The Miracle of OpenDNS

Here is everything you need to know about installing and configuring OpenDNS.  If you are ready to jump in then go on ahead.  The rest of you can follow along as I explain what, why and how of OpenDNS.

What is DNS?  

DNS is the dispatcher of the internet.  You make a request like www.google.com and DNS directs you to their servers.  Your internet service provider has their own DNS but you don't have to use them and they don't allow you to use them to block explicit content.

What is OpenDNS? 

OpenDNS is a DNS open to any and all via their current internet service provider.  It redirects your request for www.google.com through their own DNS where you are allowed to block explicit content and more.

Why should I use OpenDNS?

Imagine you have DirecTV, you get all the channels, all pay per view is free - would you turn over the remote to your 13 year old son?  No, you would want some sort of parental controls in place.  For TV you can choose not to subscribe or pay for some content.  For the internet you cannot unless you add a layer of parental control between the internet and your home wifi network.   That layer of protection is OpenDNS.

Why do I call OpenDNS a miracle? 

This is a service that stops you from accidentally getting caught up in a phishing scam, stops some security attacks, blocks all sorts of explicit material from your network, makes your web pages load faster and IT IS FREE!!  Most importantly it works and I have been using it for almost 10 years.  

How do I get OpenDNS?

Start HERE at OpenDNS Family Shield.  This is the simplest method and comes preconfigured to block explicit content.  (OpenDNS Home allows customization of what is blocked and reporting but you have to decide if its worth the effort for you. After configuration of the router you would have to login to your OpenDNS account and customize settings.)

When you click on Sign Up Now you will be directed to a prompt requesting your email address - fill it in and go on to the next step which should bring you here:

I recommend you choose Home Routers here.  This gives you the most consistent and comprehensive protection for your family.   However you may be asking what is a router and do I have one?  

In order for your home to have internet access there must be a modem - a small box that attaches directly to the coax cable coming through your wall.  This is your gateway to the internet.  It is wide open.  That is bad. 

Usually, there is a router connected to the modem.  Occasionally, the modem contains a router but in either case the router is the gatekeeper to the gateway.   Assuming you have a router it is another small box and has a cable running from the modem to a plug titled WAN.  This is the box we will be configuring so look at what brand it is and what model it is.  You will need to know this.

You can choose Computer Workstations and Laptops and install a small software that runs in the background and will protect those devices only from the explicit material.   Another warning - if you install the software on a laptop and you take that laptop to lets say a hotel you could hijack the network, impose your content filters on it and suddenly the guy in room 243 can't get his porn.  He calls the front desk, IT has to get involved and its a hassle.  How do I know?  My mom's computer hijacked the Westin in Palm Dessert.  

Smart Devices we will discuss in another post.

ssuming you have chosen Home Routers you are directed to a long list of routers and specific instructions on how to configure them.  This is where you need to know your make and model.

If you happen to have a Netgear Router with Live Parental Controls by OpenDNS.  You are in luck.  Go HERE and learn how to take advantage of your enhanced OpenDNS features. 

Here is what all the instructions look like generally and I will see if I can add detail and explanation to assist you in deciphering what they are asking you to do.

DON"T FREAK OUT!! It just numbers and lingo.  You can do this.  

Every device on your wifi network has an address.  Its how the router knows to send you the email your checking at the same time its sending Netflix to your daughter.  That address is called an IP Address and even your router has one.  The most common router addresses are:

  • 192.168.1.1
  • 192.168.0.1
  • 192.168.2.1

You need these numbers because we are going to use them to log in to your router.  Open a browser (Safari, Explorer, Chrome, Firefox) and in the address bar type the first address 192.168.1.1 and see what happens.   If that address is not found, go to the next one and so on.

If you didn't ever get a connection to the router you need to figure out your IP scheme. Your computer IP may be 192.168.5.56.  In that case your router will likely be 192.168.5.1 and the guy who installed it with that configuration should be shot.  Figure out your computer IP (usually in Network Properties) and it will lead you to your routers IP address. 

192.168.0.1 - you found it and got something like this to pop up. 

If you don't know the login or password - don't panic there is a workaround.  I told you this would take patience and persistence.  Quite often the login is 'admin' and the password is 'admin'.  That is just how many come configured so give it a try. 

Didn't work?  Google search your router make and model with default login. (ie "netgear wndr3400 default login")  Found it, great give that a try. 

Didn't work?  On the back of the router is a tiny tiny hole and it should say RESET underneath.  You need a paperclip to push in there until you feel the button depress then hold it for 10 seconds and release.  That should reset your router and take it back to the default login and password.   (Keep in mind, if for some reason your IP scheme was 192.168.5.0 and you have any devices on the network with a 'fixed IP address' meaning it is hardcoded into the device, then you will need to return your router to that configuration once you are in.)

You are in!! Congrats.  You should see a page like this:

Ignore everything except Domain Name Servers (DNS) Address.

Click on Use These DNS Servers

Enter 208.67.222.123 in the Primary DNS blocks.

Enter 208.67.220.123 in the Secondary DNS blocks. 

Click Apply.

You are done but before we log out of here lets go test the settings.  

Here is where you can test the settings.  Or type www.internetbadguys.com (a site owned and operated by OpenDNS but blocked so you can test your settings) into your browser and this is what you should see....  

If not, you will reach a page that will help you figure out where you went wrong. 

If you did get the warning above or one like it, congratulations you have configured a router and protected your family from bad guys and bad stuff.   

For those wanting to extend protection to their childrens devices even when they are away from home there is an option called Umbrella Prosumer.  It is $20/year per user.  Look for a future post to discuss the pros and cons of this solution.