Change your DNS settings for better speeds and security!

This little known trick could drastically improve your browsing.

a woman using a laptop next to a cabinet full of servers

Saturday, 10 October, 2020

Changing the DNS (Domain Name System) settings on your device/ router is a little known trick to boost your broadband.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is like the address book of the Internet. People access websites through domain names, like google.com. Your browser accesses websites through Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. The DNS sort of translates domain names to IP addresses so browsers can load Internet resources.

Devices have default DNS settings chosen by your ISP. They could be chosen because they’re stable or reliable, or just because someone randomly chose them.

Changing the DNS server that your devices use could help you get a faster, more secure internet connection.

So why change?

Well there are many reasons to change your settings, from speed and reliability to security and privacy.

Firstly, if your ISP’s DNS servers are slow, or not properly configured for caching your speeds could be impacted. You might notice this on pages with lots of content from different domains (i.e. pages with lots of ads). So switching your settings to DNS servers optimized for efficiency could make a huge difference to your speed.

If you work from home on a work device, changing your DNS settings can protect you. Some companies offer specialised DNS services tailored for business use.

These features include filtering malicious websites at the DNS level. This means that malicious pages will never reach the device in the first place.

You can also set the filters to block inappropriate content, so it could be worth looking into for protecting your children too.

You can also use your DNS settings to get around website blockers from your ISP. Not that we’re advocating this! You can unblock the sites blocked by your ISP and block sites yourself at the domain name level.

Most DNS services will show you how to alter allowed sites at the domain level by using their services.

Cache poisoning.

Security wise there are risks to using default DNS settings. Hackers use a method called ‘cache poisoning’ to change Domain Name System information to redirect domain names to fake sites.

So when you type a valid domain name, the dodgy DNS system gives your browser the IP address for a fake site. It can often look identical to the site you meant to visit. From here, the hackers can access any information you put into the site!

By changing your DNS settings you’re less at risk from hackers accessing well known default set DNS options.

Alternative DNS options

The top alternative DNS services are Cloudflare, Google, OpenDNS and Quad9. They’re very similar in terms of services available, though some are better for personal use and some better for business needs. 

Cloudflare is probably the only name you’ve heard of if you’re a novice. They’re generally considered the fastest DNS provider. To get started you can type in 1.1.1.1 to your browser. You will be redirected to a site which talks you through how to change your settings. You can also use their app.  

Google’s public DNS is accessed by typing in 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4 into your browser. Similarly to Cloudflare, it promises speed and security compared to default DNS servers. 

Quad9 offer speed but they’re mainly known for security. They boast access to “threat intelligence from more than a dozen of the industry’s leading cybersecurity companies”. They have big security name partners like IBM, so you can trust it’s robust. Access Quad9 by typing 9.9.9.9 or 149.112.112.112 into your browser.

OpenDNS are specialists in filtering options and parental controls. They also have small business bundles for controlling the content that gets to your employee’s screens. They offer a free ‘Family Shield’ package which is available by typing 208.67.222.222  and 208.67.220.220 into your browser. 

You can’t really go wrong with any of the options above, the choice just depends what your needs are. However, OpenDNS is probably the best bet if you’re focused on keeping your child safe online.

Just remember,  you need to change settings for each individual device for every network you connect to. 

Natalie Dunning author picture

By:

Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.