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Turkey hijacking DNS requests to prevent circumventing of Twitter and YouTube ban

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

March 31, 2014

Despite a court ruling last Wednesday declaring Turkey’s Twitter ban illegal, the ban remains in place, and was joined on Thursday by a ban on YouTube.

Turks have found a number of ways to get around the ban, but one of the most popular has been to change their DNS settings so they point to a non-partisan international DNS server, such as those run by Google Public DNS. When the Twitter ban was first introduced a number of Turkish newspapers posted details on how to change DNS settings on their websites, and Twitter itself tweeted the numbers for the Google DNS servers (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4).


Graffiti in Istanbul showing the numbers for Google’s DNS servers

On Saturday (ahead of Sunday’s local elections that are being widely seen, following widespread victory by Erdoğan’s AKP party, as support for the increasingly hard-line conservative Prime Minister) the situation escalated, and Turkey became the first country ever to ban alternative DNS providers (most notably Google DNS).

First noticed by network monitoring firms BGPMon and Renesys, internet users in Turkey who have changed their DNS settings to Google DNS (or a similar service) are instead directed to a government DNS server which blocks access to Twitter and YouTube.

Even more worryingly, this means that the government can log the IP address of any user trying to reach the banned services using foreign DNS servers, especially in light of Erdoğan’s chilling promise yesterday that he would chase down the ‘traitors’ who had opposed him,

‘There are those who will try to escape tomorrow, but they will pay for what they did,’ Erdoğan said to thousands of his supporters in Ankara.

Turks who want uncensored access to the internet (while also hiding their IP address) still have the option of using VPN or Tor.

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