A website filtering tool prevents Internet users from visiting websites that may contain risks to online security or inappropriate material. As a safeguard against malware, adware, ransomware and “malvertising”, tools for filtering websites are becoming key elements of cybersecurity defenses.
A web filter tool can also improve productivity of the workforce and help prevent HR issues in the workplace. By blocking access to social media sites, online shopping portals, pornography, video streaming websites, dating sites and gambling sites, employees have fewer opportunities for slacking off online. If you filter website content to restrict access to NSFW websites, you will also ensure that colleagues are not exposed to objectionable web content.
The Threat of Malware and its Consequences
Recent research by Google has revealed that more than 800,000 websites have been infected with drive-by download malware. Similar research conducted by the online security company Symantec indicates as many as three quarters of websites contain security vulnerabilities.
What this means in terms of your organization´s cybersecurity defenses is that an employee could visit an apparently trusted website and inadvertently download malware onto their device. Malware infections are capable of spreading throughout entire networks and – if your organization has a wireless network – the infection could spread to any device connecting to it.
The consequences of having an infected network will depend on the nature of the malware. Some adware bugs simply monitor online activity to send targeted advertising; but more serious infections can lead to confidential company information and personal data being extracted, or your entire network being encrypted and unusable until a ransom is paid for the key to unlock the encryption.
How Tools for Filtering Websites Mitigate the Threat of Malware
A website filtering tool uses various mechanisms to mitigate the threat of malware. Blacklists, category filters and keyword filters work together to block access to web pages that contain malware or executable files that could transmit an infection.
- Various types of blacklist can be obtained from the Internet or the vendor supplying the web filter service. They are frequently updated as new risks are identified in order to provide the maximum defense against the threat of malware.
- Usually a web filter tool will have preset categories that organizations can choose to apply as they wish. Some tools for filtering websites offer the possibility of creating and customizing unique categories – adding extra flexibility to the Internet filtering solution.
- Keyword filters add an extra level of “granularity” or fine-tuning to a website filtering tool. Access to web pages containing specific words can be allowed or denied depending on the organization´s acceptable use policies and the filtering parameters set.
The website filtering tool itself should be capable of blocking anonymizer services, P2P file sharing applications and sites that operate through a proxy server to disguise their true identity. It is also essential that the web filter tool has SSL inspection. This feature decrypts, reads and re-encrypts data from websites with HTTPS prefixes to check the content against the filter´s parameters. Sadly this days, an HTTPS certificate is no longer a guarantee of security. HTTPS inspection allows you to filter website content that is encrypted.
Tools for Filtering Websites can also Help Protect Against Phishing
Email filters have been regarded for a long time as the best way of preventing phishing emails from reaching their intended victims. Due to the increased sophistication of phishing attacks, certain types of phishing emails – typically those from compromised email accounts – evade detection by email filters and find their way to the victims´ inboxes.
Some organizations have implemented staff awareness training to identify phishing emails when they evade detection. But sometimes even this supposed last line of defense is not sufficient to prevent an employee clicking on a link they believe to be genuine and potentially downloading malware or ransomware onto the organization´s network.
Tools for filtering websites can provide a further line of defense if they include SURBL and URIBL filters. These compare requests to visit websites, such as when an employee clicks on a link in an email, with lists of IP addresses from which spam email is known to have originated – spam emails and phishing emails often sharing the same origins.
This process can help undermine phishing attempts that disguise the true destination of a link with HTML code. Incredibly 99.5% of “secure” websites (those with SSL Certificates) with the word “PayPal” in their URL are fake phishing websites. SURBL and URIBL filters filter website content to prevent your network users from visiting these sites in error.
How a Website Filtering Tool can Improve Productivity in the Workplace
Controlling access to unsafe or unwelcome web content not only increases an organization´s online security profile, but can improve productivity in the workplace. A survey conducted in 2013 by Forbes concluded the average employee wastes between two and three hours each day at work on non-work related Internet activities.
Many organizations have acceptable use policies, but it is not always possible to enforce these policies without looking over an employee´s shoulder at all times. Tools for filtering websites restrict access to social media sites, online shopping portals, pornography and video streaming websites to potentially improve productivity in the workplace. Blocking access to gambling sites, dating websites, and gaming sites can have a major impact on productivity.
A web filter tool can prevent HR issues and possible legal action by blocking access to all formats of objectionable web content and preventing the scenario in which an employee’s colleagues are exposed to material that offends them. This scenario can lead to an offended employee taking the employer to court, as it is the employer who has a duty of care to provide an acceptable working environment.
Web Filter Tool Comparison
There are many tools for filtering websites on the market, and the best way to determine which is best for your organization is to conduct a web filter tool comparison. There are two main types of web filter tool – an appliance-based web filter tool and a software-based web filter tool. Both types have their advantages and disadvantages depending on the size of your organization and the level of service you require.
