Classroom by Securly – helping teachers manage EdTech for free.

Screen Shot 2017-11-02 at 9.25.25 AM

Background

EdTech is booming. The industry has accumulated $887M in funding in the first half of this year already. Many schools continue to adopt a 1:1 environment, a program that offer students autonomy and access; yet many teachers and parents feel they lack the required structure to optimize success. Thus, the need for classroom management tools is becoming imperative. These tools allow teachers to know track student progress and productivity, allowing classroom interaction to continue into the virtual world.

However, classroom management assistance became commodified as soon as its need was realized. With all the costs schools incur, additional classroom tools tend to be a lower priority than online safety and security features which are required by law.

 

Our Solution

To ensure that schools never have to compromise, we are planning to release a free, classroom management tool at the start of 2018. Called Classroom by Securly, it will work in conjunction with Google Classroom, and allows teachers the ability to be the IT admins of their own classrooms. This will provide educators the ability to whitelist websites that are relevant to their class and block all others. Ultimately, this tool will help teachers keep students on track to maximize the benefits of EdTech.

“We want teachers to be able to walk into their classroom and know that kids can only access whitelisted content,” says Bharath Madhusudan, CTO and co-founder of Securly. “Giving teachers control over their classroom means kids have to focus on math, history, English, whatever. They can’t distract themselves, even if they want to.”

 

The first to receive Classroom by Securly will be those educators on a priority list. To sign up for the priority list, click here.

 

Guard yourself against these 3 things

cyberbullying, school, parents, online student safety, Securly

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. Each week in October is dedicated to a different cyber security theme, and features appropriate resources to help all internet users protect themselves from threats online.

Both children and adults should be cautious of their interactions online, while also considering whom they are dealing with:

BOTS

Bots are useful tools and potentially constitute 60% of website traffic. However, they are oftentimes employed to conduct cybercriminal activity. They are a type of malware, allowing hackers to remotely take control over the infected computer.

Bots can be website scrapers and spammers, while extensive “botnets” (an army of infected computers) can take down a website in mere seconds called a Denial-of-Service Attack. Bots send viruses and are often used to steal personal information (credit card information, bank credentials, social security numbers), putting victims at risk of fraud.

STRANGERS

The digital age promised to bring the world closer – and indeed the younger generation seems to be reflecting the sentiment, sharing increasingly more personal information with strangers online. The study extrapolates that 1 in 5 people share sensitive data (including passport scans, bank information, and personal documents) online with others they do not know well.

Neglecting to install proper security measures or voluntarily sharing personal information introduces many risks, from Venmo scams and fraud to sexual predators.

PEERS

Incorporating people from your physical environment into your online social community may seem like a natural extension. However, a recent study by Robin Dunbar of Oxford Universityshows that most of your online friends are in fact not your “real friends”. In fact, cyberbullying is more likely to come from a teen’s peers than from internet trolls or strangers. There are cases where aggressive “strangers” were exposed as peers operating under fake accounts/names.

Online communication platforms are efficient, but “the lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship for maintaining an essential level of ‘emotional intensity.’” This lack of empathy and selective sharing on social media garners a feeling of detachment, which empowers cyberbullying. October is also National Bullying Prevention Month. Cyber Security can be integral in bullying prevention. Both campaigns intersect, working towards the same goal: safety.

To learn more about how we keep kids safe online, visit our website:

Learn more about our Built-In Cyberbullying Detection

Web Filtering: equally beneficial for your 5-year-old & 15-year-old

student, web filter, school, block

Web filtering is required by law, as long as schools wish to receive e-rate funding to supply their digital classrooms. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires that schools “block Internet access to pictures that are (a) obscene (b) child pornography or (c) harmful to minors.” CIPA also requires schools to monitor student online activity and provide training for responsible technology use.

The general sentiment: students –especially teens– hate web filtering*. Most students find web filtering to be unnecessarily inhibitive, citing that it blocks perfectly acceptable web pages due to one keyword or denies access to social media pages. One argument goes that filtering prevents exploration and blocks students from using tools like Facebook for academic causes. Another, that it is a breach of student privacy.


*Misdirected blame: Web filtering is different at each school. Federal law doesn’t specifically require schools to block Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your web filtering provider doesn’t dictate that X, Y, or Z website needs to be blocked. Besides fundamental protection against pornography and similar graphic content, it’s at the discretion of each school district to whitelist or blacklist the specific sites that students take issue with. Some schools leave social media open, some schools restrict access, etc. Web filtering, when used correctly, can be utilized to help –not hurt–the student experience.


