Web Filtering for Hospitals

Web Filtering for Hospitals

Strengthen Your Defenses with a Hospital Web Filter

Web filtering for hospitals is a means of controlling access to Internet sites that potentially harbor viruses and infections. By implementing a hospital web filter, healthcare organizations mitigate the risk of a hacker gaining access to PHI via the installation of malware, or of a cybercriminal locking up a system with the installation of ransomware.

Web filtering for hospitals also has other benefits. By blocking access to selected websites, productivity can be enhanced, bandwidth saved, and potential issues regarding the viewing of inappropriate material avoided. Furthermore, a hospital web filter is easy to install, requires minimal administration and is a cost-effective measure that can contribute towards HIPAA compliance.

How Web Filtering for Hospitals Works

Whereas previously spam mail has been the preferred attack vector for hackers, it is becoming more common to hear of systems being infected by drive-by downloads and malvertising. These forms of malware reside on websites waiting for an unsuspecting visitor, who then inadvertently downloads surveillance spyware through which hackers can gain fraudulent access to passwords.

A hospital web filter prevents web pages known to contain malware from being displayed to the user – whether they arrived at the page intentionally or via a phishing campaign – by the use of blacklists, category blocking and keyword-based filtering. Each has its own role to play in web filtering for hospitals:

  • A blacklist is a list of websites known to harbor viruses and infections. These may not necessarily be websites created by hackers, but those with security vulnerabilities that hackers have exploited to install malware.
  • Category blocking allows administrators to block specific categories of website. These can include social media sites, online shopping sites, gambling sites or those known to contain inappropriate material such as pornography.
  • Keyword-based filtering is a more precise version of category blocking that provides a greater degree of granularity. This enables administrators to fine-tune the web content that is blocked in order to enforce acceptable use policies.

So as not to “over-block” Internet access, a hospital web filter uses whitelists – a list of acceptable websites that might otherwise be blocked by a category or keyword. Category and keyword-based web filtering for hospitals can also be applied by individual user, user-group or department so as not to block access to material that might be used by (say) a research department. It is also possible to configure a hospital web filter to be operable during specific times of the day

WiFi Filtering for Hospitals

To obtain the maximum benefit from a hospital web filter, it is advisable to implement a web filter on all fixed networks and WiFi networks. This is because it is not just desktop computers that can inadvertently download malware from an infected website. Staff, patients and hospital visitors using their Smartphones or tablets can also provide a gateway for hackers through a hospital´s WiFi network.

It only takes one mobile device user to visit a website harboring malware for the whole of a hospital´s WiFi network to be potentially infected – and any other device that connects to the network. By implementing WiFi filtering for hospitals, mobile device users will be blocked from visiting blacklisted websites and therefore less likely to infect the WiFi network.

WiFi filtering for hospitals uses the same mechanisms to prevent malicious software from being installed on a user´s device as mentioned above; and therefore it would be possible to implement one set of acceptable use policies for patients and hospital visitors, and another set for staff during working hours. The flexibility of WiFi filtering for hospitals means that it is possible to provide a safe service for patients and visitors without risking a potential breach of PHI via a WiFi network.

How a Hospital Web Filter Increases Productivity

There is no doubt that personal use of the Internet in the workplace is damaging to productivity, but possibly few healthcare organizations are aware of how damaging unfiltered Internet access can be. According to a survey conducted by International Data Corp (IDC), 30% to 40% of workplace Internet access is spent on non-work related browsing.

The survey revealed that 70% of all web traffic to Internet pornography sites and 60% of all online purchases are made during working hours of 9:00am to 5:00pm. Almost just as many employees visit social media sites during working hours (only 2% for work purposes), and 25% of all corporate Internet traffic is considered to be unrelated to work.

Restricting access to websites containing pornography, online shopping portals and social media networks with a hospital web filter should see a significant increase in productivity. However, it is not advisable to implement a filter solely on desktop computers. In order to effectively increase productivity, a healthcare organization should implement a system of WiFi filtering for hospitals.

