Best Free Parental Filter

 

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Introduction
Parental control software makes it harder to find inappropriate material on the Internet or to do things that "parents" don't want. The criteria I've used includes these four main components of parental control plus compatibility with browsers and operating systems:
 
Block addresses – to avoid specific Internet addresses (URLs or IP addresses) 
Filter content – to identify inappropriate material
Manage usage – to limit Internet access by setting time limits and time quotas 
Monitor activities – to see what has happened with alerts and reporting
 

Most of the products and services I've reviewed provide similar levels of blocking. They do very little, if any, online filtering for other content. This is because the block lists are created offline from content filtering done on the providers' servers.

I'm separating the discussion into two groups to clarify a key difference based on the breadth of activities that can be managed. OpenDNS, the previous first choice, is a great DNS server that focuses on web blocking and does that very well. But there is a broader range of controls that parents want which can only be provided by installing software on the desktop. Examples are limiting game usage, limiting computer time; and preventing avoidance.

1. Gateway or proxy servers only need simple configuration changes on your PC or router. They don't manage usage nor a wider range of desktop activities. They also have a major weakness which makes the controls easy to sidestep: the DNS configuration can be changed just as simply as it was setup.

2. Desktop software is installed on your PC to provide a wider range of parental controls. Time limits and quotas are usual.  Some can filter or monitor much more than just web surfing: email, instant messaging, internet chat, and games.  Plus there are a few more features to deter users who want to avoid the controls. For example, passwords are usually required to alter the configuration or uninstall the product. 

Discussion - Gateways

 

OpenDNS    Rating 6 of 10  

OpenDNS

OpenDNS is a web-based service that replaces your ISP’s DNS servers. You will usually have no software to install but you will have to register with OpenDNS and change the DNS settings for your router or PC. The online instructions are clear and easy to follow: select the router or PC & operating system, configure the settings, and test the new setup. If you are not confident about this then walk through the instructions without signing up.

OpenDNS works very simply. Its main task is to find web pages for you. It also checks its database to find out if the web page needs to be blocked. It blocks web pages by redirecting your browser to the OpenDNS block page instead of going to the requested web page. I find it is the fastest of the products reviewed here.

In order to enable content protection you will need to register for a free account with OpenDNS. There are two free options (as well as two paid options with more features):

OpenDNS Family Shield is the easiest to setup as it is designed to be real simple. It only filters a limited set of sites (adult sites, proxy and anonymizer sites, phishing sites, some virus-spreading malware sites) but you don't have to customize the filtering.
 
OpenDNS Basic is more work to setup but that is because it is more customizable: you can block or unblock any of 54 categories of sites; block and unblock individual sites; produce reports on sites visited which can then be downloaded or printed; customize the block page; and create URL shortcuts, such as "tsa" for TechSupportAlert. Once you have registered to use OpenDNS, you will use the OpenDNS Dashboard to configure and report on activity. It is a password-protected control panel where you can use one of 5 pre-set categories designed or customise your own setting with selected categories. By default OpenDNS only blocks phishing sites.  You can also designate OpenDNS to restrict or permit individual sites. Reports on sites visited and usage charts are more useful in OpenDNS than in most of the desktop products. With OpenDNS you can view total requests, total unique domains, total unique IP's and total blocked domains in a far more readable and useful format. Plus you can print reports or download stats in a CSV file.
 
There are further benefits from using OpenDNS:

– You may notice a speed advantage if your ISP has slower or less reliable DNS servers. Each OpenDNS server has a massive cache so it is less likely to have to go to other DNS servers for the site you want. OpenDNS has several regional servers through North America and one in Europe. I found the speed very good even from New Zealand and OpenDNS was faster than any of the desktop solutions.
– You can create the URL "shortcuts" already mentioned. Enter a short word instead of a long address in the address bar and you will be taken to that website.
– OpenDNS can display web pages when a site is down (see OpenDNS Smart Caching Displays Websites Even When They're Down)
– OpenDNS supports almost any platform including many mobile platforms

OpenDNS is not perfect. It is easy to bypass because you only have to reconfigure the DNS server settings to point at another DNS server. It doesn’t yet allow the blocking of unrated (not categorised) sites. Also, if you have a dynamic IP address (one that changes each time you connect) then you will need to install additional desktop software (the OpenDNS Updater, 256KB).

