What is private DNS mode on Android and how to enable it?

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Hand holding a phone displaying a security graphic above a laptop with a lock on the screen

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DNS stands for Domain Name Service, and it is at the heart of the Internet. DNS makes sure you don’t have to type in an IP address to get where you want to go. Without DNS, instead of just typing, say, “Google” into your browser, you would have to remember an address like 142.251.16.100. In other words, DNS makes the Internet friendly. Your desktop, laptop, tablet, and even your phone require DNS to function properly.

Almost everything you do on your connected devices starts with a DNS query. So when you search in your web browser’s address bar or from any app on your mobile device, DNS is at work.

The problem is that standard DNS is insecure, which means that all your queries are sent over the network as plain text.

Why is it a problem? Let’s say you’re on a public network (like a cafe) and you start searching for various things on your Android device. If someone else is on the same network and has the skills, they could intercept your search queries and know exactly what you’re looking for. It may be harmless, or it could be harmful. Either way, why take a chance?

Also: The High Price of Free Wi-Fi: Never Connect to Unsecured Networks

This is where private DNS mode comes in. Once you enable this feature, all your DNS queries are encrypted, so bad actors couldn’t see them (even if they catch those packets). In other words, Private DNS mode should be an absolute must for anyone who values ​​their privacy and security.

But how to enable private DNS mode on Android? It’s actually quite simple. Let me show you how.

Also: Why You Should Use Secure DNS on Your Chromebook

Terms

The only thing you need to enable private DNS mode is an Android device running at least version 9 of the operating system (which was released in 2018). So pretty much every modern Android phone is capable of enabling this feature.

Enable private DNS mode

1. Open Network and Internet

Open the Settings app (either from the notification shade or the app drawer), then tap Network & Internet.

2. Enable Private DNS

You will find the Private DNS entry at the bottom of the Network & Internet window (Figure 1).

Private DNS entry in Android settings.

Figure 1: The Private DNS entry is in the Network & Internet section of the Settings app.

Photo: Jack Wallen

3. Add a provider that offers secure DNS

This is where it can get a little tricky. You must have the address of a provider that offers private DNS. One such provider is Cloudflare, and its private DNS server address is:

1dot1dot1dot1dot1.cloudflare-dns.com

Some other possible hostnames you can use:

  • Google DNS: dns.google
  • Quad9: dns.quad9.net
  • Clean Browsing DNS: security-filter-dns.cleanbrowsing.org

When you tap Private DNS, a new pop-up appears. Tap Private DNS provider hostname (Figure 2), then enter the hostname of the DNS provider of your choice.

DNS selector for Android 12.

Figure 2: Added private DNS provider for Android.

Photo: Jack Wallen

Tap Save to save the new setting and close the Settings app.

And that’s all there is to it. Once you enable private DNS on Android, you can be sure that all your DNS queries are encrypted. Enjoy that extra privacy and security.

Jack Wallen: Here’s how…

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