A web content filter appliance is a mechanism primarily used to enhance online security that has several valuable secondary benefits as well. In respect of online security, a web content filter appliance prevents Internet users from visiting websites that harbor malware and ransomware. It reduces the risk of a financial or data loss due to the actions of a cybercriminal and protects businesses, networks, and users from many different types of web-based threats.
In a workplace environment, appliances for filtering web content can be configured to prevent employees visiting non-work-related websites and “cyberslacking” – thus increasing productivity – while, in any place of public Internet access (such as a store, a school, a restaurant, or a workplace), a web content filter appliance can prevent customers, students, diners and employees being exposed to inappropriate online content.
Web Content Filtering Appliance Deployment Options
A web content filter appliance can be deployed in three different ways. Going back to the days when appliances for filtering web content were first commercially available, they were all hardware-based. A physical content filtering device had to be purchased, which made content filtering expensive. Hardware-based appliances are suitable for individual users and small home networks but, because of their cost and the work involved in configuring and updating each one, they are inappropriate solutions for larger organizations and businesses.
Because of the capital expense and high maintenance overheads of hardware-based appliances, software-based “virtual” appliances for filtering web content became popular. These are usually installed behind a firewall to protect whole networks and, as the software-based solutions evolved, they became more versatile. For example, tools were developed to integrate the virtual appliances with existing management tools in order to improve their ease of use.
Software-based solutions can create an additional load on CPUs during the SSL inspection process (the process that inspects the content of encrypted websites to see whether or not they comply with the appliance´s filtering settings), and cloud-based appliances for filtering web content have now been developed that filter Internet content in the cloud. Cloud-based Internet filtering appliances require no initial capital outlay, the service provider’s internet filtering appliance performs the SSL inspection so there is no impact on the user’s CPU, and appliance´s software updates are performed by the service provider so there is no need for manual updates of patching.
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How a Web Content Filter Appliance Works
Typically a web content filter appliance protects Internet users and networks by using a combination of blacklists, URIBL and SURBL filters, category filters, and keyword filters. Blacklists, URIBL and SURBL filters work together to prevent users from visiting websites known to harbor malware, those that have been identified as fake phishing sites, and those who hid their true identity by using the whois privacy feature or a proxy server. Genuine websites have no reason to hide their true identity.
In the category filtering process, the content of millions of web pages is analyzed and assigned a category. System administrators can then choose which categories to block access to (i.e. online shopping, alcohol, pornography, gambling, etc.) depending on whether the web content filter appliance is providing a service to a business, a store, a school, a restaurant, or a workplace. Most appliances for filtering web content also offer the facility to create bespoke categories.
Keyword filters have multiple uses. They can be used to block access to websites containing specific words (for example the business name of a competitor), specific file extensions (typically those most commonly used for deploying malware and ransomware), and specific web applications; if, for example, a business wanted to allow its marketing department access to Facebook, but not FaceTime. Effectively, the keyword filters fine-tune the category settings, enhance security and increase productivity.
Managing Appliances for Filtering Web Content
One of the key considerations when developing web filtering appliances is they need to be easy to use. When the first hardware-based solutions were developed, the work involved in configuring and updating each one often resulted in filtering parameters being set too high – blocking access to important work-related or educational websites – or too low – leaving gateways open for cybercriminals to infiltrate the network.
Modern software and cloud-based appliances for filtering web content are managed via a central web-based portal. The portal enables system administrators to quickly and easily set filtering parameters of their virtual web filtering appliance by individual user, user group, or organization-wide. For example, in a school environment, what might be considered important educational information for older students may be inappropriate for younger children. The portal also allows system administrators to view Internet activity in real-time or order reports on historical Internet activity.
One important function of the portal is whitelisting. Whitelisting trusted websites allows them to bypass the web content filter appliance and – in the case of software-based appliances – reduces the load on the CPU during the SSL inspection process. Businesses should note it is advisable not to whitelist more websites than necessary as the risk exists a “trusted” website could be compromised at a later stage. Whitelisting a handful of frequently-visited business-critical websites should be sufficient to avoid the issue of latency.
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Appliances for Filtering Web Content from TitanHQ
TitanHQ has been developing appliances for filtering web content since 2009 and now helps organizations reduce the threat from malware and ransomware in over one hundred countries. TitanHQ’s WebTitan virtual appliances for filtering web content have won awards “for policy control combined with solid malware protection, web filtering, and application control” and are available in a choice of deployment options:
|WebTitan Gateway is a low maintenance, software-based
web filter appliance that can be run as an ISO directly on your hardware or on your virtual infrastructure. The content filtering appliance has automatic configuration, backup, and update features, and is scalable up to 60,000 users.
|WebTitan Cloud is a cloud-based web content filter appliance that is remarkably versatile, scalable, and compatible with all operating systems. It is deployed by redirecting your DNS server´s settings to our servers and consequently takes less than five minutes to set up and configure.|
|WebTitan Cloud for WiFi|
|WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is the best web content filter appliance for organizations that provide a public WiFi service or promote a BYOD policy. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has been developed to support both single WiFi access points and wireless networks consisting of multiple WiFi hotspots.|
Why You Should Choose WebTitan
- Prevent malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks.
- Enhance productivity and mitigate HR issues.
- Avoid guests being exposed to inappropriate content.
- Create a safe browsing environment.
- Prevent P2P file sharing and other illegal activities.
- Manage bandwidth and network resources.
- Easy to install with a low maintenance overhead.
Your Invitation to Try WebTitan for Free
If you have concerns about your organization´s defenses against malware and ransomware, would like an effective solution to prevent “cyberslacking”, or want to make sure customers, students, diners, or employees are not exposed to inappropriate online content, speak with us about a free trial of whichever WebTitan virtual content filter appliance is most suitable for your needs.
Our team of Sales Technicians will be happy to answer any questions you have about appliances for filtering web content and explain our free trial invitation to you in greater detail. There are no credit cards required nor contracts to sign; and, if at the end of the trial period you are happy to continue using our service, we offer a range of competitive pricing options to suit all budgets.
We also invite Managed Service Providers to speak with us about our MSP Program. Our program gives MSPs and resellers the opportunity to become Certified Partners and take advantage of the one-to-one training available on our white-labeled, multi-tenanted range of online security products. Call us today to find out more.
FAQs about Web Content Filtering
How secure are guest Wi-Fi networks?
You can create a guest Wi-Fi network to prevent any guest user from accessing your main network and any resources connected to it. If a malware-infected device connects to the guest network, that malware cannot be transferred to your main network which will remain secure.
Can guest Wi-Fi networks be trusted?
Guest Wi-Fi networks are usually set up by businesses to separate guest network users from employees for security reasons. That does not mean the network itself is secure by default. A password should be set, traffic encrypted, and a web filter should be used to control what guests can do while connected to guest Wi-Fi. As a guest Wi-Fi user, you should assume that the connection is being monitored.
What content should I block with a web filter?
Most businesses block unsavory content by category, such as adult content, along with anonymizer services to prevent the filtering controls from being bypassed. Social media sites, dating sites, gambling and gaming sites can be blocked to improve productivity. Malicious websites and illegal content can be easily blocked using blacklists, which are automatically updated.
Which is best, an appliance or a cloud-based web filter?
Each has advantages but for most businesses, cloud-based filters are the best choice. There is no expensive hardware to purchase, the cloud is scalable and will grow with the business, there are no software downloads required, and updates are handled by the service provider. You can also be up and running and filtering the Internet within minutes of paying the license cost or starting your free trial.