Halls of learning are places for learning and exploration. They are also a treasure trove of sensitive and valuable information, making them prime targets for attack by cybercriminals. In an environment where people are rightly sensitive about surveillance or limitation, is it ever an appropriate choice to filter web traffic?
In a previous post, we discussed the delicate balancing act security practitioners must perform to protect the safety of our flock while respecting and maintaining privacy. It’s important to keep that same discussion in mind while contemplating the prospect of imposing any sort of limitation on exploration, especially web-filtering.
Why filter web surfing at all?
You’d be hard-pressed to find a modern email service that doesn’t currently have some sort of spam filtering. We’ve all collectively accepted this as the New Normal, and given the enormous proportion of email traffic that’s now unsolicited or malicious, few people would regard this as a problematic limitation.
Is web filtering ever appropriate for higher ed?
It’s difficult to draw a direct comparison between email and web filtering, as the World Wide Web is a massive place, much of which is not indexed by search engines and is only accessible if you’re given its specific location (most often in the form of a URL). Whereas email is pushed directly to you, a website usually sits passively until something or someone pulls it down to your machine. Spam filters stop junk from being actively thrust upon you, while web filters limit you from downloading potentially harmful data.