Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots has many valuable applications. It can be used to mitigate the risk from web-borne threats, create a family-friendly browsing experience, ensure that the Internet is available to all WiFi users at all times, and a WiFi filter can also be used to gain valuable insights into the activities of your WiFi users.
These benefits should not be underestimated, as we will explain below; however, before we cover the main benefits of Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots, we will first explain how WiFi content filtering works.
How Internet Content Filtering for WiFi Hotspots Works
When you implement Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots, different mechanisms exist to protect your computer network and the devices of customers who connect to it wirelessly. The main mechanisms that protect against web-borne threats are blacklists, URIBL filters and SUBRL filters. These are provided by your service provider, although it is possible to add third-party blacklists.
- Blacklists are lists of websites known to harbor malware, bugs, adware, ransomware, phishing kits, and practically every other type of malicious code that could exploit vulnerabilities in a computer system to commit fraud or theft. Blacklists are also maintained for illegal websites, such as the Internet Watch Foundation blacklist that includes websites and web pages containing images of child abuse and child pornography.
- URIBL and SUBRL filters contain lists of IP address from which spam email is known to have originated – often an indicator of a phishing website – and websites that hide their true identity behind a proxy server or behind the WHOIS privacy feature.
When a network user types in a URL or clicks on a link to a website, the Internet content filter checks the request to visit the website against the blacklists, URIBL and SUBRL filters. If a match is found, the network user´s request is denied and they are provided with a warning and a reason why their request has been denied. The request is also logged and can be accessed by the administrator through scheduled and on-demand reports, or instant alerts.
Category and keyword filters are also used to control the content that can be accessed by WiFi users. An Internet content filtering solution accesses web sites and assigns each to a category based on the site content. An administrator can decide what types of content they want their users to be able to access, and block certain categories of content by clicking a check box in the management interface. All attempts to visit that category of website will then be blocked. Keyword filters can also be used to block access to web pages that contain specific keywords or block the page if the density of undesirable keywords exceeds a certain threshold. Keyword filters can be used to block downloads of files containing certain words, or files that have specific file extensions such as .exe, .js, .msi, for instance.
All requests to visit encrypted websites also undergo a process known as SSL inspection. This process decrypts, reads and re-encrypts encrypted websites (those starting with an https:// prefix) to ensure they do not contain any malware or ransomware and that their content complies with with the parameters you have set through your management interface. This feature is important as many malicious websites have SSL certificates and encrypt content. Without SSL inspection, that content would be invisible to the web filter.
If you want to set different filtering controls for different user groups, departments, or individuals, that is straightforward. You have full control and can apply filtering controls at the organization, user, department, or individual level. This is simplified through integration with Active Directory, LDAP and NetIQ.
Creating a Family-Friendly Browsing Experience
Some difficult issues can arise when you provide a free public WiFi service. Some Internet users prefer to browse the Internet from the anonymity of a public WiFi service so they do not have to disclose their private IP address. Minors, who have Internet filters at home, also take advantage of unfiltered Internet services to watch content their parents would not approve of.
Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots allows you to control access to websites that contain offensive or illegal material. By using category filters you can simply block access to websites containing pornography, racial hate speech, gambling, weapons, and other age-inappropriate or undesirable content.
Most customers do not want to walk into a business and be exposed to pornography, racial hatred or images child abuse on other customer’s screens. This issue was acknowledged by two of the largest free WiFi service providers in the country – McDonalds and Starbucks – when they announced in 2016 they were implementing Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots throughout their restaurants and coffee shops. The London high end department store Selfridges also implemented a WiFi filter to prevent its service from being used by store visitors for accessing inappropriate content.
Not only does the implementation of Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots create a family-friendly browsing experience, the positive publicity the above corporations received, they are now attracting custom from their closest industry rivals who have failed to show their customers that they care and apply similar controls for their WiFi service.
Businesses that implement WiFi filters and prevent access to age-inappropriate content such as pornography can apply and sign a licensing agreement to display the Friendly WiFi logo. This advertises to customers that a safe and secure WiFi service is offered, which can help to attract new business.
