Jun 192012
 

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 173.194.34.65

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)

OpenDNS Family Shield

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.

Configuration

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:

208.67.222.123
208.67.220.123

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.

Conclusion

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).

  5 Responses to “Using Free OpenDNS Family Shield To Block Adult Content”

  1. The information in your blog post is helpful, but the statement “As adult sites are frequently full of malware” is no longer accurate. In fact, many adult sites now have better controls and security than conventional web sites, as they are aggressive about protecting their market. I’m not here to defend the adult web site industry, but to dismiss the myth that only the shady side of the Web is unsafe. Most malware infections today (in the U.S.) originate from drive-by downloads on poorly secured sites (such as poorly maintained WordPress sites) or dedicated malware hosting sites.

    • I see what you mean but I never said that ‘only’ the shady side of the web is unsafe. Far from it – a recent study found that religious websites were more infected than adult websites.

      However, as the owner of a computer repair business, we still get most malware jobs from customers who said they had been looking for adult fun, not religion…

  2. Most Revered Sirs,

    12-November-2012, Kolkata, India

    Just yesterday I stumbled upon http://www.opendns.com & set it to my PC successfully. I thought I am very very safe now !!! But the most meaningful & enlightening facts on openDNS Servers have opened my eyes. Your website information was immensely helpful to me as it has CLEARLY presented both pros & cons of using openDNS Servers.

    Yours with obeisance,

    - Sw Ind.

  3. My kids installed google incognito browser, I am assuming to look at porn or other inappropriate images. WIll the family shield block this as it is not traceable? Please advise! Thanks in advance!!
    -Concerned mom

    • @Nancy – Google Chrome incognito mode does not keep any record of what they looked at e.g. there will be no history of websites visited so you can’t review them later. However, it does not bypass family shield which stops them looking at inappropriate sites in the first place. However, do note the tips above for how they might bypass family shield, especially if they are tech aware…

      For much more comprehensive protection and control, consider a free parental control web protection service such as K9 – http://www1.k9webprotection.com/