Web filtering applies to all schools, which means the measure applies to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Older students are particularly irked by filtering and feel that although filtering content is necessary to shield younger kids, it is gratuitous for those close to adulthood. Web filtering does vary dramatically from elementary, middle, to high school – however, it offers additional aspects often forgotten that are equally optimal for students of any age.

1. Cyberbullying & Self-Harm Detection

Particular web filters can screen for instances of bullying and self-harm in social media posts. From 2007-2016, the number of students who experienced bullying roughly doubled from 18.8% to 33.8% according to a Cyberbullying Research Center report.  The CDC analyzed cyberbullying by age group and found that 15.5% percent of high school students are cyberbullied, as are 24% of middle school students. Technology is now integrated into daily life at a very young age, leaving even elementary school students at risk for cyberbullying.

37% of cyberbullying cases go unreported; often, students are fearful that 1) the bullying will get worse 2) they’ll be considered a “rat” 3) no one will listen if they seek help. Given bullying’s devastating consequences, detection of bullying and negative sentiment can allow schools/parents to give students the proper care. And even save lives.

2. Productivity and screen time management

In our recent international survey, 53% of students aged 9-18 reported being productive only half of the total time spent working on school assignments. Blocking sites like social media and gaming (especially for younger children) keeps students focused on learning. Some filtering services even allow the admin to establish time restrictions on certain sites (social media, gaming, entertainment, etc.) to create a good balance between recreational and study time.

Also, overexposure to screens may have harmful consequences for cognitive development. Although 5-year-olds may not have research papers to write and assignments to finish, web filtering can help parents and educators manage healthy levels of device usage.

3. Defense against malware and phishing

We asked students their take on web filtering. One student responded, “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.” Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying but also often dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  

A web filter screens the origin and content of a web page, checking for objectionable content, spyware, and viruses that may compromise your network. It helps keep students safe online and protects from intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware.

4. Helps teachers understand students

On his blog, an IT admin expressed how web filtering helped school staff understand student preferences: ”…you can see stats for student web access. Not blocked pages, which they have a view for too, but sites kids are using. In our case, as we begin having discussions about whether Newsela is a service we want to pursue as a district standard, we now have compelling data telling us that it’s already being widely used and is, in fact, our most accessed website on a weekly basis.”

Teachers can use these insights to create engaging lesson plans and foster a collaborative learning environment, while best-integrating technology into their classroom.

 

To learn more about web filtering, sign up for our newsletter:

Securly’s Year in Review

As 2016 comes to an end, here’s a brief summary detailing just some of our accomplishments this year.  2017, here we come!

SPRING

We receive the Tech & Learning Stellar Service Award for “Sales Support You Can Believe In”With a first response time of 12 minutes and a median ticket solve time of 1.5 hrs, pre- and post-sales, Securly was recognized by Tech & Learning for excellent sales support. We give prospects a white-glove onboarding experience which includes network configuration changes and an end-to-end UI walkthrough and training.


We start serving 1 in 4 schools in the San Francisco Bay AreaMany school districts –including Los Gatos, Morgan Hill, Campbell, Milpitas, Portola Valley, Dublin, Healdsburg– made the switch to Securly given our cloud-based platform and unique features:

  • Ability to secure a heterogeneous mix of devices including iPads, laptops, and Chromebooks both in school and at home.
  • Bullying and self-harm detection on social media using natural language processing.
  • Free e-mail reports and parent portal that offer the promise of boosting parental engagement.

We also serve our nation’s leading Charter networks – Aspire Public Schools, Summit Public Schools, KIPP and Rocketship.

SUMMER

Delegated Administration – our “set-and-forget” Solution for District IT . You asked, we listened. Support tickets for web-filtering in K-12 districts generally fall into two large buckets: 1) requests for unblock websites 2) requests for pulling user reports for disciplinary purposes. In addition, IT admins are responsible for timely response to detection of self-harm or cyberbullying.  This feature unburdens district IT and provides Principals, Guidance Counselors, and Parents access to student activity reports.

Seamless logins for our parent portal.  Parents can get access to the Securly portal by simply clicking through their weekly email reports. The portal gives parents a bird’s eye view of their child’s activity on school owned devices. They also have the ability to set policies at home

Auditor by Securlya free tool to monitor Google Mail and Chat for bullying and self-harmThis tool uses Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning algorithms to detect harmful sentiment in messages on Gmail, Drafts, and Chat without relying solely on keywords that require human audits. Keeping this tool free forever is our commitment to K-12 schools.


