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Where should I configure CleanBrowsing?

A common problem we see with users of the service is confusion between deploying CleanBrowsing on a device (e.g., Windows, Mac) or on the network router. What is the right deployment?

We recommend router deployments to cover the whole network. You can deploy on devices individually, and that can complement your router configuration.

We’ll explore both configuration options in this article. The best way to think both configurations is as complimentary to each other.

Device vs Router Deployments

Where you deploy CleanBrowsing is completely dependent on what your intentions are. Below we will provide a few examples.

Type of UserDeviceRouter
ParentIf a child has a mobile device that leaves the home network, configuring locally will help ensure they have a safe browsing experience regardless of network they join. Will ensure every device at home is protected while they are on the network. This applies to all Internet of Things (IoT) devices like game consoles (e.g., XBox, Playstation, etc..), TV’s and laptops.
SchoolIf you are issuing school computers, and tablets. When students are at school every device will be picked up by the edge configuration.
BusinessConfigure on devices if they are issued, or via your company VPN so that you ensure that while they are on your network they are provided a safe-browsing experience. Configure at the edge of your network so that when they are on the network they are provide safe browsing experiences.
Religious InstitutionsNot applicable, unless you’re providing devices to your congregation.Configure at the edge of your network so that parishioners are provided a safe-browsing experience while on your Wi-Fi.
MunicipalityConfigure on devices if you are issuing your employees government devices and they switch between cellular and Wi-Fi connections.Configure at the edge of the network. This is applicable if you’re deploying this to your pool of employees, or if you’re deploying a city-wide public Wi-Fi hotspot.
Example instances of when and how
CleanBrowsing can be deployed on devices and routers.

Devices Require More Attention

Although we provide comprehensive guides for iOS and Android devices, their deployments can be tricky for some users. The issue might come in the device owner being able to disable, or uninstall the service.

This is why it’s important that parents, specifically, take a proactive approach to managing their devices. Conglomerates like Google and Apple build their technologies in such a way that they assume every user is a responsible Adult. They assume everyone is mature enough and entitled to their privacy, which results in devices that provide an all or nothing like experiences for users.

Most device owners have full control of their devices. This means that regardless of the service, tool, app you deploy, a device owner is able to undo whatever configuration is implemented. This is a bit different for organizations like schools, libraries, and government institutions. In many instances they have the ability to harden their devices.

Parent, however, do not often have that luxury. So when deploying CleanBrowsing locally on your device, be sure pay special attention to how to stop device owners from stopping or uninstalling the service.

Complementary Solutions

The net net of this article is that you can deploy it on both, devices and the router. Both deployments will complement each other.

The router will cover the entire network, while the device will cover the device only.

If you have a home, it’s advised to configure it on the router by default to cover the entire home. If you have children with devices, you can configure them on their devices so that when they leave the home they are protected.

What is the Difference Between the CleanBrowsing Free and Paid Service?

There are two ways to use the CleanBrowsing service, the Free or Paid option. A common question we get is around the difference between the two.

This article provides answers.

Free vs Paid – The Difference

The key difference between the Free and Paid plan is control and visibility.

The free service is fixed, it doesn’t allow you to tune your network to your specific needs. With the Free service, if you don’t like a categorization, you can request it be reviewed, but you are otherwise stuck with how we’ve defined the category. The paid plan allows you to tune the filters to better conform with your beliefs and network needs.

Here is a logical grouping of differentiating features that help paint a more complete picture of the differences.

CategoryFreePaid
AccountNone requiredAccount Required
Filters3 Available Filters19 Available Filters
CustomizationsNoYes
DashboardNoYes
Custom Block PagesNoYes
Custom Block DomainsNoYes
Custom Allow DomainsNoYes
Activity ReportingNoYes
Group Users (Profiles)NoYes
Data RetentionNoYes
How the Free Service Differentiates from the Paid plan

If you’d like to learn more about the CleanBrowsing dashboard, here is a short demo video to help orient you to what you can expect as a paid customer:

Demo of the CleanBrowsing Platform

Hope this helps, and if you have any questions please send them to support@cleanbrowsing.org.

