Want Your Internet Faster and Safer?

Category: Security

I know today’s topic might sound geeky, but I'll explain it all in plain English and show you how to make Internet usage both faster and safer, for adults and curious kids. In the past, 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. Read on…

Improved Speed and Safety on the Info-Superhighway

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.

The data collected and vetted via PhishTank is shared publicly and is used by other companies that develop web browsing and Internet security tools. Among them are Opera, WebOfTrust, Yahoo! Mail, McAfee, Carnegie-Mellon University, Mozilla, Kaspersky, and Avira.

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 somewhat 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*rn, 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.

>h2>Please Pass the Caveat...

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 it, via a wired or wireless connection. When away from home, or outside of WiFi range, OpenDNS can't protect any 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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This article was posted by on 30 Nov 2020


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Most recent comments on "Want Your Internet Faster and Safer?"

Posted by:

Laurie
30 Nov 2020

I have gone back and forth between Google’s DNS servers and OpenDNS for a number of years. Both have been good. I just like to switch around from time to time.


Posted by:

cho
30 Nov 2020

My preference is Goole 8.8.8.8 alt 8.8.4.4


Posted by:

Will
30 Nov 2020

My ISP uses Google dns servers. The lag time during certain hours was rediculus. I switched to Opendns and it cut my lag times to less than a quarter of what they were. Most of my problems now are ISP related but internet is included in my rent and it isn't bad enough to pay extra to get my own service.


Posted by:

john
30 Nov 2020

Obviously a paid add for OpenDNS. There are so many other good and safe DNSs. How about NextDNS, Cloudfare, Quad 9, Open Nic, and many more.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ever since you alerted me that this was a paid ad, I've been checking the mailbox to see if a big fat check has arrived. So far, nothing.


Posted by:

Coco
30 Nov 2020

Hey John, I doubt that this is a paid ad for any one. I bet Bob just likes OpenDNS because of various reasons and that is the basis of the story.

I'm sure Bob would let you post a 1000 word report on your favorites. He has a life like the rest of us and only has so much time to devote on this column.


Posted by:

David
30 Nov 2020

John, chill. Bob's got a great rep, and your nonsense shows your (newbie?) ignorance.

Notice that your post was approved, and recommendations for several other DNS servers were allowed. Hardly something a paid advertiser would do, eh?


Posted by:

ebloch
30 Nov 2020

Here is a free and good program to help you evaluate the DNS servers available to you:


Posted by:

ebloch
30 Nov 2020

My last post stripped the IPA https://www.grc.com/dns/benchmark.htm for GRC's DNC Benchmark Service


Posted by:

Frank Cizek
30 Nov 2020

I clicked on "Test your Settings" to get a starting point of current speed before I installed Opendns & it took me to a NoHelp page.
Clicked on "Router Configuration" & don't think my Charter Spectrum router is listed there. Shouldn't Opendns have a way to find the info for me?
So a massive FAIL on my part.


Posted by:

GregC
02 Dec 2020

I like to set up DNS to access two different services, so if one goes down, the other will pick up. For instance I set primary DNS to Open DNS, or Cloudflare, and the secondary DNS to Google 8.8.8.8. Obliviously, you would NOT do this if you were using a specialty service such as parental control.

Its also good idea to set up both your router and individual computers / devices. Some routers have confusing and sometimes conflicting settings that make setup confusing. And there is also the issue of IPv4 and IPv6. For now I disable IPv6, but of course that will have to change,

Advanced users might find this site useful:
https://dnsleaktest.com/


Posted by:

Brian B
04 Dec 2020

Being almost IT illiterate, I have to ask the question, Why, and how is an alternate DNS server faster? I can understand it being designed to be safer, but faster? Wouldn't it be in an ISP's interest to match any increase in speed if it were possible? Better, safer and faster service equals more customers surely.


Posted by:

Paul
05 Dec 2020

I use Cloudflare (1.1.1.1) on all my home devices. https://www.howtogeek.com/fyi/cloudflare-launches-a-new-privacy-focused-dns-server-but-should-you-use-it/


Posted by:

RandiO
17 Dec 2020

If uze guyz are geeky enuf to put a sentence together which includes the word 'DNS' in it: Then, the following article may be of interest to you.
World's first DNS-over-QUIC resolver
Add the following to the end of the zdnet dotcom
/article/ad-blocker-adguard-deploys-worlds-first-dns-over-quic-resolver/


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