UK Schools Still Need Help Guaranteeing Web Safety


A recent survey of secondary school pupils has exposed a growing problem with Web security in UK schools. In an informal poll posted on Facebook by SmoothWall, which sells Internet security software, 49 percent of 13 to 17 year olds admitted to using illicit tools to access blocked Web sites in school.

Fifty-five percent also said they had seen someone accessing adult material on classroom computers. Two out of 10 said they had downloaded a piece of adult content at school. About three out of 10 said they were able to access video game, adult content, and file sharing sites through school computers.

SmoothWall's poll also shows that, of those respondents who admitted to shadow surfing, 40 percent were girls.

The company has nicknamed the practice of bypassing Web filters to access banned sites "shadow surfing," since the perpetrators often hide their illicit browsing behind legitimate-sounding Web addresses. Some software programs such as Ultrasurf and Tor help users to keep their browsing secret by diverting Web traffic into secure tunnels (like the ones used for online banking) where the content is encrypted and can't be monitored. These tunnels also provide a route for Trojans, worms, and other malware to attempt to enter school networks.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.