Internet safety in schools is an important issue and free proxies may be placing your students at risk. I have spent the summer working to develop a strategy to protect students while they are using the Internet. During the end of the school year, I was shocked to learn that the Internet security in place was being overrided. Many of the middle school students at a local elementary school were very keen on learning about the Internet, while completing a TechnoKids web design technology project. Wonderful! I thought, until it was brought to my attention that they were using their new-found skills during recess and lunch to get around the filters put in place by our ISP.
Students at the school are blocked from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as sites with content not suitable for an educational setting. These filters are there for a reason; to keep students from viewing inappropriate content, while at school. Free proxies are compromising Internet safety in schools.
What are Free Proxies?
A free or open proxy is a forwarding proxy server that is accessible by any Internet user. Gordon Lyon estimates there are “hundreds of thousands” of open proxies on the Internet. An anonymous free proxy such as vtunnel, allows users to hide their IP address while browsing the Web or using other Internet services.
How do students use free proxies to compromise Internet safety in schools?
Students do not have to make any setting adjustments to the computer or browser. There’s nothing to download or install. Students simply visit the free proxy site, enter the URL or IP of the site that is blocked from viewing, and click GO. The free proxy fools the system and lets the student view ANY web page they want on the Internet. No longer is Facebook, Twitter, or a gaming site blocked. It is just that easy!
Combating Free Proxies
Wanting to keep the students safe while searching I was left with the challenge of what I could do. I am now in contact with our ISP to see how and IF we can get these free proxy sites blocked. However, I realize that it is difficult to block them all.
Are the Internet security filters at your school keeping students safe?
It is a good idea to verify if the Internet security filters at your school are working. To do this, log in as one of your students and try to get to one of these sites:
If you can view the proxy page, then your students can view any content they want while using the computer.
How can I generate a list of free proxies to block?
One way to generate a list of free proxies is to conduct a Google search. However, another option is to use moreofit; a similarity search engine. With this engine you enter the URL of a free proxy and a list of similar types of sites is displayed. This is a great way to generate a list of URLs to block.
Do not Solely Rely on your Internet Security Filters
Internet security filters are not built in babysitters. You have to be diligent about what your kids are viewing online because it is easier than you think to gain access to blocked sites. It is likely that you are monitoring your students during class time when they are completing a project that requires online research for a report or a presentation. However, you must also supervise students during recess and lunch if they are using the computer. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. You cannot rely totally on your ISP to block sites that are inappropriate for a school setting.