Most schools receiving federal funding are required to block inappropriate websites. This is usually accomplished with content-control software, but some students use proxies to get around these restrictions. Fortunately, there are ways school administrators can limit access to inappropriate websites from even those students employing these methods.
What is Proxy Avoidance?
Proxy avoidance is the process by which someone uses a proxy to enable access to websites that would otherwise be blocked. This process is enabled by the proxy itself, which acts as an intermediary between the user and the blocked content. In this way, the internet user is not accessing the blocked content itself, but rather, the proxy is accessing the site before relaying it back to the user.
Proxy avoidance gets its name from the fact that web filters often block users from accessing certain websites by using a proxy server themselves. This means that those using proxy avoidance are often effectively using one proxy to avoid another.
Why and How do Students use Proxy Avoidance?
Students can potentially use proxy avoidance for everything from streaming a TV show to viewing pornography depending on what is blocked on the network they’re using. Some students will genuinely want to access blocked content while others will see accessing blocked content as a challenge to overcome even if they’re uninterested in the content itself.
Many of the proxy servers students use are either web-based or downloadable files. For example, Tor is a popular proxy that takes the form of a downloadable file and is only one of many options available. When a simple Google search for “how to bypass content filter” receives about 41,400,000 results, the problem is clear. To make matters worse, many of the proxy services students use might unintentionally expose their passwords and other private information, making their use of the proxy to access these sites potentially even more dangerous than accessing blocked sites on their own would be.
Ways to Stop Proxy Avoidance
Thankfully for school administrators, there are ways to limit proxy avoidance:
- Block web proxies. Perhaps the clearest way to prevent proxy avoidance is to block proxy sites themselves. This method involves making it so that students are unable to access proxy sites. The downside to this method is that it involves finding a way to block almost all proxy sites, something that could well become a constant effort with the number of these sites available. You need to also restrict students’ ability to download proxy software on another network to then bring to campus. This technique could, however, still successfully block a large enough percentage of commonly used proxy sites as to greatly reduce their overall use. One way to limit the drawbacks of these methods involves setting up an automated way to identify and block proxy sites as soon as they come into existence.
- Block proxy servers by HTTP protocols. With a seemingly infinite number of proxy avoidance sites appearing over time, blocking each one can seem an insurmountable task. The good news is that most proxies employ certain HTTP protocols. By blocking these protocols, most students using proxies will be automatically blocked.
- Use an agent or agent-less approach to detect that a student is actively running proxy avoidance software. Since proxies aren’t limited to websites, the best solution will involve blocking students who download proxy avoidance software. Agent-based approaches operate locally, on the devices itself, while agent-less approaches operate from a distance. There are several variations of these products available.
How Impulse Can Help
Impulse SafeConnect’s posture assessment is a real-time assessment of the device, ensuring the instant a device is non-compliant, for example, using proxy avoidance software, the appropriate action is taken, with either an audit, warning or immediate quarantine of the device, including self-remediation steps. SafeConnect can identify the types of devices used to access their networks. Depending upon administrators’ specifications, it can also be used to identify whether a student is using antivirus, a firewall, or even whether they’ve downloaded proxy software. Recently, SafeConnect has added Windows Security Compliance, to ensure the security basics are on all your Windows devices.