A website content filtering solution can prevent people in your organization from accessing web pages that may harbor computer viruses or malware, from cyberslacking, or from viewing inappropriate material that could lead to HR issues. By preventing access to selected web pages, web content filtering solutions can strengthen an organization´s cybersecurity defenses, increase productivity and prevent HR issues before they begin.
Most people are unaware of the great volume of security risks that exist on the Internet. Cybercriminals often attempt to exploit this lack of awareness by launching phishing campaigns – emails containing links to infected web pages that then infect the organization´s system or network. A website access filter solution blocks the web page from being displayed to the user, and therefore prevents the infection on the web page being transferred to the user´s device.
In addition to mitigating the risks of web-borne threats, a website content filtering solution can also be configured to control access to websites an employer would not want their employees visiting during working hours. These websites can include online shopping portals, online gambling sites, social media sites or sites containing material such as pornography. By filtering website content that contains material such as pornography, employers can also eliminate complaints from employees offended by the inappropriate content.
How Web Content Filtering Solutions Work
Web content filtering solutions use three different methods to filter website content that you would not want your employees to access – blacklists and whitelists, category filters and keyword filters:
- Most blacklists contain a list of websites known to harbor infections such as malware, adware, and ransomware. Other blacklists can be obtained that block access to websites containing pornography, block access to P2P file sharing sites or known proxy addresses. Whitelists do the opposite and allow access to safe websites that might otherwise be blocked by an over-zealous website content filtering solution.
- Category filters allow organizations to block access to specific groups of website by category. Categories could include online shopping portals, online gambling sites or social media sites, and many web content filtering solutions have the option of creating customized categories. Category filtering can be used to block access to video streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube – an important consideration if your organization suffers from bandwidth issues.
- Keyword filters enable administrators to block access to specific web content – or allow access to specific web content – by keyword. These fine-tuning filters add a higher degree of granularity to web content filtering solutions and, like the other filtering methods described above, should be deployable by user, user group or department. The importance of flexibility is discussed later in this article.
Selecting a Website Access Filter
Undoubtedly, implementing a web access filter solution is a wise move. However, not all web content filtering solutions are the same. Selecting which web access filter solution is most suitable for your organization will likely depend on what you intend the website access filter solution to achieve. Other considerations to take into account are the cost of implementing a web access filter solution and the resources you will have to dedicate to manage the solution and monitor its effectiveness.
Three key factors when selecting a web access filter solution are flexibility, compatibility and scalability. As far as compatibility and scalability are concerned, you need to ensure that any website access filter solution you are considering is compatible with your existing system and it can be scaled up and down to reflect the changing size of your organization or its reliance on the Internet. You do not want to be selecting a different web access filter solution in one, two or five years. Flexibility is discussed in the next section.
The Importance of Flexibility in a Web Access Filter Solution
Irrespective of the size of your organization and the nature of its operations, it is recommended that you select a web access filter solution that is as flexible as possible. Flexibility allows administrators to set filtering controls by user, user group, department and time. This means, for example, only the marketing department may be able to access Facebook during working hours, but any member of staff can access the social media site in their own time.
The degree of flexibility your organization needs will likely be determined by your organization´s acceptable use policies and the extent to which you need to filter website content. However, acceptable use policies are subject to change as new working practices are introduced, technology advances, or - if your organization is located in a regulated industry - as new laws are enacted. Therefore it can also be wise to select a website access filter solution that is easy to configure as changes are necessary.
Other Features of a Website Content Filtering Solution to Look For
For some organizations, flexibility, compatibility and scalability are sufficient to achieve all the objectives required from a website content filtering solution. Other organizations may demand more from their web access filter solution depending on their size and the nature of their business. The following is a selection of features you may wish to be included with your website access filter solution:
A Suite of APIs
It is recommended that an organization advise its prospective website access filter solution vendor of its current system specification. With this information, the vendor can supply APIs for integration with existing deployment, billing and management tools.
Integration with Directory Services
Included within the suite of APIs, there should be tools to allow the integration of a website access filter solution with directory services such as Active Directory, LDAP or NetIQ. This will make administering the web access filter solution much easier by user-group or department.
