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There are numerous reasons why businesses would want to limit internet access at work. Allowing employees unrestricted internet access can have a significant impact on productivity. Unrestricted internet access can also increase the risk of malware and ransomware downloads, while improper internet access at work can result in a variety of legal issues. Given the risks involved, it’s not surprising that many businesses opt for a technological solution to enforce acceptable Internet usage policies and block access to malicious websites. This post discusses some of the key benefits of using a web filter to limit internet access in the workplace, as well as some of the potential issues that can arise when using content-control software.

Personal Internet Use at Work Is a Problem

Employees will slack off from time to time whether or not they have access to the internet, but having access to the internet makes slacking off much easier. Simply limiting the websites that can be accessed will not eliminate time waste, but it will allow businesses to make significant productivity gains. Some employees devote a significant portion of their workday to personal internet use, online gaming, or accessing their social media accounts. The productivity losses would be significant if every employee in an organization spent an hour per day on personal internet use. A company with 100 employees would lose 100 hours per day, or 26,100 working hours per year, and many employees spend much more time each day on personal internet use.

Other issues can arise as a result of excessive personal internet use at work. When employees use streaming services, download files via P2P networks, or engage in other bandwidth-intensive activities, it has a natural impact on internet speeds throughout the organization. Businesses can ensure adequate bandwidth is available for all employees by using a web filter to restrict internet access at work and limiting access to certain bandwidth draining activities.

Malware and Ransomware Downloads Pose a Risk

When employees access social media websites, download files, or visit dubious websites, the risk of malware or ransomware downloads skyrockets.

Exploit kits scan browsers and plugins for vulnerabilities, which are then exploited to silently download malware. Malvertising is typically used to direct traffic to these websites, but high-traffic websites are constantly compromised by hackers who add malicious content such as phishing webpages and malware.

Certain websites have a high risk of infecting users with malware. Allowing employees to access these sites, many of which are inappropriate for work could easily result in the download of malware or ransomware.

Legitimate pornographic website operators usually take great care to ensure that their sites are not compromised or infected with malware. After all, they are legitimate businesses. However, pornographic content is frequently used as bait to spread malware, and there are numerous shady adult sites whose sole purpose is to infect visitors with malware or steal credit card information. Blocking these NSFW websites not only improves productivity and avoids legal issues, but it also lowers the risk of malware infection.

Using torrent sites and P2P file-sharing networks is one of the riskiest online activities. There are few – if any – controls over the content shared through torrent sites, and pirated music and video files are frequently laced with malware, spyware, and adware. Illegal software downloads are extremely dangerous because malware is frequently bundled in the executable files used to install the software or in the Keygen tools that generate product keys to allow the software to be used.

A malware or ransomware attack can be extremely expensive. Many businesses have experienced ransomware attacks that have rendered their systems inoperable for several days or even weeks, resulting in massive losses as the business grinds to a halt. As was the case with the WannaCry ransomware attacks in 2017, a ransomware attack can render an entire network inoperable. The installation of the malware caused significant disruption to the NHS in the United Kingdom, and mitigating the attacks cost £92 million. 

A web filter will not prevent all malware and ransomware attacks, but it is possible to prevent employees from visiting certain categories of ‘risky’ websites, the filtering solution can be configured to prevent the downloading of specific file types, and websites known to contain malware or exploit kits can be blocked. Any attempt to access one of those websites will result in a block screen. Many businesses decide to limit internet access at work in order to protect themselves from malware and ransomware downloads.

Extra Security Against Phishing Attacks

Phishing is the most common cyber threat that businesses face. It is estimated that more than 90% of cyberattacks begin with a phishing email. A spam filtering solution, which prevents the majority of malicious messages from being delivered to end users, is one of the best anti-phishing defenses. However, no spam filter is perfect, and some malicious messages will make their way into employees’ inboxes. Employees can be trained to recognize phishing emails and taught cybersecurity best practices to reduce susceptibility to phishing attacks, but sooner or later, an employee will be duped into clicking a link in an email and arriving at a phishing website.

An attacker can gain access to a user’s email account and all sensitive data contained in that account if the user is directed to a website and discloses their login credentials. The compromised account can also be used to send additional phishing emails to other employees in the organization, as well as to customers and business contacts. It is common for a single response to a phishing email to result in the compromise of multiple email accounts.

Phishing attacks are among the most expensive cyber attacks to resolve. Each email in a compromised account should be scanned for personally identifiable information and other sensitive data. Checking thousands of emails by hand can take weeks and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A web filter is an additional layer of security that assists organizations in strengthening their anti-phishing defenses by providing time-of-click protection and blocking attempts to visit malicious websites. When an employee clicks a link to a website that has been added to a blacklist as a result of previous use in phishing campaigns, the user is taken to a block screen. WebTitan, TitanHQ’s web filtering solution, prevents access to approximately 60 million malicious websites each week.

Preventing Access to Inappropriate Web Content

While most employees do not use the internet to access illegal or inappropriate content for work, there are always a few bad apples. Accessing pornography at work is a real problem that could be much worse than you think.

