The Basics Of Web Filtering: Definition, Types, And Importance

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Aditya Rayaprolu
Written by
Aditya Rayaprolu

Updated · Jan 30, 2024

Aditya Rayaprolu
Technology Architect | McKinsey & Company | Joined February 2023 | LinkedIn
Aditya Rayaprolu

Aditya is an Azure DevOps and Infrastructure Virtualization Architect with experience in automation,... | See full bio

April Grace Asgapo
Edited by
April Grace Asgapo


April Grace Asgapo
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
April Grace Asgapo

April is a proficient content writer with a knack for research and communication. With a keen eye fo... | See full bio

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Web filtering is like a digital security guard that checks the websites people want to visit. It looks at these websites and decides if they are safe or not. This filter helps organizations keep their internet safe from data breaches and cyber-attacks.

If a website is blocklisted, it stops users from going there. This ensures people don’t see things they shouldn’t see online.

In 2021, the web filtering market was valued at $4.5 billion. This is projected to achieve $9.5 billion by 2030. From 2021 to 2026, its compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is 14%. This significant growth is due to the rising number of businesses using web content filtering to protect their servers.

Continue reading to learn more about web filtering, its types, and why it is essential.

🔑Key Takeaways

  • Web filtering acts as a digital gatekeeper, controlling website access based on predefined lists or real-time content analysis to ensure a safer online experience for users and organizations.
  • Various methods like URL filtering, content filtering, DNS filtering, and client/server-side filters cater to distinct needs, from parental controls to enterprise security.
  • Web filtering helps prevent malware infections, phishing attacks, and data breaches by blocking harmful websites.
  • Diverse software options like Cisco Umbrella, FortiGuard, WebTitan, CrowdStrike, and DNSFilter offer customizable solutions that cater to specific user requirements.
  • From personal internet safety to organizational cybersecurity, web content filtering empowers users to counter evolving online threats and maintain a secure and controlled browsing environment.

What is Web Filtering?

Web filtering is a tool that restricts access to specific websites or URLs to manage the content users can view. This tool helps individual users, families, and organizations have the choice to choose which content should be on display, maintaining online safety and security.

A web filtering tool operates through two primary methods: using predetermined lists and real-time content analysis.

Predetermined lists categorize websites to identify and block objectionable or harmful content.

The real-time analysis examines webpage content and stops it if it contains inappropriate or dangerous content.

Some web filtering tools use predictive analysis to identify and block potentially harmful URLs, safeguarding enterprise systems from potential threats.

Web filtering is often integrated into cloud protection software and encompasses different types tailored to various organizational requirements.

For instance, family filters aim to shield children from inappropriate content, while enterprise filters bolster network security by preventing employees from engaging in harmful or unproductive online activities.

💡 Did You Know?

Web filtering uses algorithms and rules to restrict or allow access to certain websites based on predetermined criteria, such as content categories or specific keywords.

Types of Web Filtering

Web filtering services can operate in various ways. Some factors that distinguish them are their approach to defining acceptable content and determining where and how their filtering rules are applied.

 Some of the different types of web filtering include the following.

Web Filter Type


Allow Listing

This web filtering method allows access to specific websites or content deemed safe or appropriate while blocking everything else.

Block Listing

Restricts access to unsafe, inappropriate, or unwanted websites or content while allowing access to everything else. Its primary purpose is to prevent unintentional visits to phishing sites and other risky locations.

Browser-Based Filters

Similar to extensions or applications, this filter is a user's web tool that regulates website access and content based on preset rules. It's convenient and easily installed due to its widespread availability.

Network-Based Filters

As the name implies, a network-based filter is implemented at the network level. It is used to monitor and control internet traffic for all connected devices.

Search Engine Filters

This web filter used by search engines blocks or limits access to certain websites or content in search results. Google and similar platforms offer a Safe Search feature, allowing users to easily adjust their preferred level of protection in the Settings.

Content Filtering

Content filtering is a method used to filter web content based on keywords, categories, or file types. It prevents access to inappropriate, harmful, or malicious content.

