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.