The outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has been accompanied by an increase in alerts for cyber security by governments and cyber security companies and organizations. In this article we show how having a Windows web filtering software has become strategic in order to grant the safety of your Internet navigation.
1. The spread of cyber threats linked to the Russia-Ukraine situation
At the end of February, Forbes published an article about the cybersecurity implications of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. On top of reflecting on the difficulties linked with being a company that has employees and contractors in both the Ukraine and Russia, like many others in the world, Forbes focuses on the increased cyber security risks connected to the outbreak and spread of the conflict.
Indeed, in a more and more interconnected world, hostile cyber warfare has become a strategic part of today’s conflicts and the article claims that it “is one of the primary tools of the modern global military today”.
Cyber warfare can be carried out both by private entities and by state-sponsored hacker groups. In this situation of growing tensions, we have seen the effects of both on the ground.
1.1 Private hacker groups
The most active private hacker group interested in this conflict has been the Anonymous group. They became very much entangled in the conflict right from its outbreak and, on 26 February, they acted so as to make the website of the Kremlin inaccessible and to make the Russian broadcasting company RT show real pictures of what was happening in Ukraine. We discussed this more in detail in our dedicated article on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
1.2 State-sponsored hacker groups
Cyber threat actors that are, directly or indirectly, sponsored by governments have existed for decades. Actually, the first major cyber attacks that became known in the world have been traced back to government activities. We discussed the Stuxnet 2010 attack that took place in Iran and that managed to set back the Iranian nuclear program by a couple of years in this article.
As the above-mentioned Forbes article explains, when geo-political tensions increase, it has historically been demonstrated that “nefarious state-sponsored” cyber activities escalate as well. In the days that led to the current situation, various news outlets around the world reported that in mid January the Ukrainian government websites became temporarily unavailable in an attack that was traced back to hacker groups that could be associated with the Russian intelligence services.
To know more about the role and nature of hacker groups connected to governments and states you can read the dedicated section in this article we recently published.
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1.3 The current threats
Defense ministries and cyber security agencies around the world have issued alerts specifying that, due to the current situation, governments should expect ransomware attacks that might also result in the destruction of data and therefore need to be prepared to respond quickly.
On top of general attacks on government websites, specific public administration institutions and offices might also be targeted. For example, in Italy the national news agency ANSA on 7 March issued a cyber attack alert specifying that humanitarian aid might be the subject of cyber attacks and that public health companies should “increase security levels to the highest degree” and also “pay maximum attention to emails, antivirus systems and websites connecting the internal network to the external one”.
2. Windows web filtering software
In this panorama, protecting your network has become essential, be it a company, home, school or public administration network. The cyber security industry has evolved rapidly over the last years and, if you search online, you will now find a wide range of solutions you can choose from.
Web filtering softwares have become a preferred solution in order to intercept and stop the navigation towards malicious websites but also so as to prevent users from accessing specific contents, which the network administrator wishes they do not reach.
For those of us using Microsoft, finding a Windows web filtering software compatible with the system used is important, so that a safe navigation can be granted without disrupting your habits and activities. We discussed in detail the various products available in this article and we noticed that most products work well as Windows web filtering softwares.
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2.1 Windows Defender software
Microsoft provides its own version of filtering software, called Defender. More information about Microsoft Defender can be found by clicking here. In particular, the Microsoft’s Windows web filtering software applies to:
» Microsoft Defender for Endpoint Plans 1 and 2
» Microsoft 365 Defender.
All these options are available for devices using the Windows versions from 10 onwards.
Microsoft has been very active in analyzing the role played by potential and actual cyber security attacks during the conflict counterposing Russia and Ukraine. As it claims in its blog, it has been especially active in detecting and protecting against disinformation campaigns sponsored by the state.
Users however may feel a desire to assign their Internet protection to companies that specialize in the provision of cyber security services and of a Windows web filtering software.
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3. FlashStart: the ideal solution to grant your Internet safety
FlashStart is the Windows web filtering software you are looking for!
The product offered by FlashStart is a complete yet very flexible solution.
3.1 FlashStart: the complete Windows web filtering software solution
FlashStart is a complete solution because its web filtering software protects you from a wide range of contents organized in categories and lists. These include:
» Malicious websites: websites that might trigger cyber attacks. Users can reach them in a totally unaware way, for example by clicking on well-designed phishing attempts. Sometimes, phishing attempts can be targeted, hence they can be purposely studied in order to reach a specific target.
» But phishing attacks are just one of the options hackers have. Also, they often act as the initial phase of a wider cyber attack, which might include the injection of a virus or the theft of confidential or strategic data and information. In this latter case, the aim is usually to request a ransom and thus make the attack a profitable source of income, threatening the victim to sell the data and information on the black Internet in case he decides not to pay.
» Undesired contents: network administrators may want to prevent users from accessing certain types of contents. These are usually adult contents, like porn and online gaming, but also violent contents and the less dangerous but still distracting contents linked to social networks, video platforms and online shopping.
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3.2 FlashStart: the flexible Windows web filtering software solution
FlashStart is flexible because you can tailor it to suit all your needs.
3.2.1 Blocked contents
» While the most dangerous content categories outlined above are automatically blocked by the FlashStart web filter, the filter allows you to decide on how to proceed with unsuitable and distracting content categories.
» Also, you can create your own categories and lists of denied contents. This is particularly useful for companies where, for example, the management may desire to block access to job search websites or to the competitors’ websites.
» Finally, FlashStart allows you to block websites hosted in specific countries through the Geoblocking feature, an exclusive feature that has become very useful these days in order to prevent access to websites located in countries known for perpetrating cyber attacks.
FlashStart allows you to schedule the blocks. This means that, depending on the environment where you are using it, you may want to block access to specific contents during certain hours while allowing it in other time intervals. For example, the management of a company could decide to block access to social networks during working hours in order to increase efficiency while allowing it during breaks.
Finally, FlashStart permits you to allow or prevent specific users or groups of users to access some contents. This, again, could be very useful in companies where, for example, the human resource department should be allowed to visit job search websites while the management may not want other employees to enjoy the same possibility.
The profiling option could also be a good tool for schools, where the presence of the Internet has by now become normal. The school direction could prefer to assign different access profiles to students and teachers, in order to avoid, for example, that students have access to violence or war-related contents not deemed suitable for students to access independently, without the teacher’s supervision.
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