Since 2000, when the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was signed into law, school content filtering solutions have been necessary in order to qualify for E-Rate discounts. Many states have also introduced legislation requiring schools to implement a content filtering solution.
E-rate discounts are intended to make Internet and telecommunications services more affordable for schools. Depending on the level of poverty in the population served by the school, discounts of between 20% and 90% can be obtained.
To be eligible to receive the discounts, schools must abide by CIPA regulations; which require the Internet to be filtered to prevent staff and students from being able to access obscene images, including pornography, images of child pornography and child abuse, and other imagery harmful to minors.
School content filtering solutions allow administrators to restrict access to these images and comply with CIPA regulations, while still allowing staff and students to access all other Internet content.
School Content Filtering Solutions Offer Protection against Phishing Attacks and Malware
Over the past 12 months, schools have been increasingly targeted by cybercriminals. Cyberattacks on schools have resulted in sensitive staff and student data being stolen and used for tax fraud and identity theft. Phishing attacks on schools have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being stolen from bank accounts. An attack on Denver Public Schools resulted in $40,000 in payroll funds being redirected to criminals’ accounts, while the Cleveland Metropolitan School District suffered losses in excess of $100,000.
School content filtering solutions offer protection against these types of phishing attacks by blocking users’ attempts to access phishing websites. Malware downloads can also be prevented by blocking access to websites known to host malware and restricting the types of files that can be downloaded. Since all Internet traffic flows through school content filtering solutions, any user request that violates the policies set by the administrator will be blocked and alerts can be configured to alert administrators and/or security teams.
Considerations When Selecting a Content Filtering Solution for Schools
There are three main considerations when choosing a content filtering solution. Cost, ease of use and effectiveness. Some content filtering solutions for schools require the purchase of expensive hardware. The cost of purchasing an appliance can be prohibitively expensive for many schools. Appliances can cost several thousand dollars and multiple appliances may be required. A lower cost alternative is a cloud-based web filter. Cloud-based web filtering solutions do not require any hardware purchases.
The ease of installation and configuration of the filtering solution is an important consideration. IT staff members are usually busy and have little time to dedicate to configuring and maintaining an Internet filtering solution. An ideal content filtering solution for schools is quick and easy to set up and should have a low management overhead.
School content filtering solutions should also be effective. While CIPA regulations require a solution to be employed to block inappropriate website content, it is important that the solution cannot easily be bypassed. A high degree of granularity is also necessary to ensure all undesirable content is blocked without restricting access to valuable educational web content. For example, the solution should block pornography but allow sex education web content to be accessed.
Also consider whether it is possible for a solution to protect devices when they are taken off-site. Students need laptops or tablets for homework and remote learning, with the latter crucial during the COVID-019 pandemic when many schools were forced to temporarily close. A solution that allows filtering controls to be applied to devices – via a downloaded roaming agent – will ensure students and their devices are protected no matter where they complete their studies.
WebTitan – An Ideal Content Filtering Solution for Schools
WebTitan Cloud is an award-winning content filtering solution for schools and educational institutions of all sizes. Being cloud-based, no hardware purchases are necessary. The solution is cost effective, with schools only paying for the capacity they need. The solution is deployed quickly via a redirection of the DNS, and managed from any Internet connected device via an easy-to-use administration control panel. Set up typically takes less than 30 minutes.
The intuitive control panel allows administrators to easily block website content by keyword or category and alter settings as Internet access policies change. Highly granular controls allow administrators to control accessible content with precision, with safeguards to prevent users from bypassing the filtering solution with anonymizers and VPNs. 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 network. For students that means filtering in the classroom, but also at home, or any other location where a student accesses the Internet.
WebTitan is available on a 14-day no obligation free trial to allow schools to discover the full range of benefits before committing to a purchase. To find out more about how WebTitan can ensure your school complies with CIPA regulations and students can be prevented from accessing harmful website content, contact the WebTitan team today.