How to block employees from accessing websites

How to block employees from accessing websites

Have you heard about the federal employee who browsed 9,000 adult sites in under 7 months? Between 2016 and 2017, this person used their work computer to access thousands of sites with explicit content. Many of these sites were linked to Russian pages that had malware. 

On average, this meant visiting about 79 adult sites on each business day. This employee also stored a lot of explicit content on an unauthorized USB drive and their personal Android phone, both of which were connected to the work computer against the rules. The phone ended up getting infected with malware, according to the investigation.

This example highlights why blocking sites with adult-themed media is sensible. However, is it a good idea to block all types of inappropriate websites, such as social media? Would your employees see you as a tyrant, or could you adopt a Google-like approach that effectively improves security?

Let's investigate whether blocking access to specific websites can benefit your company and how it might be perceived.

Key takeaways

  • It's important for businesses to learn how to stop employees from using non-work-related or harmful websites. This helps keep the workplace focused and safe, boosts productivity, and protects the company's online assets.

  • DNS filtering is a great way to keep employees away from sites they shouldn't visit. It works by blocking certain internet requests, which helps reduce both distractions and security risks.

  • Teaching employees why web filtering matters is key. It helps everyone understand why it keeps the company secure.

  • In July 2023, Google limited internet access for some employees to just Google sites and a few others. This move shows how important it is to control internet use to stay safe from online threats, a practice even adopted by big companies.

  • NordLayer helps companies efficiently block websites that might distract or pose risks. Its DNS filtering service makes it easier to manage what sites can be accessed, supporting productivity and security. This approach ensures employees only visit appropriate websites.

Why restrict internet access in a workplace?

Many businesses find it crucial to restrict internet access at work to boost productivity and secure their networks. Let's explore the reasons and benefits of such restrictions.

Why block access at work

  • A key reason for limiting internet access is to enhance employee productivity. By blocking websites, especially social media and entertainment sites, companies can reduce distractions.

  • Another vital reason is to protect the company's network security. Accessing insecure websites can increase the risk of cyber threats such as malware, phishing attacks, and data breaches.

  • It's also important to manage bandwidth usage. Without restrictions, internet access might consume bandwidth for non-essential activities.

  • Compliance with legal and regulatory standards is crucial. Accessing or downloading copyrighted material without permission, or engaging in other illegal online activities, could pose legal risks to the company. DNS filtering and web filtering block websites that could lead to legal issues.

  • Lastly, maintaining a professional work environment involves blocking websites with inappropriate content, such as adult material or sites promoting hate or violence. This ensures a safe workplace where employees are not exposed to offensive content.

What websites should your business block access to?

Blocking websites effectively requires a clear strategy. Here’s a comprehensive list of the types of websites your business should consider blocking access to.

Websites your business should block

  1. Phishing sites. These websites are crafted to deceive people into giving away personal or sensitive company information. They often mimic legitimate websites to steal data. Blocking access to known phishing sites is crucial for protecting your employees and your business.

  2. Unofficial software download sites. While these sites may seem like a handy resource for free software, they frequently harbor security risks. These can include malware or software that infringes on copyright laws. Block these sites to protect your network and comply with intellectual property regulations.

  3. File sharing and torrent sites. These platforms are notorious for spreading malware and facilitating data breaches. By blocking these sites, you significantly reduce the risk of infecting your company's systems with malicious software.

  4. Social media platforms. Well, it's no secret that social media can be a major distraction in the workplace. Block social media platforms to increase productivity. 

  5. Video streaming services. High bandwidth usage from streaming services can slow down your network and affect the performance of work-critical applications. Blocking these services ensures that your internet bandwidth is reserved for business operations.

  6. Online gaming sites. Similar to social media, online games can divert employees' attention from their work. DNS filtering can prevent access to gaming websites, helping employees stay on track.

  7. Adult content websites. Restrict access to websites with adult content to maintain a respectful and comfortable work environment for everyone, beyond the obvious professional and security reasons.

