Tenta, the Seattle company behind an Android browser aimed at guarding the privacy of mobile web users, has built what it calls one of the first public DNS resolvers to support DNS-over-TLS — an extra precaution to keep Internet Service Providers and others from seeing which websites a user visits.
DNS, short for Domain Name System, is one of the most fundamental parts of the web’s infrastructure. It converts, or resolves, alphanumeric web addresses (such as www.geekwire.com) into IP addresses that servers can recognize (such as 127.0.0.1). Using DNS over TLS (Transport Layer Security) allows users to browse securely without revealing the websites they’re visiting.
It’s an important new layer of protection against the prying eyes of internet providers, governments and cybercriminals, said Tenta co-founder Jennifer McEwen, who added it’s the “perfect time” for customers to start using privacy software.
“These tools have been increasingly more in use and relevant to people,” she said.
McEwen and Tenta’s two other co-founders, Jesse Adams and CTO Christopher O’Connell, have also founded a separate Seattle company, MiKandi, which operates a marketplace for adult apps.
But the trio said privacy is about far more than protecting porn viewers. The Tenta browser, which launched in public beta in August 2016 and has been downloaded 135,000 times from Google’s Play Store, is aimed at mobile users who are concerned about privacy but may not have the technical knowledge to find and install VPNs and other security technologies, said McEwen.
“There are a lot of privacy tools out there,” she said, adding people face a “steep learning curve” when it comes to security. “It can be overwhelming.”
Tenta packages security protocols into one browser, making it easier for people to keep their web activity from being tracked. The browser includes built-in VPN (with no proxies), full data encryption, a video and document downloader and encrypted media vault. Recently, Tenta announced the browser will also include HTTPS Everywhere, the data-encrypting browser extension created by The Tor Project and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The new resolver, built into Tenta Browser and available on GitHub, is the next key step in securing the web, O’Connell said. Where companies were scrambling several years ago to add TLS’s predecessor, Secure Socket Layer, protocol to their websites, he said, the next wave will see those companies deploying TLS.
“As far as we know we are the first, although others are certainly working on it,” O’Connell said.