Cisco Security Software Extends URL Filtering to 'Dark Web'

Cisco Systems is targeting the darkest corners of the Web with a new software blade for its S-series secure Web gateway appliance. The new software is designed to help organizations better enforce their URL filtering policies as the number of uncategorized sites continues to grow.

Cisco Systems is looking to extend its URL filtering controls to what it refers to as the -Dark Web'-the nebula of sites that remain uncategorized by URL filtering databases.

With Cisco IronPort Web Usage Controls, the company is targeting the 80 percent of the Web it says is largely unknown to legacy URL filtering tools. Because it is unknown, it represents a gap in the defenses organizations have against users violating their Internet policies. As a result, businesses can be exposed to unforeseen compliance risks and legal liabilities, said Cisco Product Manager Kevin Kennedy.

The heart of this dark Web is replete with Web 2.0 sites with dynamic content, such as blogs and social networking sites, according to Cisco. With approximately 45 billion Web pages overall and another 32 million new domains added yearly, the company contends that the size of the deep Web over time will grow exponentially.

"One of the things that we've seen in talking to customers about the challenges that they're facing on the Web is that the explosion of content has caused not just security problems, but also problems from a compliance and legal liability standpoint related to acceptable use," explained Kennedy. "If you look at URL filtering the way it's been ... that's a technology that's struggled to keep up with the changes."

Web Usage Controls is being sold as a software blade for Cisco IronPort S-series Web Security appliances and utilizes a real-time Dynamic Content Analysis engine that looks to identify content in commonly blocked categories, such as sites involving gambling, hate speech and porn. In addition to text, the software also analyzes the site's meta data as well.

"When users venture off into that dark Web [that] is not in that URL list, the box in real time is categorizing the content and making a determination of -what is this?' so that companies can enforce their acceptable use policies," Kennedy said.

To help with enforcement, the software integrates with user directories for identity-based policy enforcement. In addition, the technology leverages Cisco's URL database, which comes complete with 65 URL categories and support for more than 50 languages.

"In the age of compliance, it is vital have rich acceptable use controls at the gateway," noted Cisco customer Michael Curtis, head of technology integration at Proximity London, in a statement. "The Cisco IronPort Web Security Appliance has made this very easy to achieve by putting advanced Web Usage Controls on the Web proxy to ensure our network access policies."