The History of Web Filtering
In the early days of web content filtering it was enough just to configure a firewall to block certain sites from being accessed. An SME would maintain a blacklist of forbidden sites and update that list from time to time. This method did not offer deep packet inspection and only filtered Internet access based on a domain name.
A modern and effective web content filtering solution scans more than the domain name. It is able to break down and analyze web traffic, making it capable to accurately pinpoint portions of a web page which should not be allowed into the internal network.
An effective web content filtering solution is essential for an SME because granting your employees unfettered access to the Internet opens your company to a multitude of problems.
The main ones to point out are the following:
- Security: Grave risk to the companies’ security.
- Legal Trouble: Liability of inappropriate content.
- Productivity: Loss of employee productivity due to Internet abuse.
With the advent of Web 2.0 technologies, websites are now mash-ups of content that is aggregated from many other sites. This scenario adds complexity to filtering websites based on domain names alone and also opens up new avenues of attack for hackers and virus writers. They are becoming increasingly successful at compromising syndicated feeds. If just one feed of data is compromised, all the websites that pull in that feed will deliver malicious code to their trusted users.
An effective content filtering solution will judge incoming web data based on its content and not its source alone. Malicious content that is smuggled into trusted sites will still be detected and filtered out, thus protecting the internal network.
Companies can be liable for the data that is transferred into their internal networks and servers. In an ideal world, you should be able to trust all your employees that they will only use the Internet for work related information. The reality is unfortunately very different, and one single rogue users’ actions can create serious legal problems if their actions are not monitored. Pornography at work and downloading of copyrighted materials are a real and dangerous threat to an SME.
If a good web content filtering solution is in place, an SME is protected against this type of threat. Pornography and copyrighted material is blocked using standard filters. A web content filtering solution from a trusted vendor will also protect you legally because it shows your commitment to stopping this type of crime in your workplace.
A security breach due to lack of web content filtering will undoubtedly affect your employee productivity; however, an ineffective or badly configured web content filter can also have a negative effect on productivity if it blocks legitimate content that is needed by your employees to do their job.
A good web content filter acts very much like a sieve. Legitimate data should fall through the filter whilst bad data should be stopped. This means that a requested web page with some forbidden content will still load, but with some bits missing. This will allow the user to get the parts of the web page that are needed whilst remaining protected.
To recap, web content filtering will directly affect three important issues that all SMEs face:
- System Security
- Illegal Content
- Employee Productivity