If you’re like me, you’re tired of the viruses, malware, spyware, adware and phishing attacks leveled against us on a daily basis. However, these aren’t the only digital threats we must learn to thwart. It’s also important to protect our families from websites that provide web spam, pornography, P2P file sharing, or even proxy/anonymizers that allow bypassing network securities that would normally block these threats. The fact is that our computers are highly susceptible to many different types of attacks and are capable of viewing content that we shouldn’t be viewing, but the common software packages marketed to filter this content are quite expensive. When we consider protecting our children and teens we often decide that the cost is negligible compared to the damage that could be levied if we did nothing to stop it. However, we now encounter another problem – these software packages can’t internet capable devices at once. One solution may work well for a computer, but not on a mobile phone. Another may be designed for mobile phones but not gaming devices or consoles. Children’s gaming devices that connect to the internet through our home routers such as the iPod Touch, iPad, Amazon Fire Tablet, Xbox, etc. are all capable of viewing pornography. So, it’s important to understand that any software we may install on our computers to block such content won’t filter these devices. As you might imagine, having briefly skimmed the surface of the dilemma at hand, finding multiple solutions to protect every internet capable device in the home becomes an expensive endeavor. This is why I highly recommend a free product called OpenDNS.
OpenDNS is not a software package to be installed – it’s a filtered Domain Name Server, or DNS server, through which your router accesses the Internet. When you type an Internet address into your web browser’s address bar, such as http://matthewlbailey.com, the computer doesn’t know where http://matthewlbailey.com points and will therefore ask the DNS server. The DNS server’s job is to translate the human-readable web address into a computer-readable web address like 188.8.131.52, which is called an Internet protocol (IP) address. Once your computer knows the IP address of a web domain name, it opens the website in your web browser.
So, in order to block all of the above attacks from all of the devices within your home that access the Internet, you must set your router to use the OpenDNS servers. Then, voilà – you’ve now blocked all these threats… for free!
Now, since most of us have dynamic IP addresses, meaning that our router’s IPs change from time to time, you’ll want to download the small OpenDNS client program that constantly monitors your router’s IP and keeps OpenDNS updated (the installation of this client program is only necessary for one computer on your network). Please keep in mind that your more computer savvy teens may be able to access your router’s settings and/or log into your OpenDNS account and undo any blocking you may have set up. Make certain that you create a new and secure username and password for logging into your router and OpenDNS account that your teens won’t be able to figure out. You’ll also want to make sure that your web browser isn’t set to remember the username and password for your router settings page or OpenDNS account.
There are paid versions of OpenDNS, but OpenDNS Home Internet Security is free and should be more than sufficient for the home user. Keep in mind that, while OpenDNS is an enterprise class web filter, it doesn’t provide the capability of setting time limits for your children. While every solution has its pros and cons, I recommend OpenDNS to everyone who wants to protect their family from inappropriate content on the Web as well as guard against adware and web spam. It’s a great method of filtering both computers and non-PC devices simply and cheaply.
How are you protecting your family from Internet threats?