Web Filtering for Hospitals

The Aims and Benefits of a Web Filter for Healthcare Organizations

Web filtering for hospitals is a tool that can be used by healthcare organizations to control access to unsafe websites and downloadable files that may contain malicious software (“malware”). The aim of a web filter for healthcare organizations is to reduce the risk that a hacker gains access to PHI and prevent ransomware attacks that result in an organization´s network being unusable due to the malicious encryption of its files.

The implementation of web filtering for hospitals also has secondary benefits. The ability to prevent employees from accessing unsafe websites can be extended to include websites that hinder productivity. Bandwidth issues can be resolved with a WiFi filter for hospitals, and a web filter for healthcare organizations can prevent all employees, patients and visitors from being exposed to online material that might be considered inappropriate.

How Web Filtering for Hospitals Helps Mitigate the Risk of Malware Attacks

Malware attacks are more commonly becoming “malware ambushes”. Whereas previously a hacker might use a phishing campaign in an attempt to extract passwords or confidential data, vulnerable websites are being infected with surveillance spyware, malvertising and drive-by downloads. When an unsuspecting Internet user visits an infected website, the malware starts downloading onto their device before spreading through an organization´s network.

A web filter for healthcare organizations analyzes every request to visit a web page against its parameters in order to determine whether or not access should be allowed. These parameters consist of automatically updated blacklists, category filters and keyword filters. Many filtering solutions for healthcare authorities also have SSL inspection to check the content of encrypted web pages before allowing access to an Internet user.

  • Blacklists automatically block websites that may contain malicious software and those that are reported to contain infections. Blacklists can also block access to any website hosted on a proxy server in order to disguise its true identity.
  • System administrators can configure category filters to prevent Internet users accessing website that fall within specific types. These may include social media channels, online shopping portals, or sites containing inappropriate online material such as pornography.
  • Keyword filters allow administrators to fine-tune the parameters in order to produce a higher level of granularity. These filtering mechanisms can also allow access to specific websites, but block the use of web applications within the websites.

Category filters and keyword filters can be configured to allow access to otherwise blocked sites to individual users and user-groups. With this flexibility, marketing departments could – if desired – still have access to social media channels, while websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are blocked to all other employees. Time-based controls also add further flexibility to how healthcare organizations control access to the Internet.

Improve Online Security with a WiFi Filter for Hospitals

Malware attacks are not exclusive to fixed networks. Any employee, patient or visitor accessing the Internet from their Smartphone could also inadvertently download malware onto their device. Some malware has the ability to spread from mobile devices to the routers through which the WiFi service is provided, and then to any device connected to the hospital´s wireless network.

A WiFi filter for hospitals reduces the risk of such a scenario from occurring by using the same mechanisms as mentioned above to mitigate the risk of malware attacks. By controlling access to unsafe websites and potentially infected downloadable files, healthcare organizations not only protect their own networks, but the mobile devices used by their employees, patients and visitors.

WiFi web filtering for hospitals also has the same high level of granularity as mentioned above – enabling system administrators to enforce one acceptable use policy for employees, and another for patients and visitors. This means that employees can be prevented from engaging in online activities that hinder productivity, while patients and visitors can retain access to social media, online shopping and gaming sites.

Further Benefits of a WiFi Filter for Hospitals

There are multiple benefits of implementing a web filter for healthcare organizations or WiFi filter for hospitals in addition to improving an organization´s online security profile and enhancing productivity. One of the most important ones is that web filtering for hospitals reduces the risk of PHI being compromised by a hacker and therefore contributes towards HIPAA compliance.

Being able to block access to pornography and other inappropriate online material will eliminate complaints from offended employees about having to work in a hostile environment and other Internet-related HR issues. What patients and visitors can view in places of public access will also be controlled by a WiFi filter for hospitals – potentially increasing the hospital´s customer satisfaction rating.

Bandwidth issues – a common problem for hospitals providing a wireless Internet service to a large volume of devices – can also be resolved with a web filter for healthcare organizations. Bandwidth use can be controlled by setting limits within the filter´s parameters or by blocking access to websites that consume a lot of bandwidth, such as video streaming websites.

What to Look for in a Web Filter for Healthcare Organizations

Web filtering for hospitals comes in many different formats. Hardware-based solutions exist that can be expensive to implement depending on the number of users an organization wishes to protect, but cost-effective to operate once in place. In contrast, software-based solutions often have no implementation costs but an ongoing subscription that also covers elements such as blacklist and software updates.

Naturally, a web filter for healthcare organizations should be compatible with the organization´s existing hardware and software, and scalable too. One of the acknowledged issues with hardware-based solutions is that the number of users cannot be increased, while – if an organization contracts in size – the organization may have paid for a significant amount of over-capacity.

In addition to compatibility, scalability, and the resources required to manage the web filter for healthcare organizations, those responsible for evaluating the options for web filtering for hospitals should also consider:

  • SSL inspection to prevent malware downloads from encrypted websites.
  • Multi lingual filtering to prevent malware attacks from overseas.
  • Three-tier filtering (blacklists, category and keyword filters) for maximum granularity.
  • VPN and anonymizer site blocking to prevent users circumnavigating filter parameters.
  • A comprehensive reporting suite to monitor the effectiveness of the web filter.