Since I first heard of Android 9 Private DNS I wondered how it will work when the port is blocked or there is a captive portal. I didn’t find this information anywhere and now that I have gotten the Android 9 Go update on my Nokia 1, I am able to type my own blog post about it.

Notes/disclaimers:

  • Phone: Nokia 1 (TA-1047) running Android 9 (Go Edition)
    • I think I got the update on 9th of July
    • Language: Finnish (and as I am typing in English I may accidentally invent my own words)
  • In all tests mobile data was disabled to not cause confusing results.
  • As Private DNS is technically DNS over TLS, I am calling it as DoT.
    • In Android 9 it’s enabled from Settings, Network & Internet, Advanced settings, Private DNS
  • Automatic mode connects to the DNS server port 853 without validating certificate, “Hostname of private DNS provider” (which I call as the manual mode) also validates the certificate and disallows downgrading.
  • Google’s documentation.
  • Intra detects when private DNS is enabled and says that it doesn’t have to be enabled at those times. However it gets confused easily as between the metro and DHCP offering Quad9 it claimed secure DNS was disabled. Later before the captive portal test Intra again claimed DoT was disabled when there was no connectivity to DoT server, so I guess it’s only able to detect when Android is actually connected to the DoT server.
  • My messy notes for making this post

Test: automatic mode without DoT capable server from DHCP; the setting says “automatic”.


Test: DoT with port 853 blocked; Android reports that the WLAN network has no internet connectivity until I disable private DNS and toggle WLAN. I tested this in Helsinki metro.


Test: automatic mode with DoT capable server from DHCP; Android says that DoT is “enabled”. For this test I configured a WLAN AP to use Quad9 DNS servers 149.112.112.112 and 9.9.9.9.

I would also have configured the IPv6 addresses 2620:fe::9 and 2620:fe::fe as the network was dualstack, but naturally the router was missing ability to configure IPv6 DNS servers and forced using the ISP ones. At least the Android 9 was happy with the IPv4 servers.

I didn’t do this at home as my main network connectivity is a MiFi “box” that doesn’t allow me to specify a DNS server and I tend to avoid it anyway by using dnscrypt-proxy with this config and Intra. Sadly I have some little used devices that have no way to encrypt DNS and they either use the ISP DNS or in case of Chromecasts I am under impression that they are hardcoded to use Google DNS. I don’t use them much though.

Why do I care about encrypted DNS so much? Encrypt everything! And to quote my index:

The only traffic I am not encrypting is probably my WLAN. For some reason my router requires a reboot once per hour with WPA2 encryption while on open network I only have to reboot it once per day (I have asked about this confusing behaviour from wiser people on IRC and they weren’t able to explain it either). I support the Open Wireless Movement and think that if someone really wanted to cause me harm, they could break into the network anyway and that would be more difficult to prove on consumer grade device than the network being open. There are firewalls on all networks and while a passerby would be able to observe unencrypted SNIs, isn’t that also being done by international security agencies already while even Finland has given permission to monitor traffic crossing our borders ((TODO: better link in English as the situation develops)and how much of traffic doesn’t do that?). I also don’t like being somewhere where the only available WLANs are printers and smart thermostats :)


Bonus test: DoT + DoH via the Intra app configured to use server https://149.112.112.112/dns-query in Helsinki metro; Android claims that the network has no connectivity and shows the x on the WLAN symbol in the statusbar, but everything works regardless. My hypothesis that I am not enough interested in confirming is that if I was using https://dns.quad9.net/dns-query nothing would work as the Intra app would have been unable to resolve that name due to DoT being blocked.


Test: DoT + Captive Portal; I get the captive portal prompt asking me to login to the network as usual, so I guess Android handles captive portal separately from DoT which is a good thing in my opinion as otherwise that feature would likely be too confusing or difficult for many people to use.

I performed this test next to a closed Espresso House, which luckily hadn’t turned off their WLAN AP, but I treat SSIDs as free advertising anyway.


