Virtually every business leader is aware of how common cybersecurity threats are, but only few are equipped to make judgement calls on which solutions are best for their company. In fact, most small business owners don’t realize that if there’s a data breach, there’s a 90% chance it was the direct result of human error.
Although there’s no substitute for ongoing security awareness training, you also need to choose the right security software and access controls to reinforce your security policies. After all, your security policy isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on if it doesn’t include relevant and up-to-date tools. That’s where URL filtering comes in.
How Do URL Filters Work?
URL filters control and limit access to malicious websites and other online resources using a variety of methods. Most of the time, they are used to prevent access to inappropriate and potentially harmful content.
The most basic web filters rely simply on a blacklist of websites, which may be manually edited by administrators to include any websites they don’t want their staff to access. For example, if employees are spending too much time on Facebook, preventing access is as easy as adding the address to a list. Some blacklists are more sophisticated and are able to limit access to a website during specific hours rather than block them entirely.
Another type of URL filter is — you guessed it — a whitelist, which prohibits accessing anything that’s not on the list. This is by far the most restrictive form of filtering and can quickly cause disruption when employees can’t access websites and web-based resources that aren’t on the list. However, it can be effective for use with terminals that are dedicated to a specific task and only require access to a handful of websites and hosted resources.
The best URL filters, especially those designed for use in the workplace, are updated in the cloud by a security vendor and come with keyword filters that automatically restrict access to websites containing certain keywords or content types. These are customizable without being nearly as restrictive as whitelisting or as time-consuming as manual blacklisting. And if you choose not to fine-tune them yourself, the company that manages the filter will still update it daily.
Keeping Malware and Data Breaches at Bay
One of the most important benefits of URL filtering is that it prevents malware infections by blocking common sources of malicious code, such as pornographic websites or file-sharing platforms. It can also protect your business from malicious links and email attachments. Furthermore, a URL filter provides better monitoring and control over how your employees access the web, thereby acting as a first line of defense against potential data breaches or attempted data leaks.
In some ways, an enterprise-grade URL filter works a little like a firewall that vets every website before making it accessible. If a website doesn’t satisfy the requirements defined by the settings you choose, then it will remain inaccessible and administrators will be notified of any attempts to access banned resources by viewing the logs recorded by the filtering software.
Get Employee Productivity Back on Track
No one likes the feeling that they’re constantly being watched but, at the same time, it’s important that your employees feel obliged and motivated to use your systems as intended. After all, workplace internet misuse costs businesses $63 billion annually in the US alone.
Even at the most basic level, URL filtering allows administrators to manually block the biggest time sinks, such as social networking websites and online stores. Moreover, by incorporating URL filtering into your security policies and being transparent in doing so, you’ll be better equipped to motivate employees to respect and follow the rules without feeling excessively restricted.
With most threats to your corporate data coming from within, it’s imperative that you have a network infrastructure that enforces your security policies without getting in the way of productivity. Learn more about our network design and installation solutions.