Application whitelisting offers boosted security for schools

Many schools utilize whitelisting applications as a means to protect their network resources and student users.

In today’s technological environment, cyberattackers are always finding new strategies to infiltrate systems and leverage user data for financial gain. While consumers and enterprises have always been a main target, this threat also extends to schools as well.

Within the educational sector, institutions from primary and secondary schools to colleges and universities are increasingly relying on classroom computers, tablets and other devices to support lessons being taught. As schools equip their students with more technology, they must also boost their security systems to prevent these endpoints from being compromised.

Although traditional antivirus programs can bring a high level of protection to networks, many organizations including schools have turned to alternative security methods to add to their safeguarding measures. Many educational institutions not only need to protect their network and supported devices from malware and other types of infections, but must also prevent students from accessing inappropriate online content.

A number of institutions utilize blacklisting applications to fulfill these needs. However, as the number of cyberthreats continually rises, these blacklists grow and grow, consuming significant network resources and affecting endpoint performance. Furthermore, these lists demand constant updates as new malware samples and security exploits emerge. If even threat  is missed, it can create a considerable weakness within the system. Therefore, schools need a better way to manage their cybersecurity and the solution is one that is easily deployed alongside existing protections.

Benefits of application whitelisting
Application whitelisting offers the ideal solution to the issue of cybersecurity in schools, as it can provide optimal network and endpoint protection. Instead of listing all programs to be blocked, this system lists all the applications that users can connect with. In this way, schools can establish a comprehensive listing of approved resources that are safe for student utilization. This protects the network from threats as only trusted, protect platforms can be included in the whitelist, and also blocks students from accessing inappropriate material.

A number of educational institutions strive for compliance with the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which provides financial benefits for schools that block access to pornographic and potentially harmful websites. Application whitelisting is a technology that can be easily implemented on the network, and provide means for CIPA compliance.

New Jersey district utilizes application whitelisting
A number of schools have adopted application whitelisting as part of their classroom management systems, and one district in New Jersey refers to their solution as their “secret weapon” against cyberthreats.

The Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District recently deployed a whitelisting application across its network, providing additional protection for the organization’s 1,300 computers. The district, comprised of two high schools and one alternative school, experienced considerable issues with malware infections. While the existing antivirus software prevented major attacks, endpoints were still infected with minor samples. Furthermore, this caused a need for systems to be wiped, creating significant work for the district’s IT team. For this reason, administrators sought a better way to protect their technological investments.

“We needed something that was A) a little more proactive, instead of reactive like virus scan is, and B) something that would allow us to preserve user settings as they are,” district network administrator Phil Robinson said.

The school therefore selected a whitelisting application after investigating security solutions. The technology provided the protection and flexibility the district was after, as educators could be given administrative rights to adjust settings on the network.

“We could give users local administrative rights to run an application – which some applications require – but also prevent those same users from installing software or devices that were not district-approved,” Robinson said.

Suzannah Hastings

Suzannah is interested in all things digital, from software security to the latest technological advances. She writes about ways in which the increasingly internet-driven landscape changes our lives, and what we can expect in the future.