What OpenDNS (Open DNS) Is and How Parents Can Benefit from Using It

OpenDNS is one of the more advanced and yet simple ways of protecting kids on the Internet.
Open DNS Parental Control

Note: This is a guest post from Sam Chester who works over at cooltechzone.com. Sam graciously wrote this article for publishing on GreatCity.org. This article is about OpenDNS (or “Open DNS” if you prefer) which is a free product that you can download and install on your home network. Installation and configuration require a little work, but Sam walks us through the process. This is a tool that you can add to your toolbox to control and monitor internet access at home. The setup is simple as Sam explains below.

From Sam Chester at cooltechzone.com:

In our age, computer and Internet security are a major concern of every parent. And rightfully so – after all, it can be hard even for adults to steer clear of malicious websites and assorted email scams. For children, this task is even harder. Naturally, it falls to their parents or guardians to help them with it.

There are numerous measures that parents can take to ensure their children’s Internet security. Following the basics of online safety for kids is a good first step. However, more can be done, and OpenDNS is one of the more advanced ways of protecting kids on the Internet.

What exactly is OpenDNS?

To understand OpenDNS, we’ll need to establish what the DNS is first. The DNS, or Domain Name System is responsible for making connections over the Internet possible. It stores an IP address of every website there is and allows users to access it.

Every website has an IP address and a corresponding domain name. The domain name is what you enter in your browser’s bar to go to a site; for example, greatcity.org. However, this is what’s called a human-friendly representation of its real address that the machines access. That would be, in our case, 151.101.194.159. You see how it would be a bit problematic for most humans to remember. And don’t forget, we’d have to do that for every website we wanted to go to! Luckily, thanks to the DNS, we don’t have to.

DNS services are generally provided by ISPs (Internet service providers). However, most of them just allow accessing any website without much consideration of people’s security.

That’s where OpenDNS comes into the picture. This service, apart from allowing you to match the human and machine-friendly representations of a website’s name, also lets you establish some protection.

As OpenDNS offers both free and paid versions, their features differ a bit. The free version, however, should be more than enough for most purposes and add a great layer of safety to children’s activities online. Here are the benefits it offers:

  • Parental control, allowing adults to limit their kids’ access to certain types of content
  • Protection against phishing websites;
  • Extensive customization of content filtering

Now we will see how you can set up OpenDNS for your network and secure your kids’ (and your own) stay on the Internet.

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OpenDNS Sign-up

First of all, you’ll need to go to the official website of OpenDNS by typing or pasting opendns.com into your browser.

There, you will see this menu:

OpenDNS Menu 1

What you need is to access the Consumer tab. Just click on the Learn More button, and you’ll be taken to the next page.

Here, you will see different options for your setup, allowing you to choose the plan you want. There are several paid ones but it makes sense to check the free ones first to see if they satisfy you and whether or not you want more protection.

So, click on one of the options in the upper row:

OpenDNS Options 2

Now, there are some distinctions between OpenDNS Family Shield and OpenDNS Home. The former lacks the most customization options and gives you an easy way to protect your children from unwanted content online. This option doesn’t require you to create an account.

The setup itself is rather simple and you can click on the Setup Guide button if you decide to go with this variant and it will take you through all the necessary steps.

OpenDNS Home is equally simple to grasp but allows more configuration. You do need to create an account to make use of this service but worry not – it’s free and doesn’t require any information other than your email address which is only used to confirm your registration.

Please note that you will still need to follow one of the Setup Guides to make sure you are using the OpenDNS servers.

The best solution is setting OpenDNS up for your router. This way, all of the devices in your network (and likely in your house) will be protected at the same time. However, you may want to set it up separately on every device you have.

Once you’re done with that, it’s time to configure your OpenDNS Home. Here’s how you do it.

Click the Sign-Up button to continue.

On this page, you will see the registration form:

OpenDNS Signup

Just fill every field in and click the button below to proceed.

OpenDNS Setup

Now you will need to check the mailbox you provided in the previous form. You’ll see a new mail with a link that you’ll need to click to finish the creation of your account.

It will take you to this settings menu on the OpenDNS website:

OpenDNS Welcome

Click Add a network.

OpenDNS Add a Network

It will determine your IP automatically. Choose how many IP addresses your network will have (for most users, the number is going to be 1 by default) and click Add this network.

OpenDNS Success

Just give it a name, and you are ready to go!

What you need to do now is to configure what you want OpenDNS to block for you. There are three default options you may choose with varying degrees of strictness or you can set up your own set of rules based on the quite extensive categorization available in the menu.

OpenDNS Filtering 7

Also, you can add specific websites to be always blocked or always allowed in the menu at the bottom.

OpenDNS Filtering

Here are the categories you can choose from to block if you go with the Custom option:

OpenDNS Custom Filtering 8

Obviously, it wouldn’t make much sense to check all of these boxes because a lot of them (though not all) are not dangerous to children in any way if used in moderation. However, such a level of customizability is great and allows for pretty flexible settings.

OpenDNS Security

The next thing you want to do is check the Security menu on the left.

OpenDNS Security 9

It allows you to enable protection from malware, botnets, phishing, and suspicious responses. It’s generally a good idea to leave these settings at their default values, though you may want to tinker with them a bit if you know what you are doing.

Last but not least, you can enter custom messages that will be displayed when a user of your network tries to access one of the blocked websites. To do it, select the Customization heading on the left:

OpenDNS Customization 10

And scroll down until you see the relevant subheading:

OpenDNS Blocking 11

Conclusion

OpenDNS is a free and incredibly useful online safety tool. Its primary use is restricting children’s access to websites that contain inappropriate content, but it also helps to avoid phishing scams as well as malicious resources.

While setting it up may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t. The guides provided on the official website are very comprehensive and don’t require particular tech-savviness to follow. Any parent is sure to sleep better knowing their kids are safe online. And OpenDNS is one of the tools that help them with that.

About the Author:

Sam Chester a co-founder of cooltechzone.com and is an expert in cybersecurity and technology. He gives practical tips on how to protect sensitive data on the Internet and not to become a victim of a witty hacker or malefactor.

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Terry Preece

Terry Preece

Husband, Father, Grandfather, and IT Executive

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