 
At the moment, OpenDNS has no competitors providing free blocking but there is at least one contender lining up. I've provided the links for your information:
DNS Advantage  supports some well-known Internet businesses with servers spread through more continents than OpenDNS. At present blocking is limited to malware protection but more comprehensive filtering is under development. It should be a strong challenger to OpenDNS.
Clearcloud also provides malware protection but has no plans for broader filtering and blocking.
 
Discussion - Desktop software

Norton Safety Minder   Rating 7 of 10  Gizmo's Top Pick

Norton Safety Minder settingsThe first choice in this category is Norton Safety Minder by Symantec. It is a part of Norton Online Family which also includes Norton Account, which you will need, and free site-rating with Norton Safe Web.

Norton Safety Minder is a pleasure to use. For a start, it is the most comprehensive of the free programs. It has filtering and monitoring for web surfing, social networks, email, instant messaging, and contacts. It also handles multiple user accounts which is good for one PC with many users but does increase the work to setup. If you need all these features then you should also have a look at the paid version which adds videos, daily usage quotas, and makes reporting useful by reporting on all activity increasing the report period from 7 days to 90 days.

Some of the useful features that were not common to other programs:

– Email alerts if your child crosses any monitoring threshold. Plus children can request that a site be unblocked. You can whether you receive the requests immediately or once a day.
– Your settings are stored in your free Norton Account at Symantec. That account is not removed when you uninstall. So you can reinstall and the settings don't have to be re-entered.
– The paid version has daily time quotas in addition to the usual time limits. So you can, for example, specify 2 hours use between school and bed-time.

I only had one issue. Unblocking pages is too time consuming because you don’t get the option to unblock at the block page. Instead you have to change go to the web setup pages to specify a site to allow.

Norton Safety Minder installs browser add-ons which worked fine for me. It does have problems running with other security software such as Avast! - you will need to disable the Avast! Web Shield if it is enabled. See Norton's list of known problems Using Norton Safety Minder with other security products. While testing I had no problems with Avira Antivir Personal or Microsoft Security Essentials.
  

 

K9 Web Protection    Rating 6 of 10

K9 Web

K9 Web Protection by Blue Coat Systems is the second choice for the dektop. If your primary requirement is for web filtering with safe searching then I would use this because it is simple and effective.

K9 requires a license key that you can obtain before or after you install the software. It can be reused if you reinstall K9 so you will be sent an email with the license key whenever you uninstall K9.

Blue Coat's approach is different to the other providers because K9 is most accessible when a page has been blocked. This means that I don't get frustrated if I want to see the page or realize that my settings are wrong. The block page provides access (with the correct password) to all that I need: the site URL and why it is blocked; unblock the site or the category either temporarily or permanently; request that the site be reviewed; enter supervisor mode, i.e. no filtering; or change the main settings. Of course, if I just want a block page with no options I can set that in the 'Blocking Effects'.

All other changes are made through the web interface: a password-protected menu with three options:

– View Internet Activity. K9 logs every site you’ve accessed and the activity view highlights those that have been blocked.
– Setup is where you specify the sites or site categories to block or allow, the time restrictions, and safe search options.
– Get Help is the first place to go if you have any problems.

What are potential issues? There is not the breadth of controls of products like Norton Safety Minder. Settings apply to all users on the computer as it does not have settings for each account - but that is what I normally want. The barking sound when blocking is helpful until you realize it barks on blocked ads too. Blocking an allowed site is done through the main menu as there is no system tray icon or button for this. There is no printing of activity reports. On occasions, web surfing has been slow or intermittent but, given that I’m half a world away from the K9 servers, that is not unexpected.

