URL filtering software is not a mechanism with the sole purpose of blocking access to websites by their URL. Although the primary objective of URL content filtering is to manage what websites users have access to, a URL filter is capable of enhancing a company´s online security profile and defending the company from web-borne threats.
A URL filtering tool is sophisticated and versatile. It can be configured to block access to specific content or applications within a website, specific types of file or specific types of threat. URL filtering software with SSL inspection can decrypt https web pages to ensure they are not harboring malware, and check that the encrypted content does not violate acceptable use policies.
The Threat of Malware and its Consequences
According to independent studies conducted by Symantec and Google, most websites – including encrypted websites with SSL security certificates – have vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers to upload malware. Hackers have even taken advantage of free Domain Validation SSL certificates from web performance companies to create their own, supposedly secure, phishing websites.
The risk to a company is – that without an https URL filtering solution in place – an employee could visit an apparently genuine website and provide confidential information or download malicious software that could infect an entire network without necessarily violating the company´s acceptable use policy. If the company provides a WiFi network service, malware could be transmitted to any devices connected to the network.
The consequences of malware depends on its nature. Some malicious software only monitors online activity in order to send targeted advertising to the user. Keylogging software records usernames and passwords for a hacker to extract confidential data, while the latest trends in cybercrime include ransomware and phishing – now the most common threat to online security.
How URL Filtering Software Mitigates the Threat of Malware, Ransomware and Phishing
URL filtering software mitigates the threat of malware, ransomware and phishing through a three-tiered process. The first tier compares a request to visit a website against a blacklist of website URLs known to be harboring malware. If the request matches a blacklisted URL, the request is denied. Blacklists are typically supplied by a filtering software service provider and updated in real time.
Also within the first tier of a URL filtering software, SURBL and URIBL filters check each request to visit a website against a database of IP addresses from which spam email is known to have originated. Nearly all spam email these days is associated with phishing, and 90% of phishing emails have the objective of executing a ransomware attack.
The second and third tiers are category and keyword filters. Although the categories into which certain types of website fall are updated by the filtering software service provider, the choice of which categories and keywords are blocked by the URL filtering solution are the prerogative of a system administrator. Downloadable file types and applications can also be blocked using these mechanisms.
These three tiers work together to optimize a company´s online security profile and mitigate the risk of a phishing email being successful. Administrators should be aware of blocking anonymizer sites and any other tools that can allow users to circumnavigate the filter´s parameters. If access to a blocked website is required for legitimate purposes, administrator access keys are able to override the settings.
The Importance of SSL Inspection
At the turn of the new millennium, encrypted websites were only used for certain types of email accounts, financial transactions and corporate communication networks. Since then, the growth of encryption has been phenomenal – driven by social media portals wishing to keep their customers´ conversations private, and Google enhancing the positions of encrypted websites in Search Engine Results Pages.
As mentioned above, hackers have been able to take advantage of free Domain Validation SSL certificates from web performance companies to create their own, supposedly secure, phishing websites. As URL filtering software without SSL inspection cannot read the content of encrypted websites, it allows access to the website as it cannot find evidence of malware or content that contravenes acceptable use policies.
A known issue with hardware URL content filtering solutions and some URL content filtering software is that SSL inspection can place a drain on CPU resources and affect network performance during peak hours. During these times, access to the Internet – including web-based applications such as email – can be very slow or temporarily unavailable.
For this reason, a URL filtering solution should have a “whitelisting” facility. With this facility administrators can allow trusted, business-critical websites and web-based applications to bypass the URL content filtering software. This should resolve network performance issues related to SSL inspection. Please note these issues do not occur on cloud-based URL filtering solutions.
Increasing Workplace Productivity with URL Content Filtering
A URL filtering tool not only helps a company optimize its online security profile, it can also help increase workplace productivity. Forbes reported in 2013 that the average employee wastes between two and three hours each day by “cyberslacking” – visiting websites unrelated to their employment and engaging in non-productive online activities.
Most employers include acceptable use policies in employees´ contracts in order to guide employees on what is considered acceptable Internet use by the company. These policies are often difficult to police. However, with URL content filtering, administrators not only have control over what websites can be accessed, but also received email alerts when attempts are made to visit a prohibited domain.
URL content filtering can also help companies avoid potential HR issues. By facilitating control over what websites can be accessed, a URL filtering tool prevents the scenario in which employees are exposed to objectionable material by other employees – eliminating the need to take disciplinary action and avoiding a potential lawsuit for failing to provide a suitable working environment.
|Prevent Cyberslacking by Blocking Access to:|
|Pornography||Online Gambling||Real Estate Sites|
|Travel Websites||Job Search Sites||Chatrooms|
|Online Shopping||Social Media||Dating Websites|
URL Filtering Solution Comparison
There are three different types of website filtering solution – hardware, software and cloud-based. A hardware URL filtering solution is only viable for a small company with just one or two Internet users. This is because a hardware URL filtering tool has a high implementation cost, lacks scalability, and requires individual software updates.
A software-based URL filtering solution is often a more appropriate solution for a larger company. This type of website filtering tool has no implementation costs and, instead, ongoing subscription fees that can be tailored to suit a company´s requirements. Blacklists and software updates are conducted by the service provider, freeing IT support to attend to more business-critical tasks.
A cloud-based solution is practically identical to the software option, except the software is hosted in the cloud, rather than installed on a company´s network. A cloud-based URL filtering tool is the easiest to implement, as it only requires a redirection of the company´s DNS settings to point to the service provider´s server.
Selecting the Right URL Filtering Tool for Your Needs
SpamTitan offers companies a choice of URL filtering tool from the industry-leading online security provider – WebTitan. Each of our three enterprise-class URL filtering software solutions are scalable, versatile and compatible with every operating system. Each also has SSL inspection for maximum protection against online threats.
For companies that prefer the convenience of cloud-based URL content filtering solutions, WebTitan Cloud is a low-maintenance alternative. No hardware purchases or software installation is required, and with this URL filtering solution you can be filtering the Internet within minutes.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has been developed with the intention of giving WiFi hotspot providers control over the material that can be accessed via WiFi access points. This highly scalable URL filtering solution can be used to protect single routers or large networks of WiFi hotspots.
WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi are the ideal choice for MSPs and service resellers, as both are multi-tenanted solutions and available in white-label formats with a choice of hosting options.
Speak with SpamTitan for Further Details and a Free Trial
Even if your company already has a URL filtering solution in place, it could be worth your while speaking with us about the benefits of our URL filtering software with SSL inspection and taking advantage of our free trial offer. As the sophistication of web-borne threats and phishing attacks increases, the only way to mitigate the risk is by optimizing your company´s online security profile.
Our free trial of whichever WebTitan solution is most appropriate for your company will enable you to compare our URL filtering tool against your existing security mechanisms. We believe a free trial is the best way for system administrators to find the optimum settings on our URL content filtering solutions to achieve the maximum protection for your network and its users.
There are no set up costs or credit card required to take advantage of our free trial offer. Simply contact us with your details and any questions you may have about ULR content filtering, and our team of sales engineers will be happy to provide you with the answers and guide you through the set up and configuration of compatible, versatile and scalable URL filtering software.
- URL filtering software does more than block access to websites.
- It can block access to specific content, applications and file types.
- A three-tiered approach to URL filtering maximizes granularity.
- Filtering policies can be applied by user, user-group or network-wide.
- Acceptable use policies are easier to police - resulting in higher productivity.
- A choice of deployment options exists to accommodate businesses of all sizes.