CleanBrowsing provides a DNS-based content filtering service, but what exactly is Content Filtering? We get this question a lot, and we want to take some time to explain a) what content filtering is, b) the different types of content filtering, and c) ways you can leverage content filtering.
Content filtering is the process of clearly defining what is, and is not, acceptable on a network. It can be achieved by using Software or Hardware solutions, and they use a multitude of different techniques to facilitate the filtering.
Although commonly associated with government “censorship” there are a myriad of reasons why an organization, home, or individual might implement a form of content filtering. Content filtering can be used to curb a users addiction to online content (e.g., porn, gambling, etc..), parents looking to protect their kids from unwanted content, schools looking to provide safe browsing experience, and organizations looking to create family friendly environments. The use cases are endless.
A school wants to ensure children don’t have access to things like malicious sites that intend on doing them harm, or block their access to inappropriate content (e.g., hate speech, pornography, obscene content, etc).
An organization wants to reduce the distractions, increasing productivity, that the internet introduces (e.g., social platforms, video streaming..).
The rise in content filtering technologies has born out of the pervasiveness of the web. Although we specifically speak to filtering content on the web, content filtering is expansive and can include filtering content on a number of other mediums (e.g., email, chat, social platforms) and in some instances, they converge.
Types of Content Filtering
There are a four types of content filtering on the web you should be aware of:
This type of filtering happens at some point in the transmission of the request from your device to the internet. This can happen at the local router that connects to the internet, or via a service (like DNS), or at the router for the Internet Service Provider (ISP).
This type of filtering can be exhaustive, with options that occur at different levels in the Open System Interconnection (OSI) model (e.g., Layer 3, 4, and 7). This is beyond the scope of this guide.
This type of filtering happens inside your web-browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge). The browser intercepts the requests before it leaves the browser and makes a determination if it fits the rules you have created.
This type of filtering happens inside of an application. It’s similar to what a browser does, but it typically encompasses all other applications on the device. Anti-Virus applications sometimes do this, and mobile applications also do this. This is commonly found in parental control applications.
Service Based Filters
This type of filtering has wide application, often overlapping with other types of filters. It can be found as an option inside a search engine, social platform (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok) and other similar platforms. This is becoming especially important in this digital age where users live and consume content inside platforms.
While government censorship is a big concern, content filtering can be found in various forms. There is no absolute right, or wrong, way of leveraging content filtering.
These are some of the reasons why and how content filtering is deployed:
How Content Filtering Helps
Pornography, obscene content, hate, violence and other similar content is readily available on the web. Content filtering helps create safe browsing experiences.
The web is riddled with malicious sites, and bad actors’ intent on doing your organization harm. Content filtering helps block malicious domains from a network.
Data Leakage Prevention
Data breaches are the norm these days, understanding what is happening on your network can help unearth potential compromises. Some content filtering solutions are able to monitoring incoming, and outgoing traffic.
Reducing Loss of Productivity
The prevalence of social, gaming, video streaming technologies have been leading contributors to loss of productivity in the workplace. Content filtering helps disable sites that don't conform with an organizations Internet Acceptable Use Policy.
Internet Access Protection
One of the biggest threats to an organization are the threats their employee poses to the organization through their naïve engagements with the web. They click where they shouldn’t, they engage on sites they shouldn’t. Content filtering can function as a last layer of defense against Phishing attempts and a users behaviors.
Being vigilant on what is happening on your network is a critical element to staying ahead of tomorrow’s threats. Content filtering can provide visibility into what is happening on a network.
Here are a few examples of how we have seen content filtering deployed:
Content Filtering Application
Looking to restrict their child's access to content they deem inappropriate (e.g., pornography, hate speech, weapons, drugs, anonymous sites). They also use it to control online utilization.
Have an obligation to provide children safe online experiences. Conform to guidelines set for by Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA).
Have similar requirements for safe browsing experiences. Those requirements mandate conforming with CIPA rules on content filtering.
A number of different governments we work with are exposing the internet to underprivileged communities, introducing public HotSpots that can be used by their citizens (e.g., parks, buses, etc..)
Companies are looking to address their Work From Home (WFH) concerns, tackle productivity issues and help reduce their security risk from devices connecting to their network.
Managed Service Providers (MSP)
As a way to provide their customers assurances that their IT infrastructure is being appropriately managed and used.
At CleanBrowsing, we are considered a network-based filter. We believe this to be the most effective approach to content filtering because it is agnostic to the device, location, operating system, or application ecosystem. It sits at the edge of the network, home or business, and inspects every domain request made by the network.
We achieve this level of filtering because we are a DNS resolver, which means we are a network-based filtering service.
We chose DNS because it is the central nervous system of the web, often referred to as the lookup table of the web, it helps a user navigate the internet. It takes something like an IP and translates it into something we can recognize, a domain like capella.edu. Without it, we’d be forced to remember 18.104.22.168, in the place of capella.edu. Or 22.214.171.124 in the place of Google. We leverage that to dictate if a domain should, or should not, be shown to a user based on the network administrators selections.
If you would like to learn more how CleanBrowsing can help your home, or organization, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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