To support its market positioning of secure and safe web browsing, a WiFi HotSpot Service Provider (“the Solution Provider”) required a URL database that was able to provide real-time detection of inappropriate and malicious websites, as well as extensive website content categorization for its rapidly expanding international network of WiFi HotSpots.
The Solution Provider is one of the fastest-growing WiFi HotSpot service providers with a focus on providing secure Internet connections and safe web browsing for its millions of users.
WiFi HotSpot Service Provider (“Solution Provider”)
The Solution Provider required a high performance, scalable SDK that could be deployed in its primary data centers in the Americas, Europe and Asia and which would be used to support “cloud” URL queries from the WiFi HotSpot networks it operated in these regions.
“Our market differentiation and positioning is built on a foundation of providing a secure and safe Internet browsing experience for our users. Nearly all other public WiFi networks provide little or no security for their users, and virtually no protection from visiting unsuitable or malicious websites. It was critical that the URL database vendor we selected as a partner understood our security needs and had demonstrated superiority in these areas. Further, our user base is growing rapidly and we needed a solution that could support our current and future growth in users and projected URL query volumes.” -CEO, Solution Provider
The Solution Provider had carved out a large and growing market of professionals and business travelers who required secure, safe Internet access and browsing, combined with the convenience and availability of an international network of WiFi Hotspots.
However, as social media websites with continuously changing dynamic content and potential malware proliferated, the Solution Provider’s use of a static blacklist for URL blocking simply couldn’t cope due to the volume, diversity and complexity of sites to be categorized.
The Solution Provider identified several issues related to secure, safe Internet access for its users, including:
- Users accessing compromised and malicious websites – users were looking to the Solution Provider to provide protection against unknowingly accessing compromised websites, where they could be infected with malware, spyware and viruses.
- Users accessing unsuitable websites – the owners of the retail and other locations where the Solution Provider had secure WiFi HotSpots were concerned about users accessing unsuitable websites, including pornographic, violence and other content that would likely be considered offensive by other customers or users in the location. It was important to the Solution Provider that they successfully identify and block access to inappropriate websites.
- Broad language support – the Solution Provider was growing rapidly in international markets and required extensive coverage of websites in nearly two dozen languages and geographic markets.
The Solution Provider identified the need to address these requirements as critical to alignment with its market positioning and differentiation.
“We have spent years building a reputation around secure, safe web browsing from our network of WiFi HotSpots. It was critical for us to detect inappropriate and malicious website content in order to deliver on our customer promise. We had to be able to provide secure access and protection against known objectionable sites, as well as provide highly accurate, real-time detection of the countless new malicious websites that are continuously coming online.” -VP Marketing, Solution Provider
The Solution Provider identified several key criteria for a URL database solution. After contacting zvelo, the Solution Provider undertook a thorough evaluation of the following:
- Malicious Website Detection – an evaluation of the zveloDB coverage and detection abilities of malicious websites was performed, using a range of internal/external sources for websites identified as hosting spyware, malware or other threats. Importantly, the zvelo capabilities for detecting malware within social media sites was a particular area of investigation.
- Inappropriate Website Detection – the Solution Provider evaluated the capability to accurately categorize web content for pornographic, adult, and other unsuitable types of websites, as this was a major concern for the reputation of the owners of locations where the WiFi HotSpots were operating.
- Language Coverage & Accuracy – an evaluation of the zvelo URL database coverage and accuracy for the most popular websites in over two dozen countries was performed, using the Alexa listings for these markets.
- Coverage for Social Websites – an evaluation of the inclusion of sub-domain and sub-path URLs for social websites (such as Facebook.com, Blogspot.com, YouTube.com, etc.) within the database, including the ability to distinguish different web content between different sub-domains.
- zveloDB SDK Ease-of-Integration and Performance – the zveloDB SDK was tested for ease of integration with the Linux Operating System-based servers used by the Solution Provider, as well as the ability of the zveloDB SDK to successfully scale in throughput to meet the high URL query volume requirements anticipated due to continued user growth.
