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Anonymous Proxies Continue To Challenge Effective Internet Access Control

Bloxx : 14 September, 2010  (Technical Article)
A survey from Bloxx has revealed that unrestricted internet access at educational institutions through the use of Anonymous Proxies remains very high with up to a week being required to detect and block the use of such proxies
Bloxx, the innovator in web and email filtering, has announced the results of its third independent Anonymous Proxy Survey, which reveals that an alarming 87% of IT Managers in education consider anonymous proxies to be a problem, compared with 56% and 44% in the private and public sectors respectively. More worryingly, 43% of Education IT Managers say that it takes between a day and week to detect and block access to new proxy sites, meaning that students will have unfiltered access to any website during that time.

The survey also reveals that over 60% of IT managers consider anonymous proxies a significant network security threat. In addition, the time spent dealing with anonymous proxies is also adding to the workload of IT Managers. In education, 29% of IT Managers are spending more time dealing with the problem compared to last year.

"The volume and widespread availability of anonymous proxies continues to grow dramatically and there are now thousands of these sites created every week," warns Bloxx Chief Executive Officer, Eamonn Doyle. "Students in particular are using them to easily bypass web filtering so that they can surf the Internet free from any restrictions, oblivious to the associated security or safety risks."

"Students are very adept at finding new proxy sites and the existence of new sites will quickly spread across a school or college. Unfortunately for many IT Managers, by the time they have blocked access to the current proxy sites, students will already have found newer ones to move on to. The traditional approach of blocking access to anonymisers using legacy filtering techniques such as URL lists or keyword scoring is no longer effective," continues Doyle.

Barking and Dagenham College is one organisation that has seen the benefit of deploying Bloxx Web Content Filtering.

"Anonymous proxies were creating a significant problem for the College - excessive bandwidth was being used, students were accessing inappropriate content, we had a large number of viruses on our network and the IT team was spending a huge amount of time blocking access," said Dave Farrant, IT Manager at Barking and Dagenham College. "The Bloxx Web Filter has virtually eliminated the problem in the college - students don't even bother to try most of the time now as they know that the filter will detect and block access. On the rare occasion that they so manage to bypass the filter, the real-time categorisation of the Bloxx filter still prevents them accessing sites they shouldn't be."

Anonymous proxies are the easiest and most popular way for users to bypass an organisation's Internet filtering. Once connected to an anonymous proxy, users can surf any website completely unmonitored, even if the site should have been blocked by the organisation's web filter.

Anonymous proxies can cause a variety of issues for organisations, yet concerns seem to vary depending on the sector. The private and public sectors are primarily concerned with acceptable use policy violation and lost productivity, as well as threats to network security and data leakage. In education, issues such as child protection, avoiding the exposure of students to inappropriate online material, and the prevention of bullying are of high importance. However, unfiltered access to social networking sites and the impact on bandwidth usage is an issue for all sectors.

"To adopt an effective strategy against anonymous proxies, there are several measures that organisations can take," advises Doyle. "Organisations need to deploy a sophisticated web filtering solution that can detect and block anonymous proxies in real-time, alongside a clear and well enforced Internet acceptable usage policy."

The Bloxx Web Filter, powered by Tru-View Technology, is a third generation internet filtering solution that conducts live contextual analyses to categorise web pages in real time. This provides outstanding zero-minute protection against newly created anonymous proxies in addition to any other type of web content.
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