Secure vessel internet with a web filter

Written by
Dave Connor
Published on
August 11, 2021
This article discusses different issues crew members and yacht owners have to face while using internet on board and how these issues can be resolved through the application of web filters.
Tablet of contents

Web Filters on Watch – Monitoring the Digital Oceans

A cruise in the Gulf of Mexico, a secluded anchorage on a far off-island or a mooring at a nearby harbor -whatever the scenario may be - accessing and using the internet has become a necessity rather than a luxury in this ever-connected world. Crew members and yacht owners use internet for different purposes. It could be:

  •   For downloading files or streaming HD TV on or
  •   For checking on weather predictions and tide time and charts.
  •   For communication purposes.
  •   For sending and receiving emails.
  •   And even possibly for executing work related tasks at times – some of us are workaholics, we just can’t do anything about it.

Reasons to use internet on deck are many…

However, whether it’s Wi-Fi, cellular connectivity, an SSB radio unit or a satellite system – when yacht owners and crew members are using internet on deck, they have to face multiple challenges.

What Issues Crew Members and Yacht Owners Face While Using Internet on Board?

Bandwidth Issues

Since there are multiple users accessing the internet, bandwidth can often cause an issue among the crew members and yacht owners. With bandwidth not being efficiently utilized, users may also experience slow internet speed which hampers the productivity and overall efficiency of a task.

Internet Threats

Internet connections are not secured. There are attackers which are constantly searching for ways to use the medium to gain access to a machine and use the information in a wrong way. Malwares, ransom-wares, phishing, virus-attacks, pharming activities – there are many online security threats which yacht owners and crew members have to face while using the internet. Plus, you may never know if one of your crew members may be leaking confidential data to the outside world.

This begs the question,

What’s the solution for the yacht owners and crew members to tackle such issues?

The Solution Rests With “Web Filters”

A web filter is hardware or software which provides controlled access to internet users while ensuring that the control can be regulated as per the needs of application. Let’s look at an example:

While at your workplace have you ever tried accessing a social media website, only to find out that the administrator has blocked the access? This is exactly what web filtering is and the program through which it is executed is called a web filter.

How does a web filter works?

A web filter works by categorizing a website as accessible or non-accessible, based on a centralized database of white and black listed websites. This categorizing is carried out by evaluating domain names, sub domains, intermediate pages, primary pages and IP addresses and then comparing each of them with information present in the central database (it is maintained by URL filtering vendors). However, a web filter does not only rely on comparison with centralized database as it is near impossible to pre-classify all the URLs, especially when the world of internet keeps expanding. As such, a web filter also has to do the evaluation process in real time where human-trained algorithms assess different metrics like keywords and back links to categorize a website which is not part of the central database. This whole process takes a couple of hundred milliseconds ensuring the user experience is not disrupted.

For Yacht Owners and Crew Members - Benefits of Installing a Web Filter

Efficient Bandwidth Utilization

One of the primary benefits of installing a web filter is that it helps in regulating efficient usage of bandwidth. Bandwidth is defined as the amount of data that can be transferred in a specified time frame. By regulating the access control over different sites and different users, yacht owners can prevent stuffing of data transfer at a given time. The data consumption can be limited on a per user basis (helps in prioritizing users) while yacht owners can also control the time each user is permitted to access the internet connection. This combined strategy helps in regulating traffic over a single channel which also improves internet speed and makes data consumption far more efficient.

Improved Protection Against Online Threats

By controlling which sites can be accessed by the user and which cannot be accessed, crew members and yacht owners can protect their systems against online security threats. Hackers and attackers use different websites and online channels like email access to gain entry into a system. Since web filters can be used for blocking suspicious sites and content from unknown email addresses, such security threats can be avoided.

Improved Protection Against Data Leakage

Some web filter solutions offer users to monitor how data is being consumed over different internet connections. This enables yacht owners to keep a check on the activity of crew members, protecting oneself against risks of data leakage.

As for some recommended solutions…

There are plenty of reliable and easy-to-use web filter solutions available in the market. For your guidance we have compiled a small list, which includes:

  •   Kerio Web Filter
  •   Web Filter Pro from ContentKeeper
  •   Cyberoam from Sophos Technologies
  •   Utangle
  •   Web Titan

Now the question comes,

How do you install a web filter?

Installing a Web Filter

A web filter can be installed in two different configurations:

  1.  Client-side Configuration – In client side configuration, users have the option of installing the solution onto a PC or a device which needs to be regulated. Remember, this device does not serve as the main server but rather a member of the established network. Since the installation applies only to a single member, so does the regulation process as other members can freely use the internet.
  2.  Server-side Configuration – In server side configuration, the web filter is installed on the machine which serves as the network hub or the main server of the established internet connection. This gives a comprehensive control over all the connected machines.
  3.  Hardware – If your budget allows it, this is the best option. The web filter is located directly in between the internet connections (router) and network switch. This means that any devices on the network will pass data via the web filtering device before sending and receiving data to and from the internet.

Internet connectivity and accessibility is important while you are on board. As such having a reliable system with efficient control can further improve your digital experience irrespective of whether you are floating near a harbor or cruising on tides of adventure.