How To Stop Online Porn
Online porn is one of the fastest growing pieces of content online. Whether you're securing your organizations network, fighting personal addictions, conforming with regulations like CIPA, or working to create a porn-free internet for your kids, this guide will provide you the tools, and insights, you need to get a better handle on the growing problem.
10 Steps to Stopping Online Porn
Step 1. Restrict access via a Content Filter
Step 2. Enable Safe Search options where available
Step 3. Employ Hardening Controls (e.g., Parental Controls)
Step 4. Disable Proxy / VPN access
Step 5. Be Selective About Social Media Platforms
Step 6. Be Mindful of Mobile Devices
Step 7. Use Strong Passwords When Hardening
Step 8. Proactively Monitor Activity
Step 9. Set an Online Schedule
Step 10. Stay Informed (Parents)
What is DNS Filtering?
DNS Filtering is a content filtering service that relies on the Domain Name System (DNS) to block, or allow, content on a specific network. DNS offers users, and organizations, the ability to apply access rules across all devices independent of the OS or browser type. It is not tied to a specific technology, and it's at the core of how the web works.
What is Content Filtering?
Content Filtering is a mechanism that allows you to proactively decide what should, and should not be allowed on your internet. Organizations can build acceptable use policies with this technology, parents can control what their kids access, and municipalities can create family friendly hotspots.
Step 1: Restrict access via a Content Filter
Online porn is pervasive, it's accessible via a number of different mediums, search engines, devices, and consoles, which is the most effective method of restricting access to use some form of content filter.
Content filters come in all shapes and forms. As the name implies, they are a way to allow, and disallow, content coming through your internet.
The reason that content filters are so important is they do the heavy lifting. Good filters will crawl the web and have a mechanism in place to continuously stay up to date. CleanBrowsing is known as a DNS-based content filter. We use the Domain Name System (DNS) technology to help us identify what should, and should not be allowed on a users internet.
There are other forms of content filters, they can be found in browsers, routers, Operating Systems, apps (e.g., Nanny-like software) and mobile devices.
We decided on DNS because every device needs to use DNS to connect to the Internet. This makes DNS-based content filtering exponentially more effective than most solutions. This is especially true for organizations and families with multiple devices to manage.
How to Employ Content Filtering
Employing DNS-based content filtering is straight forward, but for the uninitiated can feel daunting. In most instances, DNS can be updated on any device by navigating to the devices settings section and finding the network options.
Here are some examples of how this works for different devices using our free Family filter.
- -For Mac and Linux computers: Go to Settings->Network->Wifi->Advanced and change the DNS servers to point to: 188.8.131.52
- -For ChromeBook: Go to Settings->Network->Wifi and configure the Custom NameServers to point to: 184.108.40.206 and 220.127.116.11
- -For Windows: Go to Control Panel->Network->Internet->Network Properties and configure the DNS servers to point to: 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124
- -For iPhone, Android and iPads: Go to Settings->Wifi settings and configure the Nameserver to point to: 126.96.36.199
- -For your home router and full house protection: Login to your router, look for Settings or DNS Settings and change the Nameserver to point to: 188.8.131.52
Whenever possible, we recommend setting your content filter at the router level. This will ensure it accounts for all devices on the network, because DNS applies to any internet-connected TV, gaming console (xBox, Playstation, Nintendo Wii) and computer. It also helps whenever visitors (kids) come over and use your Wifi, they will be automatically restricted.
Available Apps to simplify
If you find these steps too complicated, we have Apps available to help you get you setup. They are not required, but can simplify your life if you are not technical:
Another option is to change via the command line interface (Command Prompt or Terminal). We have more details on how to do it here. Also, we encourage you to join our free community forum and ask any questions you might have about how this type of technology works.
CleanBrowsing Offers Free Filters
For those unable to purchase a subscription, CleanBrowsing does offer a free forever filtering service that can be deployed on any device that uses DNS. It is a fast, privacy-first, network that is designed to help parents and institutions create safe browsing experiences for kids and families.
No signup required. No credit card required. No tracking on our end.
