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Safer Mobile Internet Access

Article for: Everyone
Difficulty: Easy
Importance: Very important. Improves security

What is DNS?

I've written about DNS (Domain Name Server) many times before, but essentially, it is a giant Internet address lookup table. Like asking your phone where the closest Papa Murphy's Pizza place is. Then it returns an address. When you enter steveshank.com in a browser, it goes to a DNS server and that returns my numeric address. There are several things we'd like to have in our DNS servers:
  1. Fast. Give me the results quickly.
  2. Return an accurate address.
  3. Not record every place I go for later resell.
  4. Check that I'm not accidentally being sent to a malicious site.
  5. Verify that we have a secure and authenticated connection, like the bank does. Check that the addresses received by me are sent from them and no one can get between us. No one can change or view the addresses returned.

What is the problem?

If we are using the default servers with our ISP, like Comcast, we will probably get 1. and 2. from the above list. They might record our requests for resell. They do not check for malicious sites or create an encrypted and authenticated connection. In fact, they are lobbying congress to prevent our ability to have secure DNS lookups.

If we are using a mobile device including a laptop, then we cannot even be sure that we get 1. and 2. We are at the mercy of whoever we are connecting to.

My recommendation

I recommend Quad9 as it provides all 5 of the useful functions. For computers, I recommend this article. It links to instructions for setting up Quad9 on both Windows and Mac systems. For iOS mobile devices, there is a link at the bottom of this article. What I'll explain in this article is how to get secure DNS service easily with Android devices.

Android 9 and above

Android 9 and above address this problem by building in the ability to set your DNS server. They even provide a built-in list to select from! From these two below, you should be able to figure out how to do it on your phones and tablets.

For 10, from what I've read:

  • Settings
  • Tap on Network and Internet
  • Tap on Advanced
  • Tap on Private DNS
  • Choose DNS.quad9.net

For 9 and 10 on my Samsung device:
  • Settings
  • Connections
  • More connection settings
  • Private DNS
  • Choose Private DNS
  • Enter: dns.quad9.net
  • Save and close

For Android 4- 8:

Jigsaw Operations LLC has created a wonderful open source app called Intra. It does the same thing as the built in Android app. Download the app, turn it on then go to settings. You can choose from many DNS servers, my favorite being Quad9. I recommend selecting: dns.quad9.net.

That's it. Now all your DNS requests from any browser will establish a secure connection to one of Quad9's server clusters near you. You will then receive all the benefits of secure, private, fast and authenticated DNS.


Date: October 2020

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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