While surfing the internet has never been easier it has also never been more dangerous. Unless you have protection on your network from a variety of systems (malware detection, antivirus, VPN, etc.) there is a better than a good chance of your network being attacked. An attack on your network could compromise vital personal information including your financials. One of the best ways to avoid these types of phishing, trojan horse, and other attacks is through using a service called OpenDNS.
What is OpenDNS?
To understand what OpenDNS is, you must first understand DNS. DNS stands for Domain Name System, and the short version of what DNS does is attach a name to a series of numbers. For example, when you visit Google and type “www.google.com” into the address bar, DNS translates the words into the numeric IP address for Google. You’re able to access the site and go from there.
The problem with standard DNS is your IP address is not protected from various bad actors online. When connecting to an IP address, you could be exposing your network to malware and other types of problems.
OpenDNS is positioned as the solution to this problem. The way OpenDNS works is similar to a VPN – you connect to an IP address allowing you to navigate to the rest of the internet via that connection. In this case, OpenDNS allows content filtering and protection from phishing as two of its greatest benefits. Another benefit of OpenDNS is its speed. An ISP with slow DNS servers takes forever to connect. However, if you set up OpenDNS then it’s very easy to connect at a high speed.
The best part about OpenDNS is you get all the advantages of having a great service for free.
Before wondering if it’s too good to be true, OpenDNS handles roughly 100 billion DNS inquiries per day from about 85 million different users. These requests are funneled through about 25 different data centers. In 2015, OpenDNS was acquired by Cisco. Cisco has worked on improving the protection provided by OpenDNS by utilizing its cloud security services. Today, OpenDNS is much more secure and functional than it was at its founding in 2005.
How Do I Get OpenDNS on My Computer?
There are two ways that you can set up your computer for OpenDNS. One way is a network-based solution where you use the router to make the change affecting all the nodes on your network, and the other is on individual nodes on the network such as a computer or smartphone. Whatever method you choose to adjust your system to OpenDNS is your choice, but it is strongly recommended to modify the network, so the entire system is protected instead of just one part of it.
One point that’s universal in both setups is the IP address for OpenDNS. Make sure you write down both of these addresses: 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52. These are the OpenDNS servers. When you open up a browser window and connect with a site, you first connect with these IP addresses and then your request is funneled through OpenDNS.
Connecting with a Router (Network-Wide Solution)
The first step towards connecting with OpenDNS via your router is logging into the router itself. There are several different types of routers, but the broad strokes are essentially the same. Check with your router’s manual if you have brand-specific questions. The first step is accessing the admin panel. You must be connected via ethernet cable in order to do this. Once you have accessed the admin panel, the DNS Address menu should be within the Set-Up Menu.
Once you get to the DNS section, there will be two choices. The first choice – and the default – is to get the DNS automatically from the ISP. The second is to use specific DNS servers. This is where you enter the IP addresses above. The primary IP address is the one ending in 222 while the secondary ends in 220. Enter these addresses and be sure to click the “Save” or “Apply” option depending on your router.
At this point, all your requests will all funnel through OpenDNS. Unfortunately, changing the DNS request protocol on your router does nothing if you don’t clear the caches on your browser. Whatever browser you are using, be sure open it and clear the entire history. Make sure everything is completely wiped. Now your entire network is more secure thanks to the connection with OpenDNS.
Windows users will also have to clear the DNS Resolver Cache. This is easily done by opening the Command Prompt screen. Just type in “cmd” into the search box then hit “ctrl+shift+enter” and the command prompt will open. At that point type in “ipconfig /flushdns” to clear this cache. You’ll have to do the same with OS X as well. The difference is you just need to open the terminal.
Connecting with a Device
Whether using a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you can easily adjust the DNS requests. The key is to go through your computer’s network setup. Windows computers use the Control Panel while Apple and Android products are modified through the actual connection (e.g. – the WiFi network).
On a Windows computer, go into the Network Settings, find the TCP/IP menu. Once you’re in there, the method is the same as changing the router’s DNS settings. Click on the “Use the Following DNS Server” address settings and enter the OpenDNS IP addresses that were listed earlier.
With the Android and Apple devices, all you need to do is head into the Advanced Settings area and the DNS menu will be right in front of you. Add the OpenDNS servers in there. If there’s only one spot, separate the two addresses with a comma.
Once you specify the OpenDNS servers, you need to add your home network. This is easy – you will see your IP address at the top of the screen and then in the settings tabs just add your home network into this area. Now you can connect with OpenDNS with ease.
There are other options available as well. Check out the different content filters. You can even block individual sites if you don’t want your kids to have access. Though these parental controls are not the most stringent, they’re a great starting point. If you don’t have kids, consider the web content filters. The riskier the site, the more it can harm your network.
OpenDNS is a great way to have faster access to sites along with keeping yourself safe online. Use the system to make your network more efficient in all ways going forward.