Web Content Filtering

Web content filtering is one of the best ways to protect your company from web-based cyberattacks, such as malware and ransomware downloads and phishing attacks. Rather than allow malicious content to be accessed, a web content filter will direct users to a locally hosted block page and will be told the content is prohibited. Most businesses implement a web content filtering solution for security reasons and to comply with regulations such as the Healthcare Insurance Portability Accountability Privacy Act (HIPAA) and the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

Web content filtering can be implemented to stop employees from accessing websites that are used to distribute malware, ransomware, spyware, or adware, but another important benefit is to restrict access to web content to improve productivity, such as preventing users from accessing gambling, gaming, dating, and social media sites during work hours.

How Does Web Content Filtering Work?

Most web content filters for the Internet incorporate blacklists to prevent access to websites known to harbor malware and ransomware, phishing kits, or undesirable content such as pornography. Web filters will block known malicious websites using blacklists of known malicious websites, which are automatically updated when new malicious sites are found. Blacklists are also used to block access to an illegal content, such as the blacklist maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation. Web content filters may also score web pages based on the quantity of user-defined keywords. They can also block downloads of certain file types.

Web content filters may also include:

  • Wi-Fi Hotspot Security: Configuring a content filter to permit control of content accessed via Wi-Fi hotspots is important. If anyone attempts to negate security restrictions to access these sites they will be stopped.
  • Category and Keyword Filters: You can turn on web filtering using category-based website filtering and keyword content filtering. Content filtering is easy to configure and stops access to predefined categories of websites but keyword filtering can allow you to prevent access to websites that contain a lot of banned keywords.
  • Phishing Protection: Not allowing access to known phishing web pages by using Internet filtering software with SURBL filters. Reduces reliance on employees recognizing phishing content.
  • Bandwidth Controls: A content filter can be used to block access to categories of websites that drain bandwidth to ensure all employees can enjoy fast Internet.
  • Automatically Produced Reports: Reports will be shared with dedicated network administrators so they can analyze what aspects of usage need to be addressed.
  • MSPs Provisions: You can make a solution bespoke with branding via a white label product. Allowing the content filter to be added to a private cloud or inside an MSPs network.
  • Time Settings: Some filters support time-based controls, so you can restrict access to certain sites during working hours and ease the restrictions during lunch breaks or after work.

Finally, legally obligatory regulatory requirements can be met using a web content filter. In the US, The requirement to have in place the provisions of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) can be in place thanks to the prevention of the viewing of inappropriate pictures or video.


Is a web filter necessary for HIPAA compliance?

HIPAA is technology agnostic so does not call for specific technologies for safeguarding protected health information, but a web filter is an important solution for improving security and can help with Security Rule compliance. Web filters can block the web-based component of phishing attacks and malware downloads and prevent users from visiting risky web content.

Is web content filtering expensive?

Cloud-based web content filtering solutions start at around $1 per user per year, which is a small price to pay for the security the solutions provide. Web content filtering can pay for itself from the productivity gains that can be achieved and the number of cyberattacks the solutions block.

Is it difficult to set up and maintain a web content filter?

Cloud-based content filtering solutions are easy to set up, requiring a simple change to the DNS settings to point them to the service provider’s servers. Users access a web-based portal to apply their filtering controls and access reports. These solutions are designed to be easy to use and are generally set and forget solutions once filtering policies have been applied, requiring little in the way of maintenance.

Which is best, a web filtering appliance or a cloud-based filter?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both. An appliance has an initial high cost but may be more cost effective over time. However, appliances need to be maintained, space devoted to them, and they are not scalable. Cloud based filters spread the cost over time, are highly flexible and scalable, and are easy to implement and use, which has made them the most popular choice.

Can you recommend a good web content filter for use in healthcare?

There are many excellent web content filtering services that are suitable for use in healthcare. Cisco Umbrella is a good product, especially for large enterprises that engage in in-depth investigations but for many, the solution is prohibitively expensive. WebTitan Cloud is a more flexible, lower cost solution that is consistently rated highly by users with many MSP features and easy integrations.