When Updating Your Parents’ Browser Isn’t Enough

Photo by theilr

Photo by theilr

As the household IT/tech guy in my family, I’ve spent a fair amount of time educating my parents on good security practices like using strong passwords, ignoring requests for personal information via email or phone, and updating your software regularly. Believe it or not, I was able to convince my father to set up two-factor authentication for his Google account! You see, miracles are possible.

During the weekend, my parents received two phone calls from scammers purporting to be tech support specialists. The reason for their call? Our PCs were infected and needed to be fixed right away. And the cure? Pay us some money to make it go away.

Fortunately, the scammers’ plans fell woefully short of achieving their goals but the encounter left me with trepidation. What if my parents believed them? How did they obtain our phone number? Will they call again in the future?

OpenDNS to the rescue

opendns logo

I recently decided to switch from the default DNS servers provided by my ISP (AT&T) to OpenDNS. I’ve read plenty of positive reviews of the company and decided to give them a try.

Here are some of the main benefits to consider switching to OpenDNS:

Faster internet experience

OpenDNS servers cache the IP addresses of millions of websites which can speed up the time it takes for them to resolve a domain name. In other words, if a website you request was previously visited by another user, OpenDNS will need to spend less time handling your request since it already has the necessary information available.

opendns performance

Thus far, it’s been about a week since switching over to OpenDNS. Is my web browsing dramatically faster? I can’t tell the difference to be honest. Running namebench, a DNS benchmarking tool, determined that my ISP’s DNS server is actually faster. Go figure.

namebench-results

Greater reliability

Earlier last month, AT&T suffered a major outage which affected many users in the US including my household. As a result, internet access was all but dead. Changing my DNS server to a third-party option like Google DNS or OpenDNS could have restored Internet service. Whether that means better overall reliability remains to be seen.

Improved security

The final benefit of using OpenDNS is easily the best reason for switching. OpenDNS can block you from visiting known phishing and malware sites before it can steal your personal information. Email phishing for instance, is a common gateway for bad guys to trick you into sharing sensitive information unwittingly.

It doesn’t stop with email of course. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are a huge target for scammers. Last year, I almost had my Twitter account compromised after attempting to enter my login credentials to a website pretending to be Twitter.

Typo-squatters can also be thwarted thanks to OpenDNS. So, if you accidentally attempt to visit googl.com, OpenDNS will redirect you to google.com.

Staying one step ahead of the bad guys

While updating your parents’ browser is an effective solution for protecting them from potential security vulnerabilities, it is not a silver bullet. As the example above demonstrates, the web isn’t the only place where the bad guys seek their next victims. Changing your DNS server to OpenDNS will bring you added security protection from identity theft and other fraud however, there is only so much technology can do to prevent simple bone-headed mistakes committed by the user. Even the most tech-savvy of users should not rest easy with the threat of security breaches growing more prevalent every day.

  • http://www.spudart.org/ Matt Maldre

    Your blog post makes me happy that I use Open DNS at home.

    • http://loneplacebo.com/ Tony Hue

      Woot! Glad to hear that.