“Information security” is not just for businesses looking to safeguard their intellectual property, financial data or customer data. It is also a vital component of ensuring that students around the world maintain a positive learning environment. As we detailed in our last post, the ability to support numerous devices per student, enable access to public websites, and still maintain a commitment to student and teacher privacy is a battle school districts face globally.
As Catholic Regional College in Melton, Australia has found out, WatchGuard’s Unified Threat Management (UTM) platform enables it to offer its students secure browsing, but also delivers the performance to handle the bandwidth demands that are key in today’s learning environments.
The school, which serves more than 950 students, has committed itself to delivering a 1:1 student to computing device ratio for its students. Three years ago, the College network was much smaller and all activity was governed by Catholic Education Office rules. Making changes to policies or access control was difficult. But, recent growth in the College’s enrollment made a higher throughput option necessary to meet student and staff needs.
To meet these challenges, the school deployed two WatchGuard XTM solutions.
The flexibility and management WatchGuard delivers has enabled the school to support the introduction of new services for the school community. For example, parents were provided access to the school network, enabling them to view student grades and potentially sensitive welfare information. As any breaches of privacy could have legal ramifications, keeping this information secure is critical.
Now, everything running in and out of the network runs through the WatchGuard appliances, from data to the phone and security systems. With the System Manager and central console the school can see what’s going on in real time and take action.
Initially deployed just for its firewall capabilities, the team quickly deployed a second WatchGuard XTM 1050 at a central location to leverage the complete feature set available in the Unified Threat Management (UTM) platform, which includes IPS, AntiVirus, URL Filtering, AntiSpam, Application Control and more. The WatchGuard appliance also supports the school’s expanding range of IP addresses, increased throughput demands, and the need for Network Address Translation (NAT).
This is based on a true experience in the Washington State Public Schools.
My sister yells from down the hall, “Wow, Katie. Come here!” The tone in her voice tells me my ear is about to be flooded with 15-year-old girl drama.
“What’s going on?” I ask with an exaggerated exhale.
“Just look,” she says, nodding her head slightly towards the computer screen.
I stare and wonder why she would suddenly believe I have any interest in ranking sports teams. It doesn’t take a college basketball enthusiast to recognize the bracket that causes so much angst around the water cooler every year. The entire month of March consists of predictions, victories, upsets, bets, and team loyalties; not to mention an inbox flooded with pool invites.
“Oh, did you win a March Madness pool?” I ask trying to hide my complete lack of interest.
“No, Katie,” she says coarsely. “It’s May Madness. Some boys at my school started it. The ‘top’ girls are ranked from ugliest to prettiest. Same idea as March Madness, just…people.”
My jaw drops in disbelief, wondering how the seeding of college basketball teams has relegated to rankings of young and impressionable high school girls. How are the words “ugliest” and “prettiest” thrown around as though they define a person? She continues to explain that the “May Madness” bracket had circulated around the school earlier that day and in a matter of hours every girl at the school knew how pretty or ugly the boys thought she was.
The harsh reality is all the security in the world cannot stop some of the cruel behavior that goes on in the high school, middle school, or even elementary school hallways, but WatchGuard recognizes that proactively protecting students online is key in putting an end to cyber-bullying.
How does WatchGuard help stop May Madness from happening in schools?
Simply. WatchGuard Extensible Content Security (XCS) blocks or flags cyber-bullying, slander and comments through traditional email, webmail (such as Gmail) and Internet sites including Facebook and Twitter. Along with a commitment to help in the efforts to end cyber-bullying, WatchGuard has made school computer and internet safety a priority. Our WatchGuard website has a dedicated “Education” section with various resources such as; WatchGuard Internet Safe Search, Webinar: Planning Your Defense Against Top Security Threats in Education, and promotional savings for educators.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“Yea, I don’t know, it’s just mean.” She says softly.
My heart feels for her as I remember the pressures that come along with being a 15-year-old girl and the idea of a cyber-bullying is a hard concept for me to grasp, let alone relate to.
Not knowing what to say, I lamely respond with an overused utterance that well-meaning people use in these situations, “You’re right, it is mean, but this does not define you or any of those girls.”
“Yea, I know. This is just how it goes, I guess.” She says with resignation.
There’s a show on The Style Network called “Too Fat For Fifteen Fighting Back” in which teens that are dealing with morbid obesity have chosen to live healthy lifestyles. What does this have to do with security, you may ask? Well, on a recent episode, many of the counselors and teens talked about how they had been bullied and a bullying expert discussed ways to stand-up to bullies.
However, with the high adoption of technology by the younger generation, bullying has left the playground and entered the cyber world. Today it is common for children to be bullied 24-hours a day, 7 days a week! Cyber-bullying is different to traditional harassment because humiliating rumors, threats and vicious taunts can be viewed by millions and can be devastating to youth and their families. How are children and adults expected to fight now?
How to prevent cyber-bullying is a hot topic, not only with education, but the government. On March 10th the White House held its first Conference on Bullying Prevention to address best ways to prevent cyber-bullying. However, though facts about cyber-bullying and prevention may be a hot topic, many schools still don’t teach kids how to handle cyber-bullying incidents. According to a survey released by the National Cyber Security Alliance and Microsoft, it was revealed that only 26 percent of K-12 teachers taught kids how to handle incidents of cyber-bullying, while only 15 percent spoke to students about online “hate speech.”
There is good news. Today schools can stop cyber-bullying before it happens. With the advancement in technology, network security has become more and more important not just for keeping hackers out, but for also protecting students.
How does WatchGuard stop cyber-bullying in its tracks?
Easily. WatchGuard Extensible Content Security (XCS) features the ability to block or flag cyber-bullying, slander and comments related to depression and suicide through traditional email, webmail (such as Gmail) and Internet sites including Facebook. This means that attempted posts to Facebook can be blocked due to the nature of the words used in the post. The user only sees an error message, and would believe that either Facebook has blocked the post, or Facebook is currently down.