I'm running Mojave (10.14) and I have a Cisco AnyConnect VPN over which traffic for selected routes (determined by the VPN profile, out of my control) is sent.

Traffic routing works fine, the issue is that DNS resolution is taking place over the VPN for hostnames that are not on the internal network.

The output of scutil --dns contains:

craig@TBMBP:~$ scutil --dns
DNS configuration

resolver #1
  search domain[0] : a.mycompany.com
  search domain[1] : b.mycompany.com
  search domain[2] : c.mycompany.com
  search domain[3] : d.mycompany.com
  search domain[4] : hsd1.ma.comcast.net <-- (my ISP)
  nameserver[0] : 10.70.yy.yy

Further, it contains:

DNS configuration (for scoped queries)

resolver #1
  search domain[0] : hsd1.ma.comcast.net
  nameserver[0] : 2601:184:497f:...     <-- (some ipv6 address)
  nameserver[1] :
  if_index : 10 (en0)
  flags    : Scoped, Request A records, Request AAAA records
  reach    : 0x00000002 (Reachable)

That means when I open www.apple.com, I see over the VPN:

39  2.316879    10.70.xx.xx 10.70.yy.yy DNS 63  Standard query 0xefee A www.apple.com

And I don't want this to happen. Rather, I want DNS resolution to happen between me and my ISP (or between me and or and then if resolution fails, to consult with the VPN.

How do I update the resolver to use Cloudflare/Google first for DNS, using the command line on Mac?

  • Hopefully I'm wrong with my answer you cannot do this, but let's see what your network routing look like. I don't have a VPN that allows split tunneling to test - but you've provided superior details and since the VPN config is out of your control, you might be stuck with what it dictates.
    – bmike
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:05
  • What is the underlying reason you want to do this? Dec 3, 2018 at 2:05
  • @ThorbjørnRavnAndersen I’ve had issues with the VPN DNS being slow to resolve, and I’d like to configure my network to use Google/Cloudflare instead, but the VPN always seems to take precedence, even if the route isn’t actually secured by the VPN.
    – Craig Otis
    Dec 3, 2018 at 11:31

3 Answers 3


I have a similar situation where I have to use a very heavy-handed captive portal Wi-Fi connection with a very heavy-handed, very creepy virtual firewall. Not only does snoop on secure connections, it impersonates DNS server IPs, using DPI (when it detects the request).

The only thing that works for me is to go over the top of the VPN/firewall rather than try to sneak under it, using dnscrypt-proxy using only DNS-over-HTTPS, as it can detect the dnscrypt protocol. Right now, its not aware of DNS-over-HTTPS at all.

I implement it using a LaunchAgent that watches /etc/resolve.conf for changes, and when it detects a change, it restarts dnscrypt-proxy, then runs networksetup -setdnsservers Wi-Fi

Aside: I've been using Quad9 for a while now, and much prefer it to Google and CloudFlare.

Edit: After playing a bit more with this, I'm noticing that (somehow, I haven't even figured out where the traffic is to/from), IPv6 addresses are somehow resolved with ::1 as a DNS server, even if there are no other DNS servers set. So probably better to just disable IPv6 if you can.

Edit 2:

Yeah, I think being able to split out that route might be just too much to do with the newer system-level VPN implementation; I think DNS proxying is probably your best bet. It might be possible to remove ipsec0 as the default route and then add it back for a restricted IP range... but every time I try this (with IKEv2, not AnyConnect, but I'm assuming they're using the same API) it just... stops.

As for the residual traffic, maybe its Rendezvous? sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder; sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.mDNSResponder.plist?

Also, perhaps you might be able to use an app like Shimo? It's available with Setapp! I don't know exactly how AnyConnect works, but it says it supports it, and it has configuration options available that are exactly what you are looking for for other protocols, including IKE, so... maybe?



The short answer is you likely cannot make this change.

This is a very typical situation where the managed settings disallow a split VPN tunnel situation. Literally, when you connect to the VPN gateway - it ensures you can no longer reach any network destination except for the DNS and settings that are on the other end network of where the VPN terminates.

To fix this, you need to:

  • change your VPN configuration to allow a split tunnel - possibly needing the network administrators to bless this change / make it effective.
  • Not engage the VPN at all
  • Set up a virtual machine so that you can maintain control of your OS and only allow the guest OS to connect to the VPN
  • convince the network admin to change the DNS at the other end to meet your needs (secondary a DNS setting you have before you connect to VPN, change the forwarders, etc..)
  • use a different client or client setting to avoid the profile you run in Cisco (assuming the cisco won't let you change the configuration) - Force DNS server ip while connected to VPN

(this is a common question that never gets an answer other than - don't use VPN, but I hope there is a way for you)

  • I believe the VPN is currently a split tunnel. Once DNS resolution happens (say, to apple.com) over the VPN, the traffic itself is then sent outside the VPN to my ISP.
    – Craig Otis
    Dec 3, 2018 at 0:57
  • The link to "change your VPN" has steps to test that Cisco split tunneling was allowed. Can you ping a local non-routable IP address on your local subnet once you connect to the VPN? Also - you might need to add the results of netstat -nr and uncommented lines in /etc/resolv.conf before and after the VPN is established since it's the routing tables that govern things primarily. @CraigOtis
    – bmike
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:02
  • I don't think /etc/resolv.conf is used these days on macOS. The file contains: This file is not consulted for DNS hostname resolution, address resolution, or the DNS query routing mechanism used by most processes on this system.
    – Craig Otis
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:06
  • It updates to show me what CiscoVPN changes in terms of primary DNS so I include it in my troubleshooting. You're correct in that the file may never be read by macOS, but it does show useful info for me on 10.14.1 to indicate VPN has changed state of DNS.
    – bmike
    Dec 3, 2018 at 1:51
  • 1
    @bmike I’m just speculating, so assume it doesn’t work for me, then. I’ll let you know if I can get it working.
    – Neil
    Jul 10, 2019 at 21:56

Your VPN client is registering its DNS state with scutil, and you can use the same tool to change the DNS to what you want.

To list the currently registered DNS states:

scutil <<< list | awk '{ print $4 }' | egrep '^State:/.+/DNS$'

I don't know how to register your own state and make it override the others, but you can modify all of the registered states to reflect your preferred DNS server, easily:

states=$(scutil <<< list | awk '{ print $4 }' | egrep '^State:.+/DNS$')
for state in $states ; do
  printf "d.init\nd.add ServerAddresses * ${mydns}\nset ${state}\nquit\n" | scutil

This code runs through the list of registered states, and for each one, overwrites it with a new one that just contains your DNS server of choice. You could also add search domains or other options.

You can experiment with scutil by running it at the command line, and typing help.

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