Public DNS and Law Firms

Verisign announced its new public DNS recently.  I don’t have any data but I’m guessing most lawyers don’t know what DNS is.  When you get a computer, the operating system usually wants you to use a dynamic addressing system.  (That’s usually DHCP).  This means you never really have to set up the other parts of your network identity.  One of those is identifying your domain name servers (not to be confused with Windows domains).

The DNS system is often compared to a phone book. If you type in in your browser, a series of requests occur that let your computer know that is at a certain numerical address.  Your computer then contacts that server and gets the appropriate pages.  The same thing is happening all day long for Web sites, apps that synchronize files, even your clock if it’s set to use Internet time servers.

Solos and small law firms may configure their Internet routers or computers to use the DNS provided by their Internet service.  If your equipment is set up using a dynamic addressing system, you don’t configure DNS yourself.  Public DNS can be a good alternative, providing faster responses to your computer’s queries – “where is that site, where is that site” – as well as protection against attacks against the DNS service.

Services like Verisign’s or Google‘s are focused mostly on those aspects – speed and reducing the likelihood of an attack on the DNS.  Cisco’s OpenDNS (which I use) and others do additional filtering of your computer’s requests, blocking requests that are going to malware and other nefarious sites.  You can also use them to filter out other Web sites based on content.

Why would a law firm want to use public DNS.

  • If you are responsible for your own network support, it may be a faster alternative to your ISP’s service.
  • It may be more resilient too, if your ISP’s DNS is attacked and slows down your Internet name resolution.
  • It can provide an additional filter so that lawyers and staff – who should already be trained not to click on certain links or visit unknown Web sites – are stopped if they click before thinking.

I like the additional Web content filtering for a home use, with children, but it’s not really necessary in a professional work environment.  I find the content filtering most useful in blocking ad networks and distribution sites.

Verisign’s new product captures personal identifiable information (PII) and I suppose that, in its own way, is what makes this sort of free service viable.  For lawyers, shifting to a public DNS can provide a bit more reliability behind the scenes so they can focus on the practice of law and not the technology and pipes.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

David Whelan

I improve information access and lead information teams. My books on finding information and managing it and practicing law using cloud computing reflect my interest in information management, technology, law practice, and legal research. I've been a library director in Canada and the US, as well as directing the American Bar Association's Legal Technology Resource Center. I speak and write frequently on information, technology, law library, and law practice issues.