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Six Ways Students Are Hacking Your Firewall

3 minute read
Linewize Team AvatarBy Linewize Team
Watching YouTube, playing Fortnite, maintaining a Snapstreak, and sneaking porn. How are your students bypassing school filtering? Let us count the ways.

The myriad attractions of the online world are constantly seducing our students’ attention, making them vulnerable to online harms and endangering your duty of care. That’s exactly why network filters were created. But as students spend more and more time on their devices - to the point where nearly half say they’re online “almost constantly” - they’ve also discovered more and more ways to subvert the system.

A useful analogy

We’ll look at each of these common hacks in a moment. But first, it’s important to understand that they present a two-fold challenge to schools: technological and educational.

To unpack that, suppose you had a problem with students sneaking out of school at recess. You could respond technically: for example, by constructing better fencing and security around your campus boundaries. Or, you could respond in an education-directed way: raising awareness about safety, responsibility and values throughout your community.

The ideal solution would cover both bases: physically blocking escape routes AND educating your community about respecting school rules and boundaries.

It’s a useful analogy because when students bypass network filters, they abscond - granted, virtually. And they are also breaking the rules and boundaries set up to keep them safe and focused.


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How students are bypassing network filters

The most popular loopholes students exploit to get around network filtering include:

1. Proxy websites  

This time-honoured student hack involves connecting to the internet using outside servers. It sounds complicated but is extremely easy to do, as a simple Google search for “proxy” will attest.

2. VPNs

Virtual Private Networks encrypt IP addresses to trick the network and bypass its settings. Recent surveys show anywhere from a third to three quarts of high school students routinely use VPNs to access school WiFi without restrictions.

3. Browser extensions

A whole world of browser extensions can enable students to browse anonymously, encrypt data and disguise IP addresses.

4. Stolen passwords

This is basic but effective and a no-brainer when staff make little effort to conceal teacher/admin passwords or use easily guessed ones.

5. Firefox on USB  

Versions of the popular browser can be downloaded to a flash drive and simply plugged into a school device for unrestricted and undetected access.

6. Hotspotting

With the ownership of 4G/5G-enabled smartphones nearly universal in our secondary schools, hotspotting to school devices is a routine way for students to hop off the network and roam the online world without a leash.

Speak with our education experts about cyber safety at your school.


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