Using OpenDNS to Protect Your Family Online


For well over a decade, I’ve heard a myr­i­ad of claims con­cern­ing soft­ware which promis­es to pro­tect your fam­i­ly online, and by and large the mar­ket for such soft­ware is legit­i­mate — not only is there an immea­sur­able amount of garbage online, but there are count­less websites/services, spam­mers, and so on which are all too hap­py to shov­el some of that garbage into your life via your Inter­net connection.

Whether you trust your­self not to view con­tent which you feel is unac­cept­able or not isn’t the issue. Trust­ing your­self may very well be easy to do! But it’s trust­ing the Inter­net at large which can get you into trouble.

For instance, I’m a user of Stum­ble­Upon, and using their tool­bar, I can press a sin­gle but­ton and be tak­en to one of count­less user-sub­mit­ted web­sites in Stum­ble­Upon’s database.

As addic­tive as click­ing that lit­tle but­ton is, at least once per ses­sion I’m giv­en a page over­flow­ing with objec­tion­able mate­r­i­al. And quite often I am deliv­ered pages which are blocked by OpenDNS. If I was not using them, I’d prob­a­bly quit using Stum­ble­Upon altogether.

So what’s a stum­bler to do?

Thank­ful­ly, there’s a won­der­ful, free ser­vice called OpenDNS.

Their ser­vice can be used with­out reg­is­tra­tion; how­ev­er, you will not be able to take advan­tage of any of their advanced fea­tures. With­out reg­is­ter­ing, you’ll be using them only for your DNS; admit­ted­ly, that’s cool in and of itself — you’ll be tak­ing advan­tage of their supe­ri­or ser­vice and should notice an ever-so-slight increase to your Inter­net respon­sive­ness while browsing.

Before con­tin­u­ing, you may be inter­est­ed in how DNSs work.

Set­ting up your com­put­er or even your home net­work to use OpenDNS is ridicu­lous­ly sim­ple, and you can find all the instruc­tions you’ll need on the OpenDNS Get Start­ed page.

No soft­ware to install. ((If you have a dynam­ic IP, such as dial-up modem users will have, I believe there is soft­ware to install to take advan­tage of the reg­is­tra­tion-only fea­tures; sim­ply using OpenDNS as your domain name serv­er does not require any soft­ware!)) No hard­ware to buy. It’s com­plete­ly free. Did you switch to OpenDNS yet? Great! We can con­tin­ue then.

Whether you want to block the Inter­net’s boun­ti­ful cache of adult web­sites or not, OpenDNS has a pletho­ra of fea­tures designed to make the Inter­net safer, more reli­able, and more user friend­ly. By reg­is­ter­ing for free, here is what you’ll gain access to, all of which is also free:

  • Phish­ing Pro­tec­tion — Web­sites designed to steal your per­son­al infor­ma­tion will be fil­tered automatically.
  • Domain Block­ing — Want to ground your kid from MySpace for a week? OpenDNS makes it easy to block as many domains as you want.
  • Adult Site Block­ing — Using OpenDNS’ ser­vice, you have the option of block­ing a vari­ety of “adult” web­sites based upon cat­e­go­ry. These include taste­less sites, porno­graph­ic sites, lingerie/bikini sites, and even proxy sites.
  • Domain Whitelist­ing — Want to block all proxy sites but keep access open to the Way­back Machine? The domain can be whitelist­ed eas­i­ly enough!
  • Typo Cor­rec­tion — Acci­den­tal­ly type in rickbeckman.og to your browser’s address bar? Not a prob­lem, if you’re using OpenDNS! With typo pro­tec­tion enabled, you’ll be instant­ly redi­rect­ed to this domain, with­out any has­sle on your part!
  • And more!

Pro­vid­ed that you pass­word pro­tect your net­work con­fig­u­ra­tion and your OpenDNS account, cir­cum­vent­ing what­ev­er blocks you put in place is going to be quite difficult.

And you’ll be able to stum­ble with a bit more con­fi­dence, know­ing that the next time you click that but­ton, you’re a lot less like­ly to be in for a shock!

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Rick Beckman