Young students are more sophisticated in their use of computers than we may be willing to admit. They have, after all, been plugged in since birth, perhaps more comfortable with remote controls and game consoles than their parents. So, it's no surprise that they can easily find ways to circumvent restrictions put in place to prevent their accessing inappropriate material on their school computers.
One high school in the Chicago area put a technology solution in place to both broaden its network capacity and restrict the dissemination of inappropriate material to savvy computer users. Minooka Community High School (MCHS), comprised of about 2,500 students, is situated southwest of Chicago. Its central campus is located in Minooka, a south campus is in Channahon and its administrative offices are in Shorewood.
Les Kern, director of technology at MCHS, had become frustrated with the school's legacy web filter because it couldn't stop web filter avoidance by his students using SSL connections.
Although, he says, he hadn't encountered any serious issues, he was looking for a solution as students were able to access inappropriate content jeopardizing the school's compliance to The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and putting subsidy funding at risk.
Of course, the school had to be in compliance with CIPA, which address concerns about children's access to inappropriate material over the internet. The act levies a number of requirements on schools and libraries which, through an E-rate program, receive discounts for internet access or internal connections.
Kern was responsible for reviewing and choosing a solution. He, along with his five-person IT team – an IT specialist, two technology assistants and a technology aid – asked their IT services partner, Sentinel Technologies, for a solution and it recommended a network appliance called Internet Content Control from Untangle.
“Sentinel recommended Untangle IC Control specifically because of its ability to do a full SSL decrypt and re-crypt,” says Kern (left). They informed him that the tool has a patented technology, called Anonymous Proxy Guard, that ensures all ports and protocols would be examined and handled appropriately based on the school's filtering policies.
“IC Control helps network administrators diagnose and resolve internet traffic problems such as bottlenecks, over-saturation of recreational traffic, application performance, optimization of hosted and cloud services, and prioritization of critical traffic—ensuring network performance, reliability and stability,” says Bob Walters, president and CEO of Untangle, which is based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
The tool, he says, is available to customers on network appliances and offers a single-interface, turnkey internet management solution that includes network monitoring, internet traffic analytics, bandwidth management and traffic shaping, application prioritization, cloud optimization and web filtering. “It is a highly scalable solution appropriate for large organizations with bandwidth up to 10 Gbps,” he says.
The solution is intended for medium to large organizations in all vertical markets that need a purpose-built, highly scalable appliance which can be run as a transparent bridge to provide granular, dynamic reporting, he says. “It gives immediate insight into where and how network problems occur – resulting in improved internet performance and lower bandwidth costs.”
Deployment of the Untangle tool went smoothly, says Kern. His team, he adds, is pleased with the deployment. “It's very easy and quick to diagnose and solve internet-related issues,” he says. “The appliance saves me time in managing the internet connection to handle the school's bandwidth, and it definitely gives me peace of mind. Since filter avoidance is no longer a problem, the school's network remains CIPA compliant. Because of IC Control, our students can't use SSL or other techniques to access restricted content.”
Untangle IC Control reaches across the district's network of 1,100 devices, including desktops, laptops and iPads, in its three locations.
“IC Control's real-time, rich data reporting gives network administrators an unprecedented view of layer 7 traffic,” says Untangle's Walters (left). “This gives them insight into what data is flowing over their network at any given moment so they can set policies that make sense.”
Customers of the offering can opt into software updates as they are available, he adds. All of the security databases (like virus definitions and URL categorization) are updated in real-time.
One other reason Kern and his team chose Untangle IC Control is that it can handle the school's anticipated future growth, and the evolution of both the internet and the students' technological sophistication, he says. “IC Control provides historical data for long-term diagnostics of traffic and bandwidth utilization for the district.”