K9 also has a couple of useful and unique features. A timeout period can be set if there are too many blocks in a period up to an hour. URLs containing a specified keyword will all be blocked. Activity logs can be kept a long time and cleared whenever you like.

 

Windows Live Family Safety    Rating 5 of 10

Windows Live Family Safety settingsThe third option in this category is Windows Live Family Safety by Microsoft. This is good program but its strength is its weakness: it is best as an extension of Windows parental controls and Windows Live. If you don't use either or are using Windows XP then I don't recommend Windows Live Family Safety because you can choose better products in Norton Safety Minder and K9 Web Protection.
– The later your version of Windows then the more parental controls you get. Live Family Safety works best with Windows 7 and well with Vista but is not very good with Windows XP as there are several features that don't work very well or at all.
– Live Family Safety works better with Microsoft products like Internet Explorer - I had a couple of problems running it with Mozilla Firefox. Some components like contact management only work with Microsoft services.

I use Live Mail so I liked not having to remember another password. The interface was familiar to me yet it should be easy to use for most people. Each user profile is setup separately in a similar way to Windows parental controls, which it actually sits above. Be careful because some changes to the blocking setup did not take effect immediately.

The site blocking works very well in all versions of Windows and web surfing seemed more responsive than with K9 and Norton. But I wasn't able to choose from a list of categories to filter. Instead, Family Safety provides five levels of configuration related to the age of your children. Also, safe search is not as good because I could still view image files in the search engine image cache even though the sites were blocked. It can be uninstalled without a password.

 

KidZui K2 browser    Rating 5 of 10

KidZui K2

KidZui has two browsers versions which cannot be run together. The older Classic version is available for those who have Classic accounts and either want to continue using it or are users of the paid Plus features (blocking sites, unlimited history, adding sites to kids favorites). All other users are recommended to use the newer and much simpler K2 version which I am reviewing here.

KidZui K2 provides a safe environment for young children. Every link is whitelisted which means they are all positively vetted. The downside is that there are many things that cannot be done in KidZui. But young children should be fine with this.

Sign up to get a password so you can set four options: launch at start-up; parental password to exit; full-screen mode; and toggle the welcome screen. If you want to, you can set it to run automatically at full-screen without your child being able to exit. But it is quite simple to circumvent and would not stop older children from avoiding it.

 

Other Parental Filters

This is the extent of current programs I tested:

  • SafeSquid for 1-3 users is a free version of a corporate product that is not for non-technical users. Once you have installed it you must customize It to make it useful. There is a lot of documentation to help you and there are some useful downloads to get filtering and safe search working. I tried it and found the filtering very effective. You can run it on a gateway or individual desktop and there are numerous network configuration options.
  • FortiClient  has a Web Content Filter component that can be installed without the complete package. Again, this is part of a corporate product. That's probably why it has the best and largest selection of filter categories that I have used: 83 categories in total. Blocking performance was comparable with the recommended products but it didn't enforce safe searching and reporting is limited to a log file.
  • Microsoft Windows Parental Controls built into Microsoft Windows are increasingly more comprehensive but virtually useless in Windows XP. The only safe way to use it is with unrated pages blocked which means you will go crazy with the Content Adviser pop-up asking if you want to view the unrated page. Windows Vista and Windows 7 are far more useful being the basis for Windows Live Family Safety.

I don't recommend using browser add-ons for parental control because they are so easily bypassed. They do not work with all browsers and don't have enough features.

  • Parental Control Bar is a good example. It has website filtering with block lists and allow lists but no reporting, alerts, time restrictions, or filtering of email, internet messaging, etc. It installed a faulty add-on to Firefox, the KidTrackmonitor didn't work, and it has not been updated since September 2007.

I also looked at the following free child-safe browsers. I cannot recommend any of them for their parental controls.

