DNS & OpenDNS for my friends at home and SMB’s

These are some notes scraped from various sources and paraphrased for easy reading. I wanted a document that summarizes DNS and one option that you can do to tighten down security at home or at a small business.

According to various site pages from OpenDNS,Cisco Umbrella:

DNS Defined:  Domain Name System (DNS) is basically an address book for websites. It translates website names and email addresses of all organizations, governments and private entities into IP addresses, which are nothing more than combinations of numbers that are difficult for people to remember but essential for computers to communicate with each other.[1.]

For example, when you enter the Web address http://www.cnn.com, your computer connected to the DNS and found that the computer of the CNN website is at the address

Well, Are you using DNS at home and at work?  You most likely have DNS services that are automatically configured by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). These ISP DNS services are not optimal; they are typically slower than OpenDNS (below) and vulnerable to outages that will prevent you from reaching your intended website. In addition, ISP DNS services usually do not provide any security or website filtering benefits.

OpenDNS is a company & service that extends the Domain Name System by adding features such as phishing protection and optional content filtering in addition to DNS lookup, if its DNS servers are used.

This high-tech company based in San Francisco that provides easy-to-implement Internet navigation and Web security solutions for families, schools, governmental organizations and businesses of all sizes. OpenDNS enterprise security products have been rebranded to Cisco Umbrella (Acquired in August 2015 by Cisco)

Benefits of their services?

·         The services increase the speed of navigating websites

·         Prevent unintended access to phishing and malware sites as well as to any Web content that you configure to be restricted.

·         Offers the easiest, most cost-efficient way to prevent access to inappropriate websites, block phishing sites, and prevent virus and malware infections.

·         Umbrella protects users from connecting to malicious sites on the internet and analyzes over 180 billion DNS requests daily.

·         Th volume of DNS requests gives OpenDNS researchers a unique view of the internet to better identify trends on threats, faster.

·         OpenDNS’s “Umbrella” uses statistical models to hunt for domains tied to malicious infrastructure. In this way, Umbrella can stop infections before they happen and help you stay one step ahead of malicious actors.

Home user Service vs. Business or Pro service –  What’s available for me as a home user?

If you are a home user you can create an OpenDNS Home account, then try a free eval of Umbrella. If you are a business user your only choice is Umbrella, but you can still get the free eval.

Home user options:

As of 2019 according to their website there are a couple of free options and a couple of Paid options for the a standard user Home user…

·         OpenDNS Family Shield = FREE = Preconfigured to block adult content — set it & forget it

·         OpenDNS Home = FREE = Our classic, free service with customizable filtering and basic protection

Basically you are pointing your router/PC/etc. specifically to an OpenDNS server address.  Direct link for setting up either of these at home: https://bit.ly/2jdRron

·         OpenDNS Home VIP= $19.95/year OpenDNS Home package, plus one year of usage stats & optional white-list mode

·         Small Business = OpenDNS Umbrella Prosumer $20/user- Protects personal laptops anywhere they go via their Windows or Mac agents (‘only for 1-5 users, 3 devices per user) [2].

Business Users use Cisco Umbrella

Cisco Umbrella packages do all that OpenDNS Home does, but adds the Protection, Enforcement, Visibility, and Management categories from the matrix.

Umbrella packages are deployed a number of ways to cover your network.  One way is with an Umbrella Virtual Appliance. (VAs) are lightweight virtual machines that are compatible with VMWare ESX/ESXi, Windows Hyper-V, and KVM hypervisors and the Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services cloud platforms. When utilized as conditional DNS forwarders on your network, Umbrella VAs record the internal IP address information of DNS requests for usage in reports, security enforcement, and category filtering policies. Additionally, VAs encrypt and authenticate DNS data for enhanced security.

Basic Appliance Setup

What are the deployed devices doing?

VAs act as conditional DNS forwarders in your network, intelligently forwarding public DNS queries to Cisco Umbrella’s global network, and local DNS queries to your existing local DNS servers/forwarders, respectively.

Why Should I Use Virtual Appliances?

Gives your business Granular Identity Information.  If you’re already pointing DNS to Umbrella, or plan to, all the DNS traffic visible in your Umbrella reports come from a single Network identity making reporting a breeze. The VA’s provide internal IP visibility, allowing you to track down malicious or inappropriate traffic within your network to a specific IP address. With Virtual Appliances—VAs record the internal IP address of every DNS request. Security and DNS traffic-related investigations allow you to associate traffic to an individual, internal IP address.

Without Virtual Appliances—Security and DNS traffic-related investigations cannot be traced back to an individual computer or IP address. [3.]


  1. Support.umbrella.com. https://support.umbrella.com on October 23, 2019
  2. OpenDNS. Retrieved from: https://www.opendns.com/ on October 23, 2019
  3. Cisco Umbrella Docs. Retrieved from https://docs.umbrella.com/on October 23, 2019