How To Block Online Porn

Regardless of your feelings about online pornography, it is here, and it is here to stay. As such, individuals, parents, organizations and other network owners are working to find effective ways to block online porn. Whether it’s driven by personal needs, internal policies on acceptable online usage, or federal regulation, there is a need to help create porn-free web environments.

This article won’t focus on the science and impacts of pornography on youth, societies, or online addictions. It will help speak to some fo the available technologies; presenting you with some options to make your own informed decisions on ways to block online porn.

We also prepared a 10 step guide to help all users and organizations create porn-free web environments.

Who Needs to Block Online Porn?

This article will be extremely useful to a wide range of individuals and organizations. Here are a few examples of audiences and their application:

  1. Individuals -> Those struggling with online addiction to pornography, looking for better accountability tools.
  2. Parents -> looking to apply guard rails for their kids, help them from following the yellow brick road on their searches;
  3. Schools / Libraries-> conforming with CIPA which puts forth mandates to help strip and monitor access to pornographic or obscene content
  4. Local Governments -> Looking to provide family friendly networks on their public Wi-Fi’s (e.g., City / County Buses, Public Hotspots, etc..)
  5. Businesses -> Looking to reduce distractions, or inappropriate online behavior on their internal networks, while reducing risk of security issues that come from malware laced sites;

Effectively Blocking Online Porn with Technology

The most effective way to block online porn is going to be at the network level, specifically using the internet central nervous system – Domain Name System. Its effectiveness is why we built our technology on top of it.

DNS is part of the fabric of the internet. All devices that needs to connect to the internet use it (e.g., phones, computers, fridges, and anything else that requires internet access). It can see every request that goes out of your network and has the power to apply rules based on your preferences.

This simplified illustration shows you how it works:

A systematic Way to Block Online Porn

The real power in this technology is the ability to apply a rule that affects all your devices on a given network.

DNS effectiveness is unrivaled, which is why we give it away for free via our Free Filters. Our free filters, specifically the Family filter provide the most comprehensive technology to block online porn.

Here are a few insights into how it works, and what it does:

  • Integrates with Safe Search with any search engine that offers it (e.g., DuckDuckGo, Google, Bing);
  • Integrates with YouTube restricted and moderate modes;
  • Enforces a “mixed content” rule that blocks non-pornographic sites that disseminate pornographic content (e.g., reddit), more about our filters;
  • It enforces a rule that helps stop users from trying to evade this control (e.g., proxies, VPN’s, cache sites).

Side Note: There may be changes you’d like to make to the Free family filter, by design we don’t allow it on the free service. Every filter can be tuned on the paid plans. Two examples of this include Social Platforms (e.g., Twitter, Instagram) and YouTube (that is highly conservative with its filtering and can cause a lot of false positives).

Leveraging Technology to Block Porn

There are a couple of different ways you can go about blocking porn. Leverage whichever you feel most comfortable with, and understand there are Pro’s and Con’s with each.

Blocking Porn on Your Router

If you are looking to block porn across your entire network (e.g., a school, home, etc..) then you should always start at the edge of your network. The edge will often be the point at which you connect to the internet. This usually manifests itself in the form of a router / modem.

This connection point gives you access to the Wide Area Network (WAN) that is the internet. The devices that connect to the outside world are often provided by your Internet Service Providers (ISP). Not all routers / modems are the same, and it’s impossible to give a guide for all routers, but we do work to provide as many guides as possible.

In general, you want to find the section of your router that provides you with some basic information:

  1. WAN Preferences / Settings
  2. Section for Domain Name Server (DNS)
  3. Allows you to choose between Get Automatically from ISP or Use These DNS Servers

Although the language is not the same, the information usually is. If the router gives you a WAN section, it’ll likely be there, but you can also find it in locations titled: Internet Setup, WAN Setup, Network, Internet, Advanced Settings.

In all instances, it will present an option to update Primary and Secondary settings.

The CleanBrowsing Family IP's are:

185.228.169.168
185.228.168.168

Note: If you have a paid plan use the DNS IPs provided in your account.

There are instances where an ISP won’t let you change your DNS, we wrote an article to help you through that process.