DNS Filtering

A Domain Name System (DNS) filtering is an approach that filters internet traffic at the DNS level. It blocks access to specific websites or content by redirecting or blocking requests to their associated Internet Protocol (IP) address.

URL Filtering

Also called HTTP filtering, this technique filters web content based on specific URLs. It blocks access to websites with addresses that match blocklisted URLs.

Client-Side Filtering

Client-side web filtering, using device-installed software and preset policies, requires setup on each device but can be bypassed by users with administrative access.

Server-Side Filtering

This type of web filtering is applied on the server side. The server or network infrastructure analyzes and controls web traffic before delivering it to the client device.

Content-limited ISPs

Content-limited ISPs are set up by internet service providers (ISPs), restricting access to certain types of web content. This is often due to legal requirements or local regulations, such as blocking access to adult websites.

Significance of Web Filtering

Web content filtering is essential for several reasons:

  • Web filtering blocks access to websites that distribute different types of malware or other malicious content. This helps prevent users’ computers from getting infected and protects the organization's overall security.
  • By blocking access to phishing sites, web filtering reduces the risk of users falling victim to scams. It also prevents them from having their sensitive data stolen, including passwords. This protects both the individuals and the organization from data breaches.
  • In a workplace setting, web filtering restricts employees from accessing non-work-related websites. This includes social media, video platforms, or explicit content sites. All of these can negatively impact productivity and consume network bandwidth.
  • Web content filtering adds a layer of security to the organization’s network. It reduces the risk of cyber-attacks and data breaches that could significantly damage the organization.
  • This tool is essential in public institutions like schools and libraries. It helps prevent students from accessing inappropriate content. Aside from protecting users, this allows them to avoid potential legal breaches.
  • Web filtering can block access to personal data storage applications. It reduces the chance of data leaks and unauthorized data sharing.
  • Helping control and monitor user behavior, web filtering lessens the possibility of accidentally accessing malicious or harmful websites. It prevents data disclosure through social media or file-sharing.

By mitigating security risks, web filtering ensures a safer and more productive online environment. It enforces policies and controls the internet access for individuals and organizations.

Pro Tip! 

Regularly update and fine-tune your web filtering settings to adapt to evolving online threats and ensure a balance between security and access for a safer and more productive browsing experience.

Web Filtering Software

There are many types of Web filtering software in the market. Each tool has something unique from the other, letting individuals and organizations control and restrict access to harmful internet content tailored to their needs.

Here’s a list of different web filtering software you can choose from:

1. Cisco Umbrella

Cisco enhanced its security portfolio through acquisitions, including the purchase of OpenDNS in 2015 which led to the creation of the Cisco Umbrella.

This cloud-based service safeguards users by securing the DNS layer and controlling internet access.

Cisco Umbrella web filtering protects against online threats before connecting to websites and allows content access control.


  • Offers free trial
  • $2.20/month per user

Key features:

  • Cloud-delivered solution for effortless integration
  • Designed to handle large-scale infrastructure and global deployments
  • Automatically applies policies to new network additions and offers both console and API access for enhanced flexibility
  • Logs web traffic and firewall activity, providing real-time context on malware, phishing attempts, botnets, and trojans
  • Leverages DNS-layer security to detect and prevent compromised systems from reaching the network

With both console and API accessibility, Cisco Umbrella assures real-time threat context, offering a formidable defense against malware, phishing, botnets, and trojans.

💡 Did You Know?

Cisco Umbrella began as a project called OpenDNS, which was primarily focused on providing a Domain Name System (DNS) service aimed at improving internet performance, reliability, and accessibility.

2. FortiGuard

FortiGuard web filtering tool suitable for schools, businesses, and government agencies. It comprises the FortiGuard Rating Server and the FortiGate multi-threat security system.

The Rating Server contains a vast database of web page addresses. A web filtering service blocks access to harmful and inappropriate sites when activated on FortiGate systems. These sites may contain phishing attacks and malware.


  • Pricing is not publicly available. Contact FortiGuard for this information.