  8. Online shopping sites. While convenient for personal use, these sites can distract employees during work hours. Block access to e-commerce platforms to keep the focus on work.

  9. Gambling websites. Block access to gambling sites to maintain professionalism and prevent potential legal issues.

  10. Content that promotes hate or violence. Websites that promote hate, violence, or illegal activities should be inaccessible to maintain a safe and respectful workplace.

How to block websites on a network: 5 simple ways

Nowadays, having free access to the internet at work can result in decreased productivity and higher risks to security. This is why it's important for businesses to find ways to limit access to certain websites.

By combining technical methods and clear rules, companies can ensure their employees stay on task, and their networks are safe. Here are five easy-to-understand ways to do this.

Internet access restriction methods

DNS filtering

DNS filtering is a powerful approach to prevent access to specific websites. It blocks DNS queries, which is how the internet translates website names into IP addresses.

When a company sets up DNS filtering, it stops these queries for unwanted websites. This means if an employee tries to visit a non-work-related site, the DNS filter will block it.

Think of DNS filtering like a librarian who decides which books are okay to check out. This method inspects the internet's ‘book catalog’ (DNS queries) and only lets through the requests for websites that the company thinks are okay. If an employee tries to visit a banned site, the ‘librarian’ simply says, ‘This book is not available.’

This method is effective not only for blocking certain sites but also for preventing access to malicious or phishing sites.

Web filtering software

Web filtering software allows businesses to define which websites are not allowed and enforce these rules across the network. Categories like social media, entertainment, or adult content can be restricted. 

The software examines the content of web pages and blocks them if they match the prohibited criteria. This ensures employees access only work-related sites. 

Router settings

Routers, especially those for business use, often have features to block specific websites. Administrators can enter URLs or keywords related to unwanted websites through the router's settings.

This method is especially handy for small businesses without the means for more advanced filtering. It’s a bit like making a no-entry list, but it might need updates now and then to keep up.

Firewall configurations

Configuring firewalls to block websites is like having a guardian at the gate that only lets in traffic that follows the rules set by the business. By blocking specific IP addresses or domains, the guardian ensures that only safe and approved content can be entered.

This method, when used with others, strengthens the security. It can be either a hardware or a cloud firewall, so businesses are flexible in protecting the network.

Browser extensions

Install browser extensions that block access to specified websites on individual devices. While this method applies at the device level rather than the network, it's a straightforward way to prevent access to non-work-related content on company computers.

Besides technical measures, educating employees about the significance of web filtering and the rationale for blocking certain sites is crucial. This education might include training, policies, or regular reminders about proper internet use at work.

Should companies restrict internet access?

Deciding if companies should limit internet access at work is all about finding the right balance. Many companies block websites that are unrelated to work to keep the workplace productive and focused. However, cyber-attacks are a more solid reason.

In July 2023, Google decided to restrict some employees from accessing the internet, except for Google's own sites and a few essential services. This was part of an experiment to see how well blocking access could protect against cyber threats.

As the use of AI tools grows and brings more risks to data privacy, and as companies like Google aim for high-security government contracts, the reasons to restrict internet access become even stronger.

Limiting internet access can be a crucial step for companies that handle sensitive information or want to safeguard national security. It helps prevent unauthorized access to websites, ensuring the company's and users' data stays safe.

How NordLayer can help

NordLayer's DNS filtering simplifies how to block employees from accessing websites that could harm your company's network. This system scrutinizes each attempt to visit a website, comparing it to a list of sites that are not allowed. When it finds a website that's recognized as a threat or is already on the blocklist, NordLayer steps in to block access to that website, ensuring your network remains secure.

DNS filtering by category

By choosing NordLayer, businesses can control and block access to a website across more than 50 varied categories, all while securing sensitive company data with robust AES 256-bit encryption. This approach offers a comprehensive solution for maintaining productivity and enhancing network security. If you have any questions before getting started, feel free to contact our sales team. They're here to assist you.

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