Firmware Update for UK Sky Broadband ISP Routers Botches DNS

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Customers of UK ISP Sky Broadband, specifically those with their own third-party Domain Name System (DNS) settings, may wish to revert to the default settings for awhile as a recent firmware update for Sky’s own router has been released that seems to be disrupting internet connectivity for some users.

The Domain Name System (DNS), which for most consumers is automatically controlled by your ISP, works to convert Internet Protocol (IP) addresses into a human readable form (e.g. 123.56.78.9 to examplesiteblah.co.uk) and back again. However, many people still like to use their own custom third-party DNS solution (Google Public DNS, OpenDNS etc.) for better performance and control.

Sky’s own routers (e.g. SR101, SR102, Sky Q Hub) tend to be locked down and so subscribers can’t easily change their DNS settings from the default, although some customers have found ways to do this via the router’s backup config file and it’s also possible to adjust DNS settings via individual devices (laptop, desktop PC, Apple TV etc.).

Unfortunately customers who have adopted a custom DNS setting are now finding that this no longer works after the latest firmware update (e.g. partially blocking the use of third-party DNS platforms), which has caused a few sporadic internet connectivity problems and created a lot of frustration. The issue is charted via various topics on their forum (e.g. here and here) and on The Register.

Sky User SimonW said:

“It’s doing it to me with the SKY Q hub. They insist they have changed nothing and its all the other DNS server providers fault (I setup a DNS inside my network and it does it and I know there isnt an issue with that).

I’ve identified whats going on and provided them with all the data to back it up. No doubt they will deny it but it seems they are running transparent DNS Proxies.”

Sky User DandyDons said:

“I now realise it’s not just me that is having issues with DNS proxy services. It’s a real pain to find that sky are blocking these though, intentionally or otherwise.”

Sky User JonW42 said:

“I connected my latop to my iPhone’s hotspot and was able to use a different DNS no problem. The problem is Sky now using a Transparent DNS Proxy to block us from using a different DNS. So that means if Sky’s DNS ever crashes, you’re screwed as we won’t have a DNS. Plus, it is preventing us from using the DNS of our choice. I shall be called Sky sometime this week. I don’t think I’ll get anywhere. I do have the number for broadband. So i’ll give it a go. The more that contact Sky about this the better (I hope).”

At the time of writing this problem appears to have been occurring for the past couple of weeks. However one of Sky’s Community Managers, Mark-Br, reported on Friday that the ISP had finally “identified the root cause and are working towards a permanent solution … In the meantime, if you think you’re impacted by the issue described in this thread, contact Sky.” Sadly no ETA for a fix has been given.

In the meantime customers could consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to work around the problem and more advanced users may be able to completely replace Sky’s own broadband router by using a third-party one with built-in VDSL (FTTC), although Sky doesn’t approve of this. However not all routers work with Sky’s Option 61 (MER) login system (we identified some that do).

One downside is if your Sky setup is using the Sky Q mesh (usually alongside their TV kit) then removing the Sky Q Hub from your network chain could disrupt this. We have separately asked Sky to comment and are awaiting their response.

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