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  • Cybersecurity and data privacy are sensitive issues these days. Businesses, institutions, and even individuals have started taking it seriously and implementing effective techniques to mitigate online threats.

    Online threats like hacking, phishing attacks, DDoS attacks, malware injection, spyware, ransomware, etc., are growing as the technology advances. As a result, it is essential to monitor online activities and protect your kids, devices, data, and employees from compromises.

    That said, DNS filtering can help you protect your organization and home from these issues or reduce the chances of a cybercrime.

    This article explains all you need to know about DNS and Web filtering and how it can help you. Also, I’ll be covering a DNS filter – SafeDNS and share its review with you all.

    What is DNS filtering?

    DNS filtering refers to a process that uses the Domain Name System (DNS) to filter and block inappropriate or harmful content and malicious websites. It helps you keep your data secure and get better control over the stuff your employees can access on your networks that your company manages.

    DNS filters are one of the essential tools you need to keep in your cybersecurity toolkit or access control strategy to be on the safer side of this highly risky cyberspace.

    In fact, DNS filtering is a kind of web filtering. And web filtering refers to a vast term with different concepts to control web traffic and provide safety. Apart from DNS filtering, other types of web filtering are content filtering, keyword filtering, and URL filtering.

    What is DNS?

    Now, if you are thinking – what a DNS is, it would not be easy to understand how DNS or web filtering works to help businesses. Let’s understand it in the next section.

    A DNS matches a domain name to an IP address. Suppose geekflare.com is a domain name, and 174.16.2.1 is the IP address. DNS is needed to allow users to access sites without memorizing an IP address with a long set of numbers. Instead, they can enter a site’s name, which makes it easy to remember.

    So, once you enter a domain name in your browser, your device makes a DNS query that goes to a DNS resolver – a special web server. Next, the DNS resolver matches the domain name in the query to an IP address by checking it in its cache or querying other DNS servers.

    Furthermore, the DNS resolves then sends your device the correct IP address. Finally, your device uses this IP address to contact the webserver to start the connection and load its content.

    The work of DNS is to help you access web content. If there is no DNS process in the background, you cannot load a site’s content. This is what DNS filtering leverages, making it an effective approach to have access control on users.

    How does DNS filtering help businesses?

    As discussed above, every DNS query goes to a DNS resolver. If a DNS resolver is specially configured, it can work like web filters by declining to resolve a query for a domain appearing in its blocklist. This way, it can restrict users from accessing malicious domains.

    For example, a DNS filter in your organization’s network will check all the queries coming from your employees requesting to visit different sites. The DNS filter will look into its blocklist to find the requested site. It will only allow resolving those requests that are not on the blocklist while blocking others in the list.

    This way, your organization will be safe from malicious attacks as no one can access any harmful sites.

    Moreover, some DNS filtering solutions utilize an allowlist containing a list of safe domains and grant access to queries coming for them while blocking others. A DNS filter can blocklist the websites, web pages, and other web properties by an IP address or domain name.

    • If the DNS filtering solution blocklists by domain, it will not resolve the IP addresses of domains.
    • If it blocks by IP address, it will try to resolve all types of domains. However, if it finds an IP address on a blocklist, it wouldn’t send it to the querying device.

    Use-cases of Web/DNS filtering

    DNS filters will restrict malicious software, malware, viruses, phishing attacks, etc., from your devices or networks to provide safety to an organization.

    • Blocking phishing sites: Looking like an official site, phishing sites are created to steal users’ login credentials. They can easily deceive users with their looks that most users won’t doubt. A DNS filter can block them, but not all DNS filters can. It is based on the capabilities of a DNS filter to identify a site as bad. Even if it blocks, the attackers can quickly create new domains, and blocklisting all of them is difficult.
    • Restricting malicious sites: A site containing malware sends users malicious programs and tries to trick users into downloading them. And when they do, the program gets triggered automatically and causes harm to their devices in terms of data theft, corruption, and other compromises. DNS filters are employed in these instances to block these attacks and prevent users from downloading such malware.
    • Blocking prohibited content: DNS filtering services blocklist the domain names and IP addresses that contain prohibited content. Hence, even if an employee tries accessing them, they would be denied access.
    • Creating an allowlist: You can create an allowlist and add sites that you approve to be safe. The DNS filtering service will always let you access those sites and block others.

