How a single Raspberry Pi made my home network faster and more secure.

In this episode, we discuss installing Pi Hole on a Raspberry Pi. The Pi Hole blocks advertisements and suspicious URL's network-wide. 

In this episode, we discuss installing Pi Hole on a Raspberry Pi. The Pi Hole blocks advertisements and suspicious URL's network-wide. 

Episode Transcription

How a single Raspberry Pi made my whole network faster and more secure. Now this is a very catchy title, but it's actually true. Recently I installed Raspberry Pi. I installed this program called Pi-hole. This program Pi-hole, which when you tell people about it, is not exactly the nicest name to hear, but actually stands for a dark hole for Raspberry Pi instead of something else. But the idea is it's a black hole for internet advertisements.

Typically we have ad blockers installed on our computers in our browser or some sort of utility per computer or per device inside our household. Well, this is great for that particular computer. But how do we protect our entire network? This is where Pi-hole really excels because installing the Raspberry Pi, we install the Pi-hole software, and the Pi-hole software then allows us to use whatever DNS servers we want. So, if we want to use Cloud Flare or we want to use Google, etc., but then we take our internet router in our home network and we point it to the Raspberry Pi's new IP address. This IP address is basically forwarding all requests that come from the internet to our router and vice verse. So, our Raspberry Pi Pi-hole in essence, is becoming a DNS router. It's routing requests coming from the internet to our home network.

Now where it gets interesting is there's a black list within the Raspberry Pi, and this actually determines if a request is legit or not. So, if it's an advertisement or some dodgy metric scraping service, it comes into the Raspberry Pi and it goes to a website with Raspberry Pi, but it's a blank website. So the request is still served, so the advertisements and everything still think it's happening, but within your network you're never getting this request.

So from a performance point-of-view, I've noticed a huge increase, an incredible increase in speed from my devices. A security point-of-view, I was really blown away about the amount of traffic that was being blocked, or actually the metrics that were asking to collect information from my home network. Within Raspberry Pi Pi-hole, it has a nice UI and it displays graphs about what's going on in your home network, but the amount of requests that are blocked on a daily basis is about 20% of internet traffic. So, 20% of internet traffic in my home network is getting blocked now with the Pi-hole. I mean, this is absolutely incredible if you think about it because I mean before all these metrics and everything like this, so if you have an Amazon Alexa it's sending out metrics. If you have Sonos or inside a Roomba, these are all sending out metrics back and forth with or without your consent. That's quite scary because I usually opt out of a lot of these services, however these metrics are still going back and forth, so these services are still tracking us regardless if we say yes or no.

I don't quite appreciate that, so I would like to be in control of that, and that's where the Pi-hole comes in. It has a nice black list that comes with the Pi-hole. It's about 110000 websites and URLs that are already blocked as defaults, but then we can decide if we want to add more or remove some.

Question is do I ever receive any problems with the Pi-hole? I've noticed a couple things when I tried t register an Alexa in the house. It couldn't register because it needed some metrics, so I had to white list a couple things quickly. Once it was registered, I black listed them again and it worked just fine. My wife noticed a couple things serving Pinterest, like some websites didn't open correctly. So there's a couple tweaks here and there, but overall I'm an extremely satisfied with this because now our entire network is protected, not just a single device. Also, I get to control what comes in or out of our network as far as suspicious URLs, and this is quite nice. I can monitor this through a nice web interface. And all this together, it gives me a sense of confidence that hey, I can actually control and monitor what's coming into my home network network-wide, instead of just per device.

It's a huge benefit. I can really recommend you checking it out. I mean, Pi-hole, is the website. They have different operating system that it runs on, Raspberry Pi etc. Give them a try. Let us know. Give us some feedback, and we'll see you in the next episode.
Brian Christner