Sunday

DNS Angel - Handy DNS Tool

DNS is one of those "techie"-sounding computer concepts, but the idea is simply to translate something like www.google.com into the correct IP address for that site (computers "know" about IP addresses, but not what "www.google.com" means).

An alternative DNS server can also be used as a pretty handy way to block unwanted or "bad" sites, like those with malware or pornography, phishing sites, etc. before you get to them. The default DNS servers provide with your Internet connection generally do not filter for content (unless you live somewhere like Iran), they just do the straight translation from domain name to IP address.


There are alternative, legitimate DNS servers you can use that keep a current list of sketchy sites, and block access before you are exposed to them. The alternatives like OpenDNS may even work more quickly that the default DNS server you are using.

Trouble is, most computer users don't want to fiddle with things like DNS setting. Enter DNS Angel - a small, free and simple to use program for Windows users. There is no installation, you just double click the DNS Angel file to run it.

Very simply, DNS Angel presents you with several DNS server options, currently two from Norton (the antivirus folks) and two others; OpenDNS Family, and the less well-known MetaCert. All you do is to click on the desired DNS server, close the program and use your computer as normal. The effect is immediate, and that DNS server will stay in use until you use DNS Angel again to change to a different server (or go back to the default settings).

The Norton DNS options are more geared towards protection against website-based malware and filesharing (p2p) sites, where OpenDNS can also filter sites with pornographic and other questionable content.

Rebooting the computer does not affect the changed settings, the computer will not slow down or have to work harder, and the only thing you should notice is that if you try to open one of the filtered sites, you will be blocked from that site.

If you change wireless networks (i.e. take your laptop to a friend's house), you will need to apply the setting again - it will not "mess up" their network, the changes are only made on your computer. The filtering will work whether you use Internet Explorer, or Firefox or something else for your browser.

The only time you might want to revert back to the default settings could be under some circumstances with a computer used for work; either a computer used with a VPN connection, or a laptop that you move between work and home - but DNS Angel makes it trivially easy and fast to swap settings around - just run the program and select "Default DNS".

2 comments :

John D Carmack said...

Richard wrote: "If you change wireless networks (i.e. take your laptop to a friend's house), you will need to apply the setting again."

That implies you must be connected to the network first, though. Else, how can it tell which settings to change?

"The only time you might want to revert back to the default settings could be under some circumstances with a computer used for work; either a computer used with a VPN connection, or a laptop that you move between work and home..."

I'm lost here, Richard. If it truly works per connection, then it shouldn't be interfering with a separate VPN connection, should it?

Richard Keggans said...

Perceptive as usual, John. It does work per connection, and it would not therefore be implemented on a separate VPN connection. What I should have said was simply, you should probably NOT use DNS Angel on a connection used for work as it may cause problems in that scenario.