Hosts Block is a new auto-updating Hosts manager - gHacks Tech News

Hosts Block is a new auto-updating Hosts manager

Hosts Block is a free program for the Windows operating system that has been designed to protect the hosts file and update it regularly with lists of blocked malicious, adware or spyware domains.

The program has been designed with ease of use in mind. Simply install it on your Windows PC and it will run quietly in the background for the most part.

The application adds an icon to the Windows system tray which you can use to open its interface and control some of the features it makes available.

The interface displays the current version of the hosts file. There you will notice that it is based on the MVPS Hosts file, and also find the total number of blocked websites of the current list version.

Hosts Block

All blocked domains are displayed in the interface, and it is there that you may edit entries or add new ones to the listing.

hosts block

The interface works like any other text editor which means that you can edit entries directly or add new ones using the keyboard.

The main toolbar lists several options that the program makes available. There you find options to run an update check, back up the list for safe keeping, or to manage the list of exclusions or custom entries.

Last but not least, commands list several useful options such as flushing the DNS cache, disabling the Windows DNS client, or opening the hosts file directly.

You may also want to check the settings at least once as they provide options to add another list to the hosts file, configure the update frequency or startup behavior.

The second list you can add in the program is the MDL (Malware Domain List) hosts file. Other options are to change from using 0.0.0.0 to 127.0.0.1 for the blocking, setting the hosts file to read only, or disabling the program's active protection feature that prevents changes to the hosts file that come from outside sources.

There is also an advanced menu that you can use to add custom hosts file. Up to five hosts files can be added this way by adding the url to the hosts file to the application.

The program indicates whether it can access a hosts file directly in the interface, and the linked hosts file needs to be of the .txt file type.

Comparison

So how does Hosts Block fare against the established and popular HostsMan? HostsMan does not require the Microsoft .Net Framework while Hosts Block does. Functionality wise, features that you expect to be offered by a hosts manager are included in both applications.

HostsMan is a mature program on the other hand offering several features that Hosts Block does not right now. For instance, it ships with support for additional lists out of the box, features useful tools that let you replace IP addresses or re-order the hosts file, or may auto-flush the DNS cache after updates.

Both hosts manager are well designed however, and it seems that Hosts Block is on a good way to feature parity with HostsMan.

Summary
software image
Author Rating
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2.5 based on 10 votes
Software Name
Hosts Block
Operating System
Windows
Software Category
Security
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Comments

  1. S2015 said on January 20, 2016 at 5:44 pm
    Reply

    One more reminder: One should also scan an unknown or potentially risky domain with Virustoal before he or she add that URL to Hosts Block. Meantime, for experienced users, one can pay a visit to that site on a VMware station to see if there is any possibly unwanted content, pop-ups and alike.

  2. anonymousuomynona said on January 20, 2016 at 6:19 pm
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    Has anyone ever found a suitable alternative for linux, ubuntu?

    … I know how to modify hosts in linux but to automagically update, use multiple lists, merge and deduplicate, and temporary restore of original hosts file (to test possible errors) would be nice too.

    The best browser speeder!

  3. Noel said on January 20, 2016 at 6:27 pm
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    I wonder, if there is any tutorial for use of these programs, for noobs or inexperienced folks.

    1. patrick said on January 20, 2016 at 7:12 pm
      Reply
    2. Neal said on January 20, 2016 at 9:33 pm
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      Don’t know about this specific program, but Hostman is pretty self explanatory and seems to have an easier to use GUI. If you have Windows 10, then Microsoft .Net Framework is already included.

      I use Hostman on my Windows 10 tablet so I can block ads for all browsers including MS Edge which the best touch interface browser for Windows 10 b/c Chrome and Firefox’s small icons GUI is suboptimal for touch.