We become the first web filtering company to receive the iKeepSafe California Privacy Badge. To achieve this badge, companies must meet all requirements outlined in primary federal and California laws. This program helps educators and parents in the state of California identify edtech tools and services that protect student data privacy.

“We congratulate Securly on successfully completing a careful privacy review by iKeepSafe.  In the past few years, a large amount of legislation has emerged protecting and governing student data. By receiving the iKeepSafe privacy badge, Securly has taken an essential step in helping educators navigate this new terrain and keep student information safe.” Marsali Hancock, president and CEO of iKeepSafe


Securly @ ISTE Denver.  Securly rocked the floor at the 2016 ISTE Conference & Expo where 16,000 educators gathered for four days of ed-tech immersion.


We release Can Social Media Save Lives? –a quantified study on cyberbullying Through analysis of over a half million social media posts from over 300 school districts in 2016, Securly found that the average school district faces the threat of teen suicide about every two weeks. Our research centered around student online behavior and its tendencies towards suicide, self-harm, and depression.


We become the first self-servable web filterTo save IT Admins time and frustration during the back-to-school rush, we streamlined our setup process to be independently completed through a web browser session – without ever needing to speak with a sales or support person. With this update, we eliminated the complexity of network based web-filters with the simplicity of EdTech tools like Remind and ClassDojo.

FALL

We raise $4M in Series A funding. In the new year, we will extend beyond B2B software solutions for schools by engaging parents through a consumer application that allows parents to easily monitor and guide their child’s online activity.

Funding was led by Owl Ventures, a fund that invests in the world’s top Ed-tech startups. Amit Patel, a Partner at Owl Ventures, said, “Securly’s vision of what the future should look like for online student safety combined with the team’s deep expertise with information security and impressive execution is what made Owl Ventures excited to be part of their journey.”   


We are chosen as a SC Media 2017 Excellence Award FinalistOur unique approach to student safety that goes beyond basic CIPA compliance sets itself apart in the web filtering industry, and the SC Awards has taken notice – recognizing us as one of the finalists for Excellence Awards: Best Compliance Solution Category. We see this as recognition of the fact that Securly has made it easier and cheaper than ever for K-12 IT admins to be CIPA compliant.

“Ransomware, nation-state cyber attacks, IoT vulnerabilities, data privacy issues and more are dominating the headlines right now, and it’s critical that we amplify the importance of these problems and highlight the actions organizations can take to safeguard their organizations and their critical data assets,” said Illena Armstrong, VP, editorial, SC Media. “As bad actors are constantly changing strategy, so too are the men, women, and companies endeavoring to stop them in their tracks. These finalists have shown that they are the best at what they do.”


We are selected for Tech & Learning’s Award of ExcellenceWe are honored to have been recognized by Tech & Learning under the “Best Upgraded Product” category. This year alone, we have announced new features that are first-in-industry. We will continue to work towards student safety in 2017!

 

For more about our online student safety initiatives, sign up for our newsletter:

Now you can install Securly from a web browser

securly, web, network, self-serve, schools, web filter

We’re not only the leading cloud-based provider of Internet security for K-12 schools, but also the industry’s first self-servable web filter.  “With our self-serve update, Securly is realizing its long-held vision of giving IT Admins a product that can be set up in minutes,” says Paul Katcher, UI developer at Securly.

Since the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000, web filtering has been required for schools that seek e-rate funding. Customarily, the industry has been heavily dominated by appliance hardware players.  Their products need to be shipped, painstakingly setup and often end up as bandwidth bottlenecks on K-12 networks that are increasingly turning to bandwidth-hungry applications such as streaming media.

By contrast, we have been cloud-based from day one. With no need for a hardware appliance, customers can deploy Securly with a few simple network configuration changes and benefit from functionality such as granular auditing and policies that they are familiar with. In doing so, they are assisted by our award winning support team based in Charlotte.

Setup can be independently completed through a web browser session without ever needing to speak with a sales or support person. With this update, Securly eliminates the complexity of network based web-filters with the simplicity of EdTech tools like Remind and ClassDojo.

We hope self-serve will save IT Admins time and frustration during the back-to-school rush.  For more information, contact support@securly.com.