Blocking Porn on Your Device

If you are worried about devices leaving your network, specifically mobile devices, then you will want to configure things locally on the device.

Every device, regardless of the Operating System (OS) you are using will make use of DNS in some shape or form. Unfortunately, how you access it and what you can do with it is not always the same.

To help with the process, we’ve built apps for the Android and iOS OS types, two of the most popular mobile OS devices. When using these apps you are assured that whether the user is on your protected network, a third-party public WiFi, or using cell service your filtering options are being enforced.

Other guides exist for Windows and Mac.

Effectively Blocking Porn with Proactive Administration

Like with most things, trying to block porn is not a set and forget solution and requires a proactive approach by the network owner (e.g., individual, parent, organization).

There are a myriad of techniques used to evade your controls. You need to couple your network controls with local controls to help prevent settings to be undone, or uninstalled. There will be instances where the ability to effectively block online porn is going to be dictated by the environments network.

VPN’s are a great example of a technology that is built to help evade local and network control settings, and VPN providers have built evasion techniques for that reason. The most effective way to help mitigate these VPN’s is often at your local network level right at the router, but only if they offer Firewall capabilities (e.g., block outgoing ports).

Tech Note: There are new technologies being introduced in the name of “privacy” for all that help evade all solutions, like DNS over HTTPS (DoH) which you should be aware of, and in for which we’ll have solutions in the very near future.

Platforms Known For Porn Distribution

You should be aware of a few services and platforms that are known for having a plethora of pornography and do a very poor job of filtering it out. We have reached out to a few to ask for their help to expose a network solution so that other providers can help users enforce them, but they have refused or been unresponsive

As such, you should be extremely aware of these:

  1. Instagram (Facebook)
  2. Snapchat
  3. Tumblr
  4. Blogspot
  5. Image Sharing services

You Can Take a Stance Against Porn

When it comes to effectively blocking online porn, regardless of your reason, it often boils down to a marriage between technology, process and people.

You have to take a proactive approach, depending on your desired goal. Sometimes, depending on the size of your environment, trying to deploy individual controls is just not feasible and where network solutions like the ones we provide work great.

Other times, it is, and that’s where apps like the ones we have built for the iOS and Android OS’s come in handy. If you do have the ability to update your network via your router, we have a plethora of prepared guides to help, and if not, we’re always ready, and available, to assist via email or our community forum.

Is Reddit Safe for Kids?

Reddit is an awesome site with great communities and subreddits. However, is it a site that you should allow your kids to visit? In this post we explore that question, and also talk to how a content filter like CleanBrowsing can help you create a safe browsing experience.

Porn, Language and Violence

Reddit is an awesome website, with some great communities for almost every topic. From technology, to math, gaming and religion. However, they also have some very explicit and adult communities that are definitely not safe, or appropriate, for young kids.

Some of their NSFW (not safe for work) pages contain pornographic images loaded directly from reddit cache, that even if you block porn sites, your kids would be able to see from reddit.

If porn alone was not an issue, they have some very abusive communities about rape, murder and similar topics that are shocking even for adults. Because of Reddit’s free speech policy, they are allowed to continue and not blocked.

Because of that, we consider Reddit NOT safe for kids and school environments and the site is blocked if you are using CleanBrowsing Family content filter.

For Adults using our Adults content filter, we implement a few rules that make Reddit accessible but strip out the image repositories.

No Enforcable Filtering

Schools trying to comply with CIPA have to block Reddit on the school network as it contains content that falls into the (a)obscene; (b)pornography; and (c) harmful to minors category. We also recommend parents from restricting the site to kids under 13, unless supervised by an adult at all times.

CleanBrowsing will block access to Reddit automatically.

Try it out and see for yourself. Step by step instructions on how to activate it are available on our Getting Started page.

My Router Does Not Allow DNS Changes

Over the past couple years we have been working hand in hand with organizations and individuals alike to help them switch their DNS from other providers to ours, CleanBrowsing. In the process, we have noticed a disturbing trend with some ISP’s where they do not allow DNS to be changed on their routers.