  4. Bill said on January 20, 2016 at 9:31 pm
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    Noel, when I used Windows I wouldn’t without HostsMan. If I remember, HostsMan is fairly easy to set up, just be sure to set default action to Overwrite. Scroll down page here http://winhelp2002.mvps.org/hosts.htm and click on Overwrite to see why. Or you can quite easily add a Hosts file to e.g. uBlock Origin, see https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/ublock-origin/

    1. Tom Hawack said on January 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm
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      True, but limiting a HOSTS file to a browser (by including it in uBlockO) is a bit unfortunate compared to the system-wide protection provided otherwise. This is why I never understood the pertinence of adding whatever HOSTS file to uBlock Origin.

      Concerning HostsMan, another advantage of the application is the possibility to add user’s local file as another source (concatenated with the other sources and as you mention it, always with the Overwrite default action when updating sources). Of course the user’s file will have to be built like any HOSTS file (0.0.0.0 OR 127.0.0.1[[space]entry

      1. gorhill said on January 21, 2016 at 3:48 pm
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        uBlock Origin will also block all sub-domains of entries in a HOSTS file. Also, one can create exceptions to un-break sites broken by overzealous HOSTS file (occurs often with hpHosts et al.) — not all HOSTS files are for stuff which should never be unblocked.

      2. Tom Hawack said on January 21, 2016 at 5:50 pm
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        @gorhill (the developer of ‘uBlock Origin’ himself?), I totally ignored that “uBlock Origin will also block all sub-domains of entries in a HOSTS file.” which is absolutely impossible in a system-wide HOSTS file and my assumption was based on that fact. Conseqently a HOSTS file managed by uBlockO has more than just the name of HOSTS. This is brand news here. Thanks for this information.

        Now, if “one can create exceptions to un-break sites broken by overzealous HOSTS file (occurs often with hpHosts et al.)” for a HOSTS file managed by uBlockO (which may indeed appear necessary when some entries in some HOSTS files are indeed overzealous), this requires to avoid having the same entries in a “traditional” system-wide HOSTS file (or to manage two approaches, one system-wide, one for the browser : complicated), and I’d dare not run my system without a system-wide HOSTS (well thought and managed, neither too few nor excessive entries).

        I’ll think about it nevertheless. But at this time my uBlockO rules (those registered together with those added together with my own) excellently do the job and haven’t been up to now disturbed by my system-wide HOSTS.

  5. Carl O. said on January 20, 2016 at 11:47 pm
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    Guys, a reminder, if you’re using a HOSTS file to block Windows 10 spying and data collection, you’re wasting your time. Windows processes rarely use the HOSTS file, instead it uses DNS or direct IP connections, completely bypassing your HOSTS, DNS and firewall settings. I recommend using wireshark and netstat to prove this. Add all the known Microsoft telemetry domains to your HOSTS file (easily searched for), and watch wireshark – connections are still successfully completed, and your data is uploaded, irrespective of your HOSTS file or your wishes.

    The only effective way to stop Microsoft data piracy is for us all to actively gather all known Microsoft telemetry domains (there are thousands) and block those IP addresses at the router. pfSense does a good job here. There are others. But Microsoft adds and changes their domains and IP addresses frequently so we also must update the firewall as frequently. This is the new reality of Microsoft.

    Perhaps a community Github project we all contribute to protect our privacy from giant american corporations would be a good idea. I would include Apple, Adobe, Oracle and Google in this list. Others?

    1. George said on January 21, 2016 at 11:11 am
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      You mean using a 3rd-party software firewall (which essentially disables the Windows Firewall) to block those IP’s wouldn’t work either? I’ve done some tests and it seems to work, at least for some Microsoft sites I tried. The site is not loaded and I get the relevant prompt/warning.

    2. Tom Hawack said on January 21, 2016 at 1:40 pm
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      Good to know. Another handicap for Win10, another reason here for avoiding, or postponing its installation.

      1. Corky said on January 21, 2016 at 2:00 pm
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        It’s not just Windows 10, Microsoft have been hardcoding some DNS lookups since 2006.
        http://permalink.gmane.org/gmane.comp.security.full-disclosure/43878

      2. Gary D said on January 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm
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        I use Emsisoft Internet Security (Pro). I added the Github HOSTS file to Emsisoft Surf protection. I get regular pop ups to tell me that an attempt has been made by Windows to “phone home” which was blocked. Emsisoft blocks at least 20 of MS IPs, including Vortex and Watson.

