Internet filtering at home Part 2
Part one of this series is here. I am not sure if this is going to be a three or four part series. I just thought of a few more things that I would like to post on (including an equipment/software list) so it may stretch farther than the initial three posts I thought it was going to be. This post gets a touch technical, but I tried to explain it the best I could. If there are any questions please feel free to comment with a question and I will do my best to get back to you.
When we signed up for Frontier high-speed internet (which I can recommend by the way) we received a device that is a combination of a modem and router. Simply put the modem portion makes it possible for computer data to be transmitted across our phone line and the router takes the data from the modem and transmits it (over a wireless connection in our case) to the computer or other device that wants to connect to the internet. Some people have these devices separated out into two physical boxes, but we happen to have it all in one.
Well, the internet service provider (Frontier) utilizes something called a domain name server (DNS) which takes the friendly web address (google.com for example) and translates it into an IP address (one of them is 126.96.36.199) to make the connection to the Google website. The DNS does a lot more than that, but that is its basic function. What I did at the router level was replace the two domain servers that Frontier uses to do this translation with two others that are operated by a service called OpenDNS. I actually blogged a little bit about this last year. Now why would someone want to do that?
Well, because we have one router and multiple devices that connect to it to get to the internet, I wanted to make sure that each device could not get to places that I did not want them to go. So, my alternative was to manage some level of filtering on all of those devices (phone, Wii, Kindle, computer...) or manage a level of filtering on the router. I chose the router route because it was easier and OpenDNS is a free service for home use. Now, no matter what device wants to connect to the internet it has to use the router and, thus, I can block access to certain categories of web pages. I think OpenDNS provides filtering on 35 different categories and we get very few (if any) false positives. It is a great service to have for a family like ours.
If I had a different router I could replace the firmware that came on the router by default with something like dd-wrt or Tomato to give me an added level of control over the devices that want to connect to the internet in our home. That may be something that I do in the future, but OpenDNS is plenty good for us now. Yet, as good as OpenDNS is, I want even more control over what can be accessed in our home and that is the topic of my next post.