Content filtering for WiFi hotspots enables businesses and organizations to enhance their online security profile by controlling the content that guests, customers and employees can access from their mobile devices. By preventing access to websites likely to contain malware and ransomware, organizations not only protect their wireless networks from online threats, but also the devices that connect to them.
In addition to enhancing their security profiles, businesses and organizations can also take advantage of WiFi hotspot content filtering to conserve bandwidth, improve the customer experience, and increase productivity in the workplace. The benefits of content filtering for WiFi hotspots not only make good security sense, but good commercial sense as well.
Why Implement Content Filtering for WiFi Hotspots?
Businesses and organizations provide a public Internet service in order to attract customers who want to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues. Decisions on where to eat, where to shop and how to travel can often be influenced on the availability of the Internet. Consequently public WiFi hotspots are more frequently appearing in bars, restaurants and hotels, in shopping malls, and on public transport.
Other places of public access have also introduced public WiFi hotspots. Hospitals, libraries and schools provide wireless Internet networks for patients, visitors and students; while many employees also enjoy the convenience of their employer´s WiFi network when the employer has a BYOD policy. However, providing an unfiltered WiFi service can lead to users inadvertently downloading malware and ransomware, and exposing others to inappropriate online content.
With no control over what online destinations can be accessed via a wireless network service, Internet users are at risk of visiting a compromised website or responding to a phishing email. Internet users, who prefer the anonymity of a public WiFi service, are more likely to visit websites containing inappropriate online content; while employees have access to non-work related websites and video streaming websites that use up significant bandwidth and deny Internet access to colleagues.
Implementing content filtering for WiFi hotspots can help avoid these issues. By controlling the online environment, businesses and organizations can provide a malware-free and family-friendly browsing experience. Inappropriate online content can be blocked to risk exposure to minors and other vulnerable members of society, while employers can restrict access to non-work related websites and video streaming websites in order to enhance productivity and ensure the Internet is accessible to all employees.
How WiFi Hotspot Internet Filters Work
WiFi hotspot Internet filters work by preventing access to online threats and unwanted content. They do this using a system of unified threat management that can be configured to suit an organization´s needs. This is typically a three-tiered mechanism that comprises of blacklists and SURBL/URIBL filters, category filters and keyword filters. The first-tier defenses are updated by the filtering service provider whenever new threats are identified. Websites are also categorized automatically as they are published.
- Blacklists block access to websites identified as harboring malware, while the other first-tier defenses (SURBL and URIBL filters) prevent network users visiting websites with IP addresses from which spam emails have originated or those who hide their true identity behind a proxy server or the whois privacy feature.
- Category filters can be applied by system administrators to prevent access to specific categories of Internet content. More than three million of the world´s most-visited websites are sorted into fifty-three categories (travel, online shopping, adult content, etc.) that can be blocked with the click of a mouse.
- Keyword filters control access to websites containing specific words so that administrators can prevent access to certain types of Internet content without blocking an entire category. Keyword filters can also be configured to prevent network users downloading file types with specific extensions commonly associated with malware.
When network users type a URL or click on a hyperlink, WiFi hotspot Internet filters check each request to visit a websites against their filtering parameters. If a network user is attempting to visit an unsafe or prohibited website, access is denied and a message is displayed on the user´s device explaining why. If justifiable access is required, system administrators have the options to use a “whitelisting” facility or “cloud keys” to override the filters´ settings.
Internet filtering for WiFi hotspots allows for the filtering parameters to be set by individual user, user group or universally. They can also be set within certain times. If, for example, your business or organization wants to control access to social media platforms to everybody except your marketing department, access could be allowed for one user group and denied to everyone else until after their working day is finished.
Conserve Bandwidth and Improve the Customer Experience
It was mentioned above how bandwidth could be limited in the workplace to ensure Internet access was available for every employee. The workplace is not the only example of how bandwidth issues can be resolved by content filtering for WiFi hotspots. In any location where there might be a large volume of long-term Internet users – hotels, hospitals and libraries for example – bandwidth can be limited to prevent just a handful of users placing excessive demands on an organization´s service.
By monitoring bandwidth, organizations can often identify when a device connected to their network is infected with malware from another source. Usually the tell-tale sign is high bandwidth consumption during periods of low bandwidth activity – for example reading emails. Organizations can advise their guest that action is needed to remove the malware from their device – often preventing the malware from spreading to the wireless network other gusts´ devices connected to it.
In addition to providing a browsing environment free from malware and exposure to inappropriate content, organizations can take advantage of WiFi hotspot Internet filters to improve the customer experience. This can be done via reports generated by the filters that reveal guests´ online activities. Using this information, organizations can tailor promotions and special offers to match the interests of their customers, gaining a competitive advantage over other organizations in the industry yet to implement content filtering for WiFi hotspots.
