Importance of using URL Filtering

The Internet has quickly become one the most important parts of our lives. It’s also constantly growing with more devices and websites being added each day (not even counting IoT devices.) Along with this exponential growth, the potential online threats are also increasing. In order to stay safe and help keep our networks secure, the security measures we use also need to change and adapt. Implementing URL filtering on your network can be used to help achieve these goals.

How does URL filtering work?

When you make a request to visit a website in your browser, the computer does a few things behind the scenes to retrieve it for you:

  • It resolves the domain name to an IP address (for example: www.example.org -> 93.184.216.34.) The IP acts as an identifier which makes it possible for one computer to identify and connect to other systems.
  • After opening a connection to the destination IP address, it sends an HTTP request which will ultimately load the page for you.

You could implement filtering in different ways, including: DNS filtering or URL filtering. DNS filtering would intercept requests to turn the domain name into an IP address and decide whether to allow or deny the request. URL filtering intercepts the request as it is being requested from the destination system and can see the domain name and the path of the URL (for instance: www.example.com/path-to-an-article.html.) The latter is the type of filtering that is discussed in this article.

The main component behind web filtering is how to know which URLs to block and which to allow. These are typically settings found in the filtering application that you’re using, such as which categories to allow or block based on the end user or the computer that they’re using. The categories for each website are then looked up and compared to the settings that you previously chose to enforce. This is done by using a database of categorized websites like our URL Category Database or through an API like our URL Category API.

Having a large website category database helps with speed and using a database which is frequently updated will make it more accurate and offer better protection from “unwanted” destinations. By blocking these “unwanted” destinations, such as malware or phishing, you can greatly enhance the security of your network.

Consider these additional examples of what URL filtering can help protect against:

  • Accessing adult websites, unwanted software and other content that can be harmful to your computer
  • Websites containing malware, phishing websites, viruses and other dangerous content
  • By detecting botnets and filtering known botnet servers, you can prevent your computer from being taken over

Using URL filtering this way is not a replacement for other forms of protection like anti-virus or Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS). It is another security layer that can be used to proactively save your computer systems and data from theft or destruction and help you to meet your network security needs.