How to block personal gmail on Chromebooks and other school devices

As we mentioned in our product update last week, Securly has always allowed admins to block personal (or “consumer”) GMail for students, but we’ve now made this more visible in our dashboard. The video below will demonstrate how you can achieve this for your school domain. Please note the following:

  • The Google Apps Admin Console already allows you to restrict Chromebook logins to school domains only. However, once the student has signed into the device, he/she is free to sign out at the browser level and log back in to access a personal @gmail account.
  • Securly’s solution blocks access to all consumer gmail, even at the browser level. This is true for all devices.

This has been a pretty big ask as of late, so we hope that you find the feature useful. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Vision Statement & Product Updates

Twitter1copy

This week saw the release of significant changes to the Securly dashboard, UI, and website. Please find our release notes below.

Vision Statement

While it has always been our vision to help schools use web filtering as a means of managing and measuring student achievement, we have now made this positioning more visible on our website and social media pages:

Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn

Since our inception, we have strived to reinvent web filtering for schools through innovation. Rather than focus on “what we can block”, we have always sought to bring a progressive attitude to the industry. Our customer Andrew Schwab’s blog post on “The Power of Positive Web Filtering” nicely captures this sentiment. What follows is a review of events that brought us to where we are today:

  • Opening up student access outside of school. We first moved the needle in favor of student freedom by introducing the concept of “Take-Home Policies”.
  • Bullying and self-harm detection. After successfully funding a Kickstarter campaign in November 2014, we have applied the principles of natural language processing to detect cyber-bullying and attempts at self harm. Read our “flagged social networking posts” section below for more details.
  • Securly for Parents. More recently, we have developed “Securly for Parents“, the first tool to give parents a birdseye view of their child’s life online. An upcoming release will give parents everywhere (not just those in schools using Securly) the ability to manage their child’s screentime on all home devices.

Product Updates

Drill down by policy
You now have the ability via the dashboard to access data by policy. This feature required a complete re-architecture of the use of HTML5 local storage to make for a smooth user experience. Shout-out to Tim White at Webb City R-7, Missouri for suggesting this feature.

Top 25 users
The number of top users and sites accessible via the dashboard is now 25 instead of 5. You can also click on a site or user within the dashboard to drill-down further. Shout-out to Andrew Schwab (again!) at Union SD for suggesting this feature.

Flagged social networking posts
Some of you may have seen the “Flagged Activities” section of our dashboard. As described above, this offering is made possible by months of research and development and the successful completion of a Kickstarter project. All of us at Securly became early believers in the efficacy of our Sentiment Analysis technology, as we were able to catch a troubling student post during our beta-testing phase and immediately alert school officials.

New “Hate” category
A previous category (religion, opinions and ideologies) has been deprecated and replaced by Hate. Lou Moeckler at Solomon Schechter Day School pointed out that schools are unlikely to block pages on religion and hate is a more useful category. Thanks for the insight, Lou!

Block consumer GMail
Two years ago, we pioneered the ability to limit students to their school issued Google logins (personal GMail accounts are blocked). Doing so has the dual advantage of limiting student e-mail use to accounts that can be monitored while reducing classroom confusion around the use of apps that rely on Google SSO. Unfortunately, this feature has remained hidden and we have not done a very good job of letting customers know we support it. We have exposed this via Global Settings in this release. For Chromebooks, no change in configuration is needed to support this feature (all you need is the extension). For our DNS users, you will need to deploy the Securly certificate and proxy setting to enable this.

Create custom messages on blocked page
There is a space in the Global Settings to enter a custom text message that can be displayed on the blocked page. This can be used by school to limit liability in cases when misclassified domains are wrongly blocked by the filter.

Coming soon
  1. Huge updates to Securly for Parents (enabling whole-home protection and auditing via personal GMail).
  2. Introducing URL filtering and Safe Image Search to our Chrome extension.
  3. Our page-scan algorithm uses the “wisdom of crowds” to keep our content database up-to date.

Resolved issues

Audit trail mixup
An edge case caused a small portion of one school’s audit trail to appear in another school’s. This issue has been fixed.

Admin login issues
Sundry fixes have made the Admin login experience more robust.

Duplicate entries
Entries used to appear in both the accessed and blocked views of the audit trail. This led to a confusing user-experience and has been addressed.

Students accessing admin dashboard
Some students were able to access the admin dashboard through a convoluted hack. This issue has been addressed.