I used to use NetNanny for content filtering (services that block pornographic, gambling, violent and other objectionable content from the Internet) on my home computer. It worked pretty good back when I had a home computer. Now, however, like many modern homes, I have a home network.
I took a inventory last night of my networked devices and here’s what was in my house: 2 Macs, my work MacBook, 2 iPads (my iPad + my daughter’s school is now issuing them), 2 iPods, 1 iPhone, Nintendo WII, a Sony PlayStation, and an old Windows laptop tucked in a drawer. Does that sound extreme? Maybe, but I would argue its more common that you think. In today’s world of networked devices, client-based filtering systems are pretty much useless. If you install a content filtering system on your home computer how do you secure the rest of the Internet devices you have? What happens when your kids friends bring their iPods and such over and connect to your home network?
Enter, OpenDNS, a free service that is simple to install. They have simple video instructions and even instructions specific to the 20 most common home and business wireless routers. This service can be used both for your home and your church. And yes, the basic version is actually free! If you need more than the basic (I didn’t), it will cost you a whopping $19.95 / year.
So what is OpenDNS? Its a DNS server that includes website filtering. For those of you that don’t know, DNS stands for Domain Name Service. its basically an Internet address book. It does the translation from a URL (i.e. http://www.vatican.va) to its IP address 18.104.22.168. Behind the scenes your computer talks to that IP address. Without a DNS server, your computers couldn’t find any website on the Internet. Normally, when you install a home network or a network in your church, you configure your DNS servers based on what your local ISP recommends. This is typically done on your home router. With OpenDNS, you need to change your current DNS servers that your ISP gave you to those of OpenDNS. Then OpenDNS will do the IP translational for you, but before it does, it cross-references the requested IP address to its list of objectionable websites and blocks those it thinks are objectionable or those you’ve added to your configuration.
It has a few different settings on what to filter, so it can be configured for your specific needs. Services like these always have a challenge keeping up with all the new websites appearing, but it seems to do a very effective job of keeping out objectionable material. If you can find the administration password for your wireless router, you can configure OpenDNS in minutes. If you can keep that same administration password secret, you’ve effectively secured your network from objectionable content for any device that connects in to it.. All for free and all in minutes!