Another Layer of Protection: OpenDNS

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We’ve always said that you can never have too many layers of defense when it comes to protecting your critical data from malware and viruses. There’s desktop-level anti-virus protection, email scanning and filtering and gateway antivirus. We’re finding, however, that many infections we deal with come from infected Web page, and the easiest way to prevent those infections is to prevent loading of the web page in the first place. That’s where OpenDNS comes into play.

For a quick primer as to how this protection works, you need to know what DNS is. DNS stands for Domain Name System and is basically the yellow-pages of the internet. In simplistic terms, when you request something in your browser like www.google.com, your computer has to figure out how to get there. It basically needs to know google.com’s IP address (i.e, phone number). To find its IP address, it asks your nameservers (usually your ISP’s nameservers). The conversation pretty much goes like this:

  • Computer: “Hey nameservers, I want to go to google.com to search for funny cat videos. Can you get me there?”
  • Nameservers: “Sure, google.com’s IP address is 67.204.184.221. Venture forth for cat videos.”

While it’s all a bit more complicated than that, that’s the basics behind it. This all happens behind the scenes in milliseconds, and can happens a dozen times or more for a single web page that has content being pulled from all over the internet. When you load our web site for example, we have several scripts loading from external servers to enable some features of our site, and each one of those requires a new DNS query.

When you use a service like OpenDNS, instead of using your ISP or other name servers, all DNS queries are routed through the OpenDNS cloud network where. Your connection is then using OpenDNS’s up-to-the-minute massive data analysis (over 2% of the world’s Internet activity) to stay ahead of attacks to filter requests out that could potentially harm computers or harm office productivity. It’s a content filter, but on steroids.

With OpenDNS in use, your requests will basically go like this (continuing from our conversation above):

  • Computer: “OK, I want to go to this site google has listed, cat-videos-are-really-awesome.xyz. I’m clicking on it.”
  • OpenDNS: “Oh no you don’t. cat-videos-are-really-awesome.xyz has been infected with a drive-by malware virus, and the minute you go there, your computer is going to get infected. I’m going to block that request and give you nice warning screen instead.”

It can also be setup to filter productivity-killing websites by category (social media, online videos, etc…).

And it also will transparently prevent further infection on a computer or a network. Say a computer does manage to get infected with something (even with all the protection in the world, nothing is perfect). Part of how RansomWare like CryptoWall work is that they call home over the internet to get encryption keys to encrypt your files. OpenDNS can intelligently see those requests and block them to hopefully help contain the infection on your computer.

Weston Technology Solutions is now offering OpenDNS as our content filtering solution, and are rolling OpenDNS and the OpenDNS Umbrella client out to all our CompleteCare clients as we speak (and it’s already catching things that our previous solutions didn’t catch). If you’re interested in using OpenDNS to protect your environment (including employees on the road), call us today at 541-383-2340 or email [email protected] to discuss all the ways we can help. 

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