Monday, April 12, 2010

A Safer Net

If you have Internet surfing kids, chances are you've cringed on more than one occasion at content they've come across on the 'net.... I liken the Internet to New York City, there's a lot of great stuff out there, but watch where you're going...!  So what's a parent to do?  There are options available so you can keep your sanity and know your kids are safe online.  Filtering software is a start (i.e. Net Nanny), but it can be a cumbersome task to make sure you're running the latest version, and good luck if you have multiple Internet-ready devices in the house... fortunately there's another solution, filtering at the router.  A solid (and free!) solution is OpenDNS.

Just point to the OpenDNS name servers and you are off and running.  A name server is a computer that turns your name requests (i.e, espn.com or cnn.com) into a number (IP address) that routers understand.  Your router, if it was installed by the cable guy, will be pointing to the cable company's name servers:  that means no filtering, average performance, somewhat reliable uptime.  Point them to the name servers supplied by OpenDNS, and get more reliable and faster performance (OpenDNS uses caching techniques to make the actual name resolution faster), and best of all, content filtering.

Sign up for a free account, and OpenDNS allows you to add your home router's IP address to it's database.   From there you can choose one of 5 filtering levels:
  1. High: Protects against all adult-related sites, illegal activity, social networking sites, video sharing sites, and general time-wasters.
  2. Moderate: Protects against all adult-related sites and illegal activity.
  3. Low : Protects against pornography.
  4. No filtering, and
  5. Custom: Choose the categories you want to block.
Choose one of the levels, and save your settings.  Then update your router's configuration.  Your router will have a basic configuration menu that allows you to use your service provider's name servers, or specify alternate name servers. This is where you would plug in the IP addresses of the OpenDNS name servers. The OpenDNS name server IP addresses are 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220. You could also set these addresses on the individual computer, in the network settings. But to protect your entire household, setting them on the router is the best solution.

[Keep in mind your router's IP address may be dynamic.  Meaning, if you ever lose power or reboot your router for any reason, it may be assigned a different IP address by your cable company when it starts up again.  You'll have to update your OpenDNS account if this happens.]

Take some time and check it out.  You owe it to your family.

Use OpenDNS

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