      3. Tom Hawack said on January 21, 2016 at 2:47 pm
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        @Gary D, that’s on Windows 10, I presume. Well, at least a hope to limit, to circumvent Win10’s built-in independence (its, not ours!) flags! But it’s going to be tough (if I ever move to the “10”) and so complex that even less accessible to non-techies than before.

        Of what I’ve noticed up to now, the idea for computing manufacturers is to always (always?) provide (or let be done) a solution or a work-around to settings related to privacy but in such a hidden form that a user really has to battle hard to find it, and since most users either don’t care either believe it’s above their skills, the beat (that of the user) goes on, and goes on with a manufacturer’s clear consciousness since it’ll be said that there was an exit. Treasure Land if you want my opinion. And the treasures are hidden deeper and deeper with new products.

      4. Tom Hawack said on January 21, 2016 at 2:57 pm
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        @Corky, I guess what is described on the page addressed by your link may have to do with the fact that some applications (as well as some sites) access urls by their “IP number” (whatever you call it) rather then by a plain url. I’ve noticed this for instance when PeerBlock (an application which blocks IP ranges) displayed calls to Facebook via a xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx IPv4 address instead of the “regular” HOSTS-blockable entry, which means a Web site had used this method to access facebook’s servers. It doesn’t occur often but it remains sneaky. I have a paid subscription to I-Blocklist which adds extra ranges to the free ones, among which facebook …

      5. Corky said on January 21, 2016 at 5:21 pm
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        @Tom Hawack, Not from my understanding.
        Since Windows XP SP2 Microsoft have hardcoded some DNS lookups into the dnsapi.dll, basically the dnsapi.dll is resolving some hostnames before any other resolution (hosts file, DNS servers) takes place, in effect it acts as Microsoft’s own DNS spoofing attack.

      6. Tom Hawack said on January 22, 2016 at 11:34 am
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        @Corky, OK- Microsoft hard-coded DNS loolups via dnsapi.dll
        Again something I discover. Looks like it deserves indeed the qualification of “DNS spoofing attack”.

  6. beach boui said on January 21, 2016 at 1:42 am
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    I notice, in the example HOSTS file above, the comments indicate that the first readable line *must* be 0.0.0.0, and all the URLs in the list are set to 0.0.0.0. Yet, the first readable line says 127.0.0.1, like the default HOST file would normally be. What’s up with that?

  7. lance said on January 21, 2016 at 8:41 am
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    Shall be sticking with HostsMan.Been using it as long as I’ve been using Avira.

  8. Bill said on January 21, 2016 at 9:37 am
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    HostsMan is pretty easy to set up, but you need to set the Default Action to Overwrite. Once it’s set up there’s no more to it, it works away quietly in the background. You can also use a Hosts file via uBlock Origin simply by clicking a check box in the 3rd-party filters tab.

  9. Oudah said on January 21, 2016 at 10:25 am
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    Maybe I’m blind, but that will be nice to give original Url of each program you discribe. Btw Thanks for your great job(s) ;)

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 21, 2016 at 11:18 am
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      The url is in the summary box under the article.

      1. o said on January 21, 2016 at 12:43 pm
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        My apologies … But on my client (thunderbird) there’s no link … Thanks again Martin !

  10. Mick said on January 21, 2016 at 12:09 pm
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    I wish someone devised a way of getting access to the hosts file on Android without having to root the entire phone. I’m on Samsung Note 4 with 5.1.1 and I can’t root the bloody thing without having to go back to an older version, since Samsung made it impossible to root 5.1.1. I know it is off topic, just a soul cry ;-)

  11. Brock said on January 26, 2016 at 6:22 am
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    Martin,

    Thank you for reviewing Hosts Block. I am the developer of Hosts Block. In next update I plan on adding a lot more Hosts file lists to the options. Hosts Block does include auto flushing DNS on updates along with Encrypting the hosts file while backing up.

    again

    thank you
    Brock

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