What is a Web Filtering Appliance?

A web filtering appliance is an Internet content filter that blocks web-borne threats such as malware, ransomware and phishing. It also gives network managers control over what online content can be accessed by network users. Therefore, as well as keeping networks and the devices that connect to them free from viruses, a web filtering appliance can also help improve productivity in the workplace.

How a Web Filtering Appliance Protects Networks

Whenever a network user clicks on a link or enters a URL into a browser bar, the web filtering appliance compares the request to visit a website against blacklists of websites and IP addresses. The blacklists are kept up to date with details of websites and IP addresses known to harbor malware or associated with spam emails – spam emails being a high risk vector for phishing attacks.

If a requested web page is encrypted (i.e. has an https:// prefix), the web filtering appliance decrypts the web page, virus scans its content, and re-encrypts the web page in a process known as SSL inspection. It is important web filter appliances perform this process, as malware is known to have been previously hidden in supposedly “secure” websites with fake or stolen SSL certificates.

If the web filtering appliance finds a match between the requested website address and a website/IP address on the blacklist, access to the website is denied to the network user who receives a notification explaining why their request have been denied. The blocked URL/IP address is added to a report that can be used by network managers to demonstrate compliance with industry security regulations.

How Network Managers Can Control Access to Internet Content

Whereas the mechanisms that protect networks from malware, ransomware and phishing attacks are included in a web filtering appliance by default, network managers have complete discretion over what Internet content network users can access. The application of user policies is managed via an administrative portal and includes category filters and keyword filters.

More than six billion web pages are sorted into categories depending on the nature of their content – for example adult entertainment, online gambling, social media, etc. Network managers can select which categories they want block access to with the click of a mouse and fine-tune their selections using keyword filters to block access to smaller groups of websites without blocking the entire category.

Network managers can apply the filtering parameters by individual user, user group or network-wide. Restrictions can be applied by time, bandwidth or – on multi-location networks – by IP address. It is recommended network managers also block web traffic passing through non-standard ports and access to anonymizer sites that may be used to bypass the filtering parameters.

The Financial Benefits of Web Filtering

The primary financial benefit of web filtering is not having your network exposed to malware, ransomware and phishing attacks. The cost of recovering from a successful arrack can be millions of dollars for a large network. A secondary financial benefit – improved productivity – can also save business millions of dollars each year depending on the size of the business.

There are also some less apparent financial benefits, such as the elimination of HR issues as a result of blocking access to online material that may be considered offensive or inappropriate, and the provision of a more family-friendly WiFi service by businesses in the hospitality industry – as McDonalds and Starbucks both witnessed when they implemented a web filtering appliance.

Businesses in the hospitality industry who monitor web activity through the web filtering appliance can use the data they collect to tailor marketing activities towards their customers. For example, if a bar offering a WiFi service identifies that customers regularly visit football-related websites, the bar could host a special football-themed evening to increase the volume of returning customers.

WebTitan Web Filter Appliances from SpamTitan

The WebTitan range of web filter appliances has been developed to provide maximum network protection and give network managers maximum control over what online content can be accessed by network users. Each of the range is a low maintenance “set and forget” web filtering appliance that can be integrated with Active Directory to quickly apply user policies.

Our range of web filter appliances is available in a choice of deployment options. WebTitan Cloud is a DNS-based web filter that delivers Internet access with imperceptible latency, and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi protects wireless networks and the devices that connect to them.

To discover more about the WebTitan range of web filter appliances, and to request a free trial of the web filtering appliance most suitable for your business, do not hesitate to contact us. Our helpful and experienced Customer Support Team will be happy to discuss your specific requirements with you, and guide you through the process of registering for your free trial.