Further Benefits of Web Filtering for Hospitals

It was mentioned at the beginning of this article that web filtering for hospitals can be used to preserve bandwidth and to avoid potential issues regarding inappropriate material. Although having a lower priority for many healthcare organizations than online security and productivity, these issues can also be addressed with a hospital web filter.

Bandwidth limitations have become an issue since BYOD policies have increased in popularity. Even when a BYOD policy is not in existence, patients using tablets to stream live sporting events, listen to music or view Netflix or YouTube can have a serious impact on Internet availability throughout a healthcare organization. By implementing web filtering for hospitals to block access to high bandwidth websites – even if only at certain times of the day – this issue is easily resolved.

The viewing of inappropriate material is an issue that can affect staff, patients and hospital visitors alike. A hospital web filter can prevent HR issues from arising by blocking access to sites that colleagues may find offensive. Web filtering in hospitals can prevent the scenario in which a child is exposed to pornography or when outpatients are subjected to racially abhorrent content in a hospital waiting room.

Evaluating Hospital Web Filter Vendors

When considering WiFi filtering for hospitals, there are some key factors that should be taken into account. Whatever solution is chosen should require the minimum of installation, configuration and maintenance. Software updates and website blacklists should be provided by the hospital web filter vendor, who should also provide WiFi filtering for hospitals that is:

  • Scalable, to meet increasing demand,
  • Granular, in order that acceptable use policies can be fine-tuned,
  • Compatible with existing software and hardware, and
  • Easy-to-use, so that administrative tasks do not require the resources of key IT personnel.

Your chosen solution should also be able to block VPNs and anonymizer sites to prevent circumnavigation of the filter. It should also have a suite of reports in order that administrators are made aware of any attempts to violate an acceptable use policy, and APIs that enable easy integration with backend processes and existing Active Directory or LDAP installations.

Speak with TitanHQ about WiFi Filtering for Hospitals

TitanHQ is a leading vendor of web security solutions for the healthcare industry. Our portfolio of Internet security products includes two that would be particularly suitable to provide WiFi filtering for hospitals – WebTitan Gateway and WebTitan Cloud.

WebTitan Gateway is a powerful Internet filtering tool that can be deployed within your infrastructure as a gateway service or deployed as a virtual appliance on all major hypervisors including AWS, VMware, and Hyper V. All deployment options feature in-built network auto-configuration with full proxy options.

WebTitan Cloud is a 100% cloud-based Internet filter that has been developed for maximum convenience. With no hardware requirements and no need to download software, implementation only requires a change to your organization´s DNS settings. Thereafter configuration can be completed within minutes.

Within each solution there are multiple options for healthcare organizations to block online threats, increase productivity, manage bandwidth and avoid staff, patients and hospital visitors being exposed to inappropriate content.

For more information about TitanHQ, our range of web security solutions for the healthcare industry and contact details, visit our dedicated Healthcare Solutions page.


Is a web filter necessary for HIPAA compliance?

A web filter can help with Security Rule compliance by reducing threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of ePHI. Web filters block access to websites used for malware distribution, block the web-based component of phishing attacks, can block downloads of certain file types, such as those associated with malware and installers to prevent the use of unauthorized software.

Will a web filter block legitimate web content?

Overblocking of web content used to be a problem with web filtering solutions; however, today’s web filtering solutions categorize web pages much more accurately and have highly granular filtering controls that allow precision filtering of web content.

Does a web filter only protect hospital workers, or can the protections be extended to remote workers?

One of the benefits of DNS-based web filters is they protect all employees, regardless of where they access the Internet. Some DNS-based solutions have roaming agents that can be installed on users’ devices to allow content controls and web filter protections to be applied no matter where the Internet is accessed.

Is it possible to apply content control policies for different user groups?

Most web filters have granular controls that will allow policies to be applied globally, for different physical locations, departments, user groups, different roles, and even individuals. To make applying complex policies as easy as possible, look for a solution that integrates with directory services such as AD.

How much does web filtering for hospitals cost?

The cost of web filtering for hospitals will vary based on the number of active users and the length of the contract term. Generally speaking, the more users that need to be protected, the lower the per-user cost, and discounts are commonly offered for multi-year commitments. The starting price is around $1.20 per user, per month.