Why I use Quad9?

I had an idea of blogging about this separately long before I got Android 9 and was able to perform this testing, but as I mention it so much I guess it’s better to merge the posts.

What I wish from a DNS server is privacy/security (including DoT), DNSSEC, being stable (or unlikely to go away without warning in near future) and thus being able to recommend it to my family members (read as: configure it on their routers while being tech support).

The options judging by DNSPrivacy.org are the following:

  • Quad9 (I am only talking about the secure variant as the insecure disables DNSSEC)
    • non-profit
    • privacy policy (I seem to have too much problems with the others to even look at their policies)
    • same malicious domain filtering for everyone (I was going to compare it to Cisco/OpenDNS without realizing that the DoT requirement dropped them out already) that I haven’t yet encountered
    • FAQ
    • supports DNS over HTTPS (I need it for Firefox which at the time of typing requires DoH for ESNI support)
    • has a node in Finland (see TREX under regional providers)
    • I have heard that they plan a network map (Adguard on the bottom has it) and I hope to see it soon, because I would have no idea they have a node in Finland without knowing about TREX and having performed DNS leak test (see TREX under regional providers for more details on both).
  • Cloudflare
  • Google Public DNS
    • same as Cloudflare, they are on my phone and many say Google to know you better than you know yourself, so they areally don’t need to know my DNS queries too.
  • CleanBrowsing
    • I never looked it before, but it appears to be for-profit
    • allows custom filters? What prevents filters from another user from being applied to me? This was a problem with Cisco OpenDNS.
  • Adguard
    • I never looked at them before either, but they look surprisingly good and I could consider using them with the short reading I did for this post.
    • for-profit (even though they claim to make money by their other products than DNS, but so do Cloudflare and Google?)
    • I worry they could block something more than ads/malware by accident
      • and I think they are more likely to do that than Quad9 due to blocking so much more.
        • and this could be painful to start troubleshooting over the phone with family members.
    • privacy policy
    • based in Cyprus (EU)
    • Adguard DNS page including FAQ
      • no server in Finland
    • appears to be using Cloudflare, which is a minus point.

Then there are regional providers like:

  • TREX recursive name service for Finnish users
    • “Our resolvers do not support DNS over TLS, DNS over HTTPS or dnscrypt. But TREX hosts a Quad9 node, which offers a secure service with those features.”
      • this can be confirmed by running a DNS leak test which in Finland replies “TREX Regional Exchanges Oy” and being hosted by TREX is a plus for Quad9 in my eyes as it’s
    • often recommended for Finnish users instead of Google DNS by people in my circles
  • CZ.NIC Open DNSSEC Validating Resolvers for Czech users (English readers: enable cookies and click “English”)
    • has DNSSEC, DoT & DoH
    • probably wouldn’t make much sense to use from Finland (or anywhere else far from Czech Republic, I imagine all the neighbouring countries would also have their own equivalent regardless of CZ.NIC being so big name (you have heard of e.g. Turris Omnia?))
    • (thus I promote centralization, but) a regional not-anycasted DNS server may be impractical while traveling as your DNS would always go through home and possibly be slower than it could be. As a counter argument it wouldn’t hurt that much or be difficult to change, but would you remember to do it while traveling (I guess I would) and would your family members remember that?

And the golden option of hosting your own DNS. (It’s actually easy with Unbound, I haven’t tried DoH/DoT hosting though!)

  • Hosting where?
  • Hosting with what money?
  • On my laptop? What about when it goes down?
  • On three of my active devices separately? I don’t think the root nameserver admins would be very happy if everyone did that.
  • On my VPS? What if it went down due to being so cheap? What to say when my family called that “the internet is broken”? How to provide the additional line of defence against malware and phishing as well as Quad9 does it with all their information sources and partners?

To me Quad9 seems the least bad (or the least scary?) option with all these things considered, but some other provider may seem better to you.