The Critical Importance of Content Filtering
Gatekeeping is an unglamorous but necessary part of security, both in the real world and online. Just like the metal detectors at the airport keep weapons off planes, content filtering tools keep dangerous content off corporate networks. However, many companies don’t quite understand what content filtering really is and many MSPs only use basic filtering.
Content filtering is an important piece of the security puzzle, and it goes beyond simply restricting website access. For MSPs, blocking access to the continuously shifting mass of dangerous websites and preventing the entry of malware and ransomware into the corporate network is a critical way to guard against increasingly crafty phishing schemes. That requires advanced technology and an ongoing effort to keep the filtering system up to date.
Content filtering blocks employees from deliberately accessing inappropriate sites — you don’t want employees wasting time during business hours, and you certainly don’t want embarrassing content to find its way onto your corporate network or computers. Content filtering prevents employees from downloading pornography, stealing copyrighted material, or bogging down the network with large media files. This not only boosts productivity, but also helps protect your clients from legal liability and regulatory violations.
More importantly, content filtering provides a backstop against phishing attacks that can trick employees into visiting spoof sites or accidentally downloading malware. It’s these inadvertent breaches that pose the biggest threats because they are initiated by cybercriminals looking to do damage to your clients' networks.
In the past, it was enough to block access based on domain names, but the Internet is now more complex and cybercriminals are much savvier. Hackers are now able to compromise syndicated website feeds, which has spread those threats across multiple domains. Blocking threats requires examining DNS information, content, web activity, and other indicators. However, poorly structured content filtering can wind up eating into productivity if it blocks legitimate content that your clients’ employees need to access during their workdays.
Advanced Content Filtering Technology
Today’s content filtering tools need to be as advanced as the threats they are supposed to block. For example, Barracuda’s Content Shield leverages the company’s threat intelligence network to help protect clients from attacks. The cloud-based system blocks malicious sites before users can connect to them and helps enforce customer security policies by restricting access to inappropriate sites.
The system is customizable and includes reusable protection level templates. Content Shield provides DNS-level filtering and protection, which allows companies to block access to sites before a connection can be made. This “connection prevention” is a critical feature that helps prevent dangerous communication between your client endpoints and malicious or spoof websites.
This type of content filtering solution also makes it easier to enforce security policies across all devices and allows both MSPs and their clients to monitor end-user status from a central location. Barracuda also uses its threat data on emails, domains, URLs, and other sources to continuously update the solution’s filtering capabilities.
Barracuda Content Shield delivers a powerful web threat protection and content filtering solution for MSPs.
With correctly configured content filtering, MSPs can help their clients:
- Increase productivity: Employees can’t waste time accessing restricted sites, and networks are less likely to be affected by malware, ransomware, and other threats.
- Reduce liability: Employees won’t be able to download restricted, offensive, or illegal content. This can reduce the threat of an outside data breach. It also means your clients can be protected against regulatory violations, associated fines, and embarrassment.
- Improve security: Phishing attacks are becoming more complex. Even with security awareness training, employees can still be fooled into clicking a malicious link or downloading a virus. Content filtering can help combat this by blocking access to content that is deemed risky.
- Improve bandwidth management: Content filtering can help reduce employee streaming of non-work-related video and other content that can bog down the corporate network. Monitoring capabilities in these systems can also help the MSP and their clients get a better picture of network usage.
In today’s cybersecurity climate, businesses need to take advantage of every layer of security offered, whether it is in education or technology. Whether you’re looking to simply remove risk, or to keep employees productive, I suggest giving content filtering some thought.