In this edition of Living in the Cloud series, instead of talking about a cloud
based tool, I am going to talk about a solution that ensures your life in the
Clouds safe. OpenDNS is a
free DNS provider that also ensures the internet experience with some security
tools like content filtering, anti-phishing, etc.
For those who are not familiar with the term DNS, here is a short intro. When
you enter a domain name, like www.cloudave.com, in your browser’s address
bar, it should be converted into an IP address before the browser can fetch the
web page. This process of converting DNS to IP is done using DNS server.
Usually, this service is offered by your ISPs through their own DNS servers.
Sometimes even the big ISPs like Comcast have trouble with their DNS servers,
disrupting the internet access of users. Also, most of the ISPs have their DNS
servers in locations far away from most of their customers and this leads to
considerable internet slowdown at times, due to network bottlenecks. For
occasional users of the internet, it is not a big problem but for people, who
live in the clouds, this could be a big hindrance. Having a reliable DNS server
is as important as having a reliable network connection. This is where OpenDNS
steps in with their ultra-reliable, but free without any fine prints, service.
Unlike other security systems, OpenDNS works in the cloud and, therefore, it
doesn’t slow down the internet connection like other locally installed security
As it is customary in this series, I am adding a video that will help you get
started with this service.
As I usually do in this series, I will list out the Pros and Cons of this
- They offer a great way to filter the contents. For home users, this will
come handy as a parental control to ensure safe browsing by the kids. For
businesses, this is a good way to enforce browsing policy for the employees
- They also offer a time based blocking option. Certain websites can be
blocked during certain periods of time. For home users, this will come handy to
stop browsing during homework or sleep times for kids. We have seen stats about
the total time spent by employees on online shopping. This tool could come handy
for businesses to block certain sites during work hours. They also offer
detailed logging for businesses to keep a tab on their employees (Note: I am
personally opposed to businesses doing this but for those who have invested
money, it is a different belief system and I understand it)
- They tap into the community (Crowdsourcing) to build a phish-tank. This
offers them an efficient way to protect internet users from phishing scam
- They route users’ requests to the nearest DNS server and this, in turn,
helps users have a faster internet experience
- One of the biggest concern for me is privacy. But, hey, if I can trust my
ISP with my privacy during the Bush years, I can as well trust OpenDNS. You can
check out their privacy policies here
- Another annoying aspect of OpenDNS is the fact that it hijacks the search
shortcut I set up with Google. I have to manually configure my browser again. I
wish they asked me to select it during my first browsing session using
Here is a recent news to highlight the importance of OpenDNS in protecting us
from malware. According to The Register, they are announcing a new option to track and
block Conficker, a worm that has affected 10 Million PCs, in your home network
or business network. They are offering this using the list of blocked domains
provided by Anti-Virus vendor Kaspersky.
The service will also help network admins to quickly pinpoint any infected
machines by checking their OpenDNS Dashboard. Starting
Monday, any networks with PCs that try to connect to the Conficker addresses
will be flagged on an admin’s private statistics page. The service is available
for free to both businesses and home users.
Note: Personally, I am using OpenDNS from the time they
started offering this service. I have never faced a single failure due to any
problems on their side. I am pretty happy and we use it in the homes of all our
family members and our respective businesses. Even though I strongly recommend
this service for everyone who steps out in the internet, I want to put a
disclaimer here. YMMV.