Paxfire stole Google.com

POSTED BY on Aug 7 under Security

Seriously. Stolen… or at least, that’s certainly what it looks like if you’re unfortunate enough to be stuck using a Paxfire DNS appliance like the two I found a few weeks ago.

I just finished my first Google Knol: DNS Squatting

In a nutshell, Paxfire DNS appliances pretend to be ‘www.google.com’. They aren’t pretending to be other search engines from what I can tell – just Google. Fun times when the marketing wonks decide to sniff your search habits…

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3 Comments so far
  1. your mom October 14, 2008 4:59 pm

    This was caused by a dns failure, probably just a hiccup in the network, or just a failed query to your dns server. They should probably cache a number of well-known domains and not touch them, but I think Paxfire tries to be as hands off as possible. Anyways, don’t blame paxfire, blame your isp. Your isp almost certainly already sniffs your queries anyways, they are the reason sites like quantcast.com exist. Paxfire is just the mercenary hired to “deliver the message” of dns failure, and then monetize it.

  2. joe October 15, 2008 8:57 pm

    It wasn’t a DNS failure.

    And blame my ISP?

    Perhaps you should re-read the article. I am the ISP.

  3. Justin Hopkins September 23, 2009 7:52 am

    @joe
    That was a really great Knol, thanks for taking so much time to write it. My organization just implemented a Paxfire and it is inconvenient and unnerving.

    I wanted to point out that Paxfire has stolen Google in more than one way. Besides the disturbing scenario you detailed in the Knol, the default behavior of Firefox(in my experience) is that when NXDOMAIN is returned, Firefox will in the case that you haven’t typed something in that looks like a domain, go ahead and submit that as a search query to your default search provider.

    Paxfire calls this “address bar monetization” generally, but what you get is “yahoo powered” search along with their own ads. This is bad on so many levels. Like you say, this type of invasive and sneaky monetization is unethical – but on top of that the search results are just plain sucky. The results are so bad, they seem to be artificially and intentionally poor.

    If you go out and search Google, you will receive highly relevant pages along with (arguably) relevant advertising. A user will be much more likely to click on the search results(and disregard the ads) because of this. It is important for Google because if they didn’t do this then people would stop using them and go somewhere else.

    Paxfire on the other hand, exploits the fact that users don’t have any choice in the matter and provide (again, this is just my opinion) extremely poor search results in an attempt to boost the performance of their advertising.

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