Firefox is beginning to roll out a new privacy feature that could help hide the websites you visit from your internet service provider (ISP).
According to 9to5Mac, DNS over HTTPS (DoH) will begin rolling out to U.S.-based Firefox users in phases over the next several weeks. However, the new feature is available to users outside the U.S. as well. Anyone can enable it manually if they want instead of waiting for Firefox to make it the default browsing behaviour.
If you haven’t heard of DoH, it’s a relatively simple technology. In short, DNS, or domain name server, is responsible for translating web addresses into something computers can understand. For example, when you type ‘mobilesyrup.com’ into your address bar, the browser uses DNS to look up the IP address of the server the website is on. Once it finds that address, it connects to the server and loads the website.
The issue with DNS is that, by default, it performs that look-up procedure through plain text. In other words, your ISP can view and, if it chooses, log the names of all the websites you visit. Worse, it can track and collect that data and sell it for profit.
DoH is a potential remedy to that tracking. Instead of running DNS look-ups in plain text, browsers use DoH to encrypt look-ups through HTTPS. While not 100 percent secure, it is much better than typical DNS and can stop your ISP from snooping on your web activity. Unfortunately, your internet traffic will still be visible to the DNS service that you use.
How to enable DoH in Firefox
By default, Firefox DoH runs on Cloudflare, but users can customize this if they want. This can be done from the Settings menu. Additionally, those who want to enable DoH manually can find the option in the same place. Just follow the steps below:
- Three-line menu button > Options > Scroll to bottom > Click ‘Settings’ under the Network Settings header > Check ‘Enable DNS over HTTPS’ at the bottom > Select a DNS provider from the drop-down menu.
For now, Firefox will only enable DoH by default in the U.S. but will continue to explore DoH in other regions. However, Canadians can now enable it in Firefox using the above steps.
Further, Firefox isn’t the only browser working to make DoH the default behaviour. Last year, Google found itself in hot water with the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, which began looking into the company’s plan to bring DoH to Chrome by default. U.S. ISPs raised anti-trust concerns over the move, as Google operates its own DNS provider and companies feared the search giant would use DoH to force users onto its own DNS system instead of using the one provided by their ISP.
However, Google addressed concerns, saying it had no plans to switch users’ DNS service and that the implementation of DoH in Chrome would simply allow users with DNS services that support DoH to take advantage of the feature.
Firefox, however, does require a change in DNS provider and only offers users two options at the moment — Cloudflare and NextDNS. The browser also includes a ‘custom’ option for setting up your own DoH connection if you so desire.
You can learn more about Firefox’s DoH plans, as well as how the feature works, on the Mozilla blog.