You Want Faster and Safer Internet?

Category: Networking

Over the years, I've 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

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 65 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 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.

OpenDNS

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; 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.

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 "You Want Faster and Safer Internet?"

Posted by:

onedeafeye
23 Dec 2016

This has always been a point of confusion for me. My router is supplied by my ISP. I've tried, and the DNS servers for the router can't be changed by me. So I've changed the DNS servers to OpenDNS for my OS (Mint 17.3). The question is - does the router's settings over-ride the OS settings? And just to make things more confusing, when I do a DNS server lookup on the internet, it shows me a totally different DNS server than the router or the OS. So how does this actually work?


Posted by:

Milton Dye
23 Dec 2016

Is there any help at all for us AT&T UVERSE people?


Posted by:

mardabo
23 Dec 2016

Bob, after reading about Faster and Safer Internet, I went to the site and, as is nearly always the case, I'm confronted with choices about which I'm ignorant; home routers is recommended but I'm left wondering what the other choices - computers/laptops, servers, smart devices entail (I'm currently going nuts trying to get Plex Media Server to work on my Roku TV). It would be good if you would take into consideration the fact that some of us are unfamiliar with much IT terminology and constant learning by repeated trial and error has gone beyond frustrating. Thanks


Posted by:

David
23 Dec 2016

I had a nephew use my computer to surf for porn while we were in church one day and forever after I am getting ads for pornographic sites popping up when I surf news sites. Is there any way to fix this or would this DNS site get me into ad blocker hell? (You can't read this because you have ad blocker on.)


Posted by:

Lou
23 Dec 2016

I have different internet connections for my desktop computer and one is dial-up. Yes, believe or not. I have it as a backup for when my WiFi fails and using DNS has made it considerably faster. I've used it for over a year now and it works 3x to 4x faster. Besides, it's safer.

Thanks, Bob. Excellent information.


Posted by:

Jon Spencer
23 Dec 2016

Unfortunately, if you have a Comcast-supplied cable modem/router, you can't change the DNS. It's possible to just use the cable modem part and use a separate router (but that requires buying a new router and working with Comcast to change configurations). I don't know if that configuration allows changing the DNS.


Posted by:

Michael Williams
23 Dec 2016

I reached out to Bob about some clarification on this subject and lo and behold we get this wonderful update.

I am on the challenged end of the scale and by following the instructions to change to OPENDNS on my laptop, it did override the Comcast default setting a 30 percent performance upgrade was realized.

Happy Holidays all.


Posted by:

InLionSk8r
23 Dec 2016

Some time ago, I switched all our devices to the Norton ConnectSafe free public DNS service. It too, is supposed to provide some degree of surfing protection and seems pretty fast. You can Google them and check their site for info. on selecting the right numbers for your needs. Tanx for another great article, Bob.


Posted by:

Paulo Penteado
23 Dec 2016

This procedure will make faster Internet usage even on non US country, like Brazil?


Posted by:

bb
23 Dec 2016

For those that asked: Yes, if you change the DNS server addresses in your computer the browsers running in that computer will use the changed DNS settings instead of the DNS settings in your router.
The advantage of changing the DNS in your router is all the attached devices (that have not been separately configured) will then use the Router's settings without having to change each device separately.
Unfortunately, DNS has become an attack target for hackers, mainly because it's not encrypted and not secure. For example, a malicious DNS server could re-direct your request for Amazon.com to a site that looked *exactly* like Amazon.com but was not. The only thing different would be the lack of HTTPS - something very easily missed. When using alternate DNS servers please make sure they are legitimate.


Posted by:

onedeafeye
24 Dec 2016

Thanks, bb. The only thing other than my desktop that goes through the router is the TV (not a 'smart' TV) so with OpenDNS I'm a happy camper. It's not the fastest DNS server available, but I'll trade a bit of speed for more security.


Posted by:

Rhonda Lea Fries
24 Dec 2016

I'm no longer a fan of OpenDNS. Used to be; at one time, I even paid for the privilege, but no more.

I use DNSJumper to switch my DNS when my computer slows down, and it works just fine for me.

To use it, however, one does need to have at least a little tech savvy.


Posted by:

RandiO
24 Dec 2016

Merry Christmas,

When changing WinOS DNS setup; it may be wise to finish it off by using the command prompt (or PowerShell) and typing in the following argument:
>> ipconfig /flushdns


Posted by:

Bob Greene
24 Dec 2016

This article is timely, and as Bob Rankin notes, one size does not fit all. Like Rankin, I found the "jury system" a little shaky as a practical proposal. So, I passed on OpenDNS until later development reveals it has matured into both a reliably safe asset. That time may have come, although its "multiple eyes" model still seems a hindrance. Obstacle aside, we need something like DNS more than ever.

DNSJumper is for people who desire speed as a priority, but they must provide their own definition of security. In contrast, most users want reasonable speed, but with ransomware more prevalent than ever, insist on safety, first.


Posted by:

froggs09
26 Dec 2016

I use a little program called DNSJumper. It's simple to use and searches for the fastest DNS servers and will change the DNS for you.


Posted by:

Jim
27 Dec 2016

I switched to OpenDNS a few months ago because my computers suddenly stopped opening any Browser. I installed Chrome, Iron browser and Edge and all gave me the error about couldn't connect, check DNS. I tried to clear everything, browser logs, C drive,etc. The only cure was to switch each computer to OpenDNS. I think it is a Windows 10 problem. In 25 years of owning computers I had never had this problem before.


Posted by:

Bruce Butterfield
02 Jan 2017

Hey, Bob,

I'm late reading this, but set my system for the OpenDNS numbers and got- and I am not exaggerating here-an order of magnitude improvement in getting my RoadRunner mail messages. This fixed months of molasses-slow performance on that site and big improvement on others.

Thank you! Thank you!

P.S. I believe in single exclamation marks, but that does not lessen my gratitude for your advice.


Posted by:

Dave
14 Jan 2017

opendns : 208.67.222.222
google dns : 8.8.8.8

which is easier to remember?

No idea what any of the downsides of google dns are though.


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