An appliance-based web filter tool will usually have higher implementation costs but lower operating costs. Depending on the size of your organization, an appliance-based web filter tool can cost as little as a couple of hundred dollars. However, the sky is the limit for larger organizations; and, if your organization expands, appliance-based tools for filtering websites have limited scalability – you could be spending a lot more money on hardware than you originally intended.
By comparison, software-based tools for filtering websites are usually free to implement but require that your organization subscribes to a service to operate the website filtering tool. This is not necessarily a bad thing because – with a software-based web filter tool – the software and blacklists are updated by the service provider, saving the resources of your organization´s IT department to focus on business-critical issues. Software-based tools for filtering websites are typically universally scalable.
Website Filtering Tool Pricing
As mentioned above, website filtering tool pricing can vary considerably for appliance-based tools for filtering websites based on the number of employees or Internet users whose access to the web you want to control. You also have to shop around carefully to ensure that whatever hardware is selected is capable of SSL inspection and multi-lingual filtering, and ideally has APIs for back-end integration.
Subscriptions for software-based Internet filtering solutions also vary according to the volume of users and typically cost little more than $15.00 per user per year – not a great expense when compared to the cost of cleansing an infected network, the cost of lost productivity or the cost of defending an employee´s grievance. Many service providers will offer organizations discounts for long-term subscriptions or allow the website filtering tool pricing to be distributed throughout the year.
WebTitan´s Tools for Filtering Websites
WebTitan offers a choice of three enterprise-class tools for filtering websites. Each has been designed to make the implementation and management of Internet filtering as simple as possible, and each is supported by an impressive range of features and industry leading technical service.
WebTitan Gateway is a robust web filtering tool, offering versatile control over Internet access and the maximum level of protection against online threats. WebTitan Gateway is implemented as a software appliance that can be installed on your own hardware or hosted in a virtual environment. Filtering parameters can be set and updated remotely via a browser based administration portal, and the web filtering tool is pre-configured with a range of APIs.
WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based website filtering tool, guaranteed to be compatible with every operating system and device. The implementation of WebTitan Cloud simply requires the redirection of your organization´s DNS in order to be filtering the Internet within minutes. With WebTitan Cloud, filtering the Internet and protecting your organization´s network from Internet threats could not be any easier. WebTitan Cloud allows you to quickly filter website content and carefully control what employees and guests can access.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a web filtering tool that has been developed to protect wireless networks. Ideally suited for organizations with one or more WiFi hotspots, this highly scalable website filtering tool can be used for single WiFi access points or nationwide networks of WiFi hotspots. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has no limit on the number of devices or routers, and delivers fast Internet access with imperceptible latency, allowing you to filter website content and provide a clean, filtered Internet service for your Wi-Fi users.
The Benefits of WebTitan´s Web Filter Tool
Whichever of our tools for filtering websites ticks all the boxes for your organization, you can be sure of quick deployment, easy configuration and a low management overhead. APIs are supplied for seamless integration with existing management tools and directory services such as Active Directory, LDAP or NetIQ, while our multi-lingual filters blocking all anonymizer services, P2P file sharing applications and sites that operate through a proxy server. SSL inspection comes as standard.
You can find out more about WebTitan´s tools for filtering websites, and discuss which web filter tool might be most suitable for your organization, by contacting us and speaking with one of sales engineers. We will invite you to try our web filtering tool on a thirty-day free trial before you commit to using our service. We believe that once you have experienced the plug-in-and-leave simplicity of our website filtering tool, you will never want to unplug it again.
How does a website filtering tool help prevent phishing?
A website filtering tool helps prevent the consequences of a user clicking on a phishing email that has evaded detection by an email filter. It does this by comparing the request to visit a phishing website against lists of top level domain names and websites that have recently appeared in spam and phishing emails and blocking the request if the destination website is known to be malicious.
Can I allow my marketing team access to social media and block access for everyone else?
WebTitan´s web filter tools include simple controls that allow access to specific categories of website by user, by team, or by department. The controls can be customized so - for example - the marketing team could have access to the Facebook web site but not Facebook chat. Similarly, you could allow your procurement team access to online shopping sites, or your finance team access to online banking. It is easy to filter website content for different users and user groups through Active Directory integration.
How many website blocking categories are there?
The WebTitan suite of web filtering solutions includes fifty-three pre-configured website blocking categories, plus the opportunity exists to create up to eight further customizable categories. The option also exists to block specific websites (i.e. competitor´s websites) by keyword or other attribute. Again, categories and keywords can be applied by individual user, by team, or by department.
How can I tell how effective the website filter tool is?
You can request or schedule reports via the web-based management console that will tell you which websites were blocked, why they were blocked, and who tried to access them. Also, when you start receiving complaints from employees that they are unable to follow the sports news during working hours that is a good indication the website filter tool is doing its job.
Is it possible to filter website content on employees' mobile devices?
It is only possible to control which websites employees can access when they are using a corporate Wi-Fi service. If an employee´s mobile device is connected to a carrier´s 4G or 5G service, the web filtering tool has no control over what websites are accessed. This is an issue that would have to be resolved by implement and enforcing a cellphone acceptable use policy.