Step 2: Enable Safe Search Option
Enabling a content filter to strip out content is a critical first step, but it is only the start. Stopping online porn requires a multi-layered approach, and that's because of how diverse the internet is.
All content filters will have similar limitations when it comes to a closed platform. Closed platforms are platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! and a number of other similar sites we use on a daily basis. A closed platform has the ability to create its own rules on how, and what can be filtered. This means you have to take a few extra steps if you allow those platforms on your internet.
The easiest is to see if the platform offers you a Safe Search like feature. Some of the more popular ones like Google, YouTube and Bing already expose this feature to you. You typically have to configure this feature via their application (think Google Chrome). Or you can create local rules on your device to force all google requests to go to their Safe Search IPs.
An example of how you can set this locally on a device via the /etc/hosts file for Google:
If you use a content filtering platform like CleanBrowsing we leverage Safe Search when available. For instance, when you use our Free family filter we enforce Safe Search on Google, Safe Search on Bing searches and Restricted mode on YouTube. We also do this for DuckDuckGo and any other platform that offers it. Paid customers have the ability to tune this as necessary for their specific needs.
While most of these platforms allow you to configure Safe Search in the application, that's not always a good thing if you don't restrict a users ability to disable it. Be sure that when you enable you are leveraging whatever tools the platform offers to ensure it can't easily be undone. Or, you can use a DNS-based content filter that overrides an applications settings.
One thing to be considerate of are the various of Search Engines that exist that you might not be aware of. Kids in particular have a gift for finding new search engines, so be sure to block search engines that don't offer a Safe Search feature. Customers can easily enable this via the Search Engine filter.
Step 3: Employ Hardening Controls (e.g., Parental Controls)
Most operating systems and devices have parental control options to prevent a user from making changes to existing settings. This is especially important if you want the user, especially a child, not to undo your controls.
Organizations can typically do this via roles, rights and group policies, but for parents it can be a bit tricker.
Step 4: Disable Proxy / VPN access
The biggest challenge you will have when trying to create a porn-free web will be Proxies and VPNs.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
These technologies allow a user to punch a whole through your network, bypassing any potential defenses you have implemented, giving the user unfettered access to the web. This is further complicated because they are so easy to find and use.
VPN's can be found, installed and / or integrated in a few different places:
- Installed as an application on a device.
- Installed in a browser as an extension or plugin.
- Embedded within a browser (e.g., Firefox, Safari)
- Embedded within a device application (e.g., AntiVirus)
We prepared a guide that shows you how to prevent a user from installing browser extensions and add / ons and the most effective approach to applications is to ensure you're using appropriate permissions. A user's ability to have unfettered access to a machine should be reviewed, and adjusted accordingly.
Proxy sites are a big nuisance. A great example of a proxy site might be a web caching site. Something that has a time machine feature that allows you to see a site at some earlier point. While it's design is not malicious, it's used rampantly by kids and employees alike to gain access to content they should not have access to.
Another great example might be a site that prints the content of a website.
If you use the CleanBrowsing free Family filter we will work to detect and block VPN / Proxy platforms from working on your network. Unfortunately, not all VPN's can be blocked.
Step 5: Be Selective About Social Media Platforms
The world of social media is very complex. Similar to Google, Facbook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and so many others have becomes integrated in the way people engage online. They have also become havens for content like porn.
Some platforms have done better than others. For instance, TikTok is paving the way with new enhanced parental control features known as Digital Wellbeing. You access it by going to Settings > Digital Webllbeing > Screen Time Management inside the app.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for other apps. The worst offenders are platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Not only do they lack basic parental control features, they are a safe haven for adult / pornographic and obscene content. So be mindful of allowing it on your internet.
Although Facebook also lacks some of the core content filtering features, they are much better about disallowing that type of content. They also introduced Messenger Kids as a way to create a safe environment for our youth. It works pretty well stripping content that might be shared between users (e.g., pornographic links).
