How To: Boost Internet Speeds & Hide Your Browsing History from Your ISP

Boost Internet Speeds & Hide Your Browsing History from Your ISP

If you have friends who aren't privacy-conscious, you've surely heard the old "What do I have to hide?" excuse. Despite the fact that billions of people are using the internet each day, many of them don't know the dangers that can find them. And many don't know the tools to combat them.

Cloudflare created two new utilities to help protect you. The first is a DNS server, which is what takes the friendly URL name (e.g., gadgethacks.com) and finds the corresponding IP address (e.g., 192.168.0.1) to connect you to the right website. Unencrypted DNS traffic can be read by hackers or your ISP, but Cloudfare's new version is encrypted, so nobody but you can see what websites you visit.

The second tool is WARP, a new VPN service that uses a fast new protocol. With this protocol, WARP is faster than most paid VPN services while also providing similar protection to your privacy. All of your data is encrypted, so you don't have to depend on websites to implement proper security. So by combining the two, almost every aspect of your phone's internet traffic will be secured.

Method 1: Install the 1.1.1.1 App (iOS & Android)

For those using an iPhone or an Android device running 8.1 Oreo or older, Cloudflare's 1.1.1.1 app is your best option for encrypting your DNS. While it's possible to configure the DNS manually, it would be limited to specific Wi-Fi networks, which means cellular data isn't covered at all. But with the app, all data connections use Cloudflare's DNS servers for faster and secure internet.

The app is super simple. Just open it and tap the big toggle to turn it on. If this is your first time, both iOS and Android will prompt you to give the app permission to establish a VPN connection. Follow the instructions and you'll be connected.

Now, all traffic to the rest of the internet will use Cloudflare's DNS servers for faster and secure web browsing. And because you are using Cloudflare's DNS servers, all inquiries are encrypted by either DNS over HTTPS or DNS over TLS.

With DNS server 1.1.1.1 (the IP address for the server), ISPs and hackers can't see the websites you visit. ISPs use this data to sell to advertisers to create ads on the sites you visit. This is the reason why the new iPhone 11 you looked at on Amazon shows up in banner ads on Reddit. Additionally, since hackers can't see what sites you visit, you're better protect against URL Hijacking, a phishing scam where hackers register common misspellings of popular websites to lure unsuspecting users.

Method 2: Use Private DNS (Android 9 & Higher)

The other method is using the private DNS feature introduced in Android 9 Pie. With this feature, you can configure the DNS servers used by all data connections without the need for a VPN.

The advantage of using this method is it's faster (without Warp, more on that later) since you're not first sending traffic to their servers. Second, if you already have a VPN service, you can still use it and Cloudflare's DNS servers (although many VPN apps do let you configure custom DNS servers within the app).

So if you own a phone running Android 9 or newer, open Settings and choose "Network & Internet," then select "Advanced" (this might under a different name such as "More connection settings"). Select "Private DNS," choose "Private DNS provider hostname," and input the following:

1dot1dot1dot1.cloudflare-dns.com

Choose "Save" when you are done. Then, to verify everything was done correctly, open up any browser on your phone. Input the following web address:

1.1.1.1/help

In the Debug information section on this page, the "Connected to 1.1.1.1" field will say "Yes" if everything's set up properly. You will also see a "Yes" next to either "Using DNS over HTTPS" or "Using DNS over TLS," depending on how you configured it (the default is the former).

Don't Forget About Warp

While using private DNS with Android 9 or newer has its advantages, the big benefit to using the app is access to Warp. Warp is a VPN service based on WireGuard, a new protocol that is much faster than the current standard, OpenVPN. As with most VPN services, Warp will encrypt all your traffic from your ISP, which means you are protected from your ISP using your data to sell to advertisers.

Since the app uses Cloudflare's DNS servers, you are doubly protected. When you visit a website, your ISP will not know what site you visited, and while you communicate with the website, your activities are secure as well. Warp also gives you much needed protection when using public Wi-Fi, especially for those who don't want to pay for a VPN service.

Image by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

And for those who want faster internet while maintaining this level of protection, there is WARP+. This uses Argo technology which improves website load speed by an average of 30%. It works by sending thousands of probes across Cloudflare's private links and the public internet. These probes help Cloudflare determine the fastest route to the user's destination and send their data that way. And this routing is determined in real-time, so you will always use the quickest route available.

But let me be clear, Warp isn't a tool to keep you anonymous online. Other VPN services will protect your real IP address from others, but Cloudflare does not. However, Warp will preserve your privacy by ensuring those who you intend to give your IP address to get it, and no one else.

Cover image and screenshots by Jon Knight/Gadget Hacks

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