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Our 5 Best DNS Providers for Privacy (and adblocking) 2022

/ data privacy, DNS

DNS enables your devices to connect to the internet as we currently know it

However, what happens if your resolver is either insecure or untrustworthy (and often, both) - such as the resolvers of many, if not all, the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) out there? What if the DNS resolvers completes everything in plaintext - for anyone to view by eavesdropping? What if the resolver logs your DNS queries, tying them back to you and using that data however they see fit?

Unfortunately, for many default options for DNS this is typically the case. So, naturally, this is why we're sharing our top picks for privacy-focused and secure (read: encrypted) DNS server providers in this post.

Lost? If you would like to dig deeper into DNS and how it affects/relates to online privacy, then please visit the main DNS page to catch up.

At a glance

All providers listed here support DoH, DNSSEC, and QName Minimization at a minimum! Learn More

Service Logo Name Type Server Locations Logging DoT Support DNSCrypt Domain filtering Source code Infrastructure Go to service
quad9 small logo Quad9 Non-Profit Anycast, based in Switzerland Malicious domains on all servers;
can use a server without blocking
Not public In-house
Hosted by Global Secure Layer, Packet Clearing House
Visit service
adguard logo green shield AdGuard Commercial Anycast, based in Cyprus Some Adblocking and Malicious domains;
dependent on server choice
Hosted by Choopa and Serveroid Visit service
nextdns logo blue shield NextDNS Commercial;
offers free tier
Anycast; based in US Optional;
dependent on server choice
Adblocking and malicious domains;
dependent on server choice
Not public In-house avoidthehack Affiliate ( more info )
cloudflare logo orange cloud Cloudflare Commercial; free Anycast; based in US Some Malicious domains only Not public In-house Visit service
DNS.Watch Free project Based in Germany Not public In-house Visit service

Quad9

official quad9 logo

If you follow avoidthehack on Twitter, then you know that we're quite fond of them and all they do!

Quad9 is a non-profit organization that operates operates high performing and privacy-respecting public DNS resolvers. Quad9 DNS servers are found around the world. Specifically, their infrastructure spans 150 locations in 90 different nations.

Their DNS servers feature no logging, retaining no personal data about users who utilize their servers. There is no sign-up required to use the service; the IP addresses for their DNS servers are listed and available for all to use at will.

Quad9 is based in Switzerland, having relocated from being primarily based in the US. As of writing, they're still working on being incorporated fully in Switzerland. This relocation is/was a huge deal because Switzerland has some of the most robust consumer data and online privacy around.

Quad9 features threat blocking on all servers. This means that when using Quad9's DNS resolvers, they will automatically deny connections to known malicious domains - ultimately promoting and improving the security of your devices and their connections.

It's worth noting that Quad9 does provide servers without threat blocking; you have the option to choose which to connect with. However, it's highly recommended to use the server that makes use of their threat blocking technology because it's an effortless increase in the levels of your device and/or network security (and also your privacy - by not connecting to known malicious domains).

These known malicious domains are provided by varying threat intelligence entities partnered with Quad9 and are constantly being updated to offer better protection against newer threats.

Quad9 supports the DoH, DoT, and DNSCrypt protocols. Additionally, their infrastructure is a blend of in-house equipment and hosting services provided by Packet Clearing House and Global Secure Layer.

Visit service

NextDNS

official nextdns logo

NextDNS is the "new firewall for the modern Internet."

Based out of the US, NextDNS offers both free and paid (but affordable!) DNS resolving services. The free tier is limited to 300,000 queries a month but allows for access to all features, unlimited devices, and unlimited configurations. Their servers use Anycast so reliable service can be provided across multiple locations.NextDNS' DNS resolvers can block ads, trackers, and malicious domains.

The service features no logging as long as users don't opt in; NextDNS states that "...some features require some sort of data retention; in that case, our users are given the option, control, and full access to what is logged and for how long." So, ultimately, logging depends on user server/feature choice, which is fair.

NextDNS has a whole host of settings and abilities to really fine-tune the level of blocking and filtering on your connected devices and/or network. For example, you can specify whether you want to block wide-spectrum trackers, "disguised" third-party trackers, affiliate links, or you can block all. Additionally, you can add and change around entire blocklists used - similar to the blocklists function found in Pi-Hole.

