Internet Filtering and CIPA Compliance

Educational institutions researching Internet filtering and CIPA compliance need to be aware that not all web content filters are the same. In addition to having different deployment options, some web content filters are not effective as others at filtering the Internet, while others may have a high maintenance overhead or lack the versatility to comply with state laws.

This article discusses the relationship between Internet filtering and CIPA compliance, the policies that should be implemented to comply with CIPA and the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act, and highlights a few of the key features schools, libraries and colleges should look for when evaluating web content filtering solutions.

The Relationship between Internet Filtering and CIPA Compliance

When President Clinton signed the Children´s Internet Protection Act in 2000, a relationship was created between Internet filtering and CIPA compliance. The Act stipulated that schools applying for E-rate discounts – and libraries applying for funding through the Library Services and Technology Act – should implement a “technology protection measure” to prevent sexual images and images that could be considered harmful to minors from being displayed on Internet-enabled computers.

The rules applying to the online protection of children were supplemented in 2008 when Congress passed the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. This Act introduced legislation obliging schools applying for E-rate discounts to introduce Internet safety policies in order to educate children about online safety, cyberbullying and appropriate conduct in chat rooms. With the passage of this bill, the relationship between Internet filtering and CIPA compliance was strengthened.

WiFi Filtering and CIPA Compliance

Although at the time CIPA was conceived, few people had access to devices capable of receiving a WiFi signal, the same rules relating to the online protection of children apply if an educational institution provides a wireless network that students can connect to with their personal mobile devices. The evaluation of WiFi filtering and CIPA compliance should be given equal importance to the evaluation of Internet filtering and CIPA compliance to ensure minors are not exposed to obscene imagery.

An additional factor applies to WiFi filtering and CIPA compliance. This is that, with a web content filter for WiFi, the risk of devices being infected by malware is reduced. As children often share social media posts and online content they have in common, a web content filter for WiFi mitigates the risk of malware spreading – not only to individual devices, but to other networks the children may connect to at home or in places of public access with WiFi hotspots..

Internet Filtering and CIPA Compliance Policies

Since the introduction of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act in 2008, the requirements for Internet filtering and CIPA compliance policies have not changed. In order to be CIPA-compliant, schools must introduce policies showing how the “technology protection measure” they implement is effective in restricting a minor´s access to inappropriate or harmful materials on the Internet. Policies must also be in place to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of a minor´s personal information.

The policies have to demonstrate how students are going to be educated about appropriate online behavior when interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms. Students should also be made aware of cyberbullying and their response if ever they are the victim of online bullying. The measures introduced for Internet filtering and CIPA compliance policies have to be included on FCC Forms 486 or 479 when submitted.

The Problem with Enforcing CIPA Compliant Policies

The problem with enforcing CIPA compliant policies is that CIPA does not stipulate the type of web content filter that should be implemented. This is left to the discretion of the educational institution and can result in an ineffective solution being implemented. If, for example, a web content filter is implemented that does not have SSL inspection, it is easy for students to access the sites CIPA is supposed to be protecting them from.

In recent years, more and more sites have made their sites “secure” with encryption. Many standard web content filters are unable to read the content of encrypted website and allow access to them because they have not found any prohibited content. This not only applies to websites with adult material, but anonymizer websites through which students can circumnavigate web content filters and encrypted websites harboring malware payloads.

What to Look for When Evaluating Web Content Filtering Solutions

Web content filtering solutions should have three tiers. The first tier checks every request to visit a website by typing a URL or by clicking on a link against a blacklist of websites known to be harboring malware. This tier protects your network and the devices connected to it from malware downloads and web-borne threats such as phishing that could result in a hacker infiltrating your network and extracting confidential data.

The second and third tiers consist of category and keyword filters with SSL inspection. System administrators select which categories of website they wish to block, and then use the keyword filters to fine-tune their selections. Administrators should also be able to create whitelists of allowed websites that might otherwise be blocked by the category or keyword filters. In this way, students are not prevented from accessing educationally valuable material.

Fully Compliant Web Filtering Solutions from SpamTitan

Effective Internet filtering and CIPA compliance is assured with SpamTitan´s range of web filtering solutions – “WebTitan”. Each has SSL inspection to decrypt, read and re-encrypt secure websites, ensuring that CIPA compliant policies are enforced and students are protected from exposure to harmful online material. WebTitan comes with a choice of deployment options:

WebTitan Cloud

WebTitan Cloud is an easy-to-use web content filter that is implemented by realigning the organization´s DNS. The configuration and management of WebTitan Cloud is conducted via an online portal.

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi

WebTitan Cloud for WiFi is a robust content filtering solution for organizations that offer a Wi-Fi network for students. Easy to implement and manage, there is no limit to the number of devices or hotspots that can connect to WebTitan Cloud for WiFi.

All solutions have three-tiered filtering controls to maximize granularity, and low maintenance overheads. The software driving WebTitan´s web content filters in updated automatically and includes a reporting suite through which administrators can be advised of attempts to circumnavigate the filtering parameters via email. They also deliver filtered Internet access with imperceptible latency.

Speak with SpamTitan about Internet Filtering and CIPA Compliance

Even if your school, library or college has a web filtering solution in place, it may still be worthwhile to speak with SpamTitan about Internet filtering and CIPA compliance. We will offer you a free fourteen day trial of the most suitable WebTitan solution for your current set up so you can compare the effectiveness of WebTitan against your current web content filtering solution. The same offer applies if you do not already have a web filtering solution in place. Contact us for more details.