Web Filtering Explained:
How to Filter the Web without Affecting Employee Productivity
Why Is Web Filtering Important?
Protecting your company’s sensitive information from data loss or data compromise is paramount. Employees can (whether knowingly or unwittingly) expose your organization to viruses and malware just by surfing the web. Unfortunately, this leads to weak points in your network security—plus, your employees can become a liability to your company’s integrity, which in some cases, can lead to legal trouble. These are all major reasons companies choose to implement web content filtering.
You may want your employees to have free reign with their internet access. Maybe you believe that free-range internet access allows your employees to better do their jobs. Maybe you believe your staff won’t waste time browsing social media or shopping sites. Unfortunately, recent research suggests that the average employee wastes up to an hour of work each day messing around online. Yet, employees have self-reported estimations of 2 or more hours of company time wasted surfing the web each day. The International Data Corporation (IDC)conducted a survey and found that 30% to 40% of on-the-job internet use is non-work-related.
Just like firewall permissions, web content filtering permissions are equally important to protect the security, integrity and productivity of your company.
How Does Web Filtering Work?
What kind of a business are you? Does every one of your employees need unrestricted access to the web? You definitely can’t eliminate the Internet completely, especially considering how important it is to successful businesses these days. Seeing as it’s highly likely your employees also use the web as a tool on the job, it all boils down to finding the right balance.
Secure Web Gateways are a specific type of firewall, created to protect your company from web abuse. A secure web gateway acts as a perimeter security solution. Designed to protect companies from web-based threats, enforce internet acceptable-use policies, and help companies manage web usage, these gateways can:
—>Block viruses and malware by restricting access to known threats living on the web
—>Block employees from visiting websites with malware and other threats
—>Block employees from visiting sites that violate company policies (porn, weapons, hate speech, etc.)
Some Web Gateways include advanced features like:
—>The ability to identify suspicious websites on the fly and place them on a blacklist until they can be reviewed, and
—>Employee guidance that explains why certain websites are blocked or warns your employees that certain sites are suspicious.
How to Make Web-Filtering Employee Friendly
One of the biggest challenges isn’t enabling and monitoring a Secure Web Gateway. It also isn’t about making a power move designed to force employees to work harder for longer. The issue is getting employees to understand just how serious “safe and responsible” web surfing is, and how important it is to everyone’s job within an organization.
Here are a few ways to balance security, integrity and productivity with employee happiness:
Secure web gateways can also be used to impose reasonable limits on employee activities. For example, they can limit how much time employees can spend online in a day or the number of megabytes they can download. The gateway can also control the use of social media applications during work hours or block them altogether.
Secure web gateways can also provide dashboard-type overview charts and detailed reporting on web usage and present aggregate information such as company internet usage by time period and department. They can also allow managers to drill down and look at details, such as websites visited most often, the employees using the most bandwidth, and the employees using questionable search terms.
Business managers can apply controls selectively (access permissions), so people aren’t prevented from doing their jobs. For example, they could:
—>Allow marketing employees to access social media sites while limiting others from getting distracted with non-company surfing,
—>Allow the HR staff to research controversial and/or legal topics, while blocking access to other employees,
—>Block YouTube and other streaming video sites, except when those needs relate to training for on-the-job situations,
—>Allow employees to access shopping and online game sites during lunch, breaks, and outside of normal business hours, and
—>Improve productivity by enacting acceptable-use policies in creative ways designed to reduce surfing the web, while still enabling legitimate business use.
The best way to encourage positive behavior is to educate your employees about the reasons you’ve enacted web filtering. If your employees understand how much irresponsible use of the Internet actually affects a company, they can become open to the idea of changing. Pair that with positive reinforcement, and your company will be well on its way to more responsible web use.
Instead of wielding an iron fist, try to meet your people somewhere in the middle. Reinforce good habits by rewarding responsible use. Allow internet breaks along with other options Zen options such as: yoga, breathing/meditation, free-time, etc. Encourage open communication and have HR find out what’s important to each individual that makes up your organization. Successful companies are those that work together and reward everyone for their hard work and effort. Allowing a little freedom can go a long way to keeping your company safe and secure, while maintaining its professional integrity.