Those of you working in the educational sector will now that Smoothwall devices are pretty much ubiquitous and you’ll be familiar with their web filtering and blocking features. Such blocking, along with good reporting, forms the basis of any decent eSafety policy. In the just-released Framlington software update Smoothwall are putting in place the building blocks to take eSafety reporting to the next level.
What’s the problem?
The problem with traditional blocking is that it’s a very blunt tool. Simply blocking a site doesn’t take in to account that some people might need access to it, as a result we tend to end up with fairly complex tiers of rulesets which allow some people access but block others. These can be difficult to manage and can’t ever account for all possible combinations of requirement.
In an ever changing world we increasingly want to educate users about the dangers of some topics, which can be difficult if all sites relating to that topic are blocked.
Smoothwall have the answer
Welcome Smoothwalls SafeGuard reporting. SafeGuarding reports aim to take a bigger-picture view of a users web habits, taking in to account what sites they have been visiting and showing an overall risk assessment based on the number of sites they have visited that might breach a policy and what type of sites they are. Reports are broken down in to categories including Suicide, Abuse, Radicalisation, Substance Abuse, Bullying, Criminal Activity and Adult Content. Users are assigned a risk level based on the number of sites within a category that they visit.
By clicking in to a users name within a report you can see the breakdown of what sites were visited and the category assigned to those sites. This is great stuff so far, as it shows an eSafety officer the habits of a given user, and an indication as to the risk that they are under, without necessarily interfering with a users web activities. But the real power of these new reports come when Smoothwall put it in to context for you.
By clicking on the time and date of a site visit you are shown the chronological history leading up to that breach. That is, you can put that users risk in to context.
A user who was looking at My Little Pony, who then visited a gun site, only to carry on viewing pony related material, is probably not at risk. They probably just clicked on an advert by mistake – I’m not entirely sure which gun-runner would advertise to My Little Pony fans, but you get the idea. However a user who shows a history of viewing gun related sites and images leading up to the time of the breach is clearly wilfully looking online for such material. That person can be introduced to your eSafety or Safeguarding Officer.
It’s a really powerful tool which gives eSafety Officers a great insight in to who is doing what and the context behind it. It isn’t yet perfect, far from it as it’s missing any ability to export reports for offline access or the ability to catergorise sites yourself (you are currently dependant on Smoothwall to do it for you), but it gives you an indication as to where Smoothwall are going and why they are so good within the educational sector.