Web Content Filtering for a Safer and Productive Internet

  • September 27, 2022

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.

Benefits of Web Content Filtering
Web Content Filtering – To Protect and Serve

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 threats to businesses. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Keeps Kids Safe

Web content filtering helps administrators implement safety policies concerning system usage through the school’s network. Web content filtering prevents access to obscene, adult, or violent images to balance online access with safety. 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.

Web content filtering for kids
Photo by Gustavo Fring

Web Content Filtering: Pros and Cons

ProsCons
Boosts employee and student productivity.Misinterpretation of guidelines may lead to excessive restricting of quality websites.
Protects personal information from cybercriminals.Some web content filtering can incorrectly block appropriate websites based on constant rules–a proper website may contain an unsuitable word that can cause it to be blocked.
Saves business from violations and liabilities.
Prevents malware downloads on systems.

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.

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.

Different Types of Web Content Filtering

The following are different types of filtering:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • ISP-Level Filtration: The filters implemented by ISPs use network-level filtering of broadband connections to block access to content.

Content 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. After enrolling the devices, IT admins can allow or block the website through a policy and push it onto the devices.

Website Whitelisting – How to do it

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.

Thousands of businesses rely upon Scalefusion for managing their mobile device, desktops, laptops and other endpoints

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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