Exploring URL Filtering & Why Organizations Need to Implement It

It’s not news that the majority of data breaches and network attacks occur due to poor internal security hygiene.

However, what some of the headlines forget to mention is how easy it is for employees to leave the door open for attackers. In some cases, just a single click on an unsecured URL can expose your organization’s network and resources to those with malicious intent.

This is one of the main reasons why organizations need to implement different security features to fight off unwanted attacks.

To repel these accidental internal breaches, most experts will suggest security training and policy implementation, but that’s not enough.

Organizations should instead choose the correct security solutions and policies to fit best their company’s needs. And in the case of limiting employee access to URLs that don’t relate to their job, this is where URL filtering comes in.

What is URL Filtering?

URL filtering provides organizations’ IT and security teams the ability to limit employees’ access to certain URLs, by defining which are either permitted or blocked sites.

The most important reason your organization needs to integrate a URL filtering tool is to prevent employees from gaining access to websites that don’t help them with their jobs, or sites that can create major security risks for the organization.

By limiting access to certain URLs, it helps employees be more productive and helps to fight off potential security risks such as data loss, malware, or even legal issues. 

DNS Filtering Vs URL Filtering

DNS filtering, or Domain Name System blocking, is indeed useful for some ideas surrounding security but ultimately has less finesse than URL filtering.

IT administrators can use a DNS filter to limit access to sites based on the DNS name resolution, or the site’s IP address, so whenever any URL resolves to this IP it’s blocked.

This would also include all sub URLs, meaning it’s impossible to pick and choose which pages of a website (for example) are whitelisted and which are blocked. 

URL filtering has this capability and blocks access based on the exact URL as written in the filtering tool. With a URL filter, it would be possible to block access to facebook.com and still allow employees to see the company’s own Facebook page. This type of granular stratification of website access boosts the control that IT admins wield over the organization.

How Does URL Filtering Work?

URL filtering compares all web traffic with a database containing predetermined groups of URLs and then initiates the process of permitting or denying access to a site based on the categorization of the group that the URL belongs to.

A URL filtering database operates with predefined URL lists such as gambling or pornography to groups of websites and allows managers to define the different access conditions to these URLs. 

Most organizations usually set up defined conditions similar to the following: 

  • Blocked: These URLs tend to be websites that distract employees from their work such as social media, news sites, or unsecured sites. Additionally, lists of URLs that are categorized with different security risks or have a history of malware or other attacks will be defined as blocked.
  • Allowed: Most sites that are defined as allowed concern employees’ daily work environments and tasks, such as workflow sites, email, work productivity sites, and more.
  • Allowed with Security Policies: These tend to be specific URLs that are set by the security and IT team, which will allow users access but with logging and monitoring by the security and IT teams.  

Customizing URL Filtering 

No matter if it’s integrated into different devices or a standalone platform, URL filtering provides another layer of security for organizations against unknown threats so employees can work normally without thinking about security.

For all organizations looking to integrate a URL filtering feature, the following are the main security factors for integrating a URL filtering feature in your security strategy.

  • Enforcing Best Security Practices: By controlling access to different sites it helps IT teams to have full control of who is accessing what, where, and when. This plays a huge role in avoiding unwanted security threats.
  • Avoiding Phishing and Malware: By denying access to known flawed sites the opportunity for hackers to create a security breach will be decreased.
  • Implementing Security Policies: By setting up a security playbook that includes whitelisted and blacklisted URLs and user identification rules it will add another layer between malicious attackers and your organization. 
  • Clearly Defined Whitelists and Blacklists:  With IT and security teams fully controlling all the different sites that are being accessed by employees, it provides the guarantee of zero unwanted and accidental URL blocks.

URL Filtering is Better Security for the Future

By implementing URL filtering into your cloud security, you take a major step towards an airtight network.

URL filtering additionally protects different endpoint devices and cloud services from cyber threats while boosting employee productivity and performance.

By protecting and managing your employee’s access, it supplements your lines of defense in the fight against malicious attackers on your organization.

The more secure your employees’ access, the more comprehensive your organizational security.