When it comes to students and their stance on the limitations of school wifi, it’s clear that they have no positive outlook on it. Completing classwork, watching YouTube or accessing social media, or even contacting friends are nearly impossible due to the blanket security filter that the wifi has.
From social media abuse to inappropriate internet searches, there are a lot of reasons for a simple blanket filter. It’s an easy fix, restricting most inappropriate sites on the web. However, it also deems sites that request or require private information “inappropriate.” Often times, that includes educational sites used for completing schoolwork. This raises the question: is a blanket security filter necessarily the most efficient way to do this?
In an anonymous survey conducted on Talon, 76-percent of students reported having a significant issue with getting their schoolwork done on school wifi. If 76-percent of a students assignments are deemed as missing grades because they can’t get them done at school, this becomes problematic very quickly. There are a lot of limits as far as what students themselves can do to get around this issue, and so far the only efficient way to do so is by disconnecting from the school wifi. Unfortunately, for students with no cellular data or pricey data plans, this isn’t an option.
Of course these students can install a VPN; however, while there are many free VPNs on the market, most of them are less than trustworthy. Lots of these free “VPNs” are blank application slates, and are hubs for “phishing” mechanisms from third party unknown servers. Phishing is the use of advertisements, emails, or any other medium that tricks the consumer into allowing third party access to your secure information, such as bank accounts or email passwords. One phishing mechanism is to use ads that randomly appear and reappear on a users screen at a rapid pace.
Once the phishing device gets ahold of one’s email or any password, it can gather private information, such as phone numbers and credit card information. And the worst part about it? It’s mostly legal. Since the consumer “consented” to the risk of getting spyware, unless it can be proven the company deliberately planted it, there are no grounds to pursue legal action. One in five of the top free VPN services on the Apple and Android app stores have been flagged for potential consumer security violations or malware. While students can pay for a safer premium VPN, that raises another problem: students are paying to do schoolwork.
A possible solution is to consider categorical blacklisting, rather than a blanket filter. Categorical blacklisting separates every website into category via security company and allows the admin of the server to selectively blacklist and whitelist certain categories, rather than over restricting the internet when most of the time, the pop ups on a website are what get it automatically restricted in the first place. Categorical blacklisting tends to be more expensive, but creates a better network long-term, which arguably is even more necessary in an educational environment.
The need for tightened security is a clear necessity on school issued devices. But restricting student’s devices is not only a violation of privacy, it prevents them from reaching their full potential as students.