Cloud Web Security

Behind email, the Internet is the most common vector used in cyberattacks and those attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Businesses that want to improve their security posture can use cloud web security solutions in addition to firewalls, antivirus software, and email security gateways as part of a defense-in-depth strategy.

Cloud Security vs Cloud Web Security

Cloud security is concerned with protecting cloud computing infrastructure, applications, and data against unauthorized access and malicious web traffic, forming a protective bubble around cloud resources similar to a traditional firewall that protects on-premises infrastructure and data. 

Cloud web security is concerned with protecting against cyberattacks via the Internet that target the human element. According to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 82% of all data breaches involve the human element. Cloud web security prevents users from accessing malicious websites and web pages, such as those used to ‘phish’ for credentials, distribute malware and ransomware, and host exploit kits that probe for and exploit unpatched vulnerabilities. 

Why a Cloud Web Security Solution Should Be Added to Your Security Stack

Every time someone ventures online there is a risk that they might land on a malicious website. Genuine websites are spoofed to look exactly the same as the websites they impersonate and trick the unwary into disclosing sensitive data or downloading malware. These malicious websites can fool even a trained eye.

For a business, the consequences of an employee being tricked can be severe – cyber threat actors can take control of a device, then move laterally within the network, steal sensitive data, and use their access to extort businesses. 60% of SMBs end up going out of business within 6 months of suffering a cyberattack and data breach, as the cost of remediating the incident is simply too much. While cloud web security solutions are an additional cybersecurity cost, they are a small price to pay for the protection they provide.

Using Cloud Web Security Solutions for Content Control

In addition to being used for cybersecurity, cloud web security services are used to carefully control the web content that can be accessed by users. These services are used by schools and businesses to prevent access to age-inappropriate content, block illegal web content, and prevent access to all types of undesirable content. Through content control, legal issues can be avoided and businesses can prevent the development of a hostile work environment by blocking access to pornography, hate speech, and racist content.

The number one distraction for employees is the Internet. Considerable time is wasted by employees surfing the web, and that time could be much better spent performing work duties. Many businesses choose to control access to certain types of Internet content to prevent cyberslacking and improve the productivity of the workforce. Content control can also be used to conserve bandwidth. 

These cloud-based Internet security solutions categorize the active web, allowing businesses to filter the Internet by category, with some solutions including keyword filtering. Administrators can define keywords and set tolerance thresholds. The solution will check page content for the presence of those keywords and assign a score. If that score exceeds the tolerance threshold, the content will be blocked. 

Benefits of Cloud-based Web Security Solutions

Many benefits come from using cloud-based web security solutions:

  • Prevent users from being directed to known malicious websites from phishing emails
  • Block websites hosting malware and ransomware
  • Prevent users from visiting sites hosting exploit kits
  • Control the content that can be accessed by network users
  • Protect remote workers from online threats
  • Rapidly identify threats targeting workers via the Internet
  • Gain intelligence about threats for faster incident investigation
  • Accelerate the response to security incidents
  • Block illegal and undesirable web content
  • Create a family-friendly online environment
  • Control bandwidth use to ensure all users can enjoy reasonable Internet speeds
  • Gain full visibility into how the Internet is being used
  • Gain insights into the online behavior of Wi-Fi users for guiding marketing efforts
  • Avoid legal and compliance issues
  • Improve productivity of the workforce

How Do Cloud Web Security Services Work?

Cloud web security is provided as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution by cloud service providers. The service providers are responsible for patching and updating the software, maintaining the hardware, ensuring constant availability of the service, scaling the service up and down to meet customer requirements, and updating the solutions with the latest threat intelligence. Customers have full control over the content they want to block. 

These solutions usually use the Domain Name System (DNS) and apply filtering controls at the DNS lookup stage of web requests, where URLs and domains are checked against DNS servers to find their corresponding IP addresses. As with all web requests that use the DNS, that process is fast. Controls are applied without downloading any content and there is no latency – internet speeds are unaffected. 

One important feature to look for is SSL inspection. Many websites now have SSL certificates and encrypt the connection between the browser and website – websites starting with HTTPS. Without SSL inspection, these connections are opaque and can hide threats. SSL inspection involves decrypting the connection, inspecting the content, then re-encrypting the connection, and provide visibility into all online activities.


To protect against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats that target the human element, layered defenses are required. Web security is a common weak point that can be addressed with cloud-based web security services, which will improve protection against the full range of web threats and will prevent costly cyberattacks and data breaches.

Photo Credit: Koto Amatsukami / stock.adobe

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