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Secure your network or face the consequences 

Security legislation, compliance and cyber-threats make it increasingly important for schools to provide a safe online environment

Posted by Hannah Vickers | March 10, 2017 | Technology

By Ruth Wilbraham - ICT Service Manager at Matthew Arnold School

Faced with new guidelines from the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, schools must now deliver on their Prevent Duty requirements, where staff identify students vulnerable to online radicalisation and understand what to do if this occurs. Upgraded protection also needs to be provided against other threats including; online grooming, cyber-bullying and ransomware attacks. Adherence to Ofsted compliance is another key requirement, which involves retaining detailed records of all staff and student online activity. 

Now more than ever, it’s essential that schools and other educational establishments have the correct filtering and security in place to safeguard students

These multiple security and compliance challenges mean that, now more than ever, it’s essential that schools and other educational establishments have the correct filtering and security in place to safeguard students, or else face the repercussions from Ofsted and other governmental bodies. 

At Matthew Arnold School, we are committed to protecting our 1,100 students - ranging from years 7 to 13 - when using onsite PCs and their own mobile devices, so we decided to refresh our security systems. Change was necessary, as our existing network security system was proving increasingly ineffective, was cumbersome to use, poor at reporting and lacked the sophisticated filtering and security capabilities required to counter an increasingly complex, threat landscape. 

Making the right changes 

With so many different web filtering products out there, it’s important to know what to look for. And, remember that students are increasingly tech savvy and can utilise any open avenue to by-pass standard filters in your network. This means products must be sophisticated and able to block all harmful and undesired content - whilst avoiding over blocking. What’s more, granular access is very important to allow different levels of access dependant on the student or staff - as well as the particular age or year group of the user.

After evaluating various web filtering products, we chose iboss’ Secure Web Gateway appliance. This system promised to support our duty of care activities by offering advanced protection, monitoring and reporting on all traffic, intelligent blocking of harmful content, evasive protocol blocking and real time alerts. We favoured this appliance as it possessed the most user-friendly interface, was highly scalable, comprehensive user training was provided - and ultimately it offered the best value.

Purdicom, iboss’ value added distributor, helped implement the appliance with their reseller on our premises, over a holiday period – which minimised impact on student activities. To ensure the strongest level of protection, the appliance was deployed with our existing firewall, as a completely transparent inline device on the network. Installation was completed on time and full training was provided for our technical staff. 

Better results

We are now experiencing a highly secure, compliant, network environment. The appliance’s granular filtering, its comprehensive traffic monitoring – that also covers social media control, applications and live dashboard, forensic-style reporting, all deliver a significantly better experience for our staff and students. Multiple device types can be easily managed and all harmful, undesired content is instantly blocked – whilst different levels of student or staff online access are provided. With more students using the network, the appliance has enabled us to experience better performance – and more available bandwidth. 

We possess greater insight into all network intrusions than before and can quickly identify and manage high risk factors – all the way down to individual students. We received very insightful training that equipped us with new skills so we maximise the appliance’s advanced features. We would recommend this appliance to any school that requires a great value system that can optimise its network security and ensure the complete cyber safety of its students.  

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