- Category Mapping – the Solution Provider tested the zvelo ability to create specific category maps to facilitate ease of use and configuration by theS olution Provider’s IT department and, where necessary, the owners/operators of the WiFi HotSpots.
The Solution Provider finalized the relationship with zvelo after determining zvelo was able to successfully address each of these requirements.
“We had very demanding and strict requirements for providing protection and categorization of inappropriate and malicious websites to ensure our company’s reputation and market positioning were fully supported. Additionally, we needed to verify that the SDK and database could support the URL query volume we anticipated due to the growth in our user base. So, it was a combination of the accuracy and coverage of the zveloDB’s malicious and inappropriate categorizations, with the performance of the zveloDB SDK in our data center environment that really established zvelo as the clear-cut leader.” -Chief Operating Officer, Solution Provider
Solution Provider’s WiFi HotSpots in Action
The Solution Provider completed integration of the zveloDB with its WiFi HotSpot web filtering offering and was able to quickly and seamlessly cut over from its existing blacklist-based URL database to the zveloDB, thanks to flexible category mapping capability.
The Solution Provider was able to then immediately benefit from the improved malicious and inappropriate coverage and categorization technologies.
The Solution Provider’s deployment allows the local router/server installed at the WiFi HotSpot to perform a secure cloud query to the zveloDB SDK installed at its regional data centers. The zveloDB SDK running at the Solution Provider’s data center receives and processes URL queries as follows:
- CustomDB – this includes URLs that the Solution Provider has defined in blacklists and whitelists.
- zveloCACHE® – this includes real-time URLs categorized by zveloNET systems as inappropriate (porn, adult, violence, hate, etc.) or malicious. The zvelo Instant Protection (zIP) feature immediately updates the local zveloDB SDKs with any such categorizations made by the zveloNET categorization and malicious website detection systems.
- zveloDB – this includes hundreds of millions of URLs in nearly 200 languages covering over 8 billion web pages.
URLs not found in any of these databases are forwarded to the zveloNET cloud systems for real-time contextual content categorization and malicious detection analysis. In the event a URL is categorized as inappropriate or malicious, the URL and the associated category values are immediately distributed to the zveloCACHE of the zveloDB SDKs using the zIP process.
zveloNET’s ability to harness the collective web activity of all of the URL queries and users of the zvelo customer base provides the basis for the extremely high coverage and dynamic changes of the websites, including social domains, malicious websites and more. Each additional customer and user increases the breadth of websites visited and categorized, thereby further increasing the coverage and malicious website detection for all of the collective users.
Ease of Integration
The Solution Provider required a simple and proven SDK that could be implemented easily on the Ubuntu-based Linux servers used in its data centers. Additionally, the Solution Provider required a SDK that could handle the significant current query volume, as well as the volume projected in the coming years.
“The zveloDB SDK integration was really straightforward. We literally had the integration completed in less than a week, including the development of the APIs and the implementation of the category mapping. It was one of the easier integrations we’ve done with any technology.” -Chief Operating Officer, Solution Provider
Benefits of the zveloDB – URL Database
The accuracy and coverage for inappropriate and malicious websites, combined with real-time URL categorization, category mapping and performance, provided the Solution Provider with the confidence that their market positioning for a secure, safe browsing experience for their users would be fully supported.
The Solution Provider was able to perform a seamless cut over to the zveloDB, with users getting the immediate benefit of improved security and protection against inappropriate and malicious websites. Additionally, the Solution Provider was able to reduce the costs it had been incurring for the maintenance of its prior URL blacklist and redirected the savings to other activities, including market development.
“We found the perfect partner for our needs. zvelo shares our core belief in providing a secure, safe browsing experience and their philosophy of continuously improving the detection and categorization of inappropriate and malicious websites, even deep within social media sites, is an ideal fit. Further, the overall responsiveness of zvelo, from the first interaction through the evaluation and now that we are in production, has been unsurpassed.” -CEO, Solution Provider