AfterDawn.com

How to reach seized or blocked websites


Do you know of a site that has had its domain seized or has been blocked by an Internet Service Provider (ISP)? Some browser plugins defeat the block by simply redirecting traffic to a seized or blocked domain directly to the web server itself that hosts the website. In this guide we will look at a more interesting approach; using a free DNS service that does not comply with DNS seizures.

NOTE: We do not have an agenda in this fight, nor do we have an opinion on the content of the blocked sites. Rather, we are simply providing a workaround for people who believe that domain seizures of this type (hijacking DNS) is against a free and open Internet, and also dangerous in terms of precedent.



Introduction & Requirements




Have you seen the above notice on a website? Chances are the website is still online and you can simply use Google to find the actual web server address and connect to it that way. If you don't want to have to do that, you can use a DNS server called BlockAID (also known as PeerDNS.)

A domain name, like AfterDawn.com, is just a convenient way for you to reach a web server. You can remember AfterDawn a lot easier than you can remember an IPv4 address. The Domain Name Service (DNS) is responsible for taking your "human input" and telling your browser the real server IP address to retrieve HTTP data from.

When I.C.E. seizes a domain name, they do not usually confiscate the domain. Instead, you get directed by DNS to the wrong server (and you get a message like the one shown above.) The original website is probably still online and working just fine.

BlockAID does not allow for this re-directing to take place, and protects websites from what it calls an illegal practice. By changing your DNS settings so that BlockAID is used, rather than your ISPs DNS servers, you can avoid being affected by most seizures.

NOTE: BlockAID also works for more targeted blocking, such as the blocking of Newzbin.com by BT in the UK. Also remember that changing the DNS settings of a computer that does not belong to you could be illegal in your territory.

This guide shows you how to use BlockAID on Windows Vista/7 or Windows XP, and gives brief instructions for Mac OS X.




Setup BlockAID on Windows 7 / Vista




To setup BlockAID on Windows 7, you will need to have an account with Administrative privileges.

The first thing you need to do is get to the Network and Sharing Center in Windows 7 (or Windows Vista). Instead of going through the Control Panel, simply click the Orb menu (Start Menu) and type Network and Sharing Center into the search box. It should appear almost instantly.

Click it.

Network and Sharing Center




The Network and Sharing Center gives you basic information about your network configuration. The only thing you need to find here is the highlighted link in the picture above, "Change Adapter Settings", which will take us to where we need to go.

Click "Change adapter settings".

Network Connections




We are now in the Network Connections folder. In here, you will see all the Network Adapters you have available on your computer, or any connections you have setup yourself (such as a VPN connection).

Now you need to identify which network adapter you are using for your Internet connection. It could be a simple "Local Area Network" connection that is enabled, or a Wirless Network Connection, or something more specific such as a 3G connection (Vodafone, O2, 3 etc.). If you simply cannot figure out which one it is, then go to the Orb menu (start menu), type CMD, run it when it appears and type "ipconfig" for a clue. Usually though, it should be quite easy to find it (there is often only one anyway.)

Right-click the active adapter and click Properties.

Local Area Connection Properties




Look below "This connection uses the following items" and find Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4). Select it, and again, click Properties.

TCP/IPv4 Properties - Set DNS settings




Here is where you need to pay attention. IF this is already set to "Obtain DNS server address automatically", then good. If it is already set to "Use the following DNS server addresses", then you MUST write down the IP addresses that are already defined here. You do not want to lose this information or you may need to get on the phone to your network administrator or Internet Service Provider (ISP) later.

Save yourself the headache and just write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a drawer somewhere.

To setup BlockAID, make sure the option, "Use the following DNS server addresses" IS selected. You will now need to enter a Primary and Secondary DNS server address. Below are two options for these addresses; one for European users, and one for users in the United States and Canada.

European and Other Users
  • Primary --- 178.21.23.150
  • Secondary --- 205.204.88.60
United States & Canada
  • Primary --- 205.204.88.60
  • Secondary --- 178.21.23.150

These are the DNS servers that your Internet browsers and all of your applications will be using from now on, so make sure to get them right.

When you are done, click OK.

Test if BlockAID is working on Windows 7




Now that you have set your connection to use the BlockAID DNS servers instead, fire up a web browser and type in the following URL: http://status.block.aid

If you are not using BlockAID properly then this webpage will not load, as the .AID is a top level domain (TLD) setup only by BlockAID, and your ISP's DNS servers will not know what to do with it. If you see a status saying BlockAID is working or online, then congratulations, you are now using BlockAID.

RECOMMENDED: Edit HOSTS file




Think for a second; what would happen if the BlockAID DNS servers were to crash and go offline? Your web applications would no longer be able to reach websites since you wouldn't have access to a DNS server. In that event, you should revert back to the original settings temporarily. There is a sure way to know if there's something wrong with BlockAID, and that's to edit your operating system's HOSTS file, and specify yourself the location of the server for the URL "status.block.aid".

That means that if BlockAID stopped working properly, the BlockAID team could alert users on the status page about the problems, and give an idea of when it will be fixed. If your HOSTS files already specifies the location of the server for status.block.aid, then your browser will automatically go to the web server without the need for DNS.