For more updates on new features and product releases, sign up below:

"Subscribe

Introducing “Dr.House” – Our New Debug Tool to Automate Network Troubleshooting

tool, web filter, network, debugThe back-to-school rush is fast approaching, and we have just the tool to ease IT admins and school administrators back into the swing of things…

Meet Dr. House, our new tool that allows customers to certify that their networks are up and running correctly. Dr. House launches a series of automated checks meant to detect the most common network misconfigurations. It performs a variety of tests including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Checks for the presence of a caching server that could be impending filtering.
  • Makes sure that there are no rogue DNS servers without securly DNS configured.
  • Verifies that the Securly certificate is installed.
  • Confirms that all outbound IPs are registered.
  • Ensures that critical Securly services are reachable from the network.

 

Securly was founded on the premise of a quick deployment – the antithesis to the customary web filter setup experience. While other web filtering products require a physical appliance (that still needs to be shipped and laboriously setup), we have been cloud-based from the start.

In the weeks ahead, we will also become the industry’s first self-servable web filter; setup can be completed through a web browser session. Our own Jayesh Agrawal, a software engineer who was instrumental in implementing this tool, says, “The release of Dr. House is a huge leap forward in automating network misconfiguration detection. We hope that this tool will save customers time and frustration while easing the deployment experience.

For more information, contact support@securly.com.

 

For more updates on new features and product releases, sign up for our newsletter below.

Can Social Media Save Kids’ Lives?

The following is taken from our new whitepaper Can social media save kids’ lives?. We analyzed over a half million social media posts from over 300 school districts in 2016 to amass the data included in this paper.

social media, cyberbullying, school, suicide, parent

The majority of research centered around cyberbullying & teen emotional distress occurs after the fact, relying on student anecdotes and surveys.  By contrast, we are able to gather information in real time.  Our position as a network-based filter gives us unique access to such data, allowing us to find truths embedded within students’ own social media posts alone.

Our data shows that 30% of all flagged posts are a direct form of cyberbullying. From our previous study, we found that at least ⅓ of all students have been harassed online.  This is a growing problem that parents and schools cannot ignore, especially given its fatal consequences.  

Across the country, teen suicide numbers have soared.  An American Public Health Association study actually coined the term “cyberbullicide” to explain the causal relationship and correlated death toll.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among middle school children, and the second am
ong young adults ages 15-24.  

As social media is the prime avenue for cyberbullying, it’s reasonable for schools to wish to block social media as a preventative measure.  However, after extensive research, we believe social media can actually serve as the tool to save a child’s life.   

 Nowadays, teens increasingly turn to social media to seek counsel or vent emotional distress.  This includes warning sides of high-risk behavior like suicide and self-harm.  In fact, the average school district faces the threat of teen suicide about every two weeks.

Actual student posts:

  • “Life sucks and i wanna jump off a bridge.”
  • “If i kill myself no one would notice.”
  • “I am legitimately contemplating suicide and i legitimately want to kill myself.”

Using Machine Learning techniques, we are able to detect negative sentiment like the above in social media posts.  We then send high confidence alerts to the 1) school district IT admin 2) guidance counselors and 3) parents of the child, so that students receive the proper care and attention.

Already, our technology has helped schools prevent potential tragedy. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community schools, says: “Of the many features distinguishing Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”

This same technology can also detect for instances of cyberbullying, a major cause of suicide and depression.  Through social media, we plan to not only stop tragedy – but also eliminate the causes of such emotional distress.

For access to the full whitepaper including more information on student online behavior trends, click here.

To learn more about cyberbullying prevention/detection, and other parental controls, sign up for our parent newsletter below.

Introducing PageScan – our Blacklist that Learns

content, blacklist, PageScan, schools, web filtering

 

Today, we are announcing that we are Beta test complete on PageScan – our proprietary approach to building a “Blacklist that Learns.”  As any user of a web filter is aware, these products have two different ways by which they maintain their blacklists:

  1. Maintain a static list of websites that are updated periodically.
  2. HTTP response parsing to infer unknown bad content.

The first approach leaves you vulnerable to newer websites that may not be part of your blacklist. The second approach has severe performance limitations.

About PageScan

PageScan is able to accurately block new content and meet the strict performance constraints of modern K-12 networks. We accomplish this using the following approach:

  • The first time we come across  a site that is not in our database, we let it through.
  • We then fetch it offline and scan the response content for keywords indicative of inappropriate content.
  • Our first pass is designed to produce False Positives. We narrow things down with a second pass done with an API call to a third-party service that we have identified as “best-of-breed”.
  • If the site is identified to be inappropriate for kids, we add it to our blacklist.

