The purpose of WiFi, Internet and content filtering for schools is to protect children from exposure to inappropriate adult material in the most effective way possible. Although schools may implement acceptable use policies for children who access the Internet at school – or who connect to a school´s WiFi service with their mobile devices – policing these policies can be difficult.
Implementing a mechanism for WiFi, Internet and content filtering at schools not only ensures acceptable use policies are adhered to, but also help schools comply with state legislation and qualify for federal E-rate discounts under the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Internet filtering for schools can also mitigate the risk of web-borne threats and phishing attacks.
How Internet Filtering for Schools Mitigates the Risk of Web-Borne Threats
Most organizations that implement an Internet filter do so to prevent users accessing websites that have been compromised with malware. According to a study by the cybersecurity company Symantec, the majority of websites contain vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a hacker to deliver a malware payload. This includes many supposedly “secure” encrypted sites with SSL certification.
The mechanisms used to provide Internet filtering for schools check each request to visit a website against a blacklist of sites known to be harboring malware. When a match is found, the request to visit the website is denied and a warning message appears on screen. In order to be fully effective, schools should ensure their chosen solution includes SSL inspection to prevent a malware payload being delivered via an encrypted channel that a “standard” Internet filter would be unable to decipher.
The main reason schools implement filtering controls may be to prevent students from accessing age-inappropriate website content, but the extent to which cybercriminals are conducting cyberattacks on schools, blocking the malware that gives them access to school networks is vital.
How Content Filtering for Schools Protects Children from Inappropriate Web Content
Content filtering for schools is used to block access to inappropriate web content, which for CIPA compliance, means blocking access to obscene or harmful internet content. This is achieved in part by the use of blacklists, such as those maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation to block access to images of child abuse. Content filters for schools is mostly achieved through the use of category and keyword filters. These can be used to block access to certain categories of website or websites containing specific words or those that contain unacceptable keyword densities. Most often, these mechanisms are used to prevent children accessing websites containing pornographic images, racial hatred and scenes of violence. They can also be used to exclude websites promoting specific religious beliefs, prevent access to gambling and gaming websites, or other categories of website that a school deems inappropriate.
Due to the risk of inadvertently blocking educational information or websites relating to LGBTQ issues that children may be wary of researching on a home computer, the category and keyword filters can “whitelist” individual websites or webpages so they are accessible even if they fall within a blocked category. Administrators also have access to “cloud keys” that can override the filters settings when access to content is required for bona fide purposes, even though it contravenes normal filtering policies.
Reporting Features of WiFi Filtering for Schools
One of the most important features of WiFi filtering for schools is the reporting feature. Using the reporting options in the administration portal, administrators can identify attempts by staff or students to visit prohibited websites and circumnavigate the filtering parameters by using anonymizer services. With this information, schools can apply sanctions to individual users and fix any loopholes in their acceptable use policies. It is also possible to monitor Internet access by users in real-time.
A more positive use of the reporting features is to observe the permitted websites being visited by students. This information gives an insight into students´ interests, allowing tutors to create more relevant and interesting lessons. It can also help identify issues that children may be experiencing in school – or when online – enabling early intervention by a tutor or counsellor to ensure the issue is resolved before it develops into a more serious problem.
Internet Filtering for Schools from TitanHQ
TitanHQ offers schools, libraries and other education institutions an effective and easy-to-use Internet filtering solution in WebTitan Cloud for WiFi. Being a cloud-based solution, there are no upfront hardware purchases requires or complicated software packages to install and manage. Schools simply redirect their DNS to our servers and can start filtering the Internet within minutes.
WebTitan Cloud for WiFi has all the mechanisms discussed above to mitigate the risk of web-borne threats, protect children from exposure to inappropriate content and provide insights into their interests and behavior. Our Internet filtering solution is compatible with all types of desktop computer and mobile device, can support any number of users or WiFi hotspots, and delivers filtered Internet access with an imperceptible impact on speed. Filtering is also not restricted to the school grounds thanks to WebTitan On-The-Go (OTG).
WebTitan On-The-Go (OTG) is a roaming agent used with TitanHQ’s WebTitan Cloud platform, the purpose of which is to allow filtering controls to be applied on devices that are not connected to the school wired or WiFi network. For students, that means filtering in the classroom, and also at home or any other location where a student accesses the Internet. This has proven invaluable during the pandemic when schools have been closed and students have been studying at home on school-issued and personally owned devices.
Benefits of WebTitan Cloud for WiFi
- Create a safe and secure web browsing environment.
- Comply with CIPA and qualify for E-Rate discounts
- Block malicious websites and malware downloads.
- Block material contained in the child abuse image content URL list (CAIC List) and other third-party blacklists.
- Accurately filter web content through 53 pre-set categories and up to 10 custom categories.
- Filter by keyword and keyword score.
- Inspect encrypted websites.
- Filter content in 200 languages.
- Apply time-based filtering controls.
- Filter the Internet across multiple WiFi hotspots.
- Protect students when learning remotely.
- Manage access points through a single web-based administration panel.
- Delegate management of access points.
- Schedule and run reports on demand with real time-views of Internet activity and extensive drill down reporting.
- Integrate the solution into existing security and monitoring systems.
Try WebTitan Cloud for WiFi Free for Fourteen Days
If you are an organization in the education sector, and you would like to witness the effectiveness of WiFi, Internet and content filtering for schools in own environment, we invite to try WebTitan Cloud for WiFi free for fourteen days. Our offer consists of a fully-enabled cloud-based filtering service, with no contracts to sign, no credit cards required and no obligation on you to continue with the service at the end of the trial period.
Throughout your trial period, you will have access to industry leading customer and technical support; and, if you subsequently decide to continue using WebTitan Cloud for WiFi, we offer a choice of flexible and competitive pricing bands. Contact us today with any questions you have about content filtering for schools or to start you free trial of WebTitan Cloud for WiFi.