Key Features:

  • Proven deployment at large scales
  • Offers on-premise, virtual, and cloud-based web filtering solutions
  • Customizable database with a constantly updated list of malicious IP data from global sources
  • Allows configuration of control points at the perimeter and between network segments for easy maintenance
  • Real-time reporting of application usage and comprehensive analytics

Though pricing details aren't public, FortiGuard's willingness to tailor solutions showcases its commitment to addressing specific security needs, cementing its position as a reliable, proactive, and advanced web security choice for diverse organizational requirements.

3. WebTitan

WebTitan web filtering is a tool suite that protects users from malicious websites and emails.

A managed DNS-based service called WebTitan Cloud suits small to medium-sized businesses.

This software blocks malware, viruses, and ransomware in real-time. It provides threat reports and allows for custom page-blocking settings and policies.


  • Offers free trial
  • Price starts at $1.58/month per user

Key Features:

  • Highly scalable web content filtering solutions suitable for small to medium-sized businesses
  • Offers cloud and on-premise deployment options and provides API for integration
  • Filters website URLs into predefined categories, containing over 500 million websites in 200 languages
  • Flexible policy creation module and remote administration option
  • Automated reporting system for analyzing web traffic

WebTitan Cloud offers an array of features that make it an indispensable tool for SMBs seeking reliable and comprehensive protection against online threats.

This tool’s affordability, scalability, and range of functionalities make it a great choice for businesses looking to fortify their cybersecurity measures.

4. CrowdStrike

The CrowdStrike web filtering software called Falcon is a cloud-based endpoint protection solution. It utilizes AI technology to detect intrusions on networks and endpoints.

Falcon claims to identify 99% of malware threats before affecting organizations or personal devices.


  • Offers free trial
  • Falcon Go: $299.95/year
  • Falcon Pro: $499.95/year
  • Pricing for Falcon Enterprise and Complete is not available publicly. Contact CrowdStrike for this information.

Key Features:

  • Real-time intelligence about each endpoint device, providing details on operating system versions, installed applications, file types, and drivers
  • Detects unknown malware within seconds, allowing proactive response
  • Access to insights from leading cybersecurity experts


To use the CrowdStrike web filter service, install the CrowdStrike Falcon agent on the endpoint devices you want to protect, and then manage and monitor those devices through the CrowdStrike Falcon platform, which provides real-time visibility and threat intelligence for proactive threat detection and response.

5. DNSFilter

DNSFilter includes AI-powered real-time phishing and malware protection, threat detection, and off-network protection.

It also provides customizable URL filters, analytics, and an SSL certificate.


  • Offers free trial
  • Basic: $0.90/month per user (annual) or $1/month per user (monthly)
  • Pro: $1.80/month per user (annual) or $2/month per user (monthly)
  • Enterprise: $2.70/month per user (annual) or $3/month per user (monthly)

Key Features:

  • Operates on an intelligent, global anycast network for automatic scaling and responsiveness
  • Flexible and API-driven solution
  • AI-powered domain analysis for real-time identification of malicious domains and undesirable content
  • Propriety algorithms intelligently categorize sites and reduce the need for maintaining domain lists
  • Generates reports for easy maintenance, including activity, security threats, billing, and query logs

DNSFilter's blend of advanced security features, scalability, and user-friendly reporting makes it a compelling choice for individuals, businesses, and enterprises seeking robust online protection and content control.


Web filtering is crucial to maintaining a safe and productive online environment.

It allows individuals and organizations to mitigate the risks associated with inappropriate or malicious online activities.

The choice of web filtering types depends on what your usage requires.

It can be for implementing parental control measures at home, adhering to educational institution regulations, or ensuring a secure browsing experience in corporate environments.

Web content filtering empowers users to safeguard themselves against constantly evolving threats found on the internet.


Is Web Filter a Firewall?

A web filter is different from a firewall. Web filters are responsible for restricting access to certain online content. Firewalls safeguard your network by preventing external threats from compromising internal services and computers.

How do I turn off web filtering in Chrome?

Open Google Chrome on your computer. Click the three vertical dots in the upper right corner and go to Settings. Go to Privacy and Security, then click Safe Browsing. To turn it off, choose the no protection option.


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