Mozilla branded a ‘villain’ for DNS over HTTPS support

Firefox sign in front of a brick building
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A trade association for UK internet service providers (ISPs) has nominated Mozilla as an internet villain' for 2019, alongside President Donald Trump and the widely-derided Article 13 EU Copyright Directive.

The web giant has been branded in such terms by the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) due to proposals to introduce DNS over HTTPS (DoH).

This is a protocol for performing remote domain name system (DNS) over encrypted connections, and any UK rollout would threaten to bypass ISP web filtering as well as parental controls.

The trade representation body, which comprises more than 200 members including the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin, has been supportive of government plans to develop content blocking and family-friendly tools for customers.

Internet giants, however, have increasingly pivoted in recent months towards supporting online anonymity and safeguarding user privacy with added tools and functionality in their products. Mozilla, for example, will offer Firefox users a premium set of add-ons geared towards boosting privacy while customers browse online from later this year.

Firefox and Chrome's support for DoH, in particular, has drawn the ire of the UK government as it threatens to completely bypass tools like content blockers.

"We don't have immediate plans to implement DNS over HTTPS (DoH) in Firefox outside of North America," a Mozilla spokesperson said.

"We are currently exploring potential DoH partners in Europe to bring this important security feature to users there. It is available for users who wish to enable it in the settings menu."

DNS requests have until now been accessible by ISPs, which are able to view domain requests and put some domains on blacklists, such as sites that are known to host malware. But requests will be sent through encrypted connections under DoH, meaning ISPs will no longer able to block certain domains by request.

Any prospective shift to DoH, in particular, undermines policies like the delayed nationwide porn block, as ISPs will no longer be able to filter sites based on domain. ISPA has argued Mozilla's plans to use DoH amounts to "undermining internet safety standards in the UK".

"DNS over HTTPS is unlikely to go away," executive director of the Open Rights Group (ORG) Jim Killock told IT Pro.

"It is helpful for many people, in many countries, for security, privacy and to access websites that less responsible governments try to ban. Frankly, it is a bit silly to blame Mozilla for using DoH. It is a bit like saying peanut butter is evil.

"ISPA should be identifying where their concerns might require responses, and advocate for them, rather than trying to scare people about a particular technology."

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.