A website blocking filter has two goals – to control network user Internet access and reduce exposure to malware and ransomware. By achieving the first goal, businesses can increase productivity and provide a more pleasant web browsing experience for employees, visitors and customers.
Achieving the second goal is often of greater importance to business. The cost of recovering from a malware infection or ransomware attack can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. In some cases, the consequences of a malware infection or ransomware attack can cause businesses to close.
Increasing Productivity with a Website Blocking Filter
“Cyber-skiving” – or, using the Internet at work for non-work related activities – is estimated to cost industry trillions of dollars each year in lost productivity, and it is not all attributable to online pornography. Last year´s Amazon Prime Day was estimated to cost industry more than $10 billion in lost productivity as workers interrupted their workplace duties to keep an eye on the latest deals.
There is a school of thought that a little downtime is good for productivity. Whether you subscribe to that view or not, there are some employees or enjoy a little too much downtime – not only to the detriment of their own productivity, but often also to the detriment of their colleagues´ productivity and – depending on the nature of the non-work related activities – the workplace environment.
A website blocking filter prevents employees visiting websites that colleagues would find offensive or inappropriate and, if allowed a little downtime during the working day, limits their access to non-work related activities by bandwidth or time. User policies can be applied by user group or individual user so all employees are treated equally but exceptions can be made when necessary.
The Mechanisms behind Effective Network Protection
In order to be effective at preventing malware infections and ransomware attacks, a website blocking filter uses multiple mechanisms. Most include blacklists of websites known to harbor malware and those that hide their true identity behind a proxy server or the whois privacy feature. It is vital to network protection these blacklists cannot be disabled and work in incognito mode.
Ransomware attacks often start with a user opening a phishing email containing an infected attachment or a link to an infected website. A website blocking filter with SURBL protection can prevent certain file types downloading and prevent users visiting websites with the same IP addresses as those from which spam emails and phishing emails are known to have originated.
A further important mechanism is SSL inspection. This mechanism decrypts the content of “secure” encrypted websites (those with an https:// prefix) so it can be scanned by anti-virus software. Once checked, the mechanism re-encrypts the website content in order to ensure the integrity of communications between the encrypted website and the network user.
The Importance of Granularity
The term “granularity” relates to how flexible the filtering parameters are. As mentioned above, a website blocking filter can apply user policies by time and bandwidth, and by user group or individual user. It can also block specified categories of website content from some user groups, while allowing access to others – i.e. if a business wanted its marketing department to have access to social media.
A website blocking filter sorts the content of the Alexa million most visited websites into predetermined categories (abortion, adult entertainment, alternative beliefs, etc.). Network administrators can block access to these categories with the click of a mouse. However, not all website blocking filters have the same number of categories. The more categories a website blocking filter has, the more granular it is.
The benefit of granularity is that offensive or inappropriate online content is easier to block more effectively. If there is only a limited number of categories to choose from, the risk exists access to business-critical websites or web applications may be denied – causing additional work for network administrators, who have to whitelist each website they want to bypass the filtering mechanisms.
Ease of Use is Also a Key Factor
Even if a website blocking filter has the best malware protection and granularity in the world, it may fail to effectively protect a network and increase productivity if it is too complicated to use. When website filters were first introduced into schools in the 2000s, students were prevented from accessing educationally important information because of this very reason.
Therefore, the best filtering solution for most scenarios is one that manages an entire network from a single administration portal, has a user-friendly interface, and can be integrated with existing directory tools for the accelerated application of user policies. It should also support multiple roles for delegation of responsibilities – i.e. network administrator, report manger and policy manager.
Features such as automatic configuration, automatic back-up and automatic update should be present by default, and ideally the website blocking filter should have a policy violation alert system in order to warn network administrators of attempts to visit unsafe websites or circumnavigate the filtering parameters (typically by using anonymizer services or VPNs).
Try a Website Blocking Filter for Free
WebTitan has been developing online security solutions since 1999, and we are aware of the importance of granularity and ease of use. We have developed a range of filtering solutions that offer maximum protection against online threats – and maximum granularity to increase productivity – without over-complicating the application and monitoring of user policies:
WebTitan Gateway is a powerful website blocking filter that is installed as a virtual appliance behind a network´s firewall. Also compatible with networks hosted in virtual infrastructures, WebTitan Gateway has a full diagnostic tool set and is scalable up to 60,000 users.
WebTitan Cloud filters website content in our IL5-certified data centers before delivering it to network users with imperceptible latency. Quick to deploy and easy to manage, WebTitan Cloud is universally compatible with every type of operating system.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is an ideal website blocking filter for businesses operating a BYOD policy or providing a publicly-accessible WiFi service. Implemented by redirecting the DNS server settings, WebTitan Cloud for WiFi can support a nationwide network of WiFi hotspots.
If you would like to control network user Internet access and reduce your exposure to malware and ransomware, do not hesitate to contact us and discuss your current online security arrangement with our experienced Sales Technicians. Our team will happily answer any questions you have about filters for blocking websites and explain how you can take advantage of a free trial of the most suitable WebTitan website blocking filter for your needs.