What is a Web filtering solution?
Web content filtering solutions are useful tools that censor and/or prevent access to restricted web content deemed offensive or inappropriate. They also provide overall domain name system (DNS) security protection that prevents users from accessing potentially dangerous web pages or IP addresses.
Access to web content can be limited for employees, guests, and customers while using the business’s wired or wireless network connection. Web content filtering solutions are commonly used by businesses today and contain a variety of features helpful for all types of organizations.
This type of software is commonly used to monitor employee behavior while at work. Businesses can’t always keep track of what websites their employees are visiting while in the office or working remotely. Therefore, they rely on web content filtering solutions to limit the amount and type of sites, such as social media and gaming sites, employees can visit. This helps prevent employees from slacking off and increases productivity. Most firewall software also offers web content filtering features that assist with the prevention of viruses, phishing attacks, malware, and ransomware.
Web Content Filtering Solution Features
Many of the features offered by web content filtering solutions are standard and help fit the needs of just about every business type. They include:
- Web content filter list
- Content filtering rules and patterns
- DNS filtering
- Manual URL blocking
- Web keyword monitoring and filtering
- Behavioral Analytics
- Content Monitoring
- Intrusion Detection System
- Intrusion Prevention System
- Malware Blocking
- Network Monitoring
- Phishing Prevention
- Log Access
- Policy Management
- Technical & Customer Support
HOW DOES CONTENTENT FILTERING WORK
Content filtering works by specifying content patterns – such as text strings or objects within images – that, if matched, indicate undesirable content that is to be screened out. A content filter will then block access to this content.
Content filters are often part of Internet firewalls, but can be implemented as either hardware or software. In such usage, content filtering is serving a security purpose – but content filtering is also used to implement company policies related to information system usage. For example, it’s common to filter social-networking sites unrelated to work.
Types of Web Content Filtering
A web filtering service can work in a variety of ways. One of the ways by which web filtering solutions can be differentiated is by how they define acceptable content. Web filters can be defined in a few ways, including:
- Allow Listing: Allow lists are designed to specify the sites that a user, computer, or application is permitted to visit. All web traffic is compared to this list, and any requests with a destination not included on the list are dropped. This provides very strict control over the sites that can be visited.
- Block Listing: Block lists are the exact opposite of allow lists. Instead of specifying the sites that a user can visit, they list sites that should not be visited. With a blocklist, all traffic is inspected and any traffic to a destination on the list is dropped. This approach is commonly used to protect against known-bad locations, such as phishing sites, drive-by malware downloads, and inappropriate content.
- Content Filtering: Content and keyword filtering makes decisions whether to allow or block traffic based upon the content of a webpage. For example, an organization may have filters in place to block visits to sites containing explicit content. When a request is made, the content of the site is inspected and the site is blocked if the policy is violated. This filtering approach enables an organization to block malicious or inappropriate sites that they don’t know exist.
In addition to filter types, different web filtering solutions can differ in terms of where they look to apply their rules. Filters can be applied in a few different ways, such as:
- DNS Filtering: The Domain Name Service (DNS) is the phone book of the Internet, translating domains (like google.com) to the IP addresses used by computers to route traffic. DNS filtering monitors requests for DNS lookups and allows or blocks the traffic based upon policy.Url Filtering A URL is the address of a webpage. URL filtering inspects the URLs contained within web requests and determines whether or not to allow a request to go through based on policy.
- Content Filtering: Content filtering looks at the contents of a requested webpage. If a response violates policy, then it is blocked.
Finally, web filtering solutions can be classified by where the filter is applied. The options for this include:
- Client-Side Filtering: Client-side web filtering is performed by software installed on a user’s computer. It inspects all outbound and inbound traffic and allows or blocks it based upon policy.
- Server-Side Filtering: Server-side filtering is performed via a solution located either on-premises or in the cloud. All web traffic is routed through this solution, providing it with visibility and control
What is the Best Web Filtering Solution?
