[Windows] Easily block porn, phishing, and malware websites with DNS Angel

DNS Angel Main UIThe internet is an extremely dangerous place, even for adults. At any given moment,  we can have our sensitive information stolen, run into a phishing scam, catch a virus and come across the occasional site that advocates pornography (some of those ads can get pretty risqué). As adults we know the difference between safe and hazardous environments most of the time, while children, on the other hand, do not. A child, even closely supervised can experience some pretty heinous things while browsing the internet. DNS Angel is a pre-configured application that allows you to restrict access to potentially dangerous internet content with just a single click.

What is it and what does it do

Main Functionality

DNS Angel itself does not block any porn, phishing, or malware website. Rather, what DNS Angel does is it allows you to change your default DNS server with one of several that have already been setup to prevent potentially harmful internet content. More specifically, it allows you to easily redirect your DNS server to OpenDNS, MetaCert or Norton ConnectSafe which block known adult websites (porn), malicious websites, phishing websites, and malware websites.

Pros

  • Allows you to quickly redirect DNS to Norton ConnectSafe, OpenDNS or MetaCert servers, which in turn add another layer of security to your computer by blocking known harmful links and content
    • Note: Uses OpenDNS’s “Family” mode which blocks porn, not regular OpenDNS
  • Allows you to easily revert to default DNS, if you want
  • Does not need to remain running in the background; you open it, redirect to the necessary DNS servers and then close it again until you want to revert to default or change DNS servers
  • Quick, responsive and relatively lightweight (uses 772KB of RAM)
  • Portable and can run from USB drive (external storage)

Cons

  • The amount of content blocked is only as good as Norton ConnectSafe, OpenDNS, and MetaCert; in other words, will block known porn/phishing/malware websites but will not block unknown (not yet discovered or popular) ones
  • No easy way to override false positives
  • Does not block Google images
  • Not entirely clear what the difference between the “default DNS” and “restore DNS” buttons is
  • Switching Wi-Fi networks reverts the DNS settings back to default
  • Has no program or DNS protection; users can just easily switch the DNS back to an unrestricted one, but luckily children probably don’t have the wherewithal to do so

Discussion

DNS Angel ConnectSafe server activeWhen you open the program, you’ll see a fairly uncomplicated UI. There are separate buttons for each varying DNS server, and of course buttons to reset your DNS servers back to default.

If you need to start blocking harmful content, all you have to do is choose one of the DNS options and select it within the DNS Angel window. A small label window will reveal which DNS server is active along with a corresponding status indicator. If you do not have any of the recommended DNS servers active, DNS Angel will show “default DNS” in the label window and a skull and crossbones symbol in the status window.

One benefit of using DNS Angel is that you don’t have to flush the current DNS settings before using it. You can actually switch between the current DNS server and revert to default all without flushing the data. Better yet, it works perfectly too. You can still connect to the internet even when the data has not been flushed. This is just a bonus for folks out there who don’t know how to mess around with ipconfig in the command prompt.

DNS Angel MetaCert serverWhen you’re finished letting your children or whoever browse on a safe connection, it’s as effortless as pressing the restore default DNS button. Everything will return to normal.

In my testing, I found that DNS Angel works quite well blocking sensitive websites and links to them. It works best with questionable content like porn, so it operates like an added browsing filter. Of course, there’s unequivocally no way for me to check every single harmful website or link out there so take that information with a grain of salt. As with anything that promises to defend your little ones, I would encourage you to do a little testing of your own before you rely solely on DNS Angel. I would hate to say that it works perfect and find out a little one gained access to a harmful website. These days there are so many of them too.

To be honest Norton ConnectSafe, MetaCert and OpenDNS are all monitored by professional security analysts, so I don’t think harmful websites will be too much a problem. Then again, nothing is perfect.

Conclusion and download link

DNS Angel IP HintThe main advantage of DNS Angel is convenience. I’m certain a lot of you dotTechies out there already know how to cleanse your DNS and replace the default server with one that’s more protective. It’s not a difficult task for anyone that knows their way around a computer. Unfortunately, the process can be a bit tedious if you have to swap out servers constantly when you use the internet and when your little ones do. DNS Angel makes it quick and painless. All you have to is click a button and your DNS servers are redirected to one of several professional DNS services. If you don’t want to mess around with DNS settings using a command prompt, then DNS Angel is an excellent way to keep your loved ones protected while browsing the internet. Keep in mind, this software does not provide a substantial barrier against viruses and malware, so the appropriate third-party antivirus is still recommended.