Automated Updates and Report Scheduling Options
Web content filtering solutions should have automated updates and report scheduling options. These features reduce your maintenance overhead and ensure that reports are produced regularly to assist with the enforcement of acceptable use policies.
Filter Website Content in Multiple Languages
Even if you do not have multi-lingual employees in your organization, it can be advantageous to implement a multi-lingual website content filtering solution. Internet infections and unwanted website content are not exclusive to the English language. You should have a solution that allows you to filter website content in multiple languages.
Filter Website Content with Imperceptible Latency
Web content filtering solutions function by checking a request to access a website against an organization´s filtering parameters and then allowing or blocking access as appropriate. There should be minimal time delay - or “imperceptible latency” - during this process.
Technical and Customer Support
Irrespective of how much time you have dedicated to selecting your website content filtering solution, there will likely be a time when an unexpected event occurs. In these circumstances you need to know that technical and customer support will always be on hand.
White Label Options for MSPs
If your organization provides managed services, a white label web access filter solution will enable you to provide web filtering as a service to your existing client database without your client directly approaching the service provider.
Web Filter Architecture
Having determined what you want your website content filtering solution to achieve, and the features you would like to deploy on your organization´s solution, you then have to select the web access filter solution architecture. There is often a choice of four types of web access filter solution architecture, and the nature of each type is likely to influence which website access filter solution you ultimately select:
Client-Based Website Content Filtering Solution
A client-based website content filtering solution is installed on each individual´s computer or device. Because of its low initial cost, this type of web access filter solution architecture is favored by organizations with a small database of users. However, each website content filtering solution has to be updated and managed separately - creating a significant maintenance overhead for administrators.
Server-Based Web Access Filter Solution
A server-based web access filter solution is more practical for organizations with a larger database of users. Typically the solution is installed on the organization´s server; however, although this saves on administration overhead, the drawback for a server-based web access filter solution is that hardware purchases are necessary and technical support will often require a site visit.
Gateway-Based Website Access Filter Solution
A gateway-based website access filter solution is most favored by larger organizations looking to avoid the expense of purchasing dedicated hardware applications. The solution is a powerful enterprise-grade cybersecurity defense that can be integrated with most organization´s existing hardware - providing the website access filter solution is compatible.
Cloud-Based Web Content Filtering Solutions
Cloud-based web content filtering solutions often suit small to medium sized businesses as they do not require the purchase of hardware or the integration of software into the organization´s existing system. Cloud-based solutions are guaranteed to be compatible with an organization´s existing system because all that is required to start filtering the Internet is for the organization to point its DNS to the service provider´s servers.
Web Filtering Solutions for MSPs
If you felt that selecting a website content filtering solution was challenging, spare a thought for managed service providers (MSPs). When MSPs evaluate web content filtering solutions, not only does the solution have to meet the requirements of a variety of clients, but it is essential that it is easy to administer.
The best web content filtering solutions for MSPs in most scenarios are cloud-based solutions. Cloud-based solutions require no on-site installation or management and can be configured remotely to meet clients´ requirements. Some vendors also allow MSPs to host their web content filtering solutions within their own infrastructure.
As mentioned in our “Other Features to Look For” section above, web content filtering solutions for MSPs that provided in a white label format avoid the scenario of an existing client directly sourcing their own website content filtering solution. With a white label web access filter solution, MSPs can also market to new clients as well as up-selling their existing clients.
Website Access Filter Solution Pricing
When evaluating web content filtering solutions, one of the most important considerations is website access filter solution pricing - not only costs of hardware purchase and on site installation, but also the ongoing costs of administering the solution.
Website access filter solution pricing can often depend on how many users require filtered Internet access at the same time or how many TCP/IP connections are needed. When a website access filter solution is implemented that requires a subscription, the cost of the subscription may vary according to the payment terms.
Some providers of web content filtering solutions offer discounts for long-term subscriptions, whereas others allow organizations to pay for their service monthly. This latter option can be a massive benefit for organizations who acknowledge they need a website content filtering solution, but who do not have a budget that would allow them to commit to a multi-year agreement.
