Top 8 Web Content Filtering Tools
Forcepoint Secure Web GatewayMcAfee Web ProtectionTitanHQ WebTitanBarracuda Web Security GatewaySonicWall CFSSymantec WebFilterMcAfee SiteAdvisorEdgeWave St. Bernard
In terms of performance, Forcepoint stands out because it is more scalable than any other solution. It can extend to different types of boxes and integrate well with other platforms and vendors. And it doesn't need to have the same kind of box or throughput to have high availability.
It doesn't seem to take too much system bandwidth, and I also like its reporting. Once a month, it gives me a reminder of the activity. It reminds me that the protection is on, and if there are any issues, it summarizes those minor issues. During the month, it only notifies when there is something special.
The web content filter is the most valuable feature.
The solution offers very good self-authentication. It has a lot of protocols and ways to authenticate users by ID, or by Active Directory Integration. It's able to take credentials from the Active Directory Domain Controllers.
The support is fantastic.
The ease of use. It's pretty easy to use and navigate the UI... to either block or whitelist a web address.
It is very stable.
How does web content filtering work?
Most firewall providers offer web content filters as a built-in feature, delivered as hardware or software solutions. Content filters work by enhancing cybersecurity and implementing security policies about the use of the corporate network.
Web content filters apply predetermined rules to identify harmful websites users may seek access to. The filter usually sits in the firewall, between the public internet and the corporate network. The content filter identifies objects within images or keywords and groups them into the categories it should prevent access to, such as adult, gaming, gambling, streaming, and so on. When the filter finds a match from a website that is seeking access, it blocks the access.
Why do you need a content filter?
The use of malicious sites is one of the most popular attack techniques used by bad actors. A malicious site is a website or webpage containing malware and mimicking a legitimate site.. Attackers use phishing to deceive employees to log in to fake websites so they can access login credentials or get them to automatically download malware into the organization’s net. Once attackers gain access to the network, they can move laterally and find privileged information, data, and resources.
Web content filtering provides multiple benefits both for individuals and organizations alike. These include:
- Protect young users from inappropriate content - This is one of the main reasons individuals use web content filtering. Parents and schools install web filtering to protect children from pornographic or violent content. Since the filter is part of the firewall, it achieves complete coverage of the network.
- Protection against malware and exploits - The web content blocker prevents access to known risky sites, thus protecting employees from malicious packets. Firewalls with web content filtering can restrict access by domain names and URLs and scan websites to determine whether they contain risky content. Additionally, content filters identify exploit kits. Exploit kits are code packages that attack web vulnerabilities through browser extensions and plugins. When a user visits a malicious URL containing an exploit kit, it downloads malware that infiltrates the user’s systems.
- Increases productivity - Social media, shopping, and streaming sites are known productivity suckers, taking up a lot of work time. By blocking these distracting sites, companies not only increase productivity but also prevent risks associated with suspicious sites.
- Enhance compliance - Compliance regulations may require filtering to prevent disasters caused by internet misuse. A web content filter also can diminish liabilities from posting non-politically-correct content on blogs or social media, or other misuses. Thus, the content filter helps you monitor not only what your staff is accessing but also what they are sending.
What are the types of content filters available?
- Server-side filtration: manages the web traffic for users of a specific network. It is installed on a central server linking all computers on the network. Administrators create one set of rules filtering content and apply it to all users in the network.
- ISP-level filtration: an internet service provider can limit web traffic under the request of an organization or government. This type of filter can block inappropriate traffic and monitor chat and emails.
- Client-side filtration: this is installed on the end user’s system and the user may not modify it or uninstall it. This is especially useful for remote workforces.
- Search engine filtration: solutions such as Google Workspace and MS 365 enable corporate clients to control user activities by implementing security filters remotely. These filters block sites that don’t align with corporate policies.
What is a web filter firewall?
A web filter firewall is a software solution that controls the packets sent and received by your computer or system. It filters compromising and inappropriate content according to the rules set by system administrators.
While typically firewalls and web filters operate at different layers, many firewalls include a web filtering package. This enhances the functionality of the firewall. Usually, firewalls operate at layers 3 and 4 of the network, filtering packets based on IP addresses and transmission control protocol (TCP). Web filters usually operate at layer 7 (the application layer), thus enabling the identification of specific URLs and compromising content.
Web Content Filter Features
Web filters restrict internet access by comparing the website you want to access to a predefined blacklist and whitelist. If a URL is on the blacklist, access to it is automatically blocked. Thus, a web filter gives you more granular access than a firewall.
What should you look for when looking for the right web content filter? Here are some of the key features you should look for:
- Blocks a website but allows specific pages: A good web filter can not only add domains to your blocked lists but also adds pages to your allowed list.
- Blocks websites based on category: You don’t need to add each URL manually to block it. An efficient web content filter can block millions of websites based on a specific category, like “adult,” “social media,” “shopping,” etc.
- Allows access to a limited list of sites: By using the whitelist feature, you can restrict internet access to internal IP addresses or specific websites.
- Manages guests/unknown devices: This can be a useful feature when you have contractors, vendors, or a distributed workforce.
The right mix of features can change according to the requirements of your organization. For instance, if your company runs most of the workloads on-premises, you should consider an inline firewall to control traffic while using an endpoint web filter to control what websites the staff can access.