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Website Categorization: Enhancing URL Filtering for MSSPs

Although the Internet offers many opportunities, it also comes with a wide variety of issues. Cybercrime is rampant, and not knowing how to navigate the Web safely can lead to severe consequences.

Phishing is one of the top concerns for enterprises. And managed security service providers (MSSPs) have decided that URL filtering is one way to resolve the issue.

Let's find out what URL filtering is and how website categorization can enhance it.

What Is URL Filtering and How Does It Work?

URL filtering is the process of categorizing websites into what is safe to access and what is not. It uses predefined protocols to automatically allow or block users from accessing a site depending on its reputation. This content filtering capability is sought after for its ability to enforce organizational policies and improve network security.

URL filtering works by comparing Web traffic against a database to permit or deny access depending on a certain set of criteria. Cataloged websites in a URL filtering database are assigned a URL category or group. The conditions of access are also defined here. For example, an address may be:

  • Allowed: These are websites that are accepted and relevant to the organization and its workflow.
  • Blocked: Sites that are prohibited by the organization perhaps due to being harmful or malicious.

URL filtering databases can be kept on-site, in the cloud, or both. This will depend on the needs of a specific system. Local lookups can operate faster due to the reduced latency but may lack coverage. A cloud-hosted database, meanwhile, can maintain a more up-to-date catalog in exchange for higher latency and/or cost.

In a hybrid setup, the devices are able to adapt to unique traffic patterns while operating at low latency. When needed, users can query a master database hosted in the cloud in case an internal site isn't available.

URL Filtering Capabilities

URL filtering can be employed by cybersecurity firms for a wide range of activities. These can include:

  • URL categorization: MSSPs use URL filtering to protect customers from all types of threats and harmful websites. It does so by analyzing network traffic to allow or disallow access to specific domains.
  • Improved firewall capabilities: Firms use web filtering solutions to enhance their clients' Internet firewalls. Many of them also employ additional security software to monitor the Web for malicious activities.
  • Aspect filtering: URL filtering tools can determine the reputation of a website using a range of factors. These include website ranking, history, age, location, network, links, and more.

How Can Website Categorization Improve URL Filtering?

Website categorization technology is intended to be used in tandem with URL filtering. It can be a good source of information on websites classified under specific categories that users may be interested in.

Some website categorization tool providers utilize machine learning (ML) to parse millions of web pages at once. This can be handy since users won't have to deal with the hassle and expense of carrying out manual research.

What's more, a website categorization database can be combined with other solutions to extend capabilities. Using a website categorization API, for example, can allow for instant queries through a company's desired platform.

* * *

Standalone URL filtering is not enough for MSSPs to fully control a client's Web access habits. It isn't sufficient on its own as it lacks the visibility needed to protect against sophisticated attacks. With a website categorization partner, however, URL filtering can be improved to better stop threats from causing damage.

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