Ensure the Internet is Available to All Customers at All Times
Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots cannot prevent signal outages from your ISP, but what it can do is restrict the bandwidth being used by your customers. At times of high bandwidth use, Internet access is likely to get slower – meaning some customers will be unable to access the Internet.
During times of peak Internet traffic, it is possible to apply limits to how much bandwidth each device can use. Consequently if one or two customers are preventing other customers from accessing the Internet due to live-streaming videos or downloading large files, their bandwidth use can be restricted in order to ensure the Internet is available to all customers at all times.
Bandwidth can also be consumed in large quantities if a customer has a malware infection on their device. By advising the customer that their device is using up more bandwidth than might be considered usual, the customer can take the appropriate actions to clear the malware from their smartphone, tablet or laptop: A smart customer service move by any business.
Using Reports as Marketing Tools
In a retail environment, using the reports generated by Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots can help you gain an advantage over your competitors. The reports were initially developed to show the effectiveness of the Internet content filter, the threats they had encountered and the actions that had been taken. However, over time the reports have evolved.
Now it is possible to monitor the category of website that customers have visited or – with keyword categories applied – the nature of the business within that category. The reports generated by the Internet content filter that reveal the nature of your customers´ web-browsing habits and online activities. These reports are not invasive. They do not disclose that Mr. A was illegally betting on sports or that Mrs. B was maxing out her credit card at an online shopping portal. What they do reveal is the type of online activity that your customers engage in – information that can be used to tailor future marketing efforts and develop user-friendly services.
Even if your organization is not in a retail environment, the reports generated by Internet content filters can help to enforce acceptable use policies. The reports reveal when an Internet user has attempted to circumnavigate the filter´s parameters with a VPN or anonymizer site, and when attempts have been made to access web content contrary to your organization´s policies.
Introducing WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an award-winning powerful yet practical web filtering solution for providers of public WiFi services. It is straightforward to deploy, easy to manage, and does not require customers to download software onto their devices in order to access the Internet. Since the solution is 100% cloud-based, there is no need to purchase any hardware. You just need to point your DNS to WebTitan and you can be filtering the Internet in minutes.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi supports all mobile devices – laptops, notebooks, mobile phones and tablets – with no limit to the number of hotspots that can be managed, no limit on the geographical location(s) of the hotspots, and no limit on the number of users that can be connected to the WiFi service at the same time. The service is highly scalable with fully transparent and flexible pricing.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi offers highly granular controls to allow service providers to carefully control content and apply unique web filtering settings to dictate the content that can be accessed by customers. Controls can be set by URL, website category, keyword, keyword score, or file type.
Setting and adjusting the filtering parameters on our Internet content filter could not be easier. A simple web-based control panel allows you to manage the hotspot web filter settings from any location. You can also generate highly granular reports in real-time, schedule regular reports, set alerts for certain events, and extract valuable data from users viewing habits through an intuitive user interface. reports are available ay the global and account level.
WebTitan integrates with existing systems via APIs which allow the administrator to easily create new accounts, extract reports, and interface with the existing management console. The APIs also allow easy integration of the solution with existing billing, auto provisioning and monitoring systems. The solution is available with multiple hosting options: The WebTitan Cloud, a private dedicated cloud, or within your own data center.
Furthermore, all customers benefit from world class customer support – should anything go wrong or if you have any questions, help is always at hand. WebTitan is also very competitively priced. WebTitan will allow you to filter the Internet, protect your customers, and monitor WiFi use at a fraction of the cost of many other access point filtering solutions.
Speak with WebTitan about Internet Content Filtering for WiFi Hotspots
Irrespective of the nature of your business, if you provide a public WiFi service you should speak with the WebTitan team about In0ternet content filtering for WiFi hotspots. Our Internet content filter keeps your premises secure from online threats, enables the creation of a family-friendly browsing environment, and can help to grow your business.
If you have any questions about Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots - or WebTitan Cloud for WiFi - please do not hesitate to contact us. Our experienced and friendly sales technicians will be happy to guide you through the benefits of Internet content filtering for WiFi hotspots and, if you are tempted to give our product a try, will offer you a free trial of the WebTitan WiFi access point Internet filter.