What is web content filtering?
Web content filtering is the practice of blocking access to web content that may be deemed offensive, inappropriate, or even dangerous. Families will be well aware of the need to apply internet content filters to material not suitable for young children, but content filtering has its place in the business world, too.
How does content filtering work?
Content filtering works by using hardware or software-based solutions to establish rules about the types of sites that may be visited. Using keywords or other commonalities between sites, content is grouped into categories—such as sports, gambling, adult, streaming, and so on—and those sites in undesirable categories are blocked on the network.
Keeping objectionable content away from children is one of the more obvious use cases for web content filtering. But DNS Filtering—a specific type of content filtering that uses the DNS layer to filter based on IP addresses—is increasingly being adopted by businesses as a means of controlling web use and reducing infections. When content is filtered according to sites known to pose a high risk of malware, those sites can be blocked before they have the chance to drop malicious payloads. When known distractions like social media and streaming video sites are blocked, productivity increases.
What does web content filtering do?
Content filtering is a program that blocks all sites or pages you deem inappropriate. These may be sites that are dangerous, distracting, or unsavory. With most content filters, you’re able to block specific sites or use keywords to block associated content.
Why Do Schools Block Websites?
Schools have one of the most important roles in the lives of students. They must educate and protect them, which is growing increasingly difficult in today’s digital world.Schools must take action against:
- Cyberbullying/ bullying
- Suicide prevention
- Identity theft from hackers
- Exposure to obscene content online
The difficulty is that schools are often underfunded and spread thin. Teachers are often untrained in many of these concerns. and lack resources to protect against all threats. Plus, acting against them is the constantly changing technology, the ever-evolving social media, and the persistence of hackers, scammers, and predators who have more time and resources.
To make it worse, kids are far more dependent on their phones than ever. According to Project Tomorrow, 91% of high school students have smartphones. For middle schoolers that number is 79%, and 50% for elementary students. During class, approximately 68% of students will access those devices.
Due to these factors, Congress passed the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). The act provides E-rate program discounts to internet safety policies. To qualify, schools must include content filtering, monitoring, and education in digital citizenship.
The discount may be a great reason to implement content filtering, but it isn’t the only reason. Schools have an obligation to protect their students’ mental and physical well-being, as well as threats they can’t see. As mentioned, hackers target schools because of the personal data stored in databases. Web filtering draws some criticism for censorship, but, the benefits of content filtering far outweigh the negatives.
Can Filtering Software or Hardware Really Block All Unwanted Content?
No, it’s impossible to block every bit of unwanted content because there are 4.5 billion sites on the surface web and grouping all of that information into categories isn’t exactly easy. You could unintentionally block important resources and impede the ability to work.
Filtering may walk the line of censorship, especially if it blocks innocuous sites charged by politics, such as Planned Parenthood. These biases may be self-conscious, or you may not be aware that particular content is blocked.
A comprehensive filter that updates regularly and allows changes is ideal. As your students or employees get used to the search parameters, you’ll gain a better understanding of what content is needed and make changes as necessary.
Web content filtering isn’t perfect, but the threats online are rising and a filter may be your best defense.
Why is web content filtering important?
Hacking, phishing, viruses, and malware are some of the biggest threats to any business. Phishing, for example, is when hackers obtain sensitive information through deception, such as duping employees to log in to falsified companies to gain login credentials. Undeniably, the loss or corruption of sensitive data such as login details, personal information, accounting details, and legal documents can be catastrophic to any company. Hence the importance of content filtering protocols. Web content filtering has a multitude of benefits for both individual users and organizations.
Protect minors from inappropriate content
The most obvious benefit and use of web content filtering for individual users is the successful protection of children from inappropriate content such as pornographic and violent content. In a fast-paced world, parents may not always be physically present to watch and monitor the kind of content their children are exposed to, additionally they may not know all of the sites to restrict. The use of content filtering as part of a firewall helps achieve complete control over what is accessible and not by referencing the rules placed by the user or administrator.
Reduced malware infections
By blocking access to known sites that may carry a high risk of malware, you can protect your data and users before those sites have a chance to introduce malicious payloads. For example, using DNS filtering users can significantly limit the threats and, consequently, reduce the remediation workload for IT professionals and MSPs. DNS filtering is so effective that it can stop Internet-borne malware before it reaches the network. Besides restricting access through domain names, firewalls with web content filtering systems can also scrutinize and scan web pages to determine what might contain threats.
Protection against exploit kits
Cybersecurity technology is continually evolving, and at the same time, hackers are also developing smarter ways to illegally access your data and networks. Exploit kits contain code designed specifically to attack web browsers’ vulnerabilities through browser extensions and plugins. Unknowingly a user will visit a malicious URL that has an exploit kit that triggers a malware download once the vulnerabilities are exploited. Content filters can effectively identify exploit kits and block off access before any download is committed.
Increased staff productivity
Social media is a notorious productivity sink, distracting, takes up huge chunks of valuable work time, and leads to reduced productivity. Restricting access works to increase productivity significantly. However, some industries require social media savviness for operations. In these industries, a different set of sites become productivity sinks, such as online shopping and streaming sites. There is absolutely no reason why employees should be watching movies while they should be working. In addition to restricting access to websites that are distracting, it is vital to consider other avenues that could pose a threat, such as downloading suspicious files, opening suspicious emails, and responding to unverified contacts.
Network bandwidth efficiency
Non-work-related internet usage significantly saps your network bandwidth. By limiting access to these sites, you achieve increased network bandwidth efficiency with faster connections. To achieve network bandwidth efficiency, you can educate your team about the merits of a consistently fast network or set limits on video streaming sites such as YouTube, a ‘bandwidth hogger.’
Reduce inappropriate content
Implementing internet content filters helps protect your employees from malware and phishing attacks. Educating them on the importance of these measures also goes a long way to guarantee efficiency; however, in the instance that some of them still seek out risky sites, the filtering protocols protect your network.
Minimized company liability
An organization that is active in monitoring their staff’s web usage is better placed to mitigate disasters resulting from the misuse of the internet. Liabilities could surround matters with knowingly or unknowingly posting offensive content on blogs or social media, hateful content that is discriminatory or vulgar, cyberbullying, or downloading copyright-protected material. With the world becoming such a radicalized space, it is important to always protect your company ad your brand by carefully monitoring the information you and your staff let in, or send out.
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