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UPDATE UK ISP TalkTalk Users Struggle to Disable Website Search Hijacking

Monday, December 15th, 2014 (1:25 am) - Score 3,281

Customers of TalkTalk have been left frustrated after the budget broadband provider spent months dragging its feet by failing to fix an Opt-Out feature for their Error Replacement Service, which is a system that effectively hijacks and monetises typographical errors in your website browsers address bar.

The use of such a service by ISPs and some website browsers is not uncommon (e.g. KC and Virgin Media both have some history with this). In this case it works by replacing the NXDomain DNS (Domain Name System) results with an IP address. Generally most such systems are plugged as a way of helping consumers to find the best match for their intended Internet search, albeit usually only when the typed web address isn’t recognised.

But ISPs often also go one step further and attempt to monetise these typographical errors by sending affected customers to a website with their own advertising supported search results, as opposed to a more natural direct Google or Bing redirect. Take note that not all ISPs do this (e.g. Sky Broadband performs no NXDomain hijacking at all and neither do most of the markets smaller ISPs).

Suffice to say that the practice is often frowned upon by consumers, although ISPs that do use it have tended to provide an opt-out feature. Unfortunately in TalkTalk’s case the opt-out page for their Error Replacement Service doesn’t appear to have been fully functional since around August 2014 or possibly longer (i.e. you can click to opt-out but it doesn’t stop the ERS from working).

Various topics of complaint can also be found on the ISPs community forums, although amazingly it took the provider until the middle of November 2014 before it even issued a formal acknowledgement and finally pledged to fix the fault. The bad news is that, for some reason, they won’t be able to resolve it until the very end of January 2015!

TalkTalks ERS Status Update

The TalkTalk error replacement service helps customers find the right website when a web address isn’t recognised.

The ability to opt-out of the service isn’t working as it should. Our engineers are working hard to fix the opt-out function and hope to have the issue resolved by the end of January.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time and we’ll keep you updated as we get more information.”

Customers have naturally expressed a certainly degree of astonishment and frustration at the fact that TalkTalk’s supposedly hard working engineers have been unable to fix such a crucial piece of basic functionality for this length of time.

John, TalkTalk Customer, told ISPreview.co.uk:

The cynic would say TalkTalk’s apparent slowness in fixing the issue could be because the “service” generates money for TalkTalk and they don’t want people to opt-out.”

The cynicism is understandable, especially given the nature of the service and the fact that no tangible reason for why the fix needs to take so long has been given. We contacted TalkTalk on Saturday and are awaiting their response, although their PR teams have probably been kept a little busier than usual by the weekends XFactor final.

UPDATE 16th Dec 2014

Sadly a TalkTalk spokesperson has said that the problem definitely won’t be fixed this year. The spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk, “We are sorry that the opt-out function for our error replacement service is not currently available. Engineers are working on a fix which will be rolled out next year. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Bob2002 says:

    >We contacted TalkTalk on Saturday and are awaiting their response …

    I thought their PR team were based in Bangalore? 😉

  2. Avatar none says:

    bt do this as well, its usually a case of going into the options on your router and disabllng search suggestions.Also different dns resolvers might help (https://www.wikileaks.org/wiki/Alternative_DNS).

    It’s sad isps are using search hijacking as it is used in places like china for censorship purposes, given that Huawei operate their filter as well, it may well be time to get a mac code for talk talk providers.

  3. Avatar none says:

    china uses methods like this to block websites, given that they also use filters from huawei it looks like its time talk talk customers requested a mac code. plenty of isps do this but plenty don’t either. vote with your wallet.

    1. Avatar Ignitionnet says:

      A good part of the country connects to the Internet via Huawei hardware. Do we look for providers that use hardware that’s neither Huawei branded or made in China?

      Good luck with that.

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