What is URL Filtering?

We all love browsing the internet, and for most of us, our jobs depend on our ability to do it effectively. We’re constantly looking up information, conducting research, and communicating with others.

Unfortunately, the internet isn’t an inherently safe place, and with a team of employees accessing and navigating it regularly, it’s only a matter of time before someone stumbles upon a nefarious website or falls victim to a phishing scheme. Improving your network security, and your entire organization’s security policies, is essential.

With the help of URL Filtering, you can minimize these threats and keep your organization safer.

What is URL Filtering

URL Filtering – How Does It Work?  

Let’s start with a basic explanation of URL filtering. URLs function as web addresses, and refer to a web resource specifying its location on a computer network. Certain URLs may present more of a risk than others, for various reasons, and some “safe” websites may one day be compromised.

URL filtering is a way of “blocking” certain URLs from loading on a company network. If an employee would attempt to visit this URL, either by entering it manually or clicking a link in a search engine, they will be redirected to a page notifying them that this content is blocked.

URL filtering relies on filtering databases that classify URLs by topic; each topic in this system is either “blocked” or “allowed.” This system was largely developed for productivity reasons, allowing employers to block websites that were inappropriate for work or that were designed to waste time.

Administrators are capable of setting up blocklists for individual URLs, blocking specific websites they know to be dangerous or harmful. More broadly, administrators can block entire URL categories, blocklisting entire groups of websites at once.

There are several key benefits of URL filtering, including:

  • Minimizing security risks. The first and most notable benefit is that you’ll reduce the security vulnerabilities faced by your organization. You’ll be less susceptible to internet-based threats.
  • Improving compliance. You can also avoid liabilities and remain compliant. Depending on your industry, you may have to adhere to stricter standards for cybersecurity and operations.
  • Improving productivity. As an added bonus, URL filtering can help you control which sites your employees visit, ultimately leading to higher productivity overall.

URL Filtering and DNS Filtering

You may also consider implementing DNS filtering. DNS filtering and URL filtering are both types of web filtering, but they serve different individual functions. DNS filtering blocks web content based on DNS queries, rather than specific URLs; in other words, it allows you to block entire domains.

Most organizations attempt to use a combination of URL filtering and DNS filtering to capitalize on the advantages of both.

Machine Learning and URL Filtering

Until relatively recently, URL filtering was an almost entirely manual process. Administrators would carefully select a list of URL categories and specific URLs to block, and add new ones as they gained more information. But now, many URL filtering services are employing the use of machine learning to learn about new threats, identify opportunities for improvement, and automate the rollout of new filters.

URL Filtering as Part of an Integrated Approach

URL filtering is a powerful way to block access to certain webpages, but it’s not a perfect system, and won’t provide an organization with comprehensive security. Instead, URL filtering is best implemented as one of several security features designed to protect against threats on the web. For example, phishing sites may be detectable through an IPS or a sandbox, but the lack of communication between your sandbox, IPS, and URL filtering systems may offer you incomplete protection.

Are you interested in employing URL filtering in your organization? Contact Check Point Software today for a free consultation!

 

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