Navigating the internet can be a risky business. It is impossible to calculate the number of harmful or potentially risky websites that are used to distribute malware. Once a user clicks on a malicious link, a gateway is opened for this harmful code to access your network. This, inevitably, leads to malware attacks, ransomware attacks, data breaches, and more. The list, unfortunately, goes on.
Web content filtering prevents your network from harm by dynamically and strategically filtering out suspicious sites and web pages. The solutions can also block individual content, thereby users safe during their session. Content filters block material outright or analyze the content and provide a warning notification, asking the user if they wish to continue. Some web content filtering tools also offer sandboxing to download a potentially risky file in an isolated space.
In addition to keeping your users secure as they traverse the web, web content filtering is critical in maintaining your brand image and credibility. A user’s after work hours web searches are their own business, you certainly don’t want it happening on company time. Web content filtering is important in ensuring that (not safe for work) NSFW websites, such as gambling, pornography, firearm sites, aren’t accessible from your company devices and network.
For more on web content filtering and how it works, read our blog on the topic here:
What Is Web Content And URL Filtering
How Do Web Content Filtering Solutions Work?
So, how do web content filtering solutions actually work?
Web content filtering solutions are filtering-based tools that screen and block a user’s access to anything that may be deemed unsafe, inappropriate, or unproductive while they’re at work or school. Companies can deploy a web content filter to make sure that employees don’t visit any malicious websites, access adult or other inappropriate content, or spend time on sites that can hinder productivity such as forums and social media sites.
In practice, web content filters can be hardware and software and are more commonly seen as a feature incorporated into a firewall solution. It works by screening and identifying websites for particular content (either the entire site or content on a singular page) that could violate any policies that have been previously configured. The tool will look for content patterns, which can include objects within images, text strings, or even parts of the website that might contain harmful code. It can also filter by keywords and specific content, which can be configured by admins setting policies and rules depending on company values and policies (such as a company not wishing for users to visit fire-arm or heavily political sites while at work). Web content filtering solutions can also leverage databases containing harmful or undesirable websites in order to block content that hasn’t been previously indexed by admins.
When a user tries to visit a website or specific page that the tool does not like, the webpage in question can either be partially blocked or screened out or the entire website can be outright blocked. Screening means that the content can be screened, with the user being able to choose whether they want to view the content after being given a warning.