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What is OpenDNS? Why should I use it, and how to set up?

* This post may have affiliate links. Please see my disclosure 

Suppose you’re looking for a simple and easy solution to turn your internet productive and safe. If your answer is yes, then OpenDNS is what you need.

Why OpenDNS?

With OpenDNS, you will get basic internet security controls such as web content filtering while improving your internet browsing performance.

This excellent solution allows you to filter and block websites in your entire network. It gives you the control to block categories like pornography, content that is not suitable for children, or other unwanted items you might not want other users in your network to access. OpenDNS will apply to any device connected to your Wi-Fi or router.

 

Unlike DNS servers of your ISP, OpenDNS servers maintain massive records with the IP addresses of millions of websites in their cache, which brings the benefits of less time to resolve your requests.

In other words, it will improve your response time when your browser requests an address that has been already requested by other OpenDNS users, giving you a swift reply.

Another key benefit of OpenDNS is when you mistakenly type the incorrect address of a well-known website, you will be redirected to the correct one. For example, let’s say if you type www.gogleo.com, OpenDNS will take you to the www.google.com site right away. That is great, isn’t it?

To complete the list of great benefits that makes OpenDNS over your ISP DNS, it can automatically prevent you from mistakenly connecting to a virulent malware site. Without OpenDNS, if you type a popularly known malware website by mistake, your ISP DNS server will not provide this safeguard and stop your connection.

Best of all, it is free for personal use in your home. It also can be used in a small business network through their free consumer tier.

Well, I think by now you have enough reason to start with OpenDNS, so let’s get started!

Implementing OpenDNS:

Open DNS works at the network level to protect all the devices on your home network regardless of their operating system or browser. The configuration is super easy and straightforward.

Checking what is your current DNS server

We’re going to verify and collect DNS servers information prior to setting up OpenDNS :

1 – Windows 10

  1. Click Start.
  2. In the Search or Run line, type cmd (short for command), and press enter.
  3. Type the command ipconfig /all

2- MacOS

  1. On your Mac, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Network.
  2. In the list on the left, select the network connection service you want to use (such as Wi-Fi or Ethernet), then click Advanced.
  3. Click DNS, then click the Add button at the bottom of the DNS Servers list.

Now that you know your current DNS server, we can start the setup of OpenDNS.

Setup of OpenDNS

Navigate to the www.opendns.com signup page and create a free account classified as “Consumer” option:

Between the two free options available, we recommend selecting the “home” since this is the option that will permit you to make customization and have better control.

Complete the signup form:

After you complete the signup process, you will be directed to the setup page, which shows the OpenDNS IPs. You will need to change the network setting and perform a verification test to confirm your DNS.

1- OpenDNS IPs

  • 208.67.222.222
  • 208.67.220.220

2- Test your setting:

Until you replace your network settings to use the new OpenDNS IPs, the test output will show the result below:

Now is time to change your DNS settings to send all the DNS requests to OpenDNS.

I strongly advise you to make this change directly on the DHCP server that distributes IPs to your network in your modem/router. This way, the changes will be applied to all devices at once.

OpenDNS team even created a guide with step-by-step showing how to configure common routers to use OpenDNS, covering pretty much the most popular home routers in the market. In case your router is not on this list, don’t worry. The configuration is pretty similar to any other routers.

For our example, I only changed the configuration directly on my PC:

After that, rerun the test to confirm that the DNS queries are now being sent to OpenDNS. The results show looks like this:

With those simple configurations, OpenDNS will make websites load faster because they have a global network of servers. Most importantly, they will block malicious websites for you in the background, as their basic default config block malicious websites for us automatically.

You can easily test the security feature by running in action. You just need to go to Google and type “OpenDNS test,” then you’re going to look for support.opendns.com. It’s usually the first link.

Once you in on this page, you will find 3 test links:

If your DNS settings are correct, you will be able to see this block page successfully, blocking the phishing threats:

You have the option to configure and customize to make your network even more secure. Log in to the main panel using your credentials:

First, you will need to add a friendly name to your network:

Under settings, you can set customized parameters such as Web Content Filtering and Security. Furthermore, you will be able to access stats and logs.

  • Web Content Filtering

You can choose between three different filtering levels and also create a block list. In my case, I have set to block Netflix.

The Netflix page will be shown like this when listed on the blacklist domain list.

You can also create a custom level, and by clicking on the option “custom”, you will see the full list.

You can hover over each of these, and you’ll get a short description of what these are. There is also an Open DNS support page that has even more details about each of these categories. Then you can just check the boxes for the ones you want to block and click apply.

  • Security

This section will have three options, which by default only enabled filtering of malware/botnets. However, I  definitely recommend also enable other phishing protection options and suspicious responses. These options will add extra security to your DNS queries.

The other options on this panel are “cosmetic” features for customization. This option is for changing the block pages, look and feel, and a logo;  it’s not necessary. The other option, Stats, is to record the stats and logs if you want OpenDNS to keep track of the domains visited from your home network. This is also not necessary.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial and that I have encouraged you to implement OpenDNS in your network. Let me know in the comments below if you rather use another DNS service. I would love to hear about other alternatives.

 

 

 

Juana Melo

I'm a self-taught security network engineer and blogger, sharing everything I'm learning along the way.

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