With Chrome M83, Google rolled out a brand new feature to help users protect their browsing privacy called Secure DNS. As its name implies, the feature is centered around the way browsers determine which server hosts a given website. Referred to as a DNS lookup, the browser effectively searches out the IP address of a given site before returning results.
That traffic, it nearly goes without saying, is seen by service providers and anybody else viewing the network. But it can also be viewed by would-be attackers. With Secure DNS, that process happens via DNS-over-HTTPS, encrypting the step. In Chrome, that can be secured using the service provider, via Google DNS, CleanBrowsing, Cloudflare, or Quad9.
That stops cyber-attackers and service providers alike from seeing which websites are visited. In the former case, that can prevent phishing attacks among other things.
Fortunately, users don't need to actually do anything to take advantage of the feature. It will appear and be activated by default for more users as the rollout continues and its reach broadens. But for those who want to adjust Secure DNS settings in Chrome or adjust deeper settings, the process is fairly straightforward.
Here's how to adjust or turn off Secure DNS in Chrome
The update bringing Secure DNS will continue rolling out slowly in version 83 of the browser. But it won't necessarily arrive everywhere at once. For those who are feeling impatient, it can be turned on by visiting the "chrome://flags" URL and searching out the "DNS-over-https" flag. Once activated, the option becomes available in Settings.
For those who do have the latest update installed and the feature available, it can be found in the Chrome Settings menu. Getting there simply requires users to click the three-dot menu at the top-right-hand side of the UI. Then, the "Settings" option needs to be selected. Users on Chromebooks will want to ensure that's the menu they are accessing rather than the Settings app found on the system shelf or in the app drawer.
In the Settings menu, users will need to select "Privacy & Security" from the left-hand sidebar. After scrolling to the bottom of that section, a Secure DNS toggle is found — turned on by default once it arrives — tucked behind the "Advanced" or "More" option in those settings. After its turned on, users can choose to keep the default setting, using their respective service provider. Or they can choose any of the options listed above — or another "Custom" DNS provider.
This does not benefit everybody but marks a crucial step for Google
Now, there is at least one drawback to Secure DNS and DNS-over-HTTPS, generally. Namely, network admins won't be able to see what sites are being accessed either. That's a fairly big caveat but Secure DNS can also be turned off via the same settings menu mentioned above. That means it should be relatively easy for IT admins to deactivate the feature where required.
Secure DNS also doesn't appear in Chrome's mobile iterations, at least for the time being.
Looking beyond the slight caveats, this is just one of many features Google has been rolling out amid ongoing investigations it is currently facing. Those chiefly center around its handling of user privacy and data collection.
Among other changes, the company has actively combatted abusive site behavior. It recently took that even further to protect against permissions abuse. Secure DNS is arguably but simply the more impactful of the incoming changes.