WiFi Hotspot Internet Filters in the Workplace
WiFi hotspot Internet filters in the workplace offer a series of benefits to organizations that provide a wireless Internet service for employees. Primarily, being able to control access to non-work related websites during working hours can prevent “cyberslacking” and enhance productivity. Content filtering for WiFi hotspots in the workplace can also prevent resentment between colleagues.
Several legal issues can also be avoided by the implementation of content filtering for WiFi hotspots in the workplace. Downloading copyrighted files from P2P file sharing websites or exchanging images of child pornography on the Internet is illegal under federal law. If an employee was using an employer´s wireless network to conduct his or her illegal activities, the employer could be considered complicit.
A further potential problem is when employees are exposed to objectionable online content depicting racial abuse, religious intolerance and sexual prejudices. When a hostile workplace environment is allowed to persist, those offended by the objectionable online content are entitled to claim compensation from their employer for failing to provide a safe place of work.
Content Filtering for WiFi Hotspots from SpamTitan
SpamTitan is one of a group of companies that are leaders in online security solutions. In respect of WiFi hotspot Internet filters, SpamTitan offers a flexible, scalable and universally-compatible solution – WebTitan Cloud for WiFi. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a 100% cloud-based solution that delivers maximum online security without the need for expensive hardware purchases or complicated software download.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi can be operational within minutes and is easy to configure and manage via a secure, web-based control center. Our WiFi hotspot Internet filters support static and dynamic IP addresses, all operating systems and SSL inspection – an essential feature used to detect security vulnerabilities in encrypted websites. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi also supports multi-lingual filtering.
While on the subject of SSL inspection, it is important to note that WebTitan Cloud for WiFi conducts the SSL inspection process in the cloud, rather than on network servers. The relevance of this is that the SSL inspection process can place a considerable drain on network servers, particularly during peak times of network traffic. With WebTitan Cloud for WiFI, network performance actually improves, and filtered Internet access is delivered with imperceptible latency.
Via the secure, web-based control center, acceptable use policies for multiple hotspots can be managed from one single location. APIs for backend integration with LDAP, NetIQ and Active Directory are supplied to assist with the allocation of Internet privileges, and – being a multi-tenanted solution – WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an ideal option for Managed Service Providers and resellers aiming to provide robust content filtering for WiFi hotspots as a service to clients.
Speak with Us about Web Filtering for Access Points
To find out more about content filtering for WiFi hotspots, and how it can help protect your wireless networks from online threats, you are invited to contact us and speak with one of our experienced sales technicians. If you have any questions about how WiFi hotspot Internet filters can conserve bandwidth, improve the customer experience or enhance workplace productivity, we will be delighted to answer them.
When you call, you will also be invited to test WebTitan Cloud for WiFi for free. We offer a free trial of our WiFi hotspot Internet filters in order that businesses and organizations can see the benefits of content filtering for WiFi hotspots in their own environment. A simple redirection of your DNS is all that is required to start your free trial and, please note, there is no obligation on you to continue using our service once the trial period has expired – you simply revert your server´s DNS settings to what they currently are.
How can I access web pages that have been blocked by a web filter?
There are often legitimate reasons for accessing web content that violates an organization’s acceptable internet usage policies. With WebTitan, if you need to bypass content controls you can do so with a cloud key. A cloud key can be generated by an administrator that is valid for a set time period. The cloud key will allow a user to access content that is blocked by the web filter, without having to change the user’s content control settings.
Can I block Facebook Messenger but allow access to the Facebook website?
Yes, this is possible with WebTitan. You can block certain elements of a website while allowing the site to be accessed. This is common with Facebook, as many businesses view Facebook Messenger as a security risk, but do not want to block access to the Facebook website. You can do this for Facebook Messenger (and other online chat programs) by blacklisting certain keywords to block the chat function in the ‘filtering URL keywords’ section. For Facebook, you block the keywords “ajax/mercury/send_messages.php” and “ajax/updatestatus.php”
Is content filtering for Wi-Fi hotspots expensive?
The cost of content filtering for Wi-Fi hotspots will depend on the number of users, the contract term, and whether you choose to pay up front or monthly. For instance, if you want to protect 200 users and choose the 3-year term, you will pay around $1 per user, per month. To determine how much content filtering will cost your business, use our cost calculator page.
Can I use a web filter to conserve bandwidth?
You can set filtering controls in WebTitan to restrict access to websites that use a lot of bandwidth – video streaming sites such as YouTube for example. You can block these sites for specific users, departments, or across the entire organization. You can also set time-based controls to block access to these websites during busy times and can relax the rules at other times of the day, such as outside normal office hours.
Can I see what web content users are accessing in real time?
Yes, you can view this information in real time in the management reports. Logs of user activity are maintained, and you can easily compile a report to see the internet activity of a particular user, including current browsing. You can also configure alerts to tell you when attempts are made to view restricted content and you can schedule reports of user activity.