With this approach, we can recognize an inappropriate site accessed from a school in the UK and use that intelligence to benefit a school in Texas. We are able to identify –with high accuracy– sites belonging to the following categories: porn, drugs, gambling and proxys. Our beta tests have shown an extremely low False Positive rate.

We have decided to release this at the end of September for the following simple reason: we would like to get through the start of school, making only minimal changes to our core system in the interim. Changing the way we handle our blacklist is fundamental to how our system works and the risks of releasing early may outweigh the benefits. As always, should you have any questions, please reach out to support@securly.com.

For more updates on new features and product releases, sign up below:

"Subscribe

Meet Our New Partners: iKeepSafe & the Internet Watch Foundation

 

We are excited to announce our partnership with two organizations at the forefront of online child safety initiatives: iKeepSafe and the Internet Watch Foundation! The mission of each respective organization aligns perfectly with our own commitment to keeping kids safe online.

iKeepsafe has also awarded us the California Privacy Badge.  We are the first web filtering company to receive this distinction.  

 

About iKeepSafe & the California Privacy Badge

“iKeepSafe is a 501(c)3 non-profit international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates.”  They provide positive resources for parents and educators to teach youth how to use technology safely and productively.

iKeepSafe’s California Privacy Badge is the first independent assessment program specifically tailored to student data privacy legislation, including the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) among others.  To achieve this badge, companies must meet all requirements outlined in primary federal and California laws. This program helps educators and parents in the state of California identify edtech tools and services that protect student data privacy.

Much controversy surrounds cloud-based services and data privacy; however, this certification confirms our promise to protect student data.  It’s our way of letting customers know that student data is safe in our hands.

“We congratulate Securly on successfully completing a careful privacy review by iKeepSafe.  In the past few years, a large amount of legislation has emerged protecting and governing student data. By receiving the iKeepSafe privacy badge, Securly has taken an essential step in helping educators navigate this new terrain and keep student information safe.” Marsali Hancock, president and CEO of iKeepSafe

 

About the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

The IWF is a UK-based charity whose goal is to eradicate child pornography.  They tirelessly work to remove child sexual abuse images and videos.  

Tracking these websites is especially hard since they’re seldom hosted on static domains. To compensate, IWF has full time staff tracing these sites; and in many cases, they have brought the creators of the material to justice.

This partnership achieves two goals for Securly:

  • By supporting the IWF in their mission, Securly reaffirms its commitment to online child safety.
  • With each daily IWF list release, Securly is able to update its own  blacklist URLs, allowing schools to pre-empt potential legal and PR perils that would result if child porn was accessed on their network.

 

For more updates on online student safety initiatives, sign up below:

"Subscribe

Securly’s Brand New Dashboard

dashboard, design, useful, Securly, web filtering

“Good design is as little design as possible” -Dieter Rams

To kick off the “Week of Innovation” –live from the ISTE floor– we are excited to unveil our brand new Dashboard! At Securly, we follow a simple rule of thumb for all product design decisions:

Useful > Usable > Attractive

Useful: Does a customer find a feature useful in the way one finds an automobile useful? Does it serve a basic purpose?

Usable: Is the feature designed to be self-explanatory? Will a customer need to file a support ticket to understand what we have built?

Attractive: Does the design evoke an aesthetic that has instant appeal?

We realized that in the previous version of the Dashboard we built, we had flipped this thinking on its head. Our Dashboard had visual pop, but there was very little about it that was useful OR usable. Hence, we set about redesigning it – adhering to the quote from Dieter Rams at the beginning of this post.

First, we enumerated the stats and graphs supported by our old dashboard and classified each into “useful” and “useless”. Next, we went over customer feedback through support tickets and surveys. We picked a couple of key asks that were worthy of the “front page of the Securly UI”.

The new dashboard has the following new sections:

  • Securly System Health: In the spirit of full transparency, we will at all times provide you an overview of System Health. On those rare occasions when there is a systemic issue, we want you to know that we’re working to bring things back to normal.
  • Recent Releases: All of our regularly scheduled releases (including bug fixes) will now show up as a live feed.

Our new dashboard is scheduled for release on Tuesday 28th of June. Should you have any questions, please reach out to support@securly.com.

 

For more updates on new features and product releases, sign up below:

"Subscribe