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BT Prep Firmware Fix for DNS Request Hungry WiFi Repeaters

Friday, June 11th, 2021 (2:30 pm) - Score 2,520
bt_mini_whole_home_wifi

Customers of UK broadband ISP BT, specifically those with one of the operator’s Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi systems (mesh repeaters) and a custom DNS setup on their personal network, have been told to expect a firmware patch, again, after complaining that their connections were making masses of DNS lookups to Google and Microsoft.

The existing Domain Name System (DNS) works by converting Internet Protocol (IP) addresses into a human-readable form (e.g. 123.56.32.1 to examplezfakedomain.co.uk) and back again. In that context, a DNS lookup is the process by which a DNS record is returned from a DNS server (i.e. kind of like looking up a phone number in the phone book).

NOTE: The BT Mini Whole Home WiFi system can also be used with other broadband ISPs, but the same issue can occur.

Back in February 2020 some of BT’s customers began noticing that each of the operator’s mesh repeater dishes were sending masses of DNS lookup requests to Microsoft.com (here) – roughly akin to one lookup per second per dish (some people have multiple dishes), and if they blocked those then the devices would simply start doing the same for Apple.com and then Google.com etc.

The customers concerned had all switched their network to use a custom DNS provider (e.g. OpenDNS, Google Public DNS etc.) instead of BT’s, which meant that those DNS providers started to flag some of their connections as “suspicious” due to the unusual excess of DNS lookups (i.e. disrupting access to some internet services and resulting in more sites checking to see if you’re a robot before granting access – captcha style).

At the time BT promised to issue a firmware update to resolve the issue, but according to The Register it never materialised. The good news is that, more than a year later, such an update may finally be coming.

A BT Spokesperson said:

“We understand how important connectivity is to our customers and like other products on the market, BT Mini Whole Home Wi-Fi has server requests built in to alert customers of any connection issues as quickly as possible. We recognise that there are a small number of customers who have personally set up a custom DNS server configuration at home, and that the frequency of these checks can lead to them seeing additional network traffic.

We have included an update within a new wider firmware, which significantly reduces the frequency of these server requests. We had planned to roll this out sooner, however due to changes in prioritisation following the exceptional circumstances of the past year, this has taken longer than anticipated. We would like to apologise to the small number of customers impacted by this matter.”

No doubt Microsoft, Apple and Google will really appreciate BT making masses of DNS lookups in order to help identify connection issues with the operator’s broadband and WiFi kit. The question now is when will the new firmware actually surface? Affected customers have already been waiting for over a year.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. James White says:

    So their own website bt.com isn’t reliable enough as a connectivity test then?!

  2. Chris Sayers says:

    Blimey over a year to roll out a fix, that’s latency for you at its worst.

    That fix should have taken less than a week to resolve.

    If Google et all had started to block BT wholesale, it would have been fixed long ago

    Shoddy workmanship.

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