DNS Monitoring and Redirection

We humans communicate on the web with domain names like ShofarPortfolio.com, but our computers communicate with Internet Protocol or IP addresses.  An IP address is a 32 bit number for IPv4 or 128 bit number for IPv6.  The process of finding the associated IP address for a given domain is resolved by the Doman Name System or DNS.  This process is handled automatically so that a user is typically unaware of the work being done for him.

DNS is a distributed system in that individual servers have only the information they need and not all information for the entire web.  This allows for a distributed management of particular domain names.

This example is typical but actual requests can involve many addition steps.

Step 1 The client sends a domain name to one or more DNS servers at known IP address.  This is typically a server provided by the ISP.
Step 2 The DNS server requests the IP addresses of the domain from one or more of the thirteen root servers that are at fixed IP address and physically distributed around the world.
Step 3 The root server responds with the IP addresses of the Top Level Domain (TLD) servers.  With the example of “ShofarPortfolio.com”, the TLD is “com”.
Step 4 The DNS server requests the IP address from the TLD servers.
Step 5 The TLD server responds with the IP addresses of authoritative DNS servers for the domain.
Step 6 The DNS server request the IP address from the authoritative DSN servers.
Step 7 The authoritative DNS responds with the IP address of the given domain.
Step 8 The DNS server returns the requested IP address to the client.

The client can now communicate with the computer at the given domain name by using the IP address.

Since this process is typically done on physically separate computers provided by your ISP it is a family simple process to log what the DNS is doing for whom and when.

In some areas ISPs are required by law to keep this log to provided evidence for the detection or prosecution of those involved with piracy (music, movies, etc.), or other regionally illegal activity such as child pornography, terrorism, or anti-government activities.

Advertisers can use this information to know you better and deliver more relevant and therefore more profitable ads.

Misdirection is possible where the wrong IP address is returned for a given domain.  This can be done to remove general access to servers or provide alternative content.  For example a government may disallow access to an illegal site, or a hacker may redirect traffic to a bogus site.

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