Despite its benefits, the internet can be dangerous to firms and employees if it is not monitored. Malware attacks can cost businesses both financially and non-financially (see Figure 1). Furthermore, having access to distracting internet platforms like social media can lead to employee productivity issues.
Uniform resource locator (URL) filtering is a technique for reducing the dangers of the internet. In this article, we explain URL filtering, discuss the tools/technologies that enable URL filtering, and highlight four benefits of URL filtering for improving a company’s cybersecurity posture and worker efficiency.
Figure 1: Types of costs and expenses of cyberattacks
What is a URL?
A URL is the text that displays in a browser’s address bar. For example, the specific URL for this article is https://research.aimultiple.com/url-filtering/. URLs can be thought of as precise postal addresses. A URL, as opposed to a domain (which for our platform is https://aimultiple.com/), provides more particular information and directs people to a specific document or web page.
What is URL filtering?
URL filtering is a technique that improves web security while also increasing worker productivity. Filter allows organizations to ban specific URLs. Thus, employees are unable to visit these malicious or distracting web pages.
URL filtering is used in conjunction with web reputation services that assess the risk of URLs and determine whether they should be blocked or allowed. URL filtering firms frequently create categories based on data collected from online reputation services. For example, a vendor can group all known phishing URLs into a single category. URL filtering, in addition, provides for granular blocking, allowing only a portion of the URLs to be authorized from a domain.
In fact, URL filtering differs from DNS filtering in that it allows granular blocking. As we will see in the benefits section, granular filtering can be useful for assuring data compliance and zero trust security procedures.
Which tools provide URL filtering?
Secure web gateway (SWG) is the main tool that provides URL filtering. SWGs are designed to ensure a safe and effective internet experience for workers thanks to their following features:
- URL filtering
- Tracking and recording online history of users
- Malware code detection
- Encrypted traffic analysis
- Data loss prevention
Although SWGs can be employed as a stand-alone cybersecurity tool, they can also be part of a larger cybersecurity framework. Secure access service edge (SASE), for example, is a complete network and security solution platform for businesses that frequently use a SWG as a security component. As a result, SASE is another URL filtering tool option for companies.
4 Benefits of URL Filtering
1. Boost Web Security
As we mentioned before, URL filtering is a web filtering strategy that enhances web security of organizations.
According to an Accenture analysis, numbers of cyberattacks increased by 30% in 2021 compared to the previous year. State actors began launching cyberattacks after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In fact, Fitch Ratings issued a cyber-warning to businesses.
Such a paradigm requires web filtering to protect organizations against the malicious software that is located on certain domains or URLs. We recommend companies to implement both URL and DNS filtering strategies to ensure complete web security.
2. Ensure least access principle
According to the zero trust cybersecurity paradigm, workers should only have access to the documents/platforms they need to execute their tasks. Thus, companies can:
- Limit their attack surface.
- Lower the risk of internal data breaches.
- Preserve data compliance.
URL filtering promotes the least access principle by preventing particular employees from accessing certain domain URLs while allowing them access to the domain’s unblocked URLs.
Consider a corporation that runs its operations on a cloud computing platform. Finance department employees at this company may be denied access to URLs that include personal information about consumers, but they may be allowed access to a data collection that shows sales’ monetary values.
3. Increase worker productivity
The Internet can be distracting and have a detrimental impact on worker productivity ( see Figure 2). URL filtering can increase employee productivity by banning the following categories of websites:
- Social media platforms
- Online dating sites
- Illegal or inappropriate websites like betting sites.
Firms may also benefit from granular filtering features. Consider a corporation where employees conduct their research through news channels. Most news platforms, however, feature distracting sections, such as the sports news area. URL filtering can be used to block such pages while allowing employees to read work-related news.
Figure 2: Employees use of non-work related web content per week
4. Optimize network traffic
Employees’ actions on the internet, whether related to business or not, pose a traffic burden on corporate bandwidth. As a result, URL filtering can be used to increase bandwidth by directing only work-related traffic to the company’s infrastructure. Blocking streaming platforms like Netflix, in particular, can drastically boost bandwidth and reduce data latency issues.
You can check our sortable and filterable list of SWG vendors to find the best SWG suppliers.
To learn more about URL filtering and web security in general you can contact us:
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
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