In the past Internet filter software for schools was sometimes criticized for being too inflexible and blocking access to educational material and teenage support groups. Certainly at the time the Children´s Internet Protection Act was passed in 2000, school website content filters were typically hardware-based solutions with limited versatility that left administrators with the choice of blanket-blocking access to any content with the potential to be inappropriate or not blocking anything at all.
More recently, Internet filter software for schools has evolved into a more versatile solution for complying with federal and state legislation and meeting the needs of students. The high maintenance hardware-based solutions have been replaced with cloud-based school website content filters with a high level of granularity that allows administrators to create a balance between protecting students from inappropriate content and allowing access to valuable material.
How Internet Filter Software for Schools Works Now
Modern Internet filter software for schools use a three-tiered filtering mechanism that consists of blacklists, category filters and keyword filters. Blacklists compare each request to visit a website against a list of websites known to be harmful to children or known to contain online threats such as malware. Blacklists are provided and updated by the filtering service provider or can be downloaded from a number of Internet safety websites.
Category filters enable administrators to block access to certain groups of websites by category (abortion, adult, alternative beliefs, alcohol, etc.). Most school website content filters have in excess of fifty pre-configured categories plus the opportunity to create bespoke categories according to the school´s acceptable use policy. The categorization of websites and any updates to pre-configured categories are also the responsibility of the filtering service provider.
Keyword filters can be used to block access to websites with a high proportion of specific words. This third mechanism allows access to creditable sex education websites and LBGT support groups while blocking those that refer to the subject matters inappropriately. It also allows access to works of literature that use the occasional swear word in context, while preventing students from visiting websites that use an extreme volume of profanity.
Category and keyword filters do not have to be configured universally. They can be set by age, class, time, user group, or by individual user to comply with state regulations allowing parents to stipulate their child´s level of access to the Internet. “Whitelists” can also be created to allow access to websites that might otherwise be blocked by the category and keyword filters, while administrators can take advantage of “cloud keys” to override the parameters if a justifiable scenario occurs.
Other Changes to School Website Content Filters
Unlike earlier Internet filter software for schools, individual devices do not have to be configured independently. Filtering parameters can be assigned from a web-based portal connected to the school network, from which administrators can manage bandwidth availability and schedule reports to identify requests to visit websites that have been blocked. These reports can also be used to identify students who may be at risk due to inappropriate or irresponsible online behavior.
School website content filters also have mechanisms to prevent users downloading malware or falling victim to phishing scams. Malicious URL detection and phishing protection alert users to compromised websites and websites hiding their true identity behind proxy servers when they click on a hyperlink. Most Internet software for schools also has SSL inspection to read the content of encrypted websites (those with the prefix https://) before allowing access.
Other features of school website content filters include the blocking of access to P2P file sharing sites and anonymizer sites to prevent users downloading copyrighted material illegally or attempting to circumnavigate the filtering parameters. These measures prevent illegal activities that a school could be accused of facilitating and mitigate the risk of malware downloads infecting the school network with the click of a mouse. Indeed, most of the mechanisms to protect users and their devices can also be activated with the click of a mouse.
Internet Filter Software for Schools from SpamTitan
SpamTitan offers a choice of school website content filters – including WebTitan Cloud and WebTitan Cloud for WiFi. Our cloud-based products are suitable for institutions and those offering a wireless network service. Each option can be deployed and configured within thirty minutes with no upfront costs.
Our Internet software filter for schools is compatible with every operating system, suitable for use with both static and dynamic IP addresses, and scalable to an infinite number of users with imperceptible latency. Each of the WebTitan school website content filters is compliant with federal and state legislation, supports SSL inspection, and is updated continuously to protect students from inappropriate content and their devices from web-borne threats.
If your school or educational institution is considering implementing Internet filter software for schools, or has a legacy system that fails to provide the versatility you need in a modern educational environment, speak with our team of Sales Technicians about our free trial offer of WebTitan. After determining which of our school website content filters is most suitable for your needs, our team will talk you through the deployment and configuration of the filter and answer any questions you have.
Our trial gives you the opportunity to evaluate the merits of WebTitan in the school environment and find the optimal parameter settings to match your acceptable use policies and specific requirements. Speak with our Sales Technicians today, and you could be creating a balance between protecting students from inappropriate content and allowing access to valuable material within thirty minutes.