    The importance of DNS filtering

    As your network grows, the attack surface keeps on increasing. Also, cybersecurity issues are growing at rampant rates, involving malware, viruses, DDoS attacks, phishing attacks, etc. These issues can compromise an organization’s network, devices, and data at any time in time and space.

    Suppose an employee from an organization receives some security alert through email requiring their credentials or prompting them to take some actions to resolve the issue. It may appear to users that the alert came from inside the organization or their IT department with the correct sender name, but the reality would be different. Unsuspecting employees enter their details trying to resolve issues, and the employee is phished. Their credential is compromised. In reality, they received a fake request from a fraudulent website.

    This is one way that cyber attackers can harm organizations, and there are countless other techniques to do so. They may redirect a user to a website through malicious ads or navigate them to a hacked site with malicious content being downloaded silently in the background.

    Such instances are common these days, and blocking them all is difficult. This is why you need cybersecurity solutions like DNS or web filtering. You can also combine other forms of security solutions like multi-factor authentication, anti-virus software, email security solution, etc., as different types of threats may need additional layers of security. Even if a method fails or becomes less effective, others can maintain security.

    Furthermore, DNS filtering is a crucial cybersecurity method that can block threats from the server level to provide wide-ranging security. It is not only swift but also there is little to no latency. There are many benefits associated with DNS filtering, such as:

    • In schools, DNS filtering prohibits students from accessing malicious and illegal websites on a school network. Schools can also manage the internet accessibility of their staff as well at a granular scale to protect their network from outside threats and data loss.
    • It offers safe web browsing by helping you secure your personal information from malicious sites injecting spyware, phishing attacks, ransomware, malware, and viruses.
    • DNS filtering will help you protect your device no matter what type of device you use – smartphone, tablet, or desktop. It safeguards your device from potential viruses that can get installed remotely and damage the device’s functions and/or data.
    • Your data may get stolen by malicious intent, and if you haven’t backed them up, you may lose it forever. But DNS filtering can help you protect your precious data by keeping the network secure.
    • It will enforce certain policies for internet usage.
    • Your organizational productivity can increase when users can have all their focus on work instead of wasting time browsing counter-productive, unnecessary sites.
    • You can limit the possibility of HIPAA violations using DNS filters and blocking user access to social media networks, personal webmail, and messenger services.

    Why are Cloud-based solutions better?

    Cloud-based DNS filters are even better than traditional systems. They do not need any software installations, infrastructure requirements, storage problems, or fixed payment. You can leverage your solution provider company’s DNS infrastructure and scale up and down based on your needs.

    In addition, you are not limited in terms of software resources. You can increase or decrease the number of users and resources easily with a click. Apart from that, you can set it up quickly and effortlessly and start safeguarding your network right away. You can also integrate it with other services to control your organization, users, and locations effectively.

    Not to mention, you can save a lot with cloud-based DNS filtering as you will only pay for the resources you use, unlike traditional systems that needed a fixed payment per month no matter if you use the service or not.

    One of the finest DNS filtering solutions is SafeDNS, which can help you block malicious sites and provide security from different issues like phishing attacks, malware, etc. I had a chance to use it and therefore want to review it to let you know how awesome it can be for your organizational network.

    DNS filtering with SafeDNS

    SafeDNS is a cloud-based web filtering solution that can safeguard your organization or family by blocking cyber threats and objectionable content when a user browses the internet on your network.

    It is among the oldest commercial DNS solutions and one of the earliest to provide DNS-based content filtering. Offering its services since 2013, it has garnered many accolades and awards for its impressive features from Capterra and others.

    Some of the use cases where SafeDNS can shine are:

    • Businesses: SafeDNS works great for businesses in protecting their network from phishing and malware. In addition, it lets you maximize employee productivity by implementing web usage policies.
    • Education and libraries: The DNS filter helps maintain a safe web browsing environment for students and staff in universities, high schools, and kindergartens. It is also suitable for educational institutions to maintain compliance.
    • Non-profits: Nonprofits can safeguard their network from inappropriate or offensive content, making the network child-friendly.
    • Homes: Using SafeDNS helps secure families from undesirable sites and online threats.
    • Partners and telecoms: Maintain client safety and improve your final deliverables or results using SafeDNS’s custom solutions.
    • Software and hardware vendors: Vendors can use a web categorization database and complement their products’ value and functionality.

