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Something fishy about DNS hijacking

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Hull's broadband monopoly, Karoo, has joined the ranks of Verisign, Tiscali and Orange in redirecting net users' mistyped URLs to pages displaying advertising.

Karoo, part of the K-Com group, is doing the hijacking in partnership with Ask.com.

Instead of seeing a plain error, customers are seeing their spelling mistakes pumped into the Ask search engine. In exchange, K-Com gets a cut of advertising revenues from the results.

The firm's technical support workers are telling customers that the "service" is only a trial. If they query the redirects, unhappy business and consumer users are told they can opt-out and given alternative DNS server details.

The trial began on 17 March. It intercepts domain queries that are non-existent in Karoo's own cache.

Typo-hijacking like this has a unpopular history, beginning with Verisign's first attempt to gouge revenues from its control of the .net and .com top-level domains in 2004. ISPA, the ISP trade association described Verisign's move as a "scandal" and accused the firm of "presumption that they own the Internet". K-Com is a member of ISPA.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: "We know that some people don't like it and they can opt out of the trial. Others find it useful."

We asked why Karoo had not made the trial opt-in if the service is so useful. "Well, we could do it either way," the spokeswoman said. "We'll be listening to customer feedback."

K-Com, formerly known as Kingston Communications, provides all fixed line telecoms services in the Hull area. It says that other providers are not interested in entering the market.

There's a thread about DNS hijacking for Karoo subscribers this forum site. A statement from the firm said the opt-out is available on the help section of its website. ®

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