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LA school iPad deployment stymied by Internet restriction weakness

updated 05:27 pm EDT, Wed September 25, 2013

Students found simple way to bypass Internet filters installed on the iPads

The Los Angeles universal student iPad initiative has hit a road bump. More than 300 students spanning three high schools were able to circumvent the security measures installed on the iPads. The unlock allowed the students to access "unauthorized websites" on the school-issued devices. As a result, the students are no longer allowed to take the devices home.

The Los Angeles school district information officer Ron Chandler said that an overzealous Internet filter initially prevented students from accessing websites necessary to complete a school assignment. "What this really forces us to do is ramp up the conversation about responsible use and accountability," Chandler said of the students bypassing county-installed countermeasures.

"Outside of the district's network, a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction," two senior administrators said in a memo to school superintendent John Deasy. "As student safety is of paramount concern, [a] breach of the [school network's] system must not occur."

Today, Deasy ordered the ban on the devices leaving school grounds -- despite the remarks by the senior administrators -- "until the district can be 100 percent certain the problem has been resolved and students are using the devices safely and appropriately," he said. How students are expected to complete homework assignments on the devices, where a large portion of the school's textbooks now reside, hasn't been explained.

The students discovered that deleting a profile configuration file installed on the iPad removed all restrictions from the device. Student Alfredo Garcia said that students began to experiment on how to bypass the school's restrictions because "they took them home and they can't do anything with them." Evidently, the school's filtering software extended to home use, as well as inside the school, to the apparent surprise of students.

Los Angeles Unified School District Police Chief Steven Zipperman said of the student's circumvention that "this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices. I want to prevent a 'runaway train' scenario when we may have ... to put a hold on the roll-out." Why school law enforcement has involved itself in the incident isn't clear.

The schools covered including all grades from Kindergarten through high school. The bulk of the total cost is the $678 per iPad fixed cost, which will come pre-loaded with Pearson e-textbooks and other educational apps. Despite the large sums involved, the LAUSD believes it will save money compared to the costs associated with providing traditional textbooks and other educational materials to the schools.

by MacNN Staff




  1. reader50


    Joined: 06-01-00

    Here's an idea. Leave site-blocking decisions to parents, and default to an open internet. Instead, they are basically punishing the smarter students.

  1. cashxx

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-13-09

    By profile I would assume they mean the Configuration Profile, which can be locked down so the user cannot delete it. Sounds like the Admin screwed up to me if that is the case. Should be a simple check box.

  1. Jeff75

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 09-15-00

    Can school administrators just stop trying to control kids' lives CONSTANTLY? I'm sick of this overzealous big-brothering that is rampant in schools. Teachers, you're there to TEACH, not preach.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    Jeff75: I'm with you overall, but what on earth gives you the impression that teachers are behind this? Do the teachers run the IT department at ANY school you know of?

  1. cashxx

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-13-09

    Thats todays society.....let everyone else raise your kid and deny anything you do wrong and don't take responsibility for your actions.

  1. Mike Wuerthele

    Managing Editor

    Joined: 07-19-12

    There's a few things I don't understand about this whole situation. What does the school care about what the kids do at home with the iPad? Why is the internet filter applied at the device level, and something like a proxy server isn't utilized at school?

    This is turning into a PR disaster for the school. If they completely lock down the device, they're accused of piling on restrictions that aren't necessary. If the don't do anything, then the iPads will see this "inappropriate content" at school, which is also bad.

    Also, if the textbooks are on the iPads, if the iPads can't go home, then what?

  1. coffeetime

    Senior User

    Joined: 11-15-06

    OK. So the kids ended up using school's iPad for social media, streaming music, and video games when they are not supposed to and when they took it home. Hmmm. It's tempting, isn't it? When you know iPad can do more than just reading textbooks. Save money on textbook but yet opening a new can of worm. I think the only remedy for this is to create a strip-down dirt cheap tablet that is dedicated to textbook only like the black and white Kindle type of thing, Kids today are smart and if they determine to find a way to hack the iPad for full-blown usage, they will and no new admin security tricks can stop them.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 01-25-07

    Because the school supplies the device, they are somehow responsible for whatever the kids do with it. That's America. Sad, hunh?
    So rather than wait for the inevitable, they are trying to be proactive and eliminate the threat of law suits and criminal charges and... by further restricting the use to school grounds only.

    If there were some annual security review and sign off that could immunize the school system from legal action due to student's actions on these devices, then the program could continue as planned, but we all know that isn't likely to be fool proof either.

  1. stevemci

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-02-11

    If the iPads were attached to a Mac running Apple Configurator they could have been put in supervised mode. Then there would have been no way for the students to remove the management profiles. The tools are there to do what the school needs to do. The school IT folks just didn't use the tools available to them to take the steps they needed to take.

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