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Cloudflare launches 1.1.1.1 DNS service; touts faster speeds, better privacy

Internet infrastructure and security provider Cloudflare has launched a new DNS (domain name system) service called 1.1.1.1, which claims to be quicker and more private. The company says that it will never sell users’ data or use it for targeted ads, and will delete logs in 24 hours.

DNS service is an essential part of the internet, converting URLs like “Medianama.com” to numbered addresses, which can be read and understood by machines. OpenDNS and GoogleDNS are two other major such services. DNS inherently is unencrypted so it leaks data to anyone who’s monitoring the network connection.

Internet service providers can often track and record what websites a user visits using its network. Cloudflare says that it will restrict that information. The company’s director of engineering Olafur Gudmundsson, explains how that is done. The DNS service does not store users’ IP address, only using query names for things that improve DNS resolver performance. Cloudflare says it doesn’t store any information that identifies an end user. It has hired auditing firm KPMG to audit its code and practices annually and publish a public report on its privacy practice.

Cloudflare claims that 1.1.1.1 is 28% faster than its competitors. Comparison website DNSPerf ranks 1.1.1.1 as the fastest DNS resolver when querying non-Cloudflare customers (averaging around 14ms globally). The company intends to make quicker, for which it says it is building data centres all over the globe to reduce the distance (i.e. latency) from users to content. “Eventually we want everyone to be within 10 milliseconds of at least one of our locations,” it says. On a map on its website, there are four such centres to be located in India.

The address is being used by Cloudflare through a deal with the regional internet registry of the Asia-Pacific region, APNIC. The registry held the IP address 1.1.1.1 (which was easy to remember) and allowed Cloudflare to use it in exchange for studying garbage traffic with the company’s network.

“With all the concern over the data that companies like Facebook and Google are collecting on you, it worries us to now add ISPs like Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T to the list. And, make no mistake, this isn’t a US-only problem — ISPs around the world see the same privacy-invading opportunity,” Cloudflare’s CEO and co-founder says in a blog post.

Users can change their DNS service by opening system preferences, finding the DNS servers option and adding the DNS of their choice.

Siladitya adds: A few things must be noted here. First even though using this DNS may prevent your ISP from maintaining logs of the sites you visit (unless they are determined, DNS isn’t flawless after all) your browsing history will still be accessible to Cloudflare. Though the company promises to delete these logs every 24 hours, you are still trusting a third party entity with this information.

Second, while a DNS like this is a free and easy way to improve privacy and speeds it isn’t magic. A VPN service from a reputed provider is still a much better shield against prying eyes.

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