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Report: Schools Still Swatting Anonymous Proxy Usage

Schools are still struggling to stay ahead of anonymous proxy activity, with two in five spending more time dealing with them now than they did a year ago. About two-thirds of IT organizations identify and block access to new proxy sites within a few hours, but a third take a few days or a week or more to do the same. The biggest concerns IT has about the existence of proxy sites in an education environment: They allow students to access content that may be inappropriate and increase security risks for networks.

These results and others come out of a new survey done among 250 IT people in the United States and the United Kingdom by Bloxx, a company that sells content filtering and security applications.

An anonymous proxy site bypasses filtering controls schools put in place and give users access to any Web site they choose. According to Bloxx, thousands of new proxy sites are created every week.

As one respondent told the company, the existence of anonymous proxies "just means students are wasting valuable time trying to find out ways to get on Facebook and other related sites and it just creates a cat and mouse game for the IT department." As another noted, "They create an avenue for malware to get into our network."

American schools and districts that receive E-rate discounts for their Internet access or internal connections are required to comply with the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Under CIPA schools must block or filter Internet access to pictures that are obscene, pornographic or harmful to minors, and their Internet safety policies have to include monitoring the online activities of minors.

The problem, according to the survey, is that while the technical staff understands the challenges of keeping up with anonymous proxies, that knowledge isn't shared by people outside of IT. "There is a need to educate parents, teachers and school staff about the type of material children may be exposed to if proper protective measures are not in place," said one respondent.

The report recommended that districts adopt a "multi-point strategy" to combat student use of anonymous proxies:

  • Deployment of a filtering technology that can identify anonymous proxies in real time;
  • Adoption of acceptable usage policies that forbid them and "emphasizes" that the district has the ability to detect them; and
  • Enforcement of those policies based on Web access data mined from usage reports.

"This is the third time we've conducted the survey in the past five years," said Bloxx CEO and President Charles Sweeney. "And while we see similar concerns about and response to the threat of anonymous proxies, we were surprised that almost 33 percent of school IT respondents still consider anonymous proxies to be 'not a problem,' while an alarming 60 percent of non-IT staff have 'no or very little' understanding of the risk posed by this threat."

A copy of the report generated from the research is available at get.bloxx.com.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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