As this year is shaped with worldwide self-isolation, the tendency is to move activities online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. People are seeking reliable means to protect their devices from malware for work and broaden their reach of new content for leisure. Here is how to use a DNS server to increase security and work around geofences.
On the one hand, you can use a VPN to achieve privacy and allow users to override geo-restrictions, on the other.
However, there is another option that works well for individual and small-scale consumers: DNS-based solutions, such as Smart DNS and DNS Firewall. They offer more targeted solutions for the problems we face in our daily activities at a lower price. This distinguishes them from comprehensive enterprise tools that protect extensive business networks.
Generally speaking, the Domain Name System, or DNS, is the way that domain names are located and translated into IP addresses. You can compare DNS to a phone book where every domain name is mapped to a specified IP address.
When we surf the Internet, we use domain names, like google.com or facebook.com. However, Web browsers use Internet Protocol (IP) addresses like 220.127.116.11 to access the website. What DNS does is matching these addresses. When you type an URL in a Web browser, it sends a request to a dedicated DNS server that returns a corresponding IP address. The web browser can then use it to access the website. Without such a system, we’d have to memorize all IP addresses.
At the same time, DNS is much more than just a directory. You also can use it to bypass geoblocking and enhance security while surfing the web. But does this mean that DNS could replace a VPN connection?
Probably, every Internet user has encountered a geoblocking problem. You want to watch a new episode of your favorite series on Netflix or click on a video on Youtube. But suddenly, all you can see is the error saying that the video is unavailable in your region. Such limiting access to a particular region is called “geoblocking,” and it is widely used by video-streaming sites, like BBC’s iPlayer, Netflix and ABC iView.
The underlying principle is quite simple: each device connected to the Internet has a unique IP address. IP addresses are allocated in blocks to internet service providers (ISPs) who in turn, allocate them to customers. This scheme makes IP addresses traceable to a geographic location. Thus, companies can limit access only to IP addresses from a particular region.
The way to trick geoblocking is to change your IP address — or make it so the website in question wouldn’t be able to detect it properly — so that its location would seem eligible. Smart DNS is a technology that directs a user to a proxy server to mask the IP address. Because of that, you can gain access to geo-restricted content.
DNS address assigned by your internet service provider contains info about your geo-location. Smart DNS replaces it with the address of a new Smart DNS server. A Smart DNS provider uses proxy servers in the region eligible to view the requested content. The Smart DNS server can be located anywhere in the world.
When you are connected to this server, your traffic is routed through it. Smart DNS intercepts your connection requests to the server you want to access, and carefully replaces any data in those requests that can leak your geo-location.
Modern apps run smoothly on any platform and device with an internet connection, from routers to smart TVs and video game consoles. These modern apps have a truly global network of servers unblocking the most popular video streaming platforms, including American Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Now.
At first glance, it seems that the features of SmartDNS and VPN are quite similar. Like a VPN, Smart DNS tools hide your real location. However, in contrast to a VPN, they do not change the IP address of your device. They only mask their original IP address. With a VPN, you connect to a secure local server in another country directly. You use that server’s internet connection – and its IP address – as your own to stream certain content.
Another crucial difference from a VPN is that a Smart DNS doesn’t encrypt your traffic. Without data encryption, the connection between your device and the webserver is much faster than through a VPN tunnel that masks and encrypts all traffic. Hence, the biggest advantage of SmartDNS over a VPN is the speed, as it allows streaming from popular channels in 4K Ultra HD without any lags or delays, limited only by your network speed.
For a user who is looking for a fast and straightforward way to bypass geo-restrictions without the necessity to dig into the device configuration, a Smart DNS is the best option. Since it doesn’t require any installation, it is wrapped in an intuitive and easy-to-use DNS Proxy app. The DNS proxy app shares the same DNS IP address across multiple devices; it becomes an optimal solution if you simply want to get access to a new series at your leisure time.
At the same time, you cannot use a Smart DNS to ensure security and privacy protection. If these are at stake, it’s worthwhile to sacrifice the speed of connection and choose a suitable VPN protocol.
At first sight, it might seem that when it comes to online security, encryption, and online freedom, the winner is always the VPN. However, a VPN can only ensure your privacy. It won’t shield you from malicious websites. To stay protected against possible attacks, users need a DNS firewall, a network security solution that intercepts DNS resolution for known-malicious websites.
According to the Cisco 2020 Security report, 91% of malware uses DNS services to build cyber-attacks, which makes DNS-based malware one of the most common cyber threats. To answer the threat, a DNS Firewall was designed. This solution selectively intercepts DNS resolution for known-malicious Internet locations, such as domain names, IP addresses, and name servers. The interception can entail rewriting a DNS response to direct a web browser to a “walled garden.” Another option is to make the malicious network assets invisible and unreachable by the device.
As a result, the DNS Firewall works as a cloud barrier between a device and the internet traffic from malicious servers.
The same applies to phishing websites aimed at stealing the user’s confidential data that are increasingly popular during email-based attacks, ransomware, and botnet command and control sites. A DNS Firewall effectively detects and blocks all phishing links keeping the user safe online. Besides, with its quite intuitive interface, even less tech-savvy users can blacklist websites by specific categories (like gaming, gambling, or adult sites).
In certain solutions, users can block sites with pop-up windows or undesirable content by category or by a specific domain.
While these technologies share much in common, they do not overlap. A VPN masks the user’s identity, and the DNS Firewall blocks external threats. There is a way to ensure safe web surfing that combines online anonymity, VPN encryption and effective shielding from cyber-attacks. You can use a combination of VPN and DNS technologies as a bundle or as standalone projects.
Similar but complementary, the two technologies can bring cybersecurity to a new level. While a VPN is essential to protect your internet privacy as it provides an encrypted connection between your device and the Internet, DNS-based tools perform a range of complementary tasks, such as unblocking geo-restricted content, like a SmartDNS, or protecting you and your children from unwanted content and phishing attacks, like a DNS Firewall.