The cloud landscape is rife with unsafe URLs and inappropriate content. This—coupled with the accelerated adoption of cloud applications in the workplace—has created an urgent need to scrutinize and control the use of these online resources to prevent data theft, exposure, and loss. This blog elaborates on how a robust URL filtering solution can help manage what cloud services your employees use and how they interact with these services.
What is URL filtering?
URL filtering—also known as content filtering or web filtering—restricts employees from accessing unsafe web content such as phishing and malware pages. It uses the reputation score assigned to each cloud application based on the history, age, underlying URLs, and more to grant or deny access.
The basic architecture of how a URL filtering solution works
Unrestricted use of web resources could result in employees accessing inappropriate cloud applications and malicious websites. With the advent of bring your own device environments, there is now a pressing need to keep track of cloud services employees interact with. The top four reasons to add URL filtering to your cloud security toolbox are:
- Reduces the risk of malware attacks
Google Safe Browsing has registered a total of 2,145,013 phishing and 28,803 malware sites as of January 17, 2021, which is a 25 percent increase from the same period last year. With risks this widespread, giving free, unmonitored use of cloud resources to your employees will expose your organisation to a bevy of malware, including ransomware, phishing attacks, credential theft attempts, spam campaigns, and more.
With URL filtering, you can catalog cloud applications into various categories based on their likelihood of exposing you to security threats and block their usage when the probability is high. Some cloud app categories that can be blocked from use include:
- Malware sites
- Phishing and other frauds
- Spyware and adware
- Proxy avoidance and anonymizers
- Spam URLs
- Shields from exploit kits
Seemingly harmless websites can conceal malicious executables that will find and exploit vulnerabilities in your employees’ browsers while they surf the internet. Use a URL filtering solution to identify and restrict access to known domains that serve ransomware and other malicious payloads.
- Restricts unproductive web content
Ensure that your employees cannot access non-work cloud applications that eat up huge chunks of their valuable time, such as online shopping, social media, video streaming, gambling, and online gaming applications. Aside from draining your workforce’s productivity, web resources with inappropriate content can result in low employee morale.
- Enforces bandwidth control to prevent congestion
The unrestricted use of cloud services can result in irrelevant applications hogging your network traffic. Block the web services that dominate your bandwidth to ensure the smooth functioning of your much-needed business applications.
URL filtering involves much more than simply blocking of unwanted web applications. With web filtering, you can enforce selective control measures that allow your employees to access a website but block certain high-risk functions such as submitting credentials and downloading files. You can also choose to enable strict read-only access to suspicious cloud services.
URL filtering also enables you to set privileges based on the needs of the individual user or user groups, allowing for a more granular and effective approach to security.
Before you can effectively implement URL filtering software, some basic questions need to be answered:
- What cloud applications are in use within your organisation, and what purposes do they serve?
- Do your employees utilize shadow IT services?
- Can you track data movement (uploads and downloads)?
- What low-reputed and unsafe cloud resources are being used in your organisation?
These questions can help you review the need for a URL filtering solution in your organisation and determine which cloud applications need to be blocked.
Ready to learn more? Check out these cloud application security best practices to learn how to establish a safe web experience for your employees.
You can also check out our homegrown solution for filtering web usage, ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus.
DataSecurity Plus’ cloud protection provides in-depth visibility into your organisation’s internet traffic and enforces adequate security measures for your cloud applications. It helps:
- Ensure that only websites with adequate levels of encryption are in use.
- Track and scrutinize the use of shadow IT cloud applications.
- Block unsanctioned web services.