Charter Communications Hijacks Microsoft Live Search
I was browsing AntiOnline earlier today, a forum that I frequent and there was a post from another member regarding Charter Communications. It seems that his ISP (Charter Communications) has been redirecting search queries to Microsoft Live Search to their own search engine... which is conveniently powered by Yahoo. The AO member who ran into this problem is Tony Bradley from About.com and he's posted a full article on this phenomenon on his About.com Page.
Tony questions the legality of Charter's actions... and while I definitely don't agree with them... I don't think they're necessarily illegal... Tony considers it browser hijacking, which is his basis for the legality/ethics issues... However when the term "browser hijacking" comes to mind, I think BHO's and changes to software on the system... and as he says in his article, nothing of Charter's has been installed on his PC... This makes me think that they are changing the DNS entry (although I don't know what his Charter DNS servers are... I attempted to contact him but he was unavailable at the time)... The issue with that is that there "Opt-Out" process places a cookie on your computer and should you delete that cookie you'll no longer be "Opted-Out".
So here's my assumption of the process (and if anyone has Charter DNS servers and is experiencing this, I'd love to have the IPs of those servers passed my way)...
- User attempts to search with Microsoft Live Search
- Charter's DNS responds to the live.com query with a Charter IP
- The web server records the query and checks for the cookie.
- If the cookie exists it issues a redirect to the actual MS Live Search; If it doesn't exist it sends you to Charter Search powered by Yahoo!.
Interestingly enough, I managed to visit the opt-out page that Tony provided... It sets a cookie named choice with no contents... The cookie expires in 2 months.
I think this is an interesting concept... especially if it is the DNS server issue... ISPs own the DNS server, who says they can't provide their own responses... Symantec pays them to point McAfee.com to their own web server... SuSE pays them to point RedHat.com at their web server... At that point who's DNS server do you trust... and if this starts to happen is their legal protection to the end user? Or will we all end up going to OpenDNS?
[UPDATE] After speaking with Tony I learned two things... a) Outsiders can't use Charter DNS servers (my queries for live.com and www.live.com were REFUSED) b) That live.com and www.live.com resolve properly for Charter customers... Which throws away my DNS theory... Time for a new one... Some sort of proxy perhaps?