    The solution works excellent for Wi-Fi filtering, controlling different roles, and filtering networks on each device.

    What are the features of SafeDNS?

    Here are the main features that I liked about SafeDNS:

    • Ability to create multiple profiles: You can create profiles with a clear set of rules applicable for DNS filtering. This works for a home network where you can create separate profiles for kids and adults.
    • SafeDNS Agent: On Windows, using this feature will help you switch to another network. Web filtering rules will still work on the assigned profiles.
    • Content filtering: This feature filters traffic based on their content. SafeDNS has 60+ content categories housing 109+ million sites, including botnets, virus spreading domains, phishing sites, gambling, pornography, etc. This helps your organization and home secure from harmful content.
    • Specifying URLs to allow or block: You can specify some URLs on your own to either allow or block, and those sites will never be accessible to you while you use SafeDNS’s web filters.

    Apart from those, you get more features like intuitive access controls, remote access, app security like anti-virus, easy device, and endpoint management. Furthermore, you get activity tracking and monitoring, behavior analytics, and reporting.

    How easy is SafeDNS to use?

    Once you sign up for SafeDNS, setting up your account and using it is not much trouble. First, add the SafeDNS server’s IP address to individual devices or routers(preferred). This solution works on operating systems like Windows, Mac, Linux, and iOS and Android mobile devices.

    SafeDNS has a clean dashboard that you can use to understand how to install it for Windows. Next, use your credentials and log into the SafeDNS agent. Doing this will inform SafeDNS of the device’s current IP address. In addition, you could opt to adhere to their filtering policy no matter what network you are in.

    After setting up the device, define your filtering rules and create profiles based on how many profiles are allowed on your plan. You can also use content filtering categories to ensure no harmful content can be accessed on your network and have better access controls by blocklisting and allow listing domains.

    Furthermore, you can ask for blocklist customization and view queries with statistics containing sender profiles and other data. Overall, SafeDNS won’t take much of your time to kick off and continue using.

    Moreover, if you encounter any issues, you can go through the FAQs, setup guides, knowledgebase, and feature requests on their official website. Or, contact them directly through phone call or write them an email.

    Pricing

    As SafeDNS offers solutions across multiple industries, there are different plans for them. All of them have a 15-day FREE trial with no need for a credit card for signing up.

    Businesses:

    There are six plans:

    Home

    • [email protected]: $19.95/year for 3 filtering profiles, offers security to both Wi-Fi router and home network.

    Non-profit

    Education

    Case Studies

    Case I: A Canadian financial institution needed to set up a secure internet environment for its employees. At the same time, some of the employees worked remotely. The SafeDNS solution allowed them to control all traffic, including remote computers, thus, avoiding phishing attacks and protecting corporate data.

    Case II: A lifestyle company from the UK that offers its guests recreation centers, fitness, swimming pools, golf courses, and theaters needed to create a safe Internet space for every visitor. By integrating the SafeDNS solution, the company offered secure Wi-Fi across all subsidiaries and provided child-friendly content in its centers. The number of visitors to the centers after implementing the changes increased by 22%

    Case III: The largest B2B Internet provider in Latin America expanded its service portfolio and looked for new solutions to generate additional income. After the implementation of SafeDNS ISP, the number of connected business users increased by 35%, and the service itself brought the provider $ 165,000

    Conclusion: Should you use SafeDNS? 👨‍💻

    Using a DNS filtering service is an important part of maintaining your network or Wi-Fi security. SafeDNS did not disappoint me in doing that based on my experience. It can help businesses, homes, non-profits, and educational institutions secure their network and ensure no data is stolen or compromised due to online threats. Its valuable filtering capabilities, functionalities, and usability are what I liked the most.

    And if you too want to try it, go for their 15-days FREE trial to test its efficiency.