What is Web Content Filtering? Internet Safety & Productivity

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    A lot of people think that web content filtering plays “Big Brother”, an overly controlling software, to increase surveillance of people visiting the internet. It is often misconstrued as software that suppresses people’s right to access information. In reality, accessing certain websites on the internet during office or school hours can be a source of distraction and security concerns.

    Web content filtering aims to create a safe environment to protect users from online harm without spying on users. Consequently, it stops productivity from slowing down while protecting businesses from online threats.

    What is Web Content Filtering?

    Web content filtering is the process that screens and restricts access to specific web pages. The aim is to block websites that could be unproductive or harmful if accessed. Uses include keeping employees from visiting spammy websites or educational institutions trying to protect students from adult content.

    It can be easy to confuse web content filtering with URL filtering. But URL filtering is a type of content filtering. Web content filtering can work by blocking keywords, file types, malware correlations, or contextual themes of content resources.

    Why is Web Content Filtering Important?

    Hacking, phishing, malware, and viruses are some of the biggest business threats. Web content filtering can prevent social engineering and fraud, especially phishing attacks. Phishing websites are created by malicious users to impersonate legitimate companies in order to obtain sensitive data such as login credentials, personal information, accounting details, and legal documents.

    Cybercriminals often use domain spoofing in phishing attacks. Cybercriminals fake a website name to trick users into interacting as if it were legitimate. When web content filters identify phishing websites by their URL or content, visits to those websites can be prevented.

    Benefits of Web Content Filtering

    Web content filtering offers several benefits for individuals as well as organizations.

    1. Increases Staff Productivity

    Web content filtering in offices serves to filter non-work related content such as social media websites or other websites unrelated to work or considered distractions. They take up a vast amount of employees’ time, decreasing staff productivity levels.

    2. Improves Internet Bandwidth

    The use of the internet that is not related to work can negatively affect an organization’s bandwidth. Limiting staff access to websites, such as video streaming sites, can improve internet bandwidth and enable faster connections for all employees.

    3. Minimizes Malware Infections

    Blocking access to websites that carry a high risk of malware protects company data and users before such websites have a chance to introduce malicious payloads. By using Domain Name System (DNS) filtering, organizations can block the threat of internet-based malware, thereby reducing the remediation time and workload for IT teams.

    4. Reduces Legal Liability

    Companies that actively monitor the website usage of employees are in a better position to manage undesired incidents. Since web content filtering restricts employees from downloading offensive or illegal content, organizations can protect themselves from regulatory violations.

    5. Keeps Kids Safe

    Web content filtering helps administrators implement safety policies concerning system usage through the school’s network. To balance online access with safety, web content filtering prevents access to obscene, adult, or violent images. At home, parents may not always be present to monitor the kind of content their children are exposed to. Plus, they may not know how to restrict harmful websites.

    internet content filtering
    Photo by Gustavo Fring

    Web Content Filtering: Pros and Cons

    Web Content Filtering, a critical component in managing internet usage in business environments, offers several advantages and some drawbacks. Here’s a detailed look at the pros and cons:

    Enhanced Security– Protects against malware and phishing.
    – Reduces risk of data breaches.
    – May inadvertently block safe sites, causing inconvenience.
    Regulatory Compliance– Helps in adhering to legal and industry standards.– Requires ongoing updates to stay compliant with changing regulations.
    Productivity– Limits access to non-work-related sites.
    – Can be customized for balanced access.
    – Overblocking can hinder access to necessary information for work.
    Bandwidth Management– Controls access to high-bandwidth sites, ensuring availability for essential tasks.– Can slow down internet speeds due to the filtering process.
    Content Control– Offers granular control over accessible content.
    – Aligns with company policies and culture.
    – Needs careful configuration to avoid overblocking or underblocking.
    Safe Environment– Creates a professional and respectful workplace by blocking inappropriate content.– Might be perceived as intrusive, affecting employee morale.
    Resource Intensiveness– Ensures thorough content management and security.– Resource-heavy in terms of time, management, and IT infrastructure.
    Cost– Long-term benefits in security and productivity.– Initial and ongoing costs for implementation and maintenance can be significant.
    Pros and Cons of Web Content Filtering

    Understanding these pros and cons is vital for making informed decisions about implementing and managing web content filtering. This knowledge can guide you in balancing security needs with user experience, ensuring that the filtering strategy aligns with the company’s goals and employee expectations.

    What is the Difference Between DNS Filtering and Web Content Filtering?

    DNS filtering and web content filtering are both methods used in managing and securing online content access, but they operate differently and serve slightly different purposes.

    AspectDNS FilteringWeb Content Filtering
    FunctionDNS filtering is based on the Domain Name System (DNS), which translates domain names into IP addresses. DNS filtering intercepts DNS queries and determines whether a domain is allowed or blocked based on predefined rules or policies.Web content filtering involves inspecting the content of web pages or URLs to determine if it should be blocked or allowed. It often works by analyzing the content in real-time.
    ScopeIt mainly operates at the domain level. If a domain is blocked, all content from that domain becomes inaccessible.Operates at a more granular level, filtering specific pages, images, videos, or downloads within a website.
    Use CasesCommonly used to block access to entire websites that are known for malicious activities, hosting inappropriate content, or violating company policies. It’s an effective tool against phishing, malware, and other cyber threats.Used to enforce internet usage policies within organizations, such as blocking access to social media, adult content, or streaming sites during work hours. Also helps in regulatory compliance by restricting access to sensitive or inappropriate content.
    ImplementationOften implemented at the network level, affecting all users on that network. It’s also used in public Wi-Fi networks for content control.Can be implemented via software installed on individual devices or through network devices like firewalls and proxy servers.
    AdvantagesQuick to implement, less resource-intensive, and effective at blocking threats before they enter the network.Offers more detailed control over web content, allowing for nuanced access policies.
    LimitationsLess granular control over content. It can’t filter specific content on a website that’s generally allowed.More resource-intensive, as it requires the analysis of content. Can sometimes slow down web browsing due to the filtering process.
    DNS filtering Vs Web Content Filtering

    DNS filtering is more about blocking access at the domain level, making it a first line of defense against malicious sites and broad content categories, whereas web content filtering provides deeper, more nuanced control over the specific types of content users can access on the internet.