  • KidzCD has a range of child-friendly browsers and they recommend Kidz Protection which manages access to software.
  • Kido'z has a trial version that you can use indefinitely but which does not provide access to the parental controls unless you pay for a subscription.
  • Kidrocket which appears to be unsupported.
Related Products and Links
Quick Selection Guide

Norton Safety Minder
3.5
 
Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
comprehensive; multiple profiles on each PC; settings stored with your account
the paid version is needed for time quotas and useful reporting; unblocking is time-consuming; no XP 64-bit
http://onlinefamily.norton.com/
2.1.0.37
11.7 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Feature limited freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP to Windows 7, MacOS 10.4.5+

64 Bit version available for Windows Vista to Windows 7 but not Windows XP

OpenDNS
3
 
Is a web service or web application
web based service works with all OS's + fast, effective blocking; faster browsing for many
too easy to avoid; one profile on each PC; some technical knowledge required; no desktop controls
https://www.opendns.com/
Windows, Mac, UNIX, mobile, etc
K9 Web Protection
3
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
simple and effective; highly customizable
one profile on each PC; slower browsing; no controls for email, IM, games, etc.
http://www.k9webprotection.com/
4.0.296
0.7 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP to Windows 7, MacOS 10.4.7+
Windows Live Family Safety
2.5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
filtering works well; consolidates reporting across multiple PCs
controls depend on your Windows version (and its parental controls) and using Microsoft products
http://explore.live.com/
14.0.8117
1.2 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows XP SP2 - 7

Download for Windows XP is http://explore.live.com/windows-live-family-safety-xp Windows XP.
64 Bit version available for Windows Vista to Windows 7 but not Windows XP.

KidZui K2
2.5
 
Combines a web service with a stand-alone program
whitelisted sources; can start at startup; password to exit; also available are a Classic version and a Firefox add-on
limited application, only useful for young children; limited websites and functionality; easy to circumvent
http://www.kidzui.com/
http://www.kidzui.com/
6.0
1.5 MB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Adobe Flash 9.0 or later for: Windows XP, Vista, 7. - Internet Explorer 6.0 or later; Mac OS 10.4.11 or later - Safari 3.0 or later

Apple Mac OS X download at http://www.kidzui.com/download/mac

Resources:
About, Support, Knowledgebase

Editor

This software review is copy-edited by Glyn Burgess. Please help edit and improve this article by clicking here.

Change Log
Date Change Editor
Oct 2011 No change to content. Convert the Quick Selection Guide to the new database. Remah
May 2011

Add a change log. Change headings. Add KidZui K2.

Remah
Dec. 2010 Review updated with Norton Safety Minder, Windows Live Family Safety, SafeSquid, FortiClient.

Remah

Dec. 2009 Review created.  
Tags
Parental control, parental filter, web filter, best parental control, best parental filter, top parental control, top parental filter

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Comments

by hamedg on 18. June 2014 - 10:53  (116815)

Let me add more to it.

OpenDNS is good but how difficult is it to bypass it ???? it takes less than 20 seconds to bypass it. your kid does not need to access the router . samge goes with any toolbar addons. if you want it secure you need to have multiple security layesrs. like:
1. OS: accounts with limited access so user can not make changes to network settings
2. Software: Good/Decent security products (like avast/etc...)
3. Network: if you are really concern decent/clever router which can do more clever things.

I can go on about this for days but the point is as some people mention here it will be really hard to control kids as they are getting more clever. if they want it they will find away around it. I am an I.T speciallist and have 2 boys and my god they are making it very challenging for me :)

by Remah on 18. June 2014 - 23:25  (116829)

This category looks at web filtering and doesn't attempt to describe how to child-proof a computer. That is why most of your points are not discussed here. But those issues are covered in many other articles on this site.

