Have kids? Have a computer? Then you've likely installed or have at least considered installing some form of Internet protection software, like the parental control software from Net Nanny or CyberPatrol. But in this new era of everything-as-a-service, having to run software on your computer seems passé. And as of today, it is.
Internet navigation and security firm OpenDNS has just launched FamilyShield, a free parental control service that requires no software download or CD to purchase. With two steps, claims the company, parents can protect their kids not only from inappropriate content, but also from malware, phishing sites and other known fraudulent entities on the Web.
FamilyShiled: Internet Filtering Made Easy... And Free
According to OpenDNS, FamilyShield's set-up process is a straightforward procedure that involves only enabling the service. There are not, as is often the case with PC software programs, complex settings that have to be tweaked and configured. It's as close as you can get to a push-button configuration for a safe and sanitized Internet.
FamilyShield is also allows customers to protect an entire home network of computers, including Wi-Fi devices like Xbox 360's and Wiis. And it blocks proxies and anonymizers, too, tools that are often used by tech savvy kids to get around Web filters.
Although parents will likely be drawn to the new service for its Internet filtering component, there's another aspect to FamilyShield that should pique anyone's interest: the ability to block phishing and malware sites automatically. Although Google and other search services use their own filtering systems to warn Web surfers of potentially dangerous pages, they don't block users from accessing those pages. FamilyShield, however, does. And it keeps its list of blocked sites updated in real-time, 24 hours a day.
Experts Say: Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Security experts warn that parents shouldn't consider this service as an alternative to their current anti-malware protection, only an additional layer of defense. Changing your DNS settings is so simple it's "trivial," says Chet Wisniewski, senior security advisor from Sophos. Plus, even high-profile sites including the likes of Lenovo and the New York Times have been compromised by malware in the recent past. A DNS system would not have been able to block those types of infections.
Advice to Parents
That being said, as that extra layer of security - or simply as an Internet filter you don't have to pay for - OpenDNS is offering a great service for parents who don't have the time, money or inclination to purchase and install more advanced filtering and protection software.
Our advice? Parents looking to use FamilyShield should set it up on their home's wireless router, making sure the router has a complex password that the kids could never guess. Despite what security professionals have reportedly said for years - it is OK to write a password down on a piece of paper - just secure that paper! A complex password scratched on the back of a business card stored in your wallet is far more secure that one you made short and simple so you wouldn't forget it.
Still, we have to agree with the experts on one thing - nothing will really prevent a tech-savvy child from getting to the content you want to filter if they're truly motivated. No software program, service or hard-to-guess password can ever take the place of the best system: good parenting.