This means if you want to change your DNS to use a provider that a) ensures your security, b) never shares or stores your data, or c) allows you to create your own safe browsing experience, you can’t.

The most prominent ISP’s in the US to do this are AT&T and Comcast on a few of their routers.

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Stop Changes on iOS and Android Devices

Stop Unwanted Changes on Mobile Devices

One of the biggest challenges parents face when configuring and hardening their kids devices is restricting their ability to remove applications and configurations. It’s further complicated because technology providers, like Google and Apple, approach parental control as an afterthought in many instances, which inevitably introduce new ways that can be used to bypass the controls you deploy.

To help, here is a guide that will help you be more thoughtful as you think about ways to ensure you provide your kids the safe browsing experiences they deserve.

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How Kids are Bypassing Porn Content Filters

The pervasiveness of the web is such that anyone, regardless of age, is able to gain access to whatever content they please with little, to no, barriers. It is, by design, the benefit that comes with an open web and the coinciding free flow of information.

There is a dilemma that exists in which we have to ask ourselves – what is the age that warrants that level of freedom and access?

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CleanBrowsing is An Alternative to Cisco Umbrella DNS

The OpenDNS project and company was acquired by Cisco, a technology conglomerate, in 2015. Since, they have maintained the OpenDNS brand as a solution for consumers and rebranded their enterprise offering to Cisco Umbrella. This rebranding took the place of OpenDNS Umbrella, OpenDNS Investigate and OpenDNS Umbrella for MSPs.

With this rebrand has come a sharp increase in costs for organizations.

For context, recent customers have described a 3x / 4x price increase in their costs with the start of 2020. Specifically, a small school with 1,000 devices was looking at an annual bill of $8,000 USD. The same customer subscribed to CleanBrowsing for the same 1,000 devices for $330 / year. Another organization in the Netherlands was quoted $8,500 for 600 devices, in our configuration they could probably get away with the Pro-500 ($220 / year) or the Pro-1000 ($330 / year). Why the stark difference?

Below is a series of questions we keep getting from Cisco Umbrella customers and we hope it helps explain our approach.

Why is CleanBrowsing so much Cheaper than Cisco Umbrella?

The answer is simple, we are a bootstrapped startup. We do not share the same economic growth requirements funded startups face. We also don’t have the same obligation to show exponential growth year over year larger enterprises demand. This gives us the flexibility to charge what we believe to be fair to the market, and more importantly our customers.

The founders built CleanBrowsing with the goal of making technology more accessible and affordable to organizations of all sizes. They both share the same belief that technology as a whole and their associated pricing has reached outrageous levels. Organizations doubling, tripling, costs simply because they can with no added value to the customer does not conform with our Founders beliefs. We understand that DNS is but one layer of your overarching security program and price it accordingly.

How long has CleanBrowsing been in business?

We have been in business since 2018.

Do you service businesses? It looks like you’re consumer focused.

Yes, we service a wide range of customers. Our consumer focus is based on our Founders building a solution for their own families, but DNS is audience agnostic. The applicability of DNS to a parent is very similar to that of a large organization, what differs are the features a larger organization might require in the platform itself. Thankfully, those same features are being introduced to the platform daily.

Does the low-cost mean you’re less effective?

No, the price has no indication of effectiveness, only fairness. We leverage our own detection and updating techniques to stay ahead of the domains and their categories.

What the low-cost does mean is less headaches for your organization. We make it easier for organizations to subscribe via a self-service model. As an organization we don’t believe in heavy, unnecessary, administration. This means you don’t have to wait for a “Sales Consultant” to reach out, or to schedule a call, or to go through any of the other steps in a “high velocity sales model.” We do not require organizations to review and sign complex agreements. The agreements you sign are the same ones found on our account creation process. This streamlined process allows us to pass the savings on to you, the customers.

Our obsession with effectiveness comes from our audience superset, young kids. This forces us to work hard to be as effective as possible because unlike adults, kids are sly little foxes that are continuously looking for ways to bypass network controls. We place our core focus on two key filters – security and pornography.

Do you offer support?

We offer support via email. This is another way we keep our costs low and pass our savings on to you, the customers.

