A firewall is technically a technological 'wall' between the internal network and the outside, to prevent malicious and authorized access. However, it is commonly used to refer to site (or url) filtering (i.e. preventing students from accessing sites they shouldn't be).
This article will cover three major concerns when related to Firewalls in the classroom:
- Students can access illicit sites (pornography, violence, hate speech, illegal downloads to name a few), not to mention proxy sites to circumvent the various filters.
- Students using their school-devices or school-software at home
- Teachers wanting to close off parts of the internet during classroom time (e.g. webmails or social media, search engines, or sites offering assistance to the topic being taught in class)
In order to properly identify sites we have integrated the largest database of website categorization available today (a total of 4M sites, and growing every day). This list is the same as that used by companies offering URL filtering to schools, so you should expect the same level of hardening, if not more (as we integrate more than one list). The database is updated weekly to keep it up to date with latest known threats.
Over 80 categories are predefined to give the teacher granularity while teaching. A number of dangerous categories are blocked by default and cannot be enabled (for the safety of our students and our mutual protection):
- Pornography and adult sites (over 2M sites)
- Malware and spyware
- Illegal downloads
- Redirectors and proxies (sites to circumvent firewalls)
How it works
At each page load, the integrated browser makes a request to our server to check the URL being loaded. This includes internal images (e.g. a page is referencing images from a pornographic site). Upon detection of a forbidden or teacher-locked category, the page is prevented from loading and a warning message is issued. Our database is optimized so the whole check takes less than 30ms for US-based schools.
The same process applies when a student is home. The integrated browser checks each page loaded. It is therefore essential that ClassroomAPP be a kiosk app to prevent students from circumventing with their own browser when using school device or software (contact us for more information on how to set this up).
During classroom time, the teacher has access to a real-time firewall that blocks students from accessing any category he or she chooses to block. Once students are connected to you, your own firewall then takes effect. Under My Classroom you will see in the footer the Firewall symbol to open your control panel.