OpenDNS - Faster and Safer Internet

Category: Networking

I know some of you use the free OpenDNS service, and I've recommended it here for faster web page loading. But faster Web surfing is not all OpenDNS has to offer. OpenDNS also has some features to make Internet usage safer, for both adults and curious kids. Read on to learn how it works...

Speed and Safety

In my article, Speed Up Web Surfing With Alternate DNS, I "de-geekified" how the Internet's DNS (domain name service) gets you where you want to go online, and how you can squeeze a little extra speed out of your internet connection by using an alternative DNS service, instead of the one your Internet provider offers.

OpenDNS is one such service, used by over 60 million people at Fortune 50 companies, small businesses, schools, and home. The free service doesn't require you to sign up for anything, or install any software. By twiddling a few numbers in your router's setup screens, you can speed up web surfing. But you can also filter out malware, phishing sites, botnets, and adult content if desired.

OpenDNS

OpenDNS includes one of the leading anti-phishing projects on the Internet. PhishTank.com is a collaborate effort to identify and block phishing Web sites one bogus URL at a time. Any registered user can submit a suspected phish to PhishTank via email or the site’s “Add A Phish” uploading feature.

Each suspect URL is evaluated by a worldwide community of security consultants, academics, and registered users. When at least two users agree it’s a phish, the bogus URL is added to PhishTank’s database of verified phishing links. The number of votes needed to verify a phish varies depending on the reputations of the voters. Reputation is established by being right more often than you are wrong. Users who submit lots of false positives – URLs that turn out not to be phishing sites – and who, more often than not, incorrectly label others’ submissions as phish or not-phish, will have lower reputation ratings.

False positives – URLs incorrectly labeled “phish” by the community – can also be reported. PhishTank’s staff will review the classification and revise it if warranted. OpenDNS draws upon many resources such as PhishTank to decide which URLs and IP addresses to blocks for its users who have phishing protection enabled. It’s possible that a URL labeled “phish by the PhishTank community will not be blocked by OpenDNS.

Separately, OpenDNS offers parents the option to block access to domains labeled by the PhishTank community with tags such as “adult,” “violence,” “social network,” “file sharing,” and so on. Registered users can tag a domain, but it takes a consensus of the community to make that tag “stick.”

But Does It Work?

Frankly, I am skeptical about the “wisdom of the crowd” method used by PhishTank and OpenDNS. Phishing sites come and go rapidly, and I can’t believe that a “committee” of tens of thousands can keep up with the bad guys on every front. But if it blocks the most common phishing attacks, there's value in that.

The “parental controls” are probably more effective; porn, piracy and social media sites don’t change domain names nearly as often as phishing sites do. But like every parental-control program ever created, OpenDNS blocks some sites that arguably are not harmful to children. Also, its blocking applies to one’s entire network, so Mom and Dad have to give themselves permission to view “adult” sites like La Leche League, or shop at Victoria's Secret.

Worst of all, the free OpenDNS protects only one’s home (or business) fixed-base network. It doesn’t cover the smartphones or tablets on which kids spend most of their lives. An enterprise service called “Umbrella” covers iPhones and iPads, but there’s nothing for Android or other mobile operating systems. “Prosumer” pricing for 1 to 5 iOS devices is $20 per device.

On June 30, 2015, Cisco Systems announced its intention to acquire OpenDNS for $635 million in cash. Cisco is buying OpenDNS for its enterprise-class (business) services, and has pledged to maintain the free OpenDNS services after the purchase. But you can probably expect some upselling efforts once that deal is completed in 2016.

Do you use an alternative DNS offering to boost your speed or security online? Your thoughts are welcome, post a comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "OpenDNS - Faster and Safer Internet"

Posted by:

Rick
02 Jul 2015

We are on satellite and use a plan that gives us 10 Gig bandwidth per month which is usually WAY more than enough for us. We tried OpenDNS and our usage skyrocketed...


Posted by:

Charley
02 Jul 2015

I have been using OpenDNS for years. You can benchmark the speed of DNS servers available to you using tools such as Namebench (https://code.google.com/p/namebench) or DNS Benchmark (https://www.grc.com/dns/benchmark.htm

But OpenDNS does provide some additional features.

-- Charley


Posted by:

Aaron Murphy
02 Jul 2015

Might Be Nice two clean up yore connection and filter out getting bombarded with did all the smut and filth an it can get you court out & No Time attall and ya filling out the member signing form an aid in no time at tall you wil be in in dateted with E+Mail after E+Mail wich is mostly goes straight to the spam folder that I should Empty. Do you you do have to Empty it I guess u do hav't empty one B4 And that May be I should so thakyou for getting back to me and your Toptip on some keeping up to date with the development of the internet and an the Age of the App. It is abit sometimes overwhelming but if yooterlized probbley then in can be a useful capardre. . shall I Say so big up Ask Bob Rankin looking forward too brushing up N1 M8. .!


Posted by:

Cho
02 Jul 2015

Aaron my man, ...put your teeth in...you are talking nutty...


Posted by:

Skip
02 Jul 2015

@Aaron...Being over 3 score and 10 , I really need an interpretation of you comments, in case I missed something important.

Is open DNS the same as VPN ?


Posted by:

John Silberman
02 Jul 2015

What timing. I have used OpenDNS for years. A few nights ago I noticed many of my URLs being identified slowly. So I switched to another non Google, non-OpenDNS server. This is only temporary as I know this is most likely a glitch and that OpenDNS is the best.


Posted by:

Grant
03 Jul 2015

Aaron, are you on the right planet mate? LOL. Thanks Bob for yet more useful info. I use open DNS on my LT but not PC.


Posted by:

Ralph
03 Jul 2015

Skip, Open DNS is another entity, not your ISP, translating the site name, e.g. google.com, to an IP address. Nothing more. VPN is a whole different animal.


Posted by:

Just saying
03 Jul 2015

ATT has completely shut me down using OpenDNS....
Somehow they have hardwired their server into my gear.......they think they know better???


Posted by:

Manxe
11 Dec 2016

Skippy, OpenDNS is a risk reduction service. It runs a server site connected to the Internet for the authorized to use. The DNS lookup is controlled by them when you register the site in your PC. Then the signal goes from your PC to your ISP who connects to OpenDNS. The sites they allow you to connect to is set in parms/profile within your account, depending on what service you use and how much it costs. The methodology is to use DNS to deny access to blocked sites. They block smut sites from a long long list, if you use it. Otherwise, they always block threat sites. Not a perfect solution, but enough to keep you safe most of the time, and enough to keep your kids guessing until they are smart enough to ignore your instructions anyway. My recollection is that HTTPS is used, so you are also hiding your connections from your ISP. [Unless your ISP really wants to see, then they play man in the middle. Very rare.]


Posted by:

Manxe
11 Dec 2016

And NO, Skippy, OpenDNS is not the same as VPN. VPN just hides you from your ISP using solid encryption, and gives you an Internet address that cannot be connected to you, hiding your identity.


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