn’t encrypted, meaning your DNS resolver—which typically defaults to going to your ISP unless you’ve manually changed it—can log what sites you visit if they choose to. And they typically do, as most ISPs already sell your browsing history to third-party advertisers.
ODoH tries to prevent this from happening by decoupling any DNS hits from the user itself. It does so by introducing a proxy that sits between you and the DNS server. Think of it like using a virtual private network) VPN. But instead of faking your location and IP address, which could theoretically be linked back to you if someone tried to figure it out, ODoH makes it so that your DNS doesn’t know who made the request. It only knows which sites have been requested.
So, if a sizable amount of people start using ODoH, all the DNS server will see is one massive blob requesting sites versus a bunch of individual ones. Cloudflare has already added support for ODoH requests via its 18.104.22.168 DNS service. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until your browser, operating system (OS), or both to support it.
Currently, only Mozilla’s Firefox has implemented the feature. Hopefully more come on board, especially since a ton of people are working from home. Internet privacy is more important than ever before.