David Szpunar: Lead Engineer, PC Help Services

David's Church Information Technology

June 11th, 2007 at 12:00 am Print This Post Print This Post

OpenDNS Does Free Adult Blocking from St. Bernard!

OpenDNS has listened to their users and released Adult Site Blocking to complement the rest of their DNS arsenal! True, ScrubIT beat them to it, but when you combine the reporting, the ability to sign up for accounts now (I still haven’t been invited to the ScrubIT beta and signed up well over a month ago), the ability to select from six different categories of adult content blocking, and the source of the block list, you have a rather well thought-out combination that gets my vote!

They are using St. Bernard for the block list, the company that makes the iPrism for corporate content filtering. I’ve had some contact with them recently (watched an online live demo and gotten some quotes — the demo was impressive but not worth the time given the price of the quote vs. our budget) and they seem to be a classy company, near the top of the choices for premiere content filtering.

OpenDNS also allows you to put your custom image on the block page (for their typo correction, not just the content filtering). Their service is already being put to use in several churches, but I can’t help thinking this will bump that trend right on up! Andrew Mitry at Anchorite switched from OpenDNS to ScrubIT in March (it sounds like he either used OpenDNS before or liked it, hard to tell from that post), while at the same time commenting that OpenDNS appeared to be more mature (an assessment I’d fully agree with). This is the first time OpenDNS has responded with a content filter on this level however. In my experience (and I’ve corresponded with several of the OpenDNS staff including owner David Ulevich), OpenDNS doesn’t do something unless it can be done right, and going with a large provider like St. Bernard for their list sounds just like something they’d do.

Now, to test extensively! Detailed reporting (especially at the user or internal IP level) is really the key component missing from this service, since you can add your own blocked domains as well. I also don’t see a way to override specific blocked pages if you run into a site categorized incorrectly (although OpenDNS is known for adding additional control features later on). And, while it will catch direct-access porn and other adult content, it can’t do much for direct-IP access sites, or a bigger threat, open proxies (possibly the most well-known being Google’s own English-to-English translator, among hundreds of others) since it’s not doing URL filtering or any content inspection, just DNS blocking. But it’s a good first line of defense, at an even better price. Our free wireless internet is getting switched over post haste!