How We Keep 1M Students Safe Daily

We introduced Auditor after learning from our schools that students were using Gmail to express negative emotions such as bullying and self-harm. We made it free so that no school would have to make compromises when it comes to student safety.

Today, Auditor is thriving – scanning 3.5 million emails per day for 1 million students across the world.

‘Within six months of its launch Auditor has scanned more than 100 million emails and saved so many lives – That’s the power of AI and best part is that it’s all free! This is something that each every school should have as kids lives are at stake.’

‘Securly has been having its filtering product around for quite sometime but our core mission has always been ubiquitous safety for kids. Auditor is one such product that is so core to our mission, we decided to give it for free. Since its launch six months ago it has helped save countless number of lives.’ – Neeraj Thakar, VP India R&D Operations

Auditor also ensures that schools are CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliant. CIPA requires schools to maintain “the safety and security of minors when using electronic mail, chat rooms, and other forms of direct electronic communications”. However, traditional web-filters do not address this. Many schools reported using Google’s default compliance options to flag emails that contain a predefined set of keywords.

This method is undependable as:

  1. It Is prone to lots of False Positives (False Alarms) and False Negatives (Missed Alerts).
  2. Does not scale well in a large District where IT becomes the bottleneck in sorting through these flagged messages.

 

Instead, Auditor uses an automated sentiment inference approach. For example, consider a post that was flagged by our algorithm:

“slowly im realizing i don’t really have a purpose here say good bye cause Fryday it’s all over <3”

Though the allusion to suicide is clear, it does not contain the keywords usually associated with this kind of behavior. A keyword based approach would not have worked in detecting this.

 

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10 Reasons Why Securly is the Best Web Filter

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Between our unrivaled student safety features and dedicated team, here’s why schools and parents trust Securly to keep their kids safe online:

1. Free Chromebook Filtering

Set-up takes less than 5 minutes and it works seamlessly at home. In July, our Chromebook filtering became free for all schools everywhere. Since then, 700 districts (and counting) signed up and installed our self-serve Chromebook solution.

2. Free self-harm detection via Auditor

Our Auditor tool monitors Gmail for signs of self-harm and has kept over 1M students safer in its first 4 months. Our system uses Natural Language Processing & Artificial Intelligence algorithms to infer the sentiment behind e-mails. We notify parents and administrators in real-time at first sign of at-risk behavior.

3. Expanded Parent Settings

We upgraded our industry-first parent portal to give parents more control to set policies for school-owned devices at home. Parents can customize what your student can do and see on their devices, allow or deny access to specific sites and categories. This is one of our most popular features with parents.

4. Page Scanour blacklist that learns

PageScan is able to accurately block new content and meet the strict performance constraints of modern K-12 networks. Each day, PageScan adds 100s of sites to keep our database in tune with an ever-growing Internet. In fact, our blacklist recently upgraded to recognize images containing nudity, giving parents even less to worry about.

5. Azure AD

Can you ask for anything more than Google SSO and on-prem AD support? Now, you can. Azure AD support has been completed and deployed to many happy customers.

6. Product Stability

Despite our meteoric growth, support tickets are only on track to increase a mere 20%. Why? Because cloud-based filtering works and our product is more stable than ever.

7. Auto Scaling

Our DevOps infrastructure was upgraded to handle auto scaling. This means that as traffic fluctuates, servers turn on or go to sleep based on use  which mitigates chances of a server getting maxed out or even crashing. So, go ahead and throw all you can at us – we can handle it.

Advantages of cloud-based auto scaling:

  • Better fault tolerance: Auto scaling detects when an unhealthy instance, terminates it, and launches a replacement.
  • Improved availability: This ensures that our servers always have the capacity to handle the current traffic demands.
  • Blazing fast DNS resolution.
  • Automated load handling.
  • Highly scalable.
  • Higher service uptime.

 

8. Our Rockstar Team

The guy who works on our Squid proxy wrote the code for our SSL decryption engine over a weekend. Our recruiter hired 30 top-notch sales reps in just under one month. Industry veterans from Microsoft, Amazon, and Qualys are just a sample of the talent that Securly’s been attracting.

9. WiscNet

We secured our first state-wide contract when WiscNet (Wisconsin’s K-12  Research and Education Network) chose to partner with Securly. Along with other large district deals reaching over 2M students, Securly is on track to achieve triple digit sales growth 4 years in a row.

10. Breakneck Growth

Securly is bursting at the seams with 70+ employees across California, North Carolina, and India. Our Charlotte and India offices continue to expand and our HQ in Silicon Valley is having to move to an office 3x the size of our old space. It’s a great feeling.

 

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Announcing Securly 24 – It’s About Time!

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After much development and planning, Securly is proud to announce Securly 24 which…

Hold on, is this a rip-off of the TV show “24” starring Kiefer Sutherland that took viewers on time-sensitive adventures in a post-9/11 world for an impressive 8 seasons on Fox?

What? No, that’s not even close. We’re excited about Securly 24 because it brings back the one factor missing from technology-based solutions: the human factor. Securly 24 is important because there are times when urgency or context can be difficult for technology to determine, even an advanced artificial intelligence like ours. However, these determinations are absolutely necessary to distinguish active from passive warning signs. With Securly 24, trained professionals can discern what tech cannot.

