I created a new subdomain recently and wanted to test it out before advertising on it since the DNS change could take a while to propogate. I waited a couple of hours and it worked on my home computer. To get a second opinion, I took my Android phone off of wireless and tried to browse to the subdomain on the cell network using Chrome for Android. Instead of reaching the page I intended, I got redirected to www.search-error.com.
I would have expected to reach my page or get an error saying the site is not available. The resulting page is very plain and suspicious looking. My first thought was “Crap! My phone has been infected by something.” I checked the limited Chrome for Android settings, I checked for any other suspicious apps or even recently updated apps but found nothing out of the ordinary that should maliciously hijack the browser and I was able to reach other sites without problem. I switched back to WiFi and tried to connect to the subdomain and was able to get through. So, it was the cell network hijacking my traffic and redirecting me to this bad site with NXDomain (non-existent domain) redirecting.
I did a quick search online and was only able to find one other location online where it discussed being redirected to www.search-error.com. The common source was indeed Sprint and it was also a very recent post.
Scouring the page, I find no indication that it is owned by Sprint. The About page is uselessly generic:
The search results on the prior page were provided to you because you entered a keyword or an improperly formatted, currently available, or nonexistent domain name into the address bar. This service is designed to enhance your web surfing experience.
No software was installed on your computer for this service to work.
When you visit the site in your desktop browser there is a Sprint copyright at the bottom but it is not shown on the mobile version of the site, which most people would be using when they get to the site.
I agree with many of the points the other poster made of the problem with this hijacking.
- The domain is suspicious looking and there is no Sprint branding anywhere.
- It uses my data and the first five results are ads, so it’s not even helpful.
- You have to type the full URL in again instead of just simply correcting a possible mistake.
- There is no means to opt out.
- It goes against Internet standards.
Being on an Android device, there is no means to change the DNS servers on 3G/4G connections without rooting the phone. Otherwise, I could use Google Public DNS or another fast, fair external DNS besides Sprint.
NXDomain hijacking is a bad trend. It’s unhelpful and usually implemented to pad the profit line, not to help customers. It breaks standards and by making a domain actually appear available, any other application besides a browser might begin transmitting data thinking the server is actually reachable. My home ISP, Mediacom, started implementing NXDomain hijacking in recent years. I hate it and it seems to even work around the fact that I don’t use their DNS servers but at least their page tells me it’s from Mediacom and it has a (poorly-implemented, doesn’t always work) means to opt out.
Sprint should reverse this practice and allow normal error messages to be adequate to notify a person that a domain is not available, especially when we’re paying for the data. A suspicious looking page does not help the customer, only the ads could be helping corporate profit margins.