Leverage Smart DNS For Safer Surfing

I used to be concerned about the types of things my family might accidentally stumble upon while surfing the web.  The world wide web is an unregulated wild-west that can be dangerous to us, our children, our computers and occasionally in cases where we give up too much information – our finances.  When we click on a link in email or on a website we’re taking a risk.  Most of the time thankfully we go right were we expect.  We get the information or service we expect to get and that’s that.  Sometimes not.Computer Problems

There are not a lot of cost-free things in the world that come with built in peace of mind but I’ve found one.  I’ve found a way to make my computer systems safer and surfing the web faster and more reliable and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  I do it for my customers. You can do it too!

Let’s go over how it works first.  Imagine you’ve got a new Corncast Internet account.  They come out to your home and plug you in – you’re surfing in no time.  You request www.cnn.com and boom – you’re there.  Behind the scenes when you typed “www.cnn.com” into your computer and pressed ENTER the browser sent that info to a Domain Name System server (DNS server) on Corncast Internet’s network which in turn provided your browser with the location of www.cnn.com – an all numeric address …157.166.255.19.  Packets flew to 157.166.255.19 and requested info … packets flew back from 157.166.255.19 in reply and whamo – there’s www.cnn.com‘s homepage.  Think of the all-numeric address as a telephone number and think of the Domain Name System as the operator connecting your web “call”.

So you’ve got Corncast Internet and by default you have Corncast Internet’s DNS server, it’s speedy and dutiful – but not too smart.  It hands back an all numeric address to your browser without thinking.  What if it were a little bit smarter?  What if it knew that you were trying to go to a website that is known to install unwanted software on visitor’s computers and alerted you?  That would be smart.  What if it could keep track of all the different sites on the Internet and categorized them as … gambling sites, pornography sites, hate speech sites, malware installing sites, spyware installing sites, etc….  that kind of smart DNS server might prove useful if you wanted to avoid any one or even all of these things, right?

It would be really useful if you could have smart DNS pointing you toward the web instead of Corncast Internet’s “not too bright” DNS server.  It would be super nice if the smart DNS server was faster and more reliable.  It would be super useful if you could control what types of things you wanted to avoid while allowing things you weren’t worried about.  It would be tremendously useful if there were a website that would let you control this smart DNS server and all your changes were effective within minutes.

OpenDNS.com is not a new service, it’s been around for a while.  It comes in a few different service level varieties including a free version for home users (that’s where we’re at) as well as a monthly paid deluxe plan and an enterprise level plan too.  Of course the paid plans have a lot of really neat features that can make them worthwhile for folks “in the industry” but for those of you who just want to surf much safer – the cost-free plan is more than adequate.

screenshot of OpenDNS control panel

The OpenDNS control panel puts you in charge

If you’ve set up a wireless network in your home getting OpenDNS working will be a snap for you.  It’s done is three basic steps:

  1. Create an account and log into OpenDNS.com
  2. Let OpenDNS know your IP Address at all times.  This can be accomplished using software you install on your PC, Mac or Linux computer (directions on their site)
  3. Point your computers at the OpenDNS DNS servers instead of your ISPs DNS servers.  You can do this for one or all of your computers.

I set mine up for the entire network by adding the addresses of OpenDNS directly into my gateway router.  Now when anyone gets an ip address on my network they also automatically get the DNS servers I’d like them to use.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re using a laptop or an iPhone – if they connect to the Internet through my network they’re protected!


Penguin Computer & Telephone Solutions is not affiliated with OpenDNS.com – I do not own stock in OpenDNS.com.  OpenDNS.com is not paying me to endorse their product.

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2 Responses to Leverage Smart DNS For Safer Surfing

  1. Thanks for the great post, Frank! Explaining how DNS works can be something of a tricky process, but you totally nailed it.

    If you or your readers ever have any questions about OpenDNS, I’m happy to help 🙂

    Thanks,
    Laura
    OpenDNS.com

  2. Frank says:

    Thank you Laura.

    My hope is that folks will take this very simple precaution to make themselves a little bit safer. You guys have a great product!

    Frank

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