    How Does Web Content Filtering Work?

    The technology behind web content filtering works by identifying patterns like objects within images or text strings that indicate harmful or undesirable websites. By using predetermined rules, the content filter identifies commonalities such as objects within images or text strings such as keywords and groups them into categories such as adult, gambling, gaming, sports, and so on. Once there is a match from a site seeking access, they are marked as objectionable and denied access. Applying this to your content strategy at early stages can reap a lot of benefits in the long run.

    Content filters come as hardware or software and often are part of the firewall. Administrators can install filtering software on servers or can incorporate hardware on the network. Mobile content filtering is steadily gaining importance, especially in the workplace, whether the devices are corporate- or employee-owned. Such undesirable sites are productivity sinks and pose malware risks.

    4 Different Types of URL Filtering

    The following are different types of filtering:

    1. Server-Side Filtration

    These filters manage web traffic for all users present on the server, say, of a large organization. Server-side filters are installed on a central server that links to all computers on the network, giving the company complete control over customizing filters.

    2. Client-Side Filtration

    A client-side filter is installed on the end user’s system. These filters cannot be bypassed by the end users and are appropriate for a business environment that requires maintaining systems as per company policies.

    3. Search Engine Filtration

    When these filters are turned on, search engines will only display results that are in line with the organization’s policy. Additionally, undesirable content not blocked by the company but deemed harmful by the filter may be blocked.

    4. ISP-Level Filtration

    The filters implemented by ISPs use network-level filtering of broadband connections to block access to content.

    Web Content Filtering Policies: Purpose, Components & Implementation Best Practices

    Web content filtering policies are a set of rules and guidelines used to control and manage internet access within an organization. These policies define what types of web content are permissible and what are restricted when accessed through the organization’s network. Implementing these policies is especially relevant in business environments, like a SaaS product company, to ensure secure, productive, and compliant use of the internet. Here’s a detailed breakdown:

    Purpose of Web Content Filtering Policies

    1. Security: To protect against online threats such as malware, phishing, and other cyber attacks.
    2. Compliance: To adhere to legal, regulatory, and industry standards regarding internet usage.
    3. Productivity: To prevent distractions by limiting access to non-work-related sites during business hours.
    4. Bandwidth Management: To ensure adequate bandwidth for critical business operations by restricting access to high-bandwidth sites.
    5. Creating a Professional Environment: To maintain a workplace free from exposure to inappropriate or offensive content.

    Components of a Web Content Filtering Policy

    1. Categories of Blocked Content: Lists types of websites or content categories to be blocked, such as adult content, social media, gaming, streaming services, etc.
    2. Whitelists and Blacklists: Defines specific websites or domains that are always allowed (whitelisted) or always blocked (blacklisted).
    3. Time-based Restrictions: Specifies when certain restrictions apply, like allowing more freedom during breaks or outside of work hours.
    4. User or Group-based Policies: Tailors restrictions based on user roles or departments within the organization (e.g., more strict filtering for general staff, less for IT department).
    5. Exception Handling: Outlines the process for requesting access to a blocked site if it’s needed for legitimate work purposes.
    6. Policy Enforcement: Describes how the policy is enforced technically, such as through a network firewall or web filtering software.
    7. Monitoring and Reporting: Details the monitoring process and how violations or attempted violations are reported and handled.
    8. Policy Review and Update Procedures: Establishes a schedule for regular reviews and updates of the filtering policy to adapt to new requirements or challenges.

    Best Practices for Implementing Web Content Filtering Policies

    • Transparency: Clearly communicate the policy to all employees, explaining the reasons and benefits.
    • Balance: Find a balance between overblocking and underblocking to maintain security without overly restricting access.
    • Customization: Tailor the policy to the specific needs and culture of the organization.
    • Feedback Mechanism: Allow for employee feedback and suggestions regarding the policy.
    • Regular Updates: Keep the policy updated in line with evolving online threats and organizational changes.

    Web Content or URL Filtering with Scalefusion MDM

    Scalefusion MDM lets IT administrators control the web content that users can view on the browsers of managed devices. They can block or allow URLs based on the company’s requirements. Whitelisting ensures users will have access to websites that have been approved by the company.

    Whereas URLs added to the blocklist cannot be viewed on the device browser. The URLs to be allowed or restricted can be added manually or by uploading a CSV using the CSV importer. After enrolling the devices, IT admins can allow or block the website through a policy and push it onto the devices.

    Setting Up a Kiosk Browser

    Companies can also set up a kiosk browser using Scalefusion MDM. By enabling kiosk mode, access to mobile devices will be limited to the websites authorized by the IT administrators. This improves productivity by allowing employees to access whitelisted websites or web-based apps when the devices are locked down in kiosk mode.

    Wrapping Up

    People believe that web content filtering interferes with individuals’ rights, which has been the subject of a contentious discussion. The reality is that web content filtering protects companies as well as individuals from harmful and malicious content while ensuring access to legitimate information on the web.

    Schedule a live demo with our product experts to explore more about Scalefusion’s Web Content Filtering capabilities. Please visit
    Rajnil Thakur
    Rajnil Thakur
    Rajnil is a Senior Content Writer at Scalefusion. He’s been a B2B marketer for over 8 years and applies the power of content marketing to simplify complex technology and business ideas.

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