How big is your network?

We’ve built an Anycast network for our DNS resolver. The exact number is hard to pin point because we’re always changing, but you can get a sense of our scale on our status page.

Does CleanBrowsing work the same as Cisco Umbrella?

Yes, we are a DNS resolver. We are also continuously adding more features and enhancements to improve the users experience. All you have to do is switch Cisco’s DNS IP’s with the IP’s assigned to you in your profile.

Does CleanBrowsing offer the same features as Cisco Umbrella?

Yes. We offer a number of advanced features for organizations. Everything from custom whitelists and blacklists, blocking TLD’s, custom block pages, an API for direct configuration changes, and most recently, the new DNS mapping feature for a local DNS like configuration.

Do you offer a trial?

Yes, we offer trials on Pro-500 accounts and up, so if you’d like to give it a spin send us an email to support@cleanbrowsing.org and we’ll work to get you set up quickly.

Startpage.com Is NOT For Children Under 13

Startpage is a privacy oriented search engine. It works by scrapping non-personalised search results of other search engines and displaying it to the visitor. This is done to prevent Search engines from “tracking” your searches. However, this privacy concern is a big fat lie.

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Governments Take Stance Against Online Porn

The proliferation of online porn is growing at unprecedented rates. WebRoot estimates that 28,258 users are streaming pornography on the internet every second, 37 pornographic videos are created a day, 25% of the searches on the web are related to pornography (~68 million), and more than 200,00 Americans are classified as “porn addicts”.

The full impact of this proliferation is actively being analyzed by think tanks around the world, and governments are beginning to take direct action against its consumption.

A Fight For Clean Browsing Experiences

Amongst the western powers (e.g., Canada, United Kingdom, United States, Australia) we are starting to see more proactive steps by governments to take steps to create safe online experiences for our youth. The United Kingdom, for instance, is the most forward leaning; introducing a new legislation that requires commercial provers of online pornography to employ mandatory age-verification checks on their users, verifying they are at least 18 (takes affect July 2019) before accessing content that is considered sexual in nature. This is the first legislation of its kind in any country. This new legislation carries stiff penalties for companies in non-compliance, penalties that include being blocked in the UK and forfeiture of revenues in the country.

Whether you believe it to be right or wrong, governments around believe it to be their responsibility to take action and are actively doing so. States in the United States, for instance, are pursuing similar initiatives.

We are aware of a number of different US based initiatives that are taking online porn head-on. Specifically in Tennessee and Missouri, there are two independent initiatives designed to force Internet Service Providers (ISP) to implement new access and verification controls before accessing pornographic content. This mode of access control would include authentication verification through some form of password or biometric technology.

While the legislation in Missouri and Tennessee are still under review, Idaho has focused its energy on public institutions. In April of 2019, Idaho passed legislation that would force all public libraries to deploy content filtering technology on their networks to block access to pornographic content by July 2020.

The government’s position is the same as many parents, the accessibility of online porn is too pervasive. Unlike parents, however, governments have been investing time, effort and money to understand their impacts. For instance, in 2014 a 12-year old boy from Blackburn, UK was arrested for raping his seven-year-old sister; the contributing factor was what the child admitted was his own curiosity after watching online porn. This is but one of many examples of what governments are calling a rise in “child-on-child” attacks, specifically sexual ones that are being fueled by online porn.

Deploying Clean Browsing Experiences

At CleanBrowsing we are happy to support any government, or public, institution that finds themselves at the end of a new legal mandate or shares similar desires to provide safe browsing experiences on their networks.

Our Free filters are the best in the market and have no access or filter restrictions. The Adult Filter is specifically what your organization will need it. It not only blocks direct access to sites categorized as having adult content, but employs advanced blocking controls on search engines that allow it (e.g., Safe Mode on Google, Bing, etc…). It also provides advanced security filtering technology that ensures malicious sites are kept out of your network (i.e., helps ensure that users on your network don’t accidentally click on hacked sites).

If advanced visibility into the network utilization or additional controls (e.g., custom block pages) are required, contact us at support@cleanbrowsing.org; we’ll be happy to work with your organization on your specific needs.