Web filtering software is usually downloaded as a virtual appliance that is used to prevent access to any unsafe Internet content and web pages that breach your Internet usage policies. It is set up on-site – or within your virtual infrastructure – and managed using a centralized web-based administration portal, giving you full management over the Internet content network users can access.
Internet filtering software is a popular online security tool for businesses of all sizes because of its ease of use and low maintenance overhead. It is normally compatible with all operating systems, scales up to tens of thousands of users, and can be linked with directory services such as Active Directory.
Every time a network user types in a website address or visits a link, the Internet filtering software checks the request using databases of websites – real-time blackhole lists (RBLs) – that include websites known to be used for malicious aims such as phishing or distributing malware or ransomware. These databases are constantly updated to incorporate recently created malicious webpages.
If the website contains encrypted content, a process referred to as SSL inspection decrypts the content so it can be reviewed by antivirus software and the content will be checked against user defined policies, and the content will then be re-encrypted before the user is permitted to view the content.
If the Internet content filter finds any unsafe or forbidden prohibited Internet content, access to the website is blocked and the network user receives a message explaining why. The blocking of the website is tracked by the filter, together with the reason why access was blocked, and that data is available to administrators through the administration portal.
Along with the mechanisms used to safeguard networks from malware, ransomware and phishing, Internet filters sort millions of web pages into categories depending on the manner of their content (adult entertainment, online gambling, etc.). Administrators can choose which categories of Internet content they do not want network users to access and prevent those categories with a click of a mouse.
Depending on the granularity of the filtering options, managers can also manage user Internet access by keyword. It may also be possible to apply time-based controls to limit access to certain types of website during busy times to stop cyberslacking or to limit bandwidth use. The controls can be used for an individual user, a group of users, or group-wide. These granular controls mean you can block access to social media platforms sites for all employees except those in the marketing department, for instance.
The facility to “whitelist” specific websites also are availables on Internet filtering software. This facility allows trusted websites to bypass the software´s Internet access controls and facilitates access to websites that may be blocked using the category or keyword filters. This facility should be used with care in case a trusted website is later compromised by hackers and malicious content is installed.
Blocking malware, ransomware and phishing attacks is one of the most important advantages of Internet filtering software. Cyberattacks on companies are increasing and end users are often targeted. The majority of data breaches begin with a phishing email, and internet filtering software provides an additional level of protection against phishing attacks. If an email gets around your spam filter, internet filtering software provides time-of-click protection and can prevent the user from viewing a malicious website.
One of the most often-quoted commercial advantages of having total Internet access control is the elimination of cyber-slacking in the workplace, which allows staff to make significant productivity gains. Other workplace-related benefits include stopping cyber-bullying and other HR issues that can easily arise from failing to prevent employees from accessing offensive or inappropriate online content.
By filtering Internet content, network users enjoy a more pleasant online usage. For businesses in the hospitality sector that offer a WiFi service to customers, visitors and guests, providing a filtered Internet service can help to attract more customers. McDonalds and Starbucks received a lot of criticism for failing to provide a family-friendly Internet service, and many parents boycotted the companies until they agreed to implement an internet content control solution that blocked pornography. Since content control solutions track the websites that users visit, that data can be extremely valuable to business owners. They can see the sites their customers view and can use that information in future ad campaigns and to tailor their marketing campaigns.
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