Child Using a ComputerLast school year, we realized that our current content filtering solution was not adequate.  Experts repeatedly advise families to keep their computers in a common area of the home where all internet viewing is public.  In a boarding academy environment it is challenging to apply this advice without removing computers from dorm rooms completely.  Doing that would be counterproductive to the educational goals and would reduce parent’s ability to communicate with their children.  We have a responsibility to the parents that send their children to our school to provide an environment where pornography and other detrimental web sites are not allowed.  While we can’t prevent students from brining inappropriate material on campus, we certainly don’t want to create an environment where pornography can grow and spread without check.  If students have ready access to inappropriate material in the Internet, we will have an undercurrent breading which will not only affect the student’s individually, but will undermine the spiritual program of the school.

Plugging the holes

One of the areas that concerned us was online circumventors.  These sites allow student to enter the address of the web site to which they would like to view and it will display the site.  All the content filter will see is the circumventor site.  There are thousands of sites like this with more being added daily.  Some use the https protocol which makes it even more difficult to detect.  If students have easy access to circumventors, you really have no content filtering at all.  We also needed a solution that would actively block these circumventors even if they were added on a daily basis.
After investigation we decided to purchase an IR3000 for 8e6 Technologies.  Some of the features we found useful and unique were:

  • Pattern Blocking of circumventor and gaming web sites.  The pattern blocking blocks circumventor or “proxy” sites based on the pattern of the connection – even if they are not in the “filtered lists.”
  • Forces Yahoo and Google safe search.  We have blocked all other major image search sites.
  • X-strikes Blocking.  Locks down a user’s workstation when administrator-defined thresholds for accessing inappropriate Web sites are exceeded.
  • Ability to block uncategorized sites in the dorm rooms.  If a site has not been categorized it can be accessed in the labs, but not in the dorm rooms.

Conclusion

After using this for one year, we have greatly reduced the incidents of AUP violations in the dorms.  Monitoring of sites accessed has become much less of a burden and reports of circumventor use has dropped completely off and student say they don’t even try to get around the firewall because they are not successful.  While no solution will ever by 100% effective we have found the 8e6 IR3000 solution to take the nightmare out of AUP enforcement while providing open and flexible internet access to students.