Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Securing our home wired/wifi network for our children

Hi all, this is Jaideep.  While my wife is busy putting together her next set of posts, I thought I would make one myself.  As a parent in this connected world, we are all concerned about the websites our child may come across while browsing the web.  While we can't control what happens outside the house, we should be able to control what they can access at home through parental controls on our home wired/wifi network, and protect our children from the evils of the web.  This post will guide you through one such solution.  It's a bit techy, but I've taken the pains to walk you through every step, and if executed correctly, within a few minutes you will have a more secure home network!

While there are many free and paid Parental Control apps and programs, I found the solution provided by OpenDNS to be simple and effective.  It's not perfect, but for most parts, it does a great job.  It's easy to setup and monitor, and allows you to add exceptions when required.  And with one setting, it applies to all devices connecting to your home wired/wifi network.

If you are technically challenged, stop reading NOW and get help.  If not, let's get started.  It shouldn't take you more than 5-8 minutes.

Pre-requisites: You will need access to your home wired/wifi router's settings page (login and password) and know where to change the DNS servers.

  1. Visit OpenDNS and create a Personal Account >> Family Shield Account from here
  2. Once your account is setup, login to your home router's settings page.  Your router is generally at or with login and password both as "admin"
  3. Change the DNS addresses in your network setup to and More instructions for a typical router can be found here
  4. Hit the SAVE or Apply Settings button at the bottom of that page!!!
  5. Restart/Reboot your home router.  
  6. Connect to your home network on your laptop/desktop. 
  7. Confirm your DNS settings have been setup correctly by clicking on the link here
  8. Log back into your OpenDNS account here.  It should show your IP address on the top. 
  9. On the same page, you will see an option to add network here.  
  10. In Settings, you should see your IP address.  Select it and follow the instructions until it says you have successfully added your network.   
  11. Go back to Settings, and re-select your network.  You will be taken to the Web Content filtering page.  Here you can choose your filtering level.  
  12. If "None" is selected by default, you can change it by selecting one of the predefined defaults, or select "Custom" and choose any additional category of sites you want blocked and hit the Apply button. 
  13. If for some reason you come across a site you do not wish to block, come back to this page, scroll to the bottom, and under "Manage Individual Domains" add the website you want unblocked, select "Never block" and hit the "Add Domain" button. 
Here is a link to a YouTube video on the same topic.

That's it.  You should be good to go.  Your favorite inappropriate content sites are now blocked (even for you!!!)  If someone on your home network visits a site that is blocked, they will be given the option to send you an email to unblock the site.  You can also login to OpenDNS and review stats related to the site requests that have been blocked.  

For those of you using android smartphones, there are apps that allow you to change DNS for your phone's Wifi and 3G networks too, but I haven't used or tested any of these, so can't comment on them.

Hope this helps. Let me know if any of you have used any other service which is easy to setup and use for Parental Control.  My next goal is to find an app for Android and iOS that can enable me to monitor and control device and internet usage.  I'm testing an app called Qustodio which has a 50% discount on 1yr service for the next few days.  If any of you know of any such service that works well, do let me know.