Microsoft has joined the other major players in the web browsing sector when it confirmed that it will adopt DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) as browser default.

DoH will automatically encrypt website requests for browser users, in an effort to hide the surfing habits and bolster the privacy of its users. This should for example limit the ability of malicious actors ability to hijack, read and redirect people’s browser traffic.

But the protocols use will not please the ISPs, security services and the government, as it makes it harder for them to detect the web surfing habits of customers or suspects.

Privacy protocol

Essentially, DoH makes a browser send a Domain Name System (DNS) request over the encrypted version of the HTTP protocol.

DNS is the tech that makes Silicon UK for example readable for computers, by turning it into an IP address. Computers normally send DNS requests in the clear, which leaves them vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks so the attackers can see what websites are being visited or change the DNS request to redirect the user to a malicious website.

The move towards DoH began with Mozilla, when it announced in September that it will make DoH a default setting for all desktop users in the United States – but not for British users.

Just days after Mozilla announced the feature, Google said it start testing DoH in its Chrome web browser, starting in October.

And now Microsoft in a networking blog post at the weekend, announced that it too would adopt DoH.

“Here in Windows Core Networking, we’re interested in keeping your traffic as private as possible, as well as fast and reliable,” blogged Redmond. “While there are many ways we can and do approach user privacy on the wire, today we’d like to talk about encrypted DNS. Why? Basically, because supporting encrypted DNS queries in Windows will close one of the last remaining plain-text domain name transmissions in common web traffic.”

The software giant said that it viewed privacy as a human right, so it has “to have end-to-end cybersecurity built into technology.”

Healthier ecosystem?

“We also believe Windows adoption of encrypted DNS will help make the overall Internet ecosystem healthier,” Microsoft wrote. “With the decision made to build support for encrypted DNS, the next step is to figure out what kind of DNS encryption Windows will support and how it will be configured.”

The news will not please governments, intelligence services and even ISPs, as DoH essentially bypasses web filters, which use the same technique, hijacking DNS lookups, to prevent easy access to websites blocked by internet service providers.

But privacy is becoming an expectation for many people now. Firefox 69 for example began automatically blocking third-party tracking cookies and cryptomining, as well as delivering performance improvements for Windows 10 users.

Can you protect your privacy online? Take our quiz!

Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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