OpenDNS Family Shield is pre-configured to block adult content. Many people will have heard of OpenDNS as a reliable and fast alternative to using the DNS servers (computers) provided by your own broadband provider (ISP).
However, the free Family Shield uses different DNS servers to the standard OpenDNS setup and automatically blocks most pornography, proxy servers and phishing sites.
As adult sites are frequently full of malware, it could also be a handy tool in your antivirus arsenal. Without getting too techie – DNS converts website addresses into the numeric IP addresses that are the basis of the internet.
When you type google.com into a web browser, your request is sent to a DNS server which finds the corresponding IP address and uses it to fetch the Google page for you. All this happens behind the scenes and enables us to use simple human-friendly website addresses like google.com instead of having to remember (and type) complex computer IP addresses like 126.96.36.199
OpenDNS Family Shield – replaces your current DNS servers and is free for home users.
- Pre-configured to block adult websites across your Internet connection. Just turn it on and go. The filter is always up-to-date, adding new sites 24/7
- When you set up Family Shield on your router, every device in your home gets protected – your kids’ Xbox, Playstation, Wii, DS, iPad, and even their phone (via wireless)
- Take the guesswork out of identifying fraudulent sites. Family Shield automatically blocks phishing and identity theft websites
- Setting up Family Shield may free you of frustrating, intermittent internet outages and make Web pages load faster (if the DNS servers provided by your ISP are frequently overloaded or unavailable)
Setting Up OpenDNS Family Shield
There are 2 alternative methods to set up the Family Shield:
1. Set up on your router
All devices that connect to it (via cable or wireless) are protected e.g. computers, game consoles and even mobile phones or tablets (via wireless). This is the recommended way as it protects any device connecting to the router without further configuration – even new devices bought later.
However, routers provided by an ISP may not allow you to change the DNS servers used – use the following method instead.
2. Set up on each computer or device individually
Obviously this will take a little longer depending how many devices you have. If you buy a new device later you will need to configure that too.
You can sign up for a free account here if you wish but you do not have to – you can just skip straight here to learn how to configure your DNS servers (detailed instructions and illustrations are given for both the above methods).
Tip: always make a note of the existing DNS addresses in case you want to change them back in future.
For advanced users, the OpenDNS Family Shield DNS servers are:
How Kids Might Bypass Family Shield
The Shield is a quick way to easily block most adult content without having to configure complicated parental controls but it is not fool proof.
Unless further steps are taken, it is possible for kids with a bit of tech knowledge (or ability to use Google) to bypass the protection:
1. Change DNS servers on the individual computer – this is the biggest loophole.
Whether you set up the DNS servers on the router or on the computer, anyone with admin rights could just change the DNS servers on the computer back to the original ISP servers.
Fortunately it is easy to prevent this – at least on a computer. Simply make the user account of the child a standard (limited) user – create a new user account just for them if necessary, don’t let them use your account.
Standard users are not able to change their DNS settings. This has an added advantage as standard users also can’t install new programs without you providing an admin password – a good way to prevent kids installing software to work around the Shield service.
To set up a Standard user account see my guide here.
2. Use a proxy server – Family Shield blocks most well known proxy servers but the list is vast and changes daily so a determined user may be able to find one available.
3. Unclassified sites – similarly, however often the list of blocked sites is updated, there may be a few 18+ sites that escape the notice of OpenDNS and are not blocked.
Family Shield offers a quick way to block most pornography and other unsafe content.
Whilst it isn’t a full content filtering system, it is a simple ‘set and forget’ option that could help make web surfing safer for children, more reliable and possibly quicker (if your own ISP’s DNS servers are overloaded).