Some chat apps are not always considered social media platforms, but you should be aware of them. If your child is older and has access to these types of apps, e.g., WhatsApp, WeChat and similar tools, we recommend doing spot checks every few days or weekly. Looks for the photos they are taking and sharing (including deleted photos found in the trash), and who they are talking to. It will help you better understand your child's online behaviors and help identify ways to work together to create a safe browsing experience.
Step 6: Be Mindful of Mobile Devices
Mobile devices are the wild wild west with their extensibility, and app ecosystems. We can't stress the importance of leveraging a parental control application, or settings, when available. This is especially true for young children.
On IOS (iPhone/iPad), you can do it by going to Settings->General->Restrictions and filtering the content you do not want to allow your children to see. On that page, if you scroll down to Allowed Content, we recommend setting:
- Movies: PG-13
- TV Shows: TV-14
- Books: Restrict explicit content
- Apps: 12+
- Siri: Explicit language filtered
- Websites: Restrict adult content
Each device might have a different name for Parental control, but it is generally called Parental Control or Restrictions.
You also want to consider what your child can do on the device. If they have what is known as administrator access to the machine, they have the ability to make any changes they want. It's why it's so important you leverage the parental control features offered by the platform Operating System (OS) you are using.
We have prepared two different guides for Apple iOS and Google Android that will illustrate the process to configuring a content filtering service like CleanBrowsing on those devices. Note that you will want to augment our apps with other hardening tools like AppLocker for Android, and Restrictions for iOS to ensure users can't undo the settings.
Step 7: Use Strong Passwords When Hardening
Contrary to what we might think, we are not as unique as we might think we are. This is especially true when it comes to creating passwords and pins. This is especially true for pins that are restricted to 4 to 6 digits and only numbers.
This step is the most practical and straight forward action. Create Complex | Long | Unique passwords where possible, and don't needlessly share them with your kids or employees.
Step 8: Proactively Monitor Activity
One of the more overlooked steps on any network is proactive monitoring. As the name implies, it's the act of taking deliberate steps to see what is happening on the network.
Large organizations have systems for this, but parents might find this a bit cumbersome.
If you're leveraging a different filtering system, you will want to check if it provides you visibility into what is being accessed. Here are a few things to look at:
- Browser History: Know that browser history can be deleted (cleared), question any activity that might be missing
- Multiple Browsers: Be sure to check all browsers. There a myriad of other browsers that are easily installed, search for them on the specific devices. The one most commonly used for anonymity is Tor.
- Gaming History: Take time to look at the logs associated with games, what is being shared amongst the users.
- VPN History: If a VPN exists, be sure to spend time looking at those logs.
If you use a paid content filtering platform like CleanBrowsing, you can view all the activity for your network in one centralized dashboard. This is not available for the free service.
Step 9: Set an Online Schedule
Another great approach to limiting the availability of online porn is to set a schedule for when the internet can be accessed. This is especially important for families with young kids.
Parents, unlike organizations, are home during off-hours and it's during this time you spend time with the family, but also enjoy hobbies and sleep. Kids don't always follow the same routines, and the evenings present a unique opportunity to find and access content online. To help with this, we recommend considering an online schedule.
Schedules can be set on most devices, usually in the restricted or parental control settings, and can also be found in most routers. Additionally, many content filtering platforms offer it. Schedules are available on the paid version of the CleanBrowsing content filter.
Step 10: Stay Informed (Parents)
This is more applicable to parents, than organizations, but can apply the same to both.
The reality is that technology is constantly evolving and most parents are not technically equipped, or prepared, to deal with the pace of today’s technological advancement. They are a) unable to understand the various technical aspects of the technology and / or b) incapable of doing so.
We encourage you to be more patient and invest more time better understanding the mechanics of the web. There is no short-cut to this problem. A great resource to assist you with this is the Protect Young Eyes organization. They have an overwhelming amount of resources that highlights everything from tools at your disposal to the latest trends in technology.
Finally, stay present and talk to them. None of this will work if you are not around to watch what they are doing and enforcing the rules. Enjoy the Internet together whenever possible and you will both benefit from a safe browsing experience.
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