Try This, For Faster and Safer Internet

Category: Security

On occasion, I have recommended using alternative DNS as a means to a faster and more reliable Web browsing experience. But faster Web surfing isn't the only benefit of switching your DNS servers. I know it sounds geeky, but I'll explain it all in plain English and show you how to make Internet usage both faster and safer, for both adults and curious kids. Read on...

Speed and Safety

Let's start by de-geekifying the DNS acronym. DNS stands for "Domain Name Service" and it's a service normally provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Here's why it's necessary... Humans refer to websites by their common "dot com" names, but the computers that run things on the Internet know them only by numbers known as IP (internet protocol) addresses. When you tell your browser you want to visit a certain website, it must connect to a DNS server to translate that website name into an IP address.

Normally, that DNS server is operated by your ISP, but there's no technical reason why that must be so. Alternate DNS services can be used to speed up web surfing, provide an additional layer of security, correct typos, or assign shortcuts to commonly-typed website names. Here are some free alternative DNS services you can try.

OpenDNS Home is one such service, used by over 30 million people at Fortune 50 companies, small businesses, schools, and homes. 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, If you also want to filter out adult content, use the OpenDNS Family Shield instead. It works exactly the same as the OpenDNS Home service, but is preconfigured to block sites that may not be appropriate for younger users.

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 Domain Tagging offers users the option to label websites with tags such as “adult,” “violence,” “social network,” “gambling,” and so on. Registered users can tag a domain, but it takes a consensus of the community to make that tag “stick.” OpenDNS users can use the tagging system to block selected categories of content, if desired.

But Does It Work?

You have options when it comes to selecting an alternate to your ISP's DNS servers. Google Public DNS is similar to OpenDNS, promising increased security and better performance. Which is best? My answer is try them both! You can compare the speed of OpenDNS, Google and other DNS servers with the DNS Benchmark tool.

There's really no downside to switching your DNS nameservers from the ones provided by your Internet Service Provider to the OpenDNS ones. Most users will see slightly improved page loading time, less "lag" when contacting a website, and fewer errors with unreachable websites.

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. Just don't assume it will protect you from EVERY known phishing threat, and continue to use caution about clicking links you see in emails.

The “parental controls” offered by OpenDNS are probably more effective; p**n, 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.

If you configure your Internet router with the OpenDNS nameservers, it's important to remember that it can protect only the computers, laptops and other devices that are connected to your router, via a wired or wireless connection. When outside of WiFi range, OpenDNS can't protect mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones or tablets. However, you also have the option to modify the DNS settings on individual devices, rather than (or in addition to) your router. This OpenDNS setup guide will walk you through the steps to make it happen. Just remember to record your current nameserver settings somewhere as a backup, in case you want or need to switch back.

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 "Try This, For Faster and Safer Internet"

Posted by:

Jay R
02 Aug 2019

When it comes to things like this, I Don't No Stuff. Thanx, Bob.


Posted by:

Ron
02 Aug 2019

I've used OpenDNS for my home network for several years now. It generally does a good job.

But I believe it may have a problem of poisoned reported sites. It lets you check domain names to see if they are already categorized by OpenDNS, and in that process, you have the option to vote on other people's reported sites. Sites are only officially categorized after they have been voted on by several different people.

While I was going through a few of those sites, agreeing with some voted categories, etc, I came across several that obviously did not belong in the categories suggested by the original poster. Some of them had been in the system for over 6 years and had not yet been voted on by enough people to be official.

I took a look at that user's entries, and he had submitted several million sites over the years, in all different categories, many (most?) had not been voted on by more than that one user.

If this kind of thing can clog the system, and not enough OpenDNS users take time to vote on submitted sites, then the 'committee method' used by OpenDNS is in trouble.


Posted by:

Ryan James
02 Aug 2019

This is still to geeky for me, but I am interested. Does this take the place of a VPN or in addition to one?


Posted by:

Bear
02 Aug 2019

I use 1.1.1.1 or 1.0.0.1
You can check your DNS with a software from https://www.grc.com/dns/benchmark.htm
cheers


Posted by:

Yoda
02 Aug 2019

Been using Cloudfare's DNS service since BBY, I have. Strongly recommend it, I do.

https://www.windowscentral.com/how-configure-cloudflare-dns-1111-service-windows-10-and-router


Posted by:

RandiO
02 Aug 2019

Oh, Oh! Mr. Rankin did not recommend the google DNS servers.. I find that it is a must to jot down your current (default) ISP DNS server IP addresses, before making any changes. I am satisfied since I've changed to Level3 DNS servers in January 2019. OpenDNS became a bit too feature-ridden and verbose for my needs.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not sure what you mean. I did mention Google Public DNS in the article.


Posted by:

Andrew
03 Aug 2019

Sorry, but ANYTHING Google is suspect.


Posted by:

raymond robinson
03 Aug 2019

As an avid follower of this site ... I tend to wonder at its relevance to Australian issues , rather than U.S.A.s.


Posted by:

Lester Noyes
03 Aug 2019

What if, like me, your ISP-provided modem/router won't LET you reconfigure stuff? I got my own router (for better WIFI) but the ISP insists that THEIR modem/router is the boss and must be the one connected to their DSL/internet. Can't change settings.


Posted by:

Larry
03 Aug 2019

How can these services be free since someone has to pay.


Posted by:

Nathaniel Gildersleeve
04 Aug 2019

You mentioned that you can change the DNS server at the router level or the computer level(network adapter settings). If the settings are different, which has precedence? the router settings or the adapter settings?


Posted by:

Ken Driver
04 Aug 2019

I'm looking for instructions on how to edit my ATT Uverse dns settings


Posted by:

Pete
06 Aug 2019

I’ve used many different DNS servers. I test them from time to time. I’ve seen them vary with one or another being superior. I must be fortunate because my ISP tends to have very fast DSN servers. Therefore I keep the default ones handed to me. Over the years Verizon/GE & Google have been fine but sticking to the ISP.

I do see an advantage to controlling DNS at the router using OpenDNS if kids are present as it can stop the majority of unmentionable sites. However, teaching them the importance of typing the correct domain in contrast to mistake spellings is smart too.

My current router has settings I can use to control certain topics anyway. Plus there are lists of know terrible domains & trackers, bots, ad redirects that I can drop into it. I used to enjoy having first-hand ‘control’ of these things but finding I don’t have the time or energy so if kids are coming over I quickly activate a guest network & put sensitivity high for junk sites. Sorry to babble. Just sharing my world.

By the way, I used to work for an ISP. We were directed to tell people our DNS or automatic settings and I thought it was too controlling. However, over time, I found that people that know what they’re doing, don’t call with their systems all screwed up as they know how to fix them. The people who would call is people reading or hearing a ‘simple’ guide trying it and f’ing it up. I think there were 2 times in like 8 years where our servers actually had an issue and we knew about it immediately before anyone called in with complaints about DNS slowdown or drop. I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing this kind of thing but please take screen shots along the way so you can put things back if you need to. Also, many browsers have a default statement saying ‘could not reach your DNS server...’. That can happen if the cat ripped the Ethernet cord from the router or any number of things. Unfortunately the browser doesn’t tend to know much more than the fact a requested site was not reached. Ok. Enough writing. Just ideas come to mind surrounding DNS.

One last thing. The reason I changed my DNS in the past was the ISP at the time admitted at the time they were using traffic on the server to make money selling the overall traffic information. I was shocked back then. Now, unless you’re using a decent VPN, your traffic is monitored by someone or some thing. Don’t worry too much. It’s generally a mindless computer program or AI doing the collecting and it doesn’t care ‘who’ you are personally.


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