What Is 1.1.1.1 & Does It Really Make Your Internet Safer?

1.1.1.1 is a free, public DNS resolver from Cloudflare and Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) that could make your searches faster and more secure. But the product won't work for everyone, and some have concerns about how it will use their data.

What Is 1.1.1.1?

Cloudflare's 1.1.1.1 product is a DNS resolver. Chances are, you use a tool like this dozens of times each day. 

You open a browser window, and you tap in www.okta.com. Your computer understands the query, but it can't complete it without help. Enter a domain name system (DNS) resolver. It translates your human-friendly query into an IP address, which is a series of numbers and dots. 

Your internet service provider typically chooses your DNS resolver. But if you configure your settings or download an app, you can decide what product you'd like to use. Cloudflare hopes you'll choose 1.1.1.1.

When you use 1.1.1.1, the system will:

  • Resolve queries. Like any DNS resolver, 1.1.1.1 will take your human-friendly address and find the numeric version. It will connect you to the site you’re looking for. 
  • Hide your queries. Use 1.1.1.1, and your internet service provider can't see where you're going.
  • Remove you from a VPN. Cloudflare won't completely protect your privacy. For example, if you're on a public WiFi connection, hackers could still step in and see what you're doing. A VPN could offer protection from that, but you can't use one at the same time as 1.1.1.1. You'll have to choose between one product and the other. 

If you choose to experiment with 1.1.1.1, you can follow Cloudflare's instructions to load it on your Mac or PC. You can also head to app stores for both Apple and Android devices and download the tool there.

Pros & Cons of DNS 1.1.1.1

Should you switch from the DNS you've always used to a Cloudflare DNS? Let's walk through the risks and benefits so you can make an informed decision. 

Benefits of 1.1.1.1, as defined by Cloudflare, include:

  • Security. The company uses query name minimization, meaning that they include only the information required to resolve your query. They discard everything else. 
  • Privacy. The company keeps logs for 24 hours, and then they purge everything. 
  • Speed. Cloudflare claims the product is the fastest one available. If you've ever spent long minutes waiting for a website to load, speed could compel you to change. 

Drawbacks associated with 1.1.1.1 include:

  • Overconfidence. 1.1.1.1 isn't a foolproof VPN product. Your data is somewhat exposed, and hackers can steal it. If you're not completely aware of that fact, you could do things online that may come back to haunt you later. 
  • Poor performance. Bloggers say their internet service providers block the use of 1.1.1.1. Rather than seeing sites load, they see endless warnings that they can't connect. A secure tool won't help you if you can't get it to work. 
  • Research uses. Cloudflare made the 1.1.1.1 product in partnership with APNIC to help researchers understand how to improve DNS systems. If you use 1.1.1.1, you're contributing to that work. Some people feel uncomfortable with giving up even randomized data for projects like this. 

The best way to truly protect yourself while you browse is to use a VPN. If you're not sure what these tools are and how they work, check out this blog post from Okta.

References

What Is 1.1.1.1? Cloudflare. 

Cloudflare 1.1.1.1 (for Android) Review. (December 2020). PC Magazine. 

Five Reasons Cloudflare's Rollout of 1.1.1.1 Has Been a Disaster. (April 2018). SQL Server with Mr. Denny. 

1.1.1.1: Cloudflare's New DNS Attracting 'Gigabits Per Second' of Rubbish. (April 2018). ZD Net.