Best URL filtering software of 2022
- DNSFilter. Very well-priced URL filtering service. …
- Cisco Umbrella. Comprehensive filtering software from a trusted brand. …
- WebTitan Cloud. Straightforward, scalable web filtering. …
- McAfee Web Gateway Cloud Service. Cloud-based, enterprise-grade web protection. …
- Untangle NG Firewall Complete.
Cloud Based Web Filtering for Business
In much the same way as businesses benefit from cloud technology for compute resources, cloud based web filtering for business provides an easy-to-manage filtering solution without an upfront cost or high maintenance overhead. Effectively, cloud based web filtering for business performs exactly the same role as an appliance or software solution, only a cloud content filter uses fewer resources.
Like the alternative deployment options, cloud based web filtering for business uses a three-tier mechanism to block access to websites that represent a threat to the security of the network or contravene user policies. Similarly, users have a whitelist feature to allow access to essential websites that might be blocked by the category or keyword filters.
Cloud based web filter solutions have a high degree of granularity, so network administrators can create and apply user policies by individual user, user groups or business-wide, and carefully control access to the Internet. Cloud based internet filtering solutions allow administrators to apply restrictions to conserve bandwidth use, block or allow access to specific web applications, and regulate employee Internet access by time, category or keyword – ensuring the network is protected against web-based threats without obstructing workflows.
The Indirect Advantages can be Substantial
The indirect advantages of cloud based web-filtering for business is that the same filtering mechanisms used to protect networks against web-based threats can be used to enhance productivity and block access to inappropriate or illegal content. Administrators can prevent employees accessing social media networks, gaming and dating websites, or shopping online – Activities in the workplace that are collectively referred to as cyber-slacking and can have a significant impact on productivity.
A cloud based content filtering service can be used to block online content that may cause offence within a business to create a more pleasant working environment. For example, one of the most common categories blocked by cloud web filtering solutions is pornography, which should not be accessible on business computers and can contribute to a hostile working environment if not blocked. A cloud web filtering service can also be used to block ‘risky’ websites such as P2P file sharing/torrents sites, which help to reduce legal risk from copyright-infringing file downloads as well reducing the risk of a malware infection.
Cloud content filtering solutions allow all web activity to be monitored in real time, allowing IT security teams and HR to identify issues with particular employees or departments. Network administrators can also schedule reports to identify attempts by individuals to access content that breaches acceptable Internet usage policies. When trying to improve productivity in the workplace, the reports generated by a cloud based content filter can be invaluable. Furthermore, as cloud based web filtering for business has practically no maintenance overhead, IT departments do not have to dedicate resources for tasks such as resolving hardware issues or performing software updates, and can instead focus on more business-critical matters. Overall, the indirect advantages of cloud based web filtering for business can be substantial.
Why is Content Filtering Important
Objectionable, inappropriate, or illegal content creates risk for organizations. For example:
- Allowing pornographic content into the workplace can put a company at risk for sexual harassment claims, or otherwise create a hostile or demeaning work environment.
- Spam sites can lead to malware or other malicious software being installed onto work computers.
- Hate sites or sites with violent content can compromise employee safety and also reflect poorly on the company as a whole.
- Social networking sites can reduce productivity and distract employees from routine tasks.
Content filtering helps to mitigate these risks by making such content difficult to access in the workplace, and by demonstrating the company’s intolerance for inappropriate, illegal, or objectionable content in general.
To be effective, content filtering has to be deployed across all content channels. The most common channels include:
- Web: The screening of Web sites or pages, as well bookmarks and other web traffic.
- Email: Screening of email for a variety of spam, malware and other undesired or malicious content. This is usually done by scanning the subject line of the emails forwarded through the filtering system. When a message is received that fills the relevant criteria, the message will be placed in the recipient’s junk folder. In some cases, it will even be sent back to the sender as undeliverable.
- Executables: The screening of executable files that may install malicious software without warning.
The motive is often to stop access to content that the user or administrator might determine is objectionable. Some of the restrictions can be applied at all levels: a national government can attempt to apply them nationwide, or an ISP can apply the filtering to its clients, even an employer to its personnel or a school to the student-body. There are no limitations to the scope of email filtering, and it can often be a strong step towards providing security to any and all users accessing the web.
Drop your comment