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Why Do You Need URL Classification for Security?

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Why Do You Need URL Classification for Security?

Tens of thousands of new domains are registered daily, many of which are used in phishing or malware distribution. Attackers create new ones when a malicious domain is labeled by various detection software. Most malicious domains are added to databases used in browser alerts and email notifications, but attackers quickly abandon them for new ones. Database administrators managing the long list of malicious domains must constantly update it to add the latest threats.

Many security applications use a database of malicious domains to help with their threat detection. For example, the email security industry integrates threat detection databases into their products to determine if a message contains malicious content. Artificial intelligence and security algorithms digest the database of malicious domains to detect incoming and outgoing email-based attacks.

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What is URL Classification?

URL classification identifies and categorizes domains on the internet based on their hosted content. Bot traffic makes up much of internet traffic, but URL classification categorizes domains based on real user traffic. It excludes bot traffic to avoid skewing results. Most URL classification applications use crowdsourcing to collect and analyze billions of domains for potential threats. Reputable domain database vendors work with millions of users and analyze their traffic to find phishing, malware distributors, and content that could be inappropriate for a work environment.

The real-world collection of domain data makes a URL classification vendor accurate at email filtering and quarantining suspicious messages. Database vendors use the continual stream of user traffic and analysis to consistently update the list of suspicious domains. By eliminating bots, vendors can more accurately filter malicious email messages and avoid false positives. 

How URL Classification Works

WebTitan has a sophisticated URL classification system that combines a database of suspicious domains with artificial intelligence to analyze traffic and determine suspicious behavior. Administrators can set up allowed and blocked categories to allow or block users from accessing portions of the internet. WebTitan can be configured to enable groups of users to access domains that the rest of the company shouldn’t have access to. For example, executives might need access to competitor sites that the rest of the business doesn’t need to browse.

A few features included in WebTitan:

  • Link Analysis
  • Web content analysis
  • Heuristic data analysis with the option of static profiles
  • Sandboxing and real user behavioral analysis
  • Third-party data feeds
  • Honeypot infrastructure
  • Bot detection
  • In-house and third-party tool integration
  • Human-supervised machine learning

Several of WebTitan’s features are advanced technology that continuously fights against current and zero-day threats. WebTitan brings several advantages over our competitors with accurate and advanced filtering. Our technology includes:

Human-supervised and validated machine learning: Behind the scenes, the WebTitan product continually ingests new data and processes it for new results. This new data retrains machine learning algorithms so that they can keep up with the changing cybersecurity landscape.

URL domain and path coverage: On the surface, a domain might look safe. With deep path inspection, WebTitan evaluates inner pages to determine if the content is inappropriate for work or hosts phishing or malware. Analyzing full URL paths lets WebTitan determine if a domain hosts malicious content instead of depending on IP addresses or previous domain activity. Most competitors use the domain name only to make decisions, but WebTitan performs deep analysis throughout domain pages.

Revisiting of malicious URLs: Once a domain is flagged as suspicious, attackers abandon it and create new ones. Changes in domain status happen every day. Every day, WebTitan crawls 300,000 flagged URLs to evaluate if malware or malicious content remains. Clean URLs are no longer blocked, provided they are allowed in your WebTitan configurations.


Categories for Malicious Content

The above features offer several advantages to businesses that need content filtering. Web domains can be used for several malicious strategies. Here are some ways WebTitan features work to protect your business environment from threats:

Ad Fraud: Malware distributors use ad networks to trick users into clicking links and downloading malicious software. Ads could also be used for clickjacking, iframe stuffing, or embedded ads that could threaten the security of your environment.

Botnets: Botnet creators instruct victim machines to connect to a central server, but these URLs are blocked.

Command and Control Centers: Similar to botnets, a computer with trojan software communicates with a central server to let an attacker know it’s available. WebTitan blocks communication between the trojan and the central command and control center.

Links to Malware Hosts: URL inspection identifies domains hosting malware on inner pages and blocks them. Continuous revisits to the URL identify when the domain owner cleans up the malware.

Phishing and Fraud: Phishing is the start of many of today’s system compromises, malware payloads, and credential theft. Domains used to host phishing content are most data records in a URL classification database.

Spam Hosts: Some hosts don’t contain malware but are nuisances. They could also contain malware or phishing, but many have popups and ads that frustrate users and offer no advantage to businesses.

Spyware and Adware Software: Local software can access user actions and account information, and spyware sends the data to a third party. Adware displays unwanted nuisance popups on a user’s machine. Both these applications are often embedded in actual installers distributed on malicious domains and must be blocked using URL classification protection.

This list of URL classifications isn’t exhaustive. The cybersecurity landscape constantly changes, so URL classification applications continue to change. With WebTitan, its machine learning identifies the latest threats using a mixture of URL classification databases and heuristic data from past threat strategies.

Protect your organization with WebTitan - experience advanced URL classification, real-time threat detection, and reliable content filtering.

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Classifying Billions of Domains for Threat Detection

Domain owners come and go. New domains pop up on the public internet, and abandoned malicious domains could eventually be owned by a legitimate business. Database administrators responsible for maintaining a list of malicious domains must constantly update their list and remove the ones that are no longer a threat.

Scanning billions of domains for every email sent to user inboxes would severely impact performance, so URL classification puts each URL in a category. If a domain located in an email is classified as malicious, the message is quarantined and blocked from reaching the recipient’s inbox. Administrators can later view a domain’s classification, which could threaten the organization’s security or point toward possible insider threats.

Classification also lets administrators pick and choose categories users should be allowed to view. For example, administrators might block entertainment domains or social networks, but restaurant domains might be allowed for business purposes. A business catering to food sales customers might need restaurant sites for competitor analysis and research.

Good database administrators narrow down categories to make it easier for businesses to block or allow specific types of content. Too many options can make these security applications too complicated for business owners, and it could cause accidental misconfigurations. A good database provider should limit their classifications to 50-100 categories. 

Finding the Best Domain Database Providers

Businesses have several database providers to choose from, but many of them promise the impossible. Others promise actions that will degrade performance and cause issues with email delivery. Remember that most databases contain billions of entries, so the owner must optimize it for fast URL classification and output. Slow email systems delay communication between you and customers, so you need a provider to optimize the scanning process.

Support for various languages and dialects is also necessary if you want an effective URL classification database. Not every malicious email is written in English. Some target non-English speaking countries, and these messages should be blocked. It’s not uncommon for enterprise businesses to have offices around the globe, so an effective URL classification application must support all languages, especially those where you do business.

URL classification databases must be updated frequently but beware of vendors promising updates several times daily. Also, beware of vendors promising updates from the internet several times daily. The number of records in a database doesn’t matter as much as the accuracy of the data. Duplicates or inaccurate data affect your email communications when false positives are sent to quarantine instead of the intended recipient.

How WebTitan Can Help

To block all major malware and malicious domains from users, WebTitan is a content filtering system that stops users from opening these pages in their browsers. It works on the DNS level, meaning a domain is blocked when browsers perform an IP lookup. DNS-level protections stop the domain from loading instead of leaving protection to antivirus software.

Whether you’re a small or large business, a compromise from internet-based threats costs millions in remediation, containment, investigations, and public relations. Investing in cybersecurity before an incident occurs is much more cost-effective than being reactive and implementing the right infrastructure to remediate an issue.

Web content and email filtering are two effective methods for blocking malicious content. Sign up for a free demo to learn more about what WebTitan can do for you.

Protect your organization with WebTitan - experience advanced URL classification, real-time threat detection, and reliable content filtering.

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