Regarding OpenDNS, the article mentions that such products/services are easy to bypass: "1. Gateway or proxy servers only need simple configuration changes on your PC or router. They don't manage usage nor a wider range of desktop activities. They also have a major weakness which makes the controls easy to sidestep: the DNS configuration can be changed just as simply as it was setup."

by Panzer on 14. October 2013 - 9:37  (111476)

Kidbox - browser for kids, aged 2 to 8:
http://www.kidbox.net/en/index.php

by jimcarter1959 on 12. April 2013 - 12:57  (107019)

I'm a PC tech and for a period of a few years starting around 2005 we recommended the Blue Coat K9 Web Protection to dozens of our home users. The application was advertised as "free and lifetime" for that group. Lo and behold all these years later, Blue Coat (without notice) decided to pull all these licenses the week prior to April 15th. Because the license pull cuts off Internet service, our customers are frantic because some really need their PCs prior to tax filing day. Most of these users remain--and always will--novices when it comes to anything but the basics with computers. We've had to coach dozens through the process of uninstalling the application. AVOID THIS APPLICATION AT ALL COSTS!

by Oboro on 6. March 2013 - 16:46  (105991)

It surprises me that no one mentioned [edited] as a parental control solution. I've been using for the largest part of the last decade and it really is one of the most complete solutions out there. My kids are now growing out of this, but they still use it as their starting point and managing their permissions is very easy and dispenses any sort of over the shoulder parenting. A solid recommendation for this one.

by Anupam on 6. March 2013 - 18:30  (105994)

This is a freeware site. Please do not mention/recommend/suggest commercial software. This is not allowed. Keep the suggestions to freeware only please.

by MoreDoor on 3. December 2012 - 10:19  (103280)

Net Responsibility, for Linux and OSX

by Jane (not verified) on 30. July 2012 - 8:36  (96869)

Even I use Qustodio primarily because its free and offers a complete parental control solution. Based on content, it blocks sites automatically in real time, tracks data, and also monitors the activities kids engage in on social media sites. Perhaps the biggest advantage I found was that kids have a hard time unblocking sites or finding a work around to gain access to blocked sites. I have found it to be the best in the league of free software.

by dej (not verified) on 26. July 2012 - 23:41  (96706)

If you have a router like a Linksys E2000 you can flash it with DD-WRT (www.dd-wrt.com). DD-WRT is a linux based replacement for many routers and opens up features that don't come stock out of the box.

You can password protect the router, and you can put opendns or Norton DNS in the router instead of the PC which means all PCs using the router HAVE to go through openDNC or Norton DNS. You also have the capability to block keywords and maybe 60 web sites. I personally use Norton DNS but it isn't as customizable as OpenDNS.

If someone is connecting wirelessly they HAVE to go through the router. If using an ethernet cable, someone could bypass the router and could connect the cable directly to the router. You could get around that pretty easy with a plastic tool box that has the capability to have a lock added. Cut some holes in the box for ethernet wires and power cables. Stick the modem and router in the box place the wires through the hole and lock the box.

Bluecoat K9 was mentioned. I gave up on it a few months ago. I was using a hosts file and K9 was butchering it rendering it useless. A hosts file is easily defeatable if you know about it, but it does help. I used K9 to force search engine safe search. Norton does the same.

There's a file called a proxy.pac file. The file is written in Javascript. IE9 doesn't seem to work with it. Again, easy to defeat if you know about it. A proxy.pac file can look at urls the browser is attempting to access. If it sees things in the url string that the proxy.pac can resolve, it won't let you at the web page.

[Comments about commercial product edited out]

by Jack Hemme (not verified) on 3. July 2012 - 12:12  (95680)

I caught my son watching p0rn and I went mad. I was so embarrassed to tell my friends that I started looking for solutions in Google. I eventually found this thing called qustodio which is free and helps you control your kids. I think it is http://qustodio.com but if it doesn't work try it in google because it is everywhere. Good luck!

by Techietime on 3. July 2012 - 13:40  (95683)

Hi Jack, I think you mean http://www.qustodio.com :)

by Alice (not verified) on 25. May 2012 - 13:09  (93941)

We have used OpenDNS successfully for quite a while now. It has been a great solution for many families since you can block sites at the router level. This allows you to block ipods/ipads access to certain sites also. Example: Don't want your kid on oovoo all night? Block it! Yes, as kids get older, they may learn ways around this. Hopefully there will be better parental control software available for portable devices soon!

by Australia on 22. March 2012 - 8:35  (90970)