NextDNS also has security-focused settings available as well. You have the discretion to utilize threat intelligence feeds and/or AI assisted threat detection to minimize security risks. You also can specifically elect to safeguard against the likes of cryptojacking, typosquatting, parked domains, and domains registered for less than 30 days.

For those with children, it also has a Parental Control tab on the dashboard that allows blocking and unblocking of specific websites or categories of websites.

For payment options, NextDNS does offer payment via cryptocurrency. Additionally, they're also running a beta version for DNS-related support of decentralized Web3 technologies such as IPFS.

Furthermore, it's worth mentioning that they're a trusted partner of Mozilla Firefox to deliver Firefox's DNS-over-HTTPS feature.

avoidthehack Affiliate ( more info )

AdGuard

official adguard logo

AdGuard is a company that's perhaps most known for its adblocking services - which, fortunately, also happen to be privacy friendly.

As of writing, they're currently re-launching their DNS service and making it both public and free for all to use.

AdGuard's DNS provides its adblocking services and technology on the network level. AdGuard's DNS resolvers can block ads, trackers, and known malicious domains. In fact, we recommend AdGuard for mobile devices (free or paid) in the Tracker Blocking section of avoidthehack.

AdGuard is based out of Cyprus and uses Anycast for their servers, which helps promote faster DNS resolving speeds from just about anywhere in the world. Their infrastructure for their DNS resolver services are hosted by Choopa and Serveroid.

AdGuard's DNS service does feature some amount of logging as detailed in their DNS privacy policy.

They do not collect personal data such as IP addresses, but they do store aggregated performance metrics for their DNS servers. This aggregated information includes such as data as completed requests to another particular server, the number of blocked requests, and the speed of processing these requests.

They also do keep and store an anonymous database of domains requests within the last 24 hours. The anonymized data collected isn't shared with third parties either.

AdGuard's DNS resolvers support the DoT and DNSCrypt protocols. Additionally, they publish their server source code for review on GitHub!

Visit service

Cloudflare

official cloudflare

First, you may know Cloudflare as the biggest Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider as of writing.

Now, generally, you'll find that CDNs fall within a bit of a gray area in the privacy community; their nature and function is to act as third-party middle man between your device's connection to a website or a web service. In doing so, CDNs provide load balancer and reverse proxy services for the websites that employ them.

Cloudflare also provides a public DNS service (located at 1.1.1.1) that is decently privacy friendly. Cloudflare's resolver blocks and filters malicious domains automatically; it doesn't necessarily offer the blocking of trackers or advertisements. Plainly speaking, Cloudflare has and maintains a list of sketchy domains (where they may be known to send massive amounts of spam, host malware, etc) that the server won't resolve when a request for connection matches a domain on this list. This refusal to resolve means that your device doesn't connect with these known malicious domains, promoting a safer browsing experience on your device or network.

Cloudflare's DNS service does engage in some logging, as detailed on their website. Cloudflare anonymizes most of the data collected. The collected data is purged within 25 hours. Cloudflare engages in limited third party sharing (specifically with the organization APNIC) with a sample size of the data collected.

Cloudflare's DNS supports DoT. The infrastructure for this service is in-house.

Additionally, like NextDNS, it's worth mentioning that they're a trusted partner of Mozilla Firefox to deliver Firefox's DNS-over-HTTPS feature.

Visit service

DNS.Watch

dnswatchlogo

DNS.Watch is a free DNS resolver service that is based out of Germany. They've been around since circa 2014.

They operate a handful of servers, preferring to be a "small" operation. DNS.Watch's servers aim to deliver uncensored records, the project having a large emphasis on freedom.

DNS.Watch's DNS Resolvers do not filter or block ads or malicious content; the organization prefers to keep their alternative servers more neutral. Their infrastructure is in-house.

DNS.Watch's DNS resolvers do not log personal data; DNS.Watch does use anonymized data for statistics and security research.

The service offers support for DNSCrypt although it seems to be in a beta-phase at the time of writing.

Visit service

Final thoughts

DNS is at the core of every internet connection for any internet enabled device.

Because of this, it's important to safeguard your DNS queries as much as possible - and often the first step is to stop using your Internet Service Provider's (ISP) DNS resolvers.

Looking for self-hosted options, then please check out the avoidthehack DNS client recommendation list.

As always, stay safe out there!

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