Cyberbullying is a thorny problem for K-12 IT professionals. While the educational benefits of allowing students to access online resources are invaluable, it creates an environment that makes it easy for cyberbullying to get out of control. The potential damage to young minds and lives is well understood. So is the potential liability if the school or its IT practices are judged to be at fault in a serious incident.
October 2016 is the tenth national Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a perfect time to review the measures you have in place to identify and prevent cyberbullying that involves your network and/or devices.
I recently talked about the different types of cyberbullying. One of the most effective and powerful tools to mitigate the risks of all types of cyberbullying within your school is the award-winning Barracuda Web Security Gateway appliance (formerly Barracuda Web Filter).
Long a favorite of K-12 IT administrators, the Barracuda Web Security Gateway is packed with easy-to-use features that fit perfectly into a K-12 environment, including technologies designed to combat cyberbullying. It scans all Web traffic in and out of the network, and blocks not only threats and malicious sites or apps, but also any content that you specify using highly granular policy controls.
Cyberbullying rarely involves the use of malware to target victims, but it does happen. Bullies have been known to use Cryptolocker to hold students’ homework for ransom, or TSPY_PixSteal to send private images to a remote FTP site.
The Barracuda Web Security Gateway uses multiple scanning layers to find and eliminate malware and to block malicious traffic into and out of the network. This includes malware being used for cyberbullying.
Social media controls
Social media sites are among the most common vectors for cyberbullying. Web Security Gateway makes it easy for you to control and monitor social-media use by your users.
As it scans outgoing web traffic—including SSL-encrypted traffic—Web Security Gateway searches for keywords and phrases associated with cyberbullying in social posts, tweets, and web-based emails. When it spots potentially bullying traffic, it can either block it automatically or else send an alert to administrators, based on your configuration. This is a highly effective tool for spotting and preventing cyberbullying—and it also protects against data loss and stops malware communicating outside the network.
In addition, pre-configured controls let you permit access to specific Facebook pages while blocking other pages, apps, and games. And a recently added feature called G Suite for Education Enforcement lets you block student access to their personal Google apps and accounts, while still letting students use approved, school-sponsored apps in G Suite for Education.
In the event that a cyberbullying event leads to civil litigation or even criminal investigation, Web Security Gateway has the ability to archive all outgoing traffic to a Barracuda Message Archiver, in order to support discovery and to help establish the exact chain of events.
For a more complete discussion of social media controls on the Barracuda Web Security Gateway, take a look at this whitepaper (pdf).
Robust visibility and reporting
Barracuda Web Security Gateway gives admins real-time, granular visibility into users’ activity on the web. Generate both ad-hoc and pre-configured reports with just a few clicks, and see clearly who is doing what. This lets you monitor—and if necessary, intervene in—situations that seem potentially dangerous even if they do not yet rise to the level of bullying, and to spot emerging behavioral trends that can be nipped in the bud.
If you’d like to learn more about how the Barracuda Web Security Gateway can help you protect your students from cyberbullying (and protect your organization from liability), take a look at the product website here.
And if you’d like to learn how your peers at other schools and districts are already using the Barracuda Web Security Gateway to create a safe computing environment, be sure to read these detailed and eye-opening case studies:
- Frederick County Schools
- Paulsboro Public Schools
- Dysart Unified School District
- St. Michael’s Grammar School
- Southfield Schools District
Jennifer Braun is the Education Marketing Manager at Barracuda Networks. Jennifer manages Barracuda’s K-12 marketing strategy and program. With over 20 years of high-tech marketing expertise, Jennifer has a background in vertical marketing for the K-12, Higher Education, and Healthcare industries.