Price: Free

Version reviewed: 1.1

Supported OS: Windows (XP, Vista, Seven, Eight)

Download size: 505KB (compressed), 872KB (unzipped)

VirusTotal malware scan results: 0/46

Is it portable? Yes

DNS Angel homepage

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13 comments

  1. Paul Walsh

    Thanks to the developers who built this. I wonder if they could build one for mac users.

    I was delighted to see an app include my company’s DNS service. To be honest, we are more of a content classification and browser company for family safety. Our DNS service was a last minute thought. And I’m glad we added it as it has turned out to be popular.

    My advice for anyone wanted to block 50 categories, is to use either Norton or OpenDNS.

    MetaCert does only one thing, it helps you to block pornography (and we have just added malware and sypware also).

    I recommend OpenDNS for all round coverage because they have indexed 1.6 million domains across 50 categories. MetaCert has indexed 7.2 million for pornography and then a bunch for the other two categories I mentioned.

    Paul
    Founder, MetaCert

  2. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    [@NGayanP] From what I can tell, DNS Angel is specifically aimed at people who want to protect their homes/computers from porn, phishing, and malware. DNS Jumper is for changing DNS to any DNS server, regardless of what it blocks and what it doesn’t. They basically do the same thing in the end; the biggest difference is with DNS Angel you can only change to OpenDNS Family, MetaCert, and Norton ConnectSafe (aka family safe DNS) and DNS Jumper allows you to pick from other ones or enter your own.

  3. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @Everyone: I’ve used K9 before and Briley is right. The difference between K9 and DNS Angel/changing your DNS is how a website is blocked. With K9 you are filtering websites on your computer vis-a-vis K9. With DNS Angel, websites are being blocked at the DNS-level.

    The biggest difference between DNS Angel and K9 that I’ve found is both block porn just fine but K9 is poor at blocking phishing/malware websites. OpenDNS/Norton/MetaCert are better at blocking malicious websites. On the other hand, K9 allows you to easily override false positives by entering a password and you are given good control over the type of content you want to filter. With OpenDNS/Norton/MetaCert, it is much harder to override false positives and you don’t have the ability to filter specific types of content; everything blocked by OpenDNS/Norton/MetaCert is blocked for you.

    In my experience, K9 has more false positives than OpenDNS/Norton/MetaCert. For example, when K9 was used in my house it blocked GameFAQs, which is a website many kids go to for help with video games and is fairly safe.

    Furthermore, K9 must be “always on” on your computer whereas DNS Angel needs to be run and never again. And K9 is password protected whereas Angel DNS is not.

    It is a matter of what you want or desire. Both K9 and DNS Angel have the same/similar end results but go about getting that end result in a different way. One is not necessarily better than the other; they are different.

    [@Tom] How is this useless when it does exactly what you are suggesting — allows you to use OpenDNS. You are right in the sense that DNS Angel itself adds nothing but it does allow easy switching between OpenDNS/Norton/MetaCert and your default DNS.

    I personally think DNS Angel is very useful; now there just needs to be some way to protect DNS settings so no unauthorized changes cannot be made.

  4. Briley Kenney
    Author/

    [@msahib] With K9 I believe you can customize the filter, or the list of blocked sites. For example, if there’s a site that’s not blocked but should be.

    [@drvajra] I’m not completely familiar with K9 but I believe that uses a software filter and not a DNS filter like this. If that’s true then they employ two completely different filtering tactics. If you’ve been using K9 successfully and it does a great job then I would say stick with it. It certainly looks more robust than DNS Angel in terms of protection.

  5. Briley Kenney
    Author/

    [@msahib] DNS or Domain Name System, basically translates an alphabetic character based domain into an IP address. The DNS “filters” that this program employs (Norton Connectsafe, OpenDNS, MetaCert) basically omit sites labeled as potentially harmful.

    “How to use various filters”- There’s not much to expand here really, at least not with this program. You click on one of the buttons to apply the filter (DNS server) and then return everything to normal by clicking on the “default DNS” button. If you were to do it manually, you’d have to look up the IP for the DNS service and then enter said information through the network properties window. You can also do it from a standard command prompt.

    Applications like DNS Angel just make the process fast, and convenient.