OpenDNS on Mission to Improve Domain Name System - OpenDNS Sees a Solution
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David Ulevitch, founder and CEO of OpenDNS, says that his company's "sole goal is to take the DNS which hasn't changed in 20 years and improve on it. Not to radically...change it, but to make the evolutionary steps we need to do, to improve things for end users." OpenDNS wants to improve the DNS in three ways:
- Make web surfing faster by speeding up the lookup process.
- Make web surfing safer by blocking phishing sites.
- Make web surfing smarter by correcting typos.
We'll take each of these in turn. OpenDNS says that there are two factors that can help speed up DNS: a big cache and a good network. The company claims to have both, though it doesn't give an actual figure for the size of its cache. As to its network, it has caches in several major locations: New York, NY; Washington, DC; Palo Alto, CA; and Seattle, WA. It plans to add sites in Chicago, London, and Hong Kong soon. London is expected to be online before the end of this year, according to a late August entry in the company blog.
OpenDNS definitely makes the right points. You need the big cache so you don't have to go hunting for DNS entries. And you need the good network so you can be as close as possible to the people making the queries.
OpenDNS is working to block phishing sites in several ways. If you think it really isn't the responsibility of a DNS company to block phishing sites, Ulevitch begs to differ. According to him, "when people think of things like spam, and phishing, and botnets and all kinds of abuse on the Internet almost all of these things start out using DNS in some way, shape, or form." The company's blocking system complements the anti-virus software and firewalls that you may already have in place on your computer or network.
OpenDNS uses several methods to determine whether a site is a phishing site and should be blocked. First, it analyzes its network data, and can compare what it sees with years of experience with DNS traffic, so it can spot any anomalies. It also uses data from PhishTank, a collaborative clearinghouse of phishing data which recently released its first report on phishing statistics for the month of October and should have one for November by the time you read this article. OpenDNS also works with several outside providers that help them spot the "Internet Bad Guys," and is always interested in working with others. Users can report a phishing site to OpenDNS, and can also let the company know when a site has been blocked by mistake. The company promises that sites removed from the phishing list will be available to customers within one hour after review.
Finally, OpenDNS fixes typos. That means if you type www.craigslist.og into your browser's address window, it adds the missing "r" appropriately and takes you right to Craigslist. If it can't find the page you're looking for, it takes you to a page with a set of search results.
That last point is more important than you might think. How does a service like this make money? When it cannot correct a domain name typo, it takes you to a search page which also displays clearly marked advertisements. Since its service is strictly opt-in, it neatly avoids accusations of being like Verizon's unpopular Site Finder "service."
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