Employees are often a business’s first line of defense against cyberthreats. Training your staff to be aware of the dangers and methods for avoiding these threats is essential, but sometimes it may not be enough. That's why, as a business owner, you must also take proactive steps to protect your data from malicious actors. One such step is URL filtering, a process that can help keep your employees and your business safe from dangerous websites, phishing campaigns, and more.
What is URL filtering, and how does it work?
URL filtering allows you to control which websites your employees can access while they are on the company network. By blocking access to certain online resources, you can prevent cybercriminals from reaching your data or infecting your systems.
URL filtering employs technology that scans a website's URL and checks it against a list of known malicious websites or uses a risk-based approach to flag potentially unsafe websites. Depending on the level of security your company requires, you can customize the filtering process to allow or deny access to specific websites you deem safe or unsafe, or based on general website categories (e.g., online shopping, financial services, or social media).
There are two main techniques used for URL filtering:
- Blacklisting – This involves creating a list of websites that you want to block, such as those known to contain malicious code or spread malware or those that are simply inappropriate for the workplace, like gambling or adult content sites. Adding URLs to a blacklist ensures they will be blocked no matter who tries to access them.
- Whitelisting – By contrast, whitelisting only allows access to websites you approve in advance. All other sites are blocked by default. Whitelisting is a stricter form of URL filtering and is often used in industries where security is paramount, such as healthcare or finance. This technique is generally considered more secure than blacklisting because all websites added to a whitelist have been vetted for their safety.
How can URL filtering secure your business?
Implementing URL filtering can significantly reduce the risk of your business falling victim to cyberattacks in a number of ways.
Curbs phishing attacks
Phishing is one of the most common online threats and can be highly successful if allowed to reach users. URL filtering technology automatically detects and blocks malicious URLs, stopping employees from inadvertently downloading malware or divulging credentials and other sensitive information to a fake website.
Blocks exploit kits
Exploit kits are software programs that can be loaded onto websites to take advantage of security vulnerabilities and infect users’ devices with malware. URL filtering shields users from malicious websites containing exploit kits, reducing the risk of data and system breaches.
Prevents employee misuse
With URL filtering, you can better enforce internet usage policies and prevent employees from accessing sites that could potentially be a distraction or expose the company to legal liability. For instance, you can restrict access to social media or other sites that might divert employees from their tasks. Likewise, you can filter out websites with inappropriate or offensive content to maintain a professional workplace.
Reduces bandwidth overload
URL filtering also lets you reduce the amount of unnecessary traffic on your network, freeing up bandwidth for more productive tasks. Blocking websites with high levels of multimedia content, such as streaming services and video sites, can help optimize your network and reduce the strain on your infrastructure.
Finally, implementing URL filtering can help your business comply with industry regulations and standards. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 requires the use of appropriate security measures to safeguard patient data. URL filtering can help meet this standard and keep sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands.
Overall, URL filtering offers a critical layer of security that helps protect your business from malicious websites and keep confidential data secure. It also provides the flexibility to customize your security settings and adjust them according to your company’s specific needs. With these benefits, URL filtering is certainly a powerful tool for any business looking to stay safe online.
For more information on URL filtering and other security solutions that you can implement to improve your business’s cybersecurity posture, contact outsourceIT's experts today.