An Internet content filtering tool gives organizations the ability to prevent web users visiting online destinations that may harbor hidden security risks or unacceptable content. As a precaution against the inadvertent downloading of malware, adware, and ransomware, tools for filtering Internet content are becoming necessary elements of an organization´s cybersecurity defenses.
As many malware and ransomware downloads result from successful phishing attacks, tools for filtering Internet content include mechanisms to prevent network user visiting websites with IP addresses from which spam emails are known to have originated. Even though email filters are good at preventing spam emails reaching users´ inboxes, an Internet content filtering tool can add an extra layer of defense against malicious intruders.
An Internet filter tool can also increase workplace productivity and avoid potential HR issues. These goals are achieved by blocking access to personal social media accounts, online shopping portals, sites containing pornographic material and video streaming websites. With the effective use of an Internet content filtering tool, organizations allow their employees fewer opportunities to “cyberslack” or expose their colleagues to unacceptable content.
The Hidden Security Risks and their Consequences
Few websites are free from hidden security risks – including those with SSL certificates. Research conducted by online security company Symantec suggests as many as three quarters of websites have security vulnerabilities that a hacker could exploit to install malware. Further research by Google concluded that more than 800,000 apparently secure websites have been infected with drive-by malware.
What this means for your organization is that an employee could visit an apparently secure website and inadvertently download malware onto the organization´s network. Malware is capable of spreading quickly throughout a network and – if your organization runs a wireless network – the infection could be transmitted to any device connecting to it, which could then infect other systems when the device owner connects with a different network.
The consequences of the hidden security risks will depend on the nature of the downloaded malware. Some bugs simply monitor online activity in order that targeted advertising is sent to the user. More nefarious infections can extract confidential company information and personal data – potentially resulting in a breach of industry security protocols – or your entire network could be encrypted and unusable until a ransom is paid to the hacker in return for unlocking the encryption.
How Tools for Filtering Internet Content Mitigate the Threat of Hidden Security Risks
An Internet content filtering tool uses several mechanisms to mitigate the threat of hidden security risks. Blacklists, category blockers and keyword filters work in unison to prevent access to web pages likely to contain malware and prevent certain file types – those most commonly associated with malware infections – from being downloaded.
- Blacklists are usually provided and updated by the Internet filtering service provider. These not only block access to websites known to harbor hidden security risks, but also websites that hide their true identity by operating through a proxy server. Whitelists are also available – these allowing access to known safe websites that might be accidently blocked by over-zealous keyword filter settings.
- Usually an Internet filter tool will have preset category blockers that organizations can choose to apply as necessary. These block access to websites and file types by category description – for example: sport, shopping, pornography, .exe, .rar, etc. – while some tools for filtering Internet content provide the opportunity for organizations to create and customize their own unique categories.
- Keyword filters allow organizations to fine-tune their Internet filtering tool. Requests to access websites or web pages containing specific words can be allowed or declined depending on an organization´s acceptable Internet use policies and how the filtering parameters have been set. Tools for filtering Internet content also come with “access keys” that can be used as required to override keyword filter settings.
The Internet content filtering tool should be able to block access to P2P file sharing and chat applications, and anonymizer services that web users may use to circumnavigate the filtering parameters. It is also essential that the Internet filter tool is capable of SSL inspection. SSL inspection decrypts, reads and re-encrypts data from websites with HTTPS prefixes to check the content of the website against the filter settings. As mentioned above, an SSL certificate is no longer a guarantee of a secure website.
How an Internet Content Filtering Tool can Increase Workplace Productivity
Controlling access to hidden security risks not only enhances an organization´s online security profile, but can increase workplace productivity by limiting – or eliminating – access to non-work related websites. According to a survey conducted by Forbes in 2013, the average employee spends between two and three hours each day at work browsing websites unrelated to their role within their employer´s organization.
Many organizations include acceptable Internet use policies in employees´ contracts, but it is not always possible to police such policies. Tools for filtering Internet content can limit or eliminate access to social media sites, online shopping portals, pornography and video streaming websites to reduce the opportunities employees have to engage in non-work related online activity and potentially increase workplace productivity.