According to a Barna Group survey conducted in 2014, 63 percent of men and 36 percent of women have viewed pornography at work. According to a Forbes survey from 2013, 25% of adults have viewed porn at work, while another survey found that 28% of employees have downloaded porn at work. Accessing pornography at work is not only a major drain on productivity, but it can also lead to the development of a hostile working environment. Pornography has the potential to harass and degrade employees, particularly women. Employees have taken legal action against their employers for failing to implement content controls in the workplace and prevent coworkers from accessing pornography.

Many businesses believe that the best way to address the problem of workplace pornography access is through acceptable usage policies and increased oversight of employees by line managers. When people are found to be abusing the internet, action can be taken against them without restricting internet access at work for everyone. This is not always successful. Furthermore, when pornography is discovered at work, employees are usually fired immediately. This comes at a cost to the HR department in terms of lost productivity while new employees are hired and trained.

The most straightforward solution is to use a web filter to limit internet access at work. A web filter can be used to restrict access to specific websites or types of the website content, such as pornographic sites, as well as to enforce acceptable usage policies. One of the most common reasons why businesses restrict internet access at work is for security reasons.

Issues with Using a Web Filter to Limit Internet Access at Work

A web filter may appear to be a quick and easy solution to the issues listed above, but it should be noted that companies that restrict internet access at work with web filters may encounter issues. When you limit internet access at work with an appliance-based web filtering solution, you may experience latency. Each website must be inspected before it can be accessed, which causes website loading to be delayed. Each webpage on a secure (HTTPS) site must be decrypted, inspected, and re-encrypted. This puts a significant strain on resources. As more websites migrate to HTTPS, latency becomes a serious issue.

A DNS-based filtering solution is the solution. DNS-filtering does all of the filtering in the cloud, so there is no latency. There are additional advantages. Cloud-based web filters are more adaptable and scalable, and they do not require the purchase of any hardware, resulting in significant cost savings.

When web filters are used to restrict internet access at work and lack highly granular controls, there is a risk of website content being overblocked. Websites that must be accessed for work purposes may be blocked, necessitating time spent by the IT support team whitelisting websites. The solution is to use a web filter with highly granular controls, which allows content to be easily blocked without also blocking websites that are required for work.

Should Businesses Limit Internet Access?

While content control software may appear to be an ideal way to prevent employees from cyberslacking in order to increase productivity, care must be taken when implementing those controls or the productivity gains may not be realized. Employees who were previously only accessing personal websites may be dissatisfied with the new restrictions if internet access is restricted at work. This has the potential to reduce productivity and create a hostile working environment. Why should all employees suffer as a result of the actions of a few? As a result, when deciding which types of websites to block, caution must be exercised. You can increase productivity and avoid staff issues by exercising careful and intelligent control.

Controlling Internet Usage in the Office to Avoid Staff Issues

Using a web filtering solution that allows for time-based filtering controls is one of the simplest ways to improve productivity while controlling internet access. Employers can use this feature to limit internet access at work during peak periods while relaxing controls at other times. It is simple to restrict access to certain websites 100% of the time and others only some of the time. Administrators can use WebTitan to set standard controls during busy times, such as mornings, and relax controls during breaks or outside of office hours.

How Do I Restriction Internet Access on an Employee’s Computer?

There are several methods for restricting internet access on an employee’s computer. If you want to completely disable internet access for a specific employee, whether temporarily or permanently, you can use existing network hardware or a firewall rule to block a specific IP address.

A web filter allows for much finer-grained controls, such as blocking specific websites or categories of websites for a specific employee or group of employees. If you need to block internet access – or implement partial blocks – for more than one employee, this option is much easier and less time-consuming. These controls can be applied quickly and easily with a cloud-based web filter via a web portal that the administrator can access from any computer.

How to Selectively Limit Employee Internet Access

Many businesses want to know how to limit employee internet access without completely blocking access to the internet. It is simple to restrict employee internet access with WebTitan. Controls can be set for individual employees or groups of employees. If you have salespeople, you may want to do everything possible to keep them on the phone, and internet controls may need to be more stringent. Because they will be required to access a broader range of websites for work, the marketing department may require much more lax controls. Setting controls for different users and user groups is simple because the filter integrates with LDAP and Active Directory. Through LDAP/AD, you can implement organization-wide controls (for example, adult content), department controls (social media), and individual controls.

Is it possible to use a web filter on HTTPS websites?

A web filter will block access to all websites in blacklists, which includes HTTPS websites known to be malicious. A web filter with SSL inspection will decrypt, inspect, and re-encrypt HTTPS sites in real-time, blocking access if they violate user-defined policies.

Is Internet content filtering difficult?

Filtering Internet content does not have to be difficult. With a cloud-based web filter you just make a simple change to point your DNS to your service provider. Log in to your web-based user interface and use the checkboxes to select the content you want to permit or block. All malicious websites will automatically be blocked through the blacklists used by the solution.

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