Open DNS and Free Internet Filtering in Your Home
by Rich Deem

Introduction

Being a Christian, I have always been concerned about the Internet in our home. We have three sons who are involved in Internet searches for their school projects and enjoy Internet games in their spare time. So, since they first began to use the computer, we have used content filtering software to block inappropriate content from entering our home. Some of these programs were free, but these are now unavailable. So for the last three years I have been using Net Nanny. However, if you are on a budget and can't afford $40/year, there is a free way to filter your Internet content, if your Internet connection goes through a router. We are going to use the free DNS management services by OpenDNS.

What is DNS?

DNS stands for Domain Name System. It is actually the way that your computer knows how to find specific domains on the Internet. The reality is that your computer has no idea how to find the specific server that houses each website domain. When you type or click on a domain name, your ISP's servers translate the domain name to an IP (Internet Protocol) address. For example, GodAndScience.org is hosted at a server with the IP address 205.234.174.92. It is very difficult to remember IP addresses, which is why domain names were invented and assigned to those IP addresses. Ordinarily, your Internet connection is automatically set to use the DNS servers provided by your ISP. However, there is no rule saying that you must use those servers. OpenDNS provides DNS services for individuals and companies to use in place of those provided by their ISP. One can use OpenDNS servers through individual settings on a computer or more globally, through one's router. When OpenDNS provides your DNS services, they  are able to filter your Internet content based upon your specific preferences.

Your router is programmable

Most people don't know that their router is more than just a box that sits somewhere in your house and transmits your Internet connection. Your router is actually programmable to a large degree. For instance, you can program the router to stop accepting Internet calls after a certain hour. For our home, this means that the computers our sons use lose Internet connection at 10:00 p.m. the night before school days. Even if parents go to bed early, our "scholars" are not playing online computer games all hours of the night. If they need to get online for reports, they know not to wait until 10:00 before downloading the information they need.

FamilyShield - Easy

There are two ways to use OpenDNS to filter your web content. We are going to examine the simple way first, then a more customizable method afterward. In June, 2010 OpenDNS initiated FamilyShield, an all-in-one easy way to filter your Internet, blocking content based upon:

Simply by changing the DNS servers in your router, you can block objectionable material automatically. Generally, you can get to your router through the following link:

http://192.168.1.1/

Going to this IP address will bring up the control panel for your router. Your control panel may or may not have a password to gain access. Check your router's manual for the default password and change it once you login. You can usually find the manual online. Just type the router's model number with the word "manual" in a Google search. When in doubt, try the username as "admin" and the password as "password" or blank. You can get specific instructions for your router at the OpenDNS website:

https://store.opendns.com/setup/router/

Once logged in, you will want to look for DNS settings to modify. Usually, these settings will be found under the "advanced settings" category. Look for something that says, "DHCP Settings" or "DNS Settings." If your DNS setting is set for "dynamic" change it to "static" and enter the IP addresses for the OpenDNS DNS FamilyShield servers:

Save your settings and restart your router. You're done! Get started now:

Family Shield by OpenDNS

Customized filtering - More difficult

One can customize OpenDNS filtering by changing the DNS servers and creating an account in OpenDNS to apply custom settings. Again, you can get to your router through the following link:

http://192.168.1.1/

As above, you are going to change the DNS settings in your router from "dynamic" to "static" and enter the IP addresses for the OpenDNS DNS servers:

You can get specific instructions for your router at the OpenDNS website:

https://store.opendns.com/setup/router/

It is recommended that you use the instructions in the link above, since they are different for each router. Just click on the router that corresponds to your particular model. In addition, you will need to setup an account with OpenDNS in order to specify your filter settings. If you don't setup an account in OpenDNS your Internet content will remain unfiltered. My recommendations are to block P2P/File sharing and Proxy/Anonymizer in addition to other content that is inappropriate for children. This will prevent your children from illegally downloading copyrighted music and games. Yes, you the parent are legally responsible if your child steals thousands of dollars of music through illegal file sharing.

Disadvantages

This method of filtering your Internet content is not as good as filtering software, since it blocks sites based upon a specific domain list. Inappropriate content that can be found on newly created or non-blocked domains will be allowed through. However, the vast majority of offensive sites will be blocked, since OpenDNS updates their lists on a continuing basis. However, if you currently have no content filtering, OpenDNS is the free, easy way to set it up.

Conclusion Top of page

OpenDNS provides free DNS management services for individuals, allowing you to customize the filtering of your Internet content. By changing a couple settings on your router and associating it your OpenDNS account, you can control what Internet material comes into your home for free. Although this technique does not block all inappropriate content, it is much better than allowing your children unlimited access to the myriad maze of madness and illegal content. You can get started by clicking the link below:

Use OpenDNS




http://www.godandscience.org/general/opendns_internet_filter.html
Last Modified July 1, 2010

 

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