Here's what you do. In Windows 7 / Vista, navigate to the following directory: C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc

In here you will see a file simply called "hosts" with no extension. You can open this file in Notepad on Windows.

NOTE: you will need to run Notepad as an administrator by right-clicking it in order to save changes to the HOSTS file.

With the HOSTS file open in your text editor, add the following information to the end of the text (as in the picture above) and then save it.

  • 46.246.119.139 status.block.aid

Now if your web browsing seems to be slowing down, or you can't reach websites anymore, type in the URL, http://status.block.aid into your browser and it will take you straight to the BlockAID status page. If there are problems, you can revert back to your old DNS settings and try again later.




Setup BlockAID on Windows XP




BlockAID can be setup on Windows XP too. The steps are almost identical to Windows 7, but the appearances are different. Here's what to do.

The first thing you need to do is find Network Connections. This is located in the Control Panel. Click Start - Control Panel. Change to "Classic View", in the left pane of the Explorer window, then find and double-click Network Connection.

Now you need to identify which of the connections you are using for your Internet access. This can be a Local Area Connection, Wireless Internet Connection or something more specific, such as a 3G connection (Vodafone, O2 etc.).

Right click on the active connection and click Properties.

Local Area Connection Properties - Windows XP




Under the General tab in the properties window, find Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) under "This connection uses the following items."

Select it and click the Properties button.

TCP/IP Properties in Windows XP - Setup BlockAID




Here is where you need to pay attention. IF this is already set to "Obtain DNS server address automatically", then good. If it is already set to "Use the following DNS server addresses", then you MUST write down the IP addresses that are already defined here. You do not want to lose this information or you may need to get on the phone to your network administrator or Internet Service Provider (ISP) later.

Save yourself the headache and just write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a drawer somewhere. Select the "Use the following DNS server addresses" option.

You will now need to enter a Primary and Secondary DNS server address. Below are two options for these addresses; one for European users, and one for users in the United States and Canada.

European and Other Users
  • Primary --- 178.21.23.150
  • Secondary --- 205.204.88.60
United States & Canada
  • Primary --- 205.204.88.60
  • Secondary --- 178.21.23.150

These are the DNS servers that your Internet browsers and all of your applications will be using from now on, so make sure to get them right.

When you are done, click OK.

Test if BlockAID is working in Windows XP




Launch any browser in Windows XP. type in the following URL: http://status.block.aid

If you are not using BlockAID properly then this webpage will not load, as the .AID is a top level domain (TLD) setup only by BlockAID, and your ISP's DNS servers will not know what to do with it. If you see a status saying BlockAID is working or online, then congratulations, you are now using BlockAID.

RECOMMENDED: Edit HOSTS file in Windows XP




Think for a second; what would happen if the BlockAID DNS servers were to crash and go offline? Your web applications would no longer be able to reach websites since you wouldn't have access to a DNS server. In that event, you should revert back to the original settings temporarily. There is a sure way to know if there's something wrong with BlockAID, and that's to edit your operating system's HOSTS file, and specify yourself the location of the server for the URL "status.block.aid".

That means that if BlockAID stopped working properly, the BlockAID team could alert users on the status page about the problems, and give an idea of when it will be fixed. If your HOSTS files already specifies the location of the server for status.block.aid, then your browser will automatically go to the web server without the need for DNS.

Here's what you do. In Windows XP, navigate to the following directory: C:\Windows\System32\drivers\etc

In here you will see a file simply called "hosts" with no extension. You can open this file in Notepad on Windows.

NOTE: You will need to edit the hosts file using an account with administrator privileges in Windows XP.

With the HOSTS file open in your text editor, add the following information to the end of the text (as in the picture above) and then save it.

  • 46.246.119.139 status.block.aid

Now if your web browsing seems to be slowing down, or you can't reach websites anymore, type in the URL, http://status.block.aid into your browser and it will take you straight to the BlockAID status page. If there are problems, you can revert back to your old DNS settings and try again later.




Setup BlockAID on Mac OS X



For now we just have quick insturctions for Mac OS X, but you should be able to follow.

  • Open up System Preferences by selecting it from the Apple Menu.
  • Click Network and make sure that the lock icon is in unlocked position (if it isn't, select it and enter the administrators password).
  • Select the connection from the left pane for which you would like to configure BlockAid on and click Advanced.
  • Select the DNS tab.
  • Click + and add the BlockAID IP addresses shown below (depending on region), making sure that the Primary IP appears at the top of the list.
      European & Other
    • Primary --- 178.21.23.150
    • Secondary --- 205.204.88.60
    • United States and Canada
    • Primary --- 205.204.88.60
    • Secondary --- 178.21.23.150
  • Click 'Apply' and then 'Ok.'

Finished



Now you should get around most domain seizures and ISP-specific domain blocking. If you need further help you can check out our Discussion Forums, or alternatively you can ask a question at our Tech Support

Written by: James "Dela" Delahunty
Last updated: 15 March 2012