Wi-Fi for customers in restaurants, hotels, on public transport and in lots of other settings is now taken for granted. People now expect access to Wi-Fi when they are out and about, but while providing WiFi can attract new business and improve the customer experience, it is important to implement content filtering for WiFi hotspots or the benefits can be easily lost.
Wi-Fi hotspots are vulnerable to open attacks because anyone can join the network once the password is known and cybercriminals use Wi-Fi hotspots for phishing and distributing malware and ransomware. If you’re responsible for a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it is important to make sure that network is secure and users of the network are not put at risk when they connect. Internet content filtering for Wi-Fi hotspots helps to reduce risk by blocking online threats such as sites used for phishing or malware distribution.
Content filtering for Wi-Fi 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.
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Why Implement Content Filtering for Wi-Fi Hotspots?
Businesses and organizations provide a public Internet service in order to attract customers and improve the customer experience. 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.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots have been installed in many other locations. 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 being exposed to inappropriate online content.
With no control over what online destinations can be accessed via a wireless network service, individuals who connect to the network could inadvertently visit a compromised website that is being used to phish for sensitive information, or malware could easily be downloaded onto their device. Hotspot providers are exposed to risk when they fail to control the content that can be accessed on their hotspots. Public WiFi services offer anonymity, so some individuals take advantage and use public WiFi networks to access illegal content or material that they are not permitted to elsewhere.
When there are no controls implemented over what users can do while connected to a WiFi hotspot, it is easy for bandwidth to be used up and for internet speeds to slow for everyone. if there is no bandwidth, individuals would also be prevented from connecting to the network.
Hackers can attack either the network itself or to go after a connected devices. Hackers have the flexibility to pick the weakest link. They look to target any vulnerability that’s easy to exploit. It’s important to remember that WiFi is an attack surface that is mobile. Mobile WiFi devices can easily be tracked between locations, leaking information about the owner. To reduce these risks, it’s important to reduce your attack surface and keep your network and users safe when using WiFi.
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 reduce the risk of minors and other vulnerable members of society being exposed to potentially harmful web content, while employers can restrict access to non-work related websites and video streaming websites in order to enhance productivity and conserve bandwidth.
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How Wi-Fi Hotspot Internet Filters Work
WiFi hotspot Internet filters work by preventing access to online threats and blocking undesirable 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 that 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 files with specific extensions, such as those commonly used to install malware and ransomware.
When network users type a URL or click on a hyperlink, WiFi hotspot Internet filters check each request 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 option to use a “whitelisting” facility or “cloud keys” to override the filters´ settings.
Internet filtering for WiFi hotspots allows 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 for 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.
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Conserve Bandwidth and Improve the Customer Experience
It was mentioned above how bandwidth use could be limited in the workplace to ensure Internet access is available for every employee. The workplace is not the only example of where 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 easily be squeezed by a small number of users who are downloading large files or using video streaming services. Restrictions set up through the WiFi filter can prevent this.
By monitoring bandwidth using a WiFi content filtering solution, 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 guests´ 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 illegal activities, the employer could be considered complicit for failing to take action to prevent those activities.
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. The failure to block access to pornography in the workplace can easily lead to the creation of a hostile working environment and can cause many problems for employers.
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Content Filtering for WiFi Hotspots with WebTitan
In respect of WiFi hotspot Internet filters, WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi is a flexible, scalable and universally-compatible solution. 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 downloads.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi can be operational within minutes. To start filtering the Internet, all that is requires is a small change to your DNS settings to point them to WebTitan. You can then be instantly blocking access to malicious websites and illegal content, and can set your filtering controls with a click of a mouse via a secure, web-based administration portal.
Our WiFi hotspot Internet filters support static and dynamic IP addresses, all operating systems and SSL inspection – an essential feature used to detect malicious content and 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 an organization’s web servers. The relevance of this is that the SSL inspection process can place a considerable strain on resources, 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 administration panel, 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 their clients.
Key Benefits of the WebTitan WiFi Filter
- 100% cloud based – No hardware or software required
- Quick and easy to implement – no technical skill required
- Excellent protection from web-based threats such as phishing, malware, and ransomware
- Manage multiple Access points through a single management console
- No limit on the number of hotspots or users
- Supports static and dynamic IPs and any mobile device
- Easy integration with other systems via APIs
- Extensive reporting suite with real-time views of Internet activity
- No latency or bandwidth restrictions
- Very competitive pricing
- Fully transparent pricing policy
- World-class customer support
- Multiple hosting options: WebTitan cloud, private cloud, or within your own data center
- White-label version available to resellers and MSPs
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 if you decide not to continue using the service.
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.