Cold Turkey
Homepage http://getcoldturkey.com/
Start the program, and list the websites you wish to be locked out from, and the time when the lockout finishes. There is a tick box of the common programs (including Facebook, YouTube and Hotmail), and another dialog box where you can nominate other website addresses
Cold Turkey needs to be installed, and needs NET Framework. However I like the program. The homepage describes the remedy if you wish to unlock the lockout - so there are some weaknesses, but this program is useful for general locking out
Another alternative I found was "SelfRestraint", which needs neither installation nor the NET Framework. Another excellent program, you choose the websites and the time of the lockout. A timer is shown during the lockout period. The disadvantage of this program is that the timer seems to be inaccurate. After the allotted timeout period has elapsed, there seems to be a further delay before access is possible (eg timer set for 15 minutes, actual timeout 25 minutes) !
However, also a very good program if you dont wish to have something installed
Homepage:
http://parker.kuivi.la/projects/selfrestraint.html

by Yosef Kedem (not verified) on 26. May 2011 - 8:37  (72697)

Could you rate "PicBlock" - a p0rn0graphic image blocker as an addition to parental filters. I'm using K9 for a while and I'm rather happy with it but I think it's not enough when for example searching pictures or even opening pages of news sites.

YK

by Remah on 26. May 2011 - 9:28  (72701)

OK, I'll have a look at it. Thanks for bringing up the problem of images and videos. I'd like to find at least one good good product to recommend.

by bas12 on 25. May 2011 - 15:25  (72664)

K9 is not only a parental filter, it's also quite effective in blocking malicious websites. (Depending on your config of K9).

On my machine it's running smoothly, and not delaying surfing.

My children are happily not able to circumvent K9.

There are occasional glitches (doesn't accept your password for instance), but nothing which cannot be solved.

For me a good addition to WOT.

by Remah on 25. May 2011 - 22:18  (72674)

You're right. K9 Web Protection protects from malware sites better than most other filters and internet safety checks. FYI, in my testing K9 adds little protection to WOT because WOT is so effective at warning and blocking of bad sites.

I've just completed some new tests with K9 that also impressed me. After I've tested the other filters I'll update this category. I'll also be updating two related categories:
- Best Free Internet Safety Check
- Best Free DNS Resolution Service, a new category that should appear in June

by goodjohnjr (not verified) on 1. May 2011 - 21:01  (71255)

DynDNS and Norton DNS also have Web Filtering & a software client now. :)

DynDNS

http://www.dyndns.com/services/dynguide/

Norton DNS

http://nortondns.com/

by tania's granny (not verified) on 16. March 2011 - 6:27  (67980)

My grandaughter is coming to stay and will sleep in my office where my computer is. I want to be able to give her access to Facebook for an hour, then lock her out. How can I do this?

by Remah on 16. March 2011 - 18:01  (68011)

MidnightCowboy has pointed you to the correct path for support.
For the record, Windows Parental Controls, Windows Live Family Safety, Norton Family Safety, K9 Web Protection, and Forticlient Fortiguard have daily time limits by setting hours of the day. But these free products may not work the way you want:
- Windows Parental Controls and Live Family Safety won't do this on Windows XP only on Vista or 7.
- Norton has daily quotas only in the paid version.
- K9 will affect all users not just your granddaughter.
A simpler method for a short stay may be to remove the power cable(s) from your computer after she has her hour.

by MidnightCowboy on 16. March 2011 - 6:52  (67983)

Please post this question in our forum together with details of your operating system as the answer will be too involved to post here.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/freeware-forum/general-computer-support/

by Anonymous. (not verified) on 15. January 2011 - 0:39  (64577)

well,

norton saftey is doing it's job. But most websites that my kids love are blocked even though they are not bad or anything. And even websites that I
love are too. But I am shure that my kids are safe on the internet and that's good and that's all I care about and that's why I have norton saftey. If you don't have it I advise you do so. And it even blockes things like scams on my computer. I give it a *** thumbs up ***

by Slash (not verified) on 22. November 2010 - 9:05  (61486)

