Verizon Redirects Search Request (Updated July 29, 2008)
I recently switched my ISP to Verizon. Shortly thereafter I had a need to use one of my favorite software utilities Process Explorer. Basically PE has far better abilities than Windows Task manager when it comes seeing what processes are running on your PC and what application that process is associated with. I’m not going into the detail of Process Explorer’s features in this article just the recent problem I encountered with PE’s ability to allow you to select a process and then use PE’s built in web search to find what information is out there on the web about a process that you may not recognize.
A little history: Prior to Microsoft’s acquisition of Sysinternals, founded by Mark Russinovich and Bruce Cogswell, Process Explorer’s (just one of many useful software tools developed by Mark and or Bruce) search request option allowed you select Google or MSN as your default search engine, after the Microsoft acquisition new versions of PE’s searchwas changed to MSN only. After I changed my ISP to Verizon, Process Explorer would return search results from a Verizon/Yahoo site and not MSN. It should be noted that the results of the search were far inferior to what Google or MSN found.
The hunt is on: Next I posted the question of why PE was going to Verizon/Yahoo instead of MSN to the Sysinternal’s forum. The forum moderator (named: Molotov) pick up on my post. One of the first things to look at was the default search engine setting in IE6. It was not set to Yahoo but I changed it to several none Yahoo sites, which had no effect the problem was still there.
While I was interacting the forum on things to try or check I also called Verizon’s Tech. Support. They were unable to identify the cause of this problem but did report that other users had reported the problem also. Tech support did think that they (Verizon) may be intercepting the MSN search request made by Process Explorer and redirecting it to their Verizon/Yahoo site.
Note that if you start up IE6 independently of Process Explorer and then go to Google or MSN you do not get redirected to the Verizon/Yahoo page. Also note that I do not have the Google or any other add on toolbars installed. Next I switched the default browser to Firefox. This search request worked perfectly as Firefox uses Google as the default search engine. Then once again I made IE6 my default browser and once again that Verizon/Yahoo search page was back. So the problem is local to IE6.
Molotov then suggested that I look at the command-line of the browse process spawned by Process Explorer when you use Search Online. It should look like the next line:
It then opened up a command line window and entered the line as shown above (includng the quotation marks), the result is the same Verizon/Yahoo search page and the links to any hits are displayed.
By now you may be wondering why I keep mentioning Verizon/Yahoo, that is because this is not the default Yahoo search page but a special page with the Verizon logo. The search results from the default Yahoo page were the same with one exception, no error message: “Sorry, 'VSMON.EXE' does not exist or is not available.”!This error message is always present on the Verizon/Yahoo page no matter what process you pick to perform a search on. It should be noted that not only does Process Explorer search requests apparently get redirected but another Sysinternals utility named Autoruns has the same problem.
Capturing the slight of hand:
Molotov suggested installing a HTTP debugging proxy like Fiddler to see the outgoing requests and their responses. Any redirects should become apparent. The results are posted below:
GET /response.asp?MT=UPHCLEAN.EXE&srch=3&prov=&utf8 HTTP/1.1 Accept: */* Accept-Language: en-us Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; .NET CLR 1.1.4322; .NET CLR 2.0.50727) Host: auto.search.msn.com Connection: Keep-Alive
HTTP/1.1 302 Document has moved Location: http://wwwwz.websearch.verizon.net/search?qo=UPHCLEAN.EXE&rn=YEKHFJ1Cyyd91tT
Only the cookies have been removed from what was captured for security reasons. You will note that the line: Host: auto.search.msn.com Was replaced with: HTTP/1.1 302 Document has moved Location: http://wwwwz.websearch.verizon.net/search?
Verizon was caught in the act of redirecting Process Explorer’s search request! Decided to use Verizon/Yahoo's own search page on this issue and found an article in consumer affairs, (link to this is below) which also includes a way to 'op out' of redirects. It involves some changes to Verizon’s Modem/Router DNS address. I have not tried opting out yet as I am testing to see if other program I use have the same issue with search request: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2007/11/verizon_search.html
July 1st Update:
Accidentally stumbled across two more incidents where redirection occurs.
Windows Explorer’s Address bar: If you enter a single letter, for example the letter M and off you go to the Verizon/Yahoo search page, which is displayed in the right hand part of the window.
Internet Explorer: Same result, enter a single letter and off you go to the Verizon/Yahoo search page.
How to prevent Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer 6 from being redirected: Open Internet Explorer and from the Menu Bar select ‘Tools’ and from the displayed list select ‘Internet Options’. Next click on the ‘Advanced’ tab. Scroll down the list of setting until you reach ‘Search from the Address bar’. Now beneath the ‘When searching’ list, click on the ‘Do not search from the Address bar’ option. Click on the ‘Apply’ button located in the bottom right. Then click the ‘OK’ button to exit. Close Internet Explorer. Now the next time you use either Internet or Windows Explorer and enter some miss spelled text or a single letter you will get a ‘The page cannot be displayed’ message.
July 29th, 2008 Found a good article that provides a clear set of instructions on how to disable the “Verizon FiOS Domain Name Ad Redirect”: http://domnit.org/verizon/