Wait a sec, so Securly hired trained professional Kiefer Sutherland to work a 24-hour shift alongside a robot sidekick? Bro, that sounds awesome!

While we appreciate Mr. Sutherland and his body of work, he has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on Securly 24. The only thing that matters, and truly the primary motivation for rolling out 24, is making sure kids are safe…at all times.

Securly already monitors for such things as cyberbullying and self-harm across Filter and Auditor and administrators receive email alerts when such things are found. However, an email alert may not be seen until the next day. In some cases, that is already too late.

“The reality is that troublesome activities do happen, but not always between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Securly wants to minimize any chance of oversight by adding trained humans back into the equation,” says co-founder/CEO Vinay Mahadik.

Filter 24 automatically observes a student’s activity on the web, social media, and Youtube, while Auditor 24 scans Google emails. When an activity is flagged, a trained staff member will review the context in which it was used and, if necessary, the user’s history for insight into the bigger picture. Able to recognize the nuances of language and critically analyze a user’s history, a human can make determinations that technology may overlook. If flagged activities are cause for alarm, a Securly 24 staff member will alert a counselor in real-time via text or, if necessary, a phone call.

Sometimes the feeling of pain and isolation can be overwhelming at, say, 2AM on a Sunday. Fortunately, Securly is making sure that even when the rest of the world is asleep, the right folks are keeping an eye on the most vulnerable among us. Sometimes we just need a hero who is at the right place at the right time.

Hey, kinda like…

Yes, exactly like Kiefer Sutherland.

Interested? Join our priority list now! Click here.

 

Suicide Prevention: Behind Their Minds

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September means Back to School! There’s excitement in the air as families rush to the Target aisles to buy notebooks, pens, and materials for a promising year full of new experiences. As exciting as Back to School can be, kids can feel scared and overwhelmed. For many, it can feel too overwhelming. September also happens to be National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an occasion to spotlight an issue that is growing among youths, and one that shows no signs of slowing down.

Youth suicide is a major cause of death during the crucial years when they should be building healthy interactions with their peers, constructing positive self-images, and forming important social bonds. According to 2015 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third leading cause of death in children aged 10-14.

Many suicides occur in isolation, while others are clustered in back-to-back succession around the same school or district. Many school authorities and administrations are baffled as to what is causing their students to kill themselves with alarming frequency. Could it be an increasingly rigorous academic schedule? Is it from bullying and social pressure to be attractive, cool, liked?

There are many reasons why this could be happening. Social pressure and lack of support can be contributors, as well as anxiety, depression, PTSD, panic disorders, and other psychological disorders which can impact suicidal intent. Kids struggling with anxiety disorders are more likely than mentally healthy people to have suicidal thoughts, make suicide attempts, or complete suicide. When it comes to depression, according to researchers, a specific occurrence of hopelessness in depressed people, rather than the depression as a whole, is a stronger indicator of suicidal feelings. That means that a depressed child will not necessarily be suicidal, but that a child feeling hopeless during their depression will be more likely to want to kill themselves.

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That being said, it is important to remember that not every child who is suicidal has a mental disorder, and not every person with a mental disorder is suicidal. Many factors contribute to why a kid may feel that way, and it’s important to pay attention to warning signs when they do. Kids who want to harm themselves or die typically will leave a number of clues that indicate their suicidal ideation or intention.

In our next blog post covering suicide, we’ll explore the warning signs that parents and teachers can look out for, and how to help your child when you find them.

If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to get connected with Crisis Text Line.

All Hail Auto Scaling !

You might think that auto scaling is the practice of meticulously painting, say, your Toyota Prius to look like an Atlantic salmon. It’s hard to believe, but…you would be wrong. Auto scaling refers to servers turning on or sleeping based on the amount of traffic at a given time. The new school year means increased traffic, which means you’d better be prepared.

Earlier scaling attempts were on par with early attempts at flight, a lot of trial and error. If it did work, it didn’t mitigate the chances of a server getting maxed out or even crashing. Cloud-based auto scaling solves a lot of these issues. To roll out cloud-based auto scaling, our engineers have enduring sleepless nights, fewer showers, and lots of caffeine. Now, it’s up and running.

securly-horizontal-scaling-gif (1).gifAs traffic fluctuates, servers turn on or go to sleep based on use. To help the servers get to sleep, they are read an excerpt from 50 Shades of Grey. Knocks ‘em right out.

Advantages of cloud-based auto scaling

  • Better fault tolerance: Auto scaling detects when an unhealthy instance, terminates it, and launches a replacement.
  • Improved availability: This ensures that our servers always have the capacity to handle the current traffic demands.
  • Blazing fast DNS resolution.
  • Automated load handling.
  • Highly scalable.
  • Higher service uptime.

IMG_20170912_144122.jpgWhat started as an overly complex game of tic-tac-toe between Siddhartha Desai, DevOps Engineer and Pei Deng, DevOps Manager became the genesis for our cloud-based auto scaling. Also, Sid won three games straight.

Securly’s goal is simple. Our engineers are taking care of the auto scaling so that admins don’t have to. Before a big day like Back to School, we would rather let them sleep.