New study from Bloxx finds that educational institutions are still vulnerable to anonymous proxies

Friday, January 24, 2014

A new research report issued from Bloxx, a leader in Web content filtering and security, reveals that anonymous proxies, which students use to get around Web filtering controls, are still a prevalent threat for Information Technology (IT) professionals looking to protect students from inappropriate content and malware attacks against their networks.

The survey of more than 250 IT professionals in the United States (U.S.) and United Kingdom (U.K.) shows that 67 percent of schools and colleges are still struggling to deal effectively with anonymous proxies. An anonymous proxy is a site, often with a harmless looking URL, that gives users open access to any available Website and bypasses any filtering control. With the wide availability of free software and instructions on how to create them, thousands of new proxy sites are created every week.

Accessing the Web using a proxy could expose students to inappropriate content, which can put an institution at risk for non-compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in the U.S. or of failing a government inspection in the U.K.

Slightly more than 22 percent of IT staff are worried that anonymous proxies open the door for malware that could compromise a network and lead to confidential data being stolen. Access to gaming sites and time lost to non-educational social networking sites were also cited, by 18 percent and 19 percent of survey respondents respectively, as concerns.

“This is the third time we’ve conducted the survey in the past five years,” explained Charles Sweeney, president and CEO of Bloxx. “And while we see similar concerns about and response to the threat of anonymous proxies, we were surprised that almost 33 percent of school IT respondents still consider anonymous proxies to be `not a problem,’ while an alarming 60 percent of non-IT staff have `no or very little’ understanding of the risk posed by this threat.”

The study also looked at the length of time a network might be at risk before an anonymous proxy is detected and blocked. While an encouraging 66% of respondents said they typically find a threatening proxy within “a few hours,” it can take a day or more to find and block a proxy for 27 percent of those schools and colleges surveyed. “A few hours may seem like a short time, but not when you consider that a network and IT infrastructure is open to risk during that time,” continued Sweeney. “Given the sensitivity of student data, a few hours or longer, is not an acceptable threshold for leaving a network unprotected against malware or hacking.”

Better real-time Web filtering tools that analyze and categorize page content, instead of conventional Web filters which use a list of URLs, seem to be improving the battle against proxies. Some 28 percent of respondents report spending “less time dealing with anonymous proxies,” compared with 12 months ago. Yet 34 percent are spending “about the same amount of time,” and 15 percent of respondents say dealing with proxies is “slightly worse” or “significantly worse” than a year ago. About a quarter of survey respondents, or 22 percent, say they spend more than one or more hours a week dealing with problems related to anonymous proxies.

A copy of this research, The Impact of Anonymous Proxies in Education, is available for download at http://get.bloxx.com/ap2014.

About Bloxx

Bloxx Inc. offers Web and email filtering and security for medium and large organizations in both the business and public sectors. Bloxx has achieved unrivalled sales growth year-on-year to become a leading Web filtering provider with an estimated 6 million+ users worldwide. To find out more about Bloxx content filtering and security email info@bloxx.com or visit www.bloxx.com.