SafeSquid is not all that difficult to install and customize. The only thing is that it has so many features and options that it tends to confuse users. For a simple start, check out these tutorial videos that show how simple it is to install and configure -

[edit]
Youtube link removed as it contains images unsuitable for viewing by minors. Anyone wishing to view this tutorial can search for it themselves.

by Concerned Parent (not verified) on 25. October 2010 - 19:50  (60157)

I was hoping to find a freeware IM monitoring tool on here, more for monitoring Facebook messages. I've installed Windows Family Online and it works just as good as K9 (if not better) but only monitors IM programs related to MSN.

by Enrique (not verified) on 1. October 2010 - 15:16  (58820)

Some of the problems reported about Opendns and K9 cab be resoved if you make another account on Win without administrative privileges...
Thanks from Bariloche !

by Pappy (not verified) on 18. September 2010 - 21:21  (58079)

Horses for courses, as they say in England.

I've used K9 for years with no issues and loved it, but my son was getting sneaky and using his Wii, xBox, and iPod to get to undesirable content. OpenDNS blocks based on your router's IP address, so your entire home network is filtered, not just the PCs on which it's installed, as with K9. Both are excellent but each has it's place.

by Anonymous 24577 (not verified) on 27. September 2010 - 11:25  (58502)

I have a problem with Opendns and believe there is a serious flaw in that it is so easy to bypass and that users should be aware of this.

Firstly a tech savvy teen can access the router through the PC and remove the Opendns specific DNS numbers.

Even more easy is through the Dynamic IP Address Updater. There is an option on this updater to disable updates. All you have to do is tick this option (which is not password protected) and reset the router by turning it off and on. It really is that easy.

Opendns is probably more suitable to a large business network. But in view of the above it does not work in a home pc environment.

Please tell me I am missing something as I was delighted with the product until my son discovered these flaws.

by Jeff Stevenson (not verified) on 26. September 2011 - 4:21  (80335)

Oh, and one more thing. Another problem with a software solution is, all the user has to do, is get a bootable Linux OS disk/flash drive like Ubuntu, and they can browse the web bypassing any security offered by your cherished installed software based solution. Are you really going to disable the boot functionality of your external drives?

I'll tell you, your teens are smart, and when there is a will there is a way.

The only way to protect everything is to nip it at the bud where the Internet enters the home.

P.S. Why is it so bad to prevent you from accessing what you don't want your teens accessing? Sounds a little hypocritical.

by Jeff Stevenson (not verified) on 26. September 2011 - 4:11  (80334)

Yeah, I agree with you. That is why you should password protect your router, and lock it up (maybe not the easiest thing). Many routers have a built in option to connect to OpenDNS which will automatically send IP address updates so you don't have to install the software. This will make it so there is only one point of access, and that is up to you to lock it up.

There are many issues with software based filtering. The main two are, you have to install it on all your computers. The second one is, it can be disabled by going through task manager and disabling the service, then changing the proxy settings in Internet Explorer. I did this while testing K9 a long time ago and trying to find a fool proof solution.

Yeah, you can disable various settings and prevent your users from accessing certain things on the computer, but now you're talking about being a system admin that knows a lot about windows.

Just get a router that supports OpenDNS, password protect it, and lock it up. Any computer using your network including cell phones, WII's ect. will be protected.

The big issue I've found with OpenDNS is sites that haven't been reviewed still are accessible. I wish they had a feature to do it based on text on the webpages. This would definitely slow it down, but would be the ultimate protection.

by Remah on 28. September 2010 - 7:12  (58563)

I'm starting as Editor of this category.

My first task will be to update this category and provide a more comprehensive summary of the filtering options. This will provide a context within which the recommendations for free software are made.

As you have discovered, one of the key decision points is whether compliance is voluntary. For example, I am a voluntary user but some of my children are not.

OpenDNS clearly does work but it is not intended to enforce filtering for users that are motivated to bypass it. So I too would not choose OpenDNS unless I could prevent my son from changing the DNS addresses.

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