An Internet filter tool can also help to avoid potential HR issues and legal action against the organization by preventing access to all non-related web content that certain employees may take offence to. By preventing the scenario in which an employee’s colleagues are exposed to web content that offends them, the employing organization avoids the risk of an offended employee taking the organization to court for failing to provide an acceptable working environment.
|Eliminate Access to Non-Work Related Websites|
|Social Media||Online Gambling||Discrimination|
|Online Shopping||Hate Speech||Pharmaceuticals|
|Pornography||Illegal Drugs||Travel Sites|
|Video Streaming||Racial Violence||Real Estate|
Internet Filter Tool Comparison
There are a number of tools for filtering Internet content on the market and, in order to establish which is most suitable for your organization, it is best to conduct an Internet filter tool comparison. Tools for filtering Internet content are either hardware-based or software-based. Both types of Internet filter tool have their advantages and disadvantages, and the one that may be best suited to your organization may depend on your organization´s size and the level of service you require.
A hardware-based Internet filter tool will typically have higher implementation costs and lower operating costs. A hardware-based Internet filter tool can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars for an organization with a handful of Internet users and, if you manage the filter and software updates in-house, your ongoing costs will be minimal. However, hardware-based tools for filtering Internet content have limited scalability and, if you want to increase the number of users in your organization that have filtered Internet access, your costs could rise dramatically.
By comparison, software-based tools for filtering Internet content are typically free to implement and have ongoing subscription and service costs. With a software-based Internet filter tool the software and blacklists are kept up to date by the service provider, and you have access to customer and technical support around the clock. Software-based tools for filtering Internet content are typically universally scalable, and many filtering service providers will refund organizations for portions of their license that are no longer required if an organization contracts in size or reduces the number of users that require filtered Internet access.
Internet Content Filtering Tool Pricing
Internet content filtering tool pricing can vary considerably for hardware-based tools for filtering Internet content depending on the number of users that require filtered Internet access within your organization. For ultimate effectiveness, every Internet-capable device should be secured with an Internet content filtering tool. You also evaluate hardware-based tools carefully to ensure that the selected solution is capable of SSL inspection and multi-lingual filtering, and ideally has APIs for back-end integration.
Subscriptions for software-based Internet content filtering solutions also vary according to the volume of users, but are priced to be competitive when compared against hardware-based tools for filtering Internet content. Typically Internet content filtering tool pricing for software-based solutions cost little more than $15.00 per user per year – and many filtering service providers offer discounts for long-term subscriptions or allow the cost of the Internet filter tool subscription to be distributed throughout the year.
WebTitan´s Tools for Filtering Internet Content
WebTitan offers a range of enterprise-class tools for filtering Internet content. Each Internet content filtering tool has been developed to make the implementation and management of the solution as simple as possible, and each Internet filter tool is enhanced by a comprehensive range of features and industry-leading technical and customer support.
As the name suggests, WebTitan Cloud is a cloud-based Internet content filtering tool that is guaranteed to be compatible with every organization´s operating systems and users´ devices. WebTitan Cloud has a simple set up procedure that requires the redirection of an organization´s DNS – which means organizations can be filtering their Internet users´ online activities within minutes. WebTitan Cloud offers the simplest and most cost-effective solution to protecting your organization´s computer systems and networks from hidden security risks.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an Internet content filtering tool specifically developed to protect wireless networks. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is most suitable for organizations with one or more WiFi hotspots, as this highly scalable Internet filter tool can be applied to single WiFi access points or a nationwide network of WiFi hotspots. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has no limit on the number of devices that can be connected to the WiFi service and delivers fast, filtered Internet access with imperceptible loss of speed.
The Benefits of WebTitan´s Internet Filter Tool
Whichever of our tools for filtering Internet content is most appropriate for your organization, you can be certain of quick deployment, simple configuration and low management overheads. All of our solutions for Internet filtering come with a suite of reporting tools in order that administrators can monitor user activity and ensure that no attempts are being made to circumnavigate the filtering parameters.
Our multi-lingual filters block all access to all P2P file sharing applications and website anonymizer services by default; while administrators can select which chat or interactive applications should be blocked – with the option of allowing access to social media sites, shopping portals and video streaming sites at certain times of the day if required. As mentioned previously, our service is enhanced by industry-leading technical and customer support.
Try Our Tools for Filtering Internet Content for Free
You can find out more about WebTitan´s tools for filtering Internet content, and have your questions answered about which Internet filter tool might be most appropriate for your organization, by contacting us and discussing your requirements with one of sales engineers. You can then request a free trial of the most appropriate Internet content filtering tool in order to evaluate its ease of use and flexibility in your own environment.
You are also invited to request a free trial of our tools for filtering Internet content if you are a reseller or Managed Service Provider. All WebTitan web filters have multi-tenant capabilities are available in white label format for rebranding. We also offer a selection of hosting options for each solution - in our infrastructure, in your infrastructure, or deployed in a private cloud for each client via AWS. Contact us today for more information.