Website Content Filtering Solution Cost Comparison
Because organizations have different priorities for implementing a website content filtering solution, because there are many different types of solution available, and because the solutions have different payment structures, it is impossible to provide a like-for-like website content filtering solution cost comparison.
What it is possible to illustrate is the comparative cost of not implementing a website access filter solution, and having your computer network infected by malware due to an employee clicking on a link to malicious website contained within a phishing email. Depending on how widely the malware has spread throughout your computer network, it can cost many thousands of dollars to remove the infection.
The failure to implement a website access filter solution can also cost your organization many thousands of dollars in lost productivity if you fail to enforce acceptable use policies and allow free access to online shopping portals, online gambling sites and social media sites. The cost of resolving HR issues because employees have been offending by a colleague openly viewing pornography can often be more than financial.
The WebTitan Portfolio of Web Content Filtering Solutions
Whatever priorities you have in mind for your website content filtering solution, WebTitan has a portfolio of web content filtering solutions to meet your organization´s needs. Our portfolio of web content filtering solutions has been developed to make filtering the Internet as straightforward as possible and includes a powerful, yet flexible, range of products.
WebTitan Gateway provides organizations with the ultimate is cybersecurity defenses. This website content filtering solution protects against web-borne threats from a virtual infrastructure or installed within an organization´s existing network.
WebTitan Cloud delivers a high-convenience/low-maintenance web access filter solution that can be managed remotely via a web portal. This DNS-based website access filter solution can be implemented within minutes without the need to download software or purchase hardware.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi supplies the same levels of protection, but with additional support for Wi-Fi networks and the devices that connect to them. WebTitan Cloud for WiFi delivers fast Internet access over a wireless network with imperceptible latency and allows you to easily filter website content to provide a safe, secure, and family friendly Wi-fi service.
For many organizations, WebTitan´s portfolio of web content filtering solutions tick the right boxes. Each of our solutions comes with the following features as standard and can be configured to meet your organization´s specific needs if required.
- Solutions that are compatible with all computer and network systems.
- Scalable - both in terms of the number of users and subscription structures.
- Flexible controls allow for “granular” fine-tuning of settings allowing you to filter website content without overblocking.
- APIs provided for back-office systems and directory services.
- Easy to configure multi-lingual settings can be adjusted from any location.
- Automated updates and report scheduling options reduce maintenance overhead.
- No restrictions on bandwidth, the number of users or TCP/IP connections required.
- White-label options available for MSPs and service resellers.
FAQs about Website Content Filtering
Can guest Wi-Fi networks be trusted?
Businesses create guest Wi-Fi networks to protect themselves and prevent guests from accessing internal company resources. That does not mean that these networks are secure for guest users. Unless a web filtering solution has been used and traffic is encrypted, it is still possible to be phished and infected with malware.
How much does web content filtering software cost?
Cloud-based web content filtering software is often the most cost-effective choice. WebTitan Cloud for Wi-Fi will cost your business around $1 per user per month. The solution is ideal for most businesses and includes all the features you will need to secure Internet access, block web-based threats, and carefully control and monitor online activities of everyone connected to the network.
Will a web filter inspect encrypted web traffic?
A web content filtering solution will block access to HTTPS websites if they are included in a blacklist of known malicious websites, but HTTPS website traffic will only be visible to a web filter if SSL inspection is enabled. SSL inspection is important as many malicious websites now have SSL certificates and encrypt connections and if the connections are not monitored malware could easily be downloaded.
What are the best practices for improving Wi-Fi security?
To improve Wi-Fi security, ensure that you have a router capable of encrypting traffic to the WPA2 or WPA3 standards. Set a strong password for your Wi-Fi network, limiting the range to prevent access from outside your building, and block web-based threats and control internet access with a web content filtering solution.
Can you view the Internet activity of web user in real time?
WebTitan includes a full suite of reports that provide full visibility into the Internet activities of everyone connected to the network. You can run reports on demand and drill down to see internet histories and even a real time view of what employees are viewing. You can also schedule reports and generate alerts when attempts are made to bypass filtering controls.