Blocking the filter blockers

Summary:Students want to get on a banned site like MySpace, RateMyProfessors.com and porn sites, and the schools tech experts want to figure out how they got around Web filters and Internet protocols.

Teachers and tech administrators know the task of keeping kids out of the school’s banned sites is a lost cause. Students will always push the boundaries of where they aren’t supposed to go. That’s why a Pennsylvania high school punished a sophomore who hacked the school's filters by making him show them how he did it, reports News.com

It’s a symbiotic relationship. Students want to get on a banned site like MySpace, RateMyProfessors.com and porn sites, and the schools tech experts want to figure out how they got around Web filters and Internet protocols.

"I eventually tracked down the IP address so that it doesn't work for him anymore," said Don Wolff, tech coordinator in the Phoenix-Talent School District, adding that Ryan didn't face disciplinary action. "It's against our acceptable-use policy, but he's not going to quit trying, (and this way) we can keep learning. This is a hot new trend among kids for getting around Web filters," Wolff said.

Apparently, outsmarting the filters isn’t all that difficult and word travels fast among students. Ryan set up a Web proxy from his home computer and directed requests for banned sites through his home address, thereby tricking the filter. Web proxies are commonly used to route web traffic through an anonymous domain name or circumvent content-filters.

Another way kids used to get around the filters is to visit Web proxy sites such as Proxify, Guardster.com and Proxy.org to call up banned sites without notice, according to filtering companies.

"A far more difficult problem to deal with is when they download a piece of software on their home computer, using a CGI script to (access content). Our product doesn't recognize it as a known domain, because it's just going through their home computer," said Kevin Sanders, senior software engineer at Lightspeed Systems, maker of a content-filtering system called Total Traffic Control.

One solution, albeit a draconian one, is to block all requests going to unknown sites.

"We also have a new feature coming out very soon which will allow us to dynamically detect the use of CGI-based proxies and block that session and send a notification to the network administrator," said Sanders.

Topics: Browser

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.