A Free “Net Nanny” Solution using OpenDNS

Many internet users understand that a large portion of the internet is pornographic in nature. Many parents want to restrict their children from being able to view pornographic sites, and with sites like Youporn and other “porn tubes” which do not require identification or a credit card, this is even harder to restrict. There are programs available to block such sites, but sometimes they aren’t very effective, and there are easy ways around them.

There is a good alternative for parents in their search, however. OpenDNS, which is a free DNS service with many features, has built in site blocking capabilities. You simple sign up for an OpenDNS account at http://opendns.com and configure your router to use the OpenDNS servers. That last part isn’t as hard as it sounds, but it’s different on various routers. Typically the DNS settings are in the main router configuration settings. It will typically be set to automatically use the DNS servers provided by your ISP. You should be able to use manual DNS servers, however, and you can find the IPs for these servers at the bottom of your OpenDNS account page.

Once you have your router using OpenDNS’s servers, you can configure your home network’s settings on the OpenDNS accounts page. There are various levels of blocking, plus you can block individual domains if you want. They also have good stats available, if you enable it. This will track all domain name requests and show you what everyone on your home network has been looking at. I’d say a few wives just raised their eyebrows.

Of course, with enough know how, one can get around these types of blocks, just like any other block. Most children will not know how to do this, however. Tech savvy teenagers may have more ability to get around these blocks, but once they are at the point where they’ll go to such great lengths to look at porn, just let them do it. They aren’t going to listen to you anyway 😛

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  1. #1 by John Lyman on January 23, 2012 - 6:27 pm

    A much better free solution is K9 Web Protection: http://www.k9webprotection.com.

    OpenDNS is trivial to bypass and has poor protection.

    • #2 by Randy on January 23, 2012 - 6:55 pm

      K9webprotection looks like it would do a great job, however, you’d have to install it on all devices. It’s trivial to bypass any running app on any system. For instance, a simple Linux live disk would completely remove any blocking power the app has on a running Windows install. Whereas, a DNS block at the router would restrict access at the router, unless a static IP and manual DNS is used to set up the NIC on the machine. Either way is trivial, but with the DNS block, you don’t have to install the app on any machines, saving system resources and time. I’m not sure I agree with OpenDNS having poor protection. It blocks a lot of sites. I’d like to see examples of it providing poor protection, when you take out the “bypass” part of the equation, because as I’ve stated, every system is trivial to bypass. A Linux live cd isn’t even needed to bypass K9. I just gave it as a quick example. Any child tech savvy enough to bypass your router DNS servers is probably going to be savvy enough to bypass K9. The only real difference is the amount of effort it takes to initiate the protection. With the OpenDNS solution, you only have to set it up and let it do the work on your network. With the K9 solution, you have to install the software on all devices. I for one hate having more software running in the background on my computers. I’d prefer to clear up system resources and let the DNS servers handle the blocks.

      That being said, I’d welcome any examples of where I’m wrong.

  2. #3 by Erin on January 23, 2012 - 9:23 pm

    Great article, Randy. Thanks so much for sharing the news of OpenDNS. We’re so lucky to have users like you that share their success in order to help keep other families safer online. Another option for parents looking for an even easier solution would be Family Shield. It’s just different IPs that have the blocking built right in 😉 http://www.opendns.com/home-solutions/parental-controls.

    By the way, I’d love to send you an OpenDNS t-shirt so you can wear your OpenDNS orange loud and proud. Give me a shout with your size and mailing address!

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