Blocking inappropriate content and protecting a school’s network resources from bandwidth intensive websites has historically been a key priority for using a web filtering solution within schools.

Today however, with the exponentially growing number of online malicious threats, there is a requirement for web filtering solutions to be an active layer in a school’s security defence system.

It can be argued that increased activity of cyber attackers targeting vulnerable sectors, such as education and healthcare, makes it imperative for schools and organisations to consider the different  capabilities between standard and advanced web filtering solutions. These differences become obvious when considering their accuracy, how often the solutions are updated and the granularity of categorisation they provide.

The cyber attack surface for schools has grown
Less than a decade ago, most schools were simply concerned about the content their students were accessing - inappropriate  and potentially illegal information opened up schools to liability, reputational damage as well as being a source of distraction  for students browsing non-education related websites.  

In the last few years there has been a distinct change in how cyber villains prey on vulnerable organisations. A recent study by PhishMe found a staggering 91% of cyber attacks are launched with a phishing email and we are also seeing the rise of malware being the most common type of malicious internet activity.  

Malicious actors will entice people (students) to click on malicious web links in emails, websites or other content. This means schools now need to ensure they have the most up-to-date and accurate web filtering tools to identify malicious websites and links as well as being able to keep kids off inappropriate sites.  

The most vulnerable organisations are those who use multiple security solutions from different vendors with this representing around 50% of the risk of being attacked. Furthermore, IoT (Internet of Things) attacks have increased by 600% in 2017 alone according to security firm Symantec.

Schools are overrepresented in these vulnerabilities, with most institutions seeing increased numbers of IoT devices joining their networks - such as printers, smart locking systems, CCTV, whiteboards - while using disparate security solutions to manage the threats. In many schools the IT departments are less likely to have the specialist deep knowledge to manage best of breed security solutions, while also managing other key areas such as device management and data breaches.

Web filters - where the difference is made
There is a broad spectrum of capabilities across different commercially-available web filters, from those that target a low-priced, no-frills, minimal protection to the higher end where features, functionality and protection start to take precedence and where customers want to protect not only users, but also all of the web-connected devices and data on their networks.

K-12 schools face unique challenges - they need to cater for enterprise-scale numbers of users (some ranging up to 4,000+ users on the network), along with complex BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environments, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, guest users, and hosting highly sensitive data such as financial details, medical and contact information.

School IT teams need solutions that give them the highest level of protection and URL categorisation while minimising their administrative burden.

Here’s where Superloop’s CyberHound Web Security solution rises to the occasion. The solution delivers a market-leading categorisation engine that has a global network of over 650 million users constantly providing insight to the service including visibility of emerging threats. If a page hasn’t been categorised before, it goes through that process starting with machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies to identify and match to the appropriate category with a high degree of certainty.

If automated tools can’t categorise the site, it goes to a human to review. This means our solution is supported by global, 24/7, multi-language “crowd sourced” updates (with over 650 million global users now). So, our schools are updated at least four times per day, if not up-to-the-minute, giving them the highest degree of protection, accuracy and granularity in categorisation.

The CyberHound Web Security solution also categorises websites down to the page level, whereas most generalist technology providers use domain-based categorisation. What does this mean? Take Wikipedia, for example. It’s a massive resource, with a domain-level category of “educational content”. However, buried a few clicks deeper into its pages resides objectionable content that you wouldn’t want primary students accessing.

Some websites are designed to look harmless at the top domain level, with malicious pages set up as clickbait headlines that entice students to grant them access to the school’s network or users’ information and credentials.

Benefits of CyberHound Web Security solution
We put a lot of effort into making it simple for a school’s IT teams to navigate the complex world of security management. Our goal is to spend the time, energy and resources into making our solutions simple enough for small teams of technology generalists to manage.

A significant benefit of our service is that we provide regular updates throughout the day to ensure categorisation accuracy and protection from emerging threats. The web changes at a rapid rate - new websites, malicious payloads and phishing URLs are constantly being deployed.

While traditional security measures remain critical to protecting networks and users - they are still somewhat reactive. Thanks to the advancement in our Artificial Intelligence and machine learning engine, which are a core component of our service, coupled with our Advanced Threat Protection Suite of technologies we are better positioned to proactively identify and block these threats as they emerge.

Learn more about Superloop CyberHound Security Services here.