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Watchguard minimizes online threats to schools

MANILA, Philippines—The world wide web is also a wholly wild world and schools are not exempt from threats lurking online.

With that in mind, Watchguard Technologies wants to donate 90 units of “security appliances” worth P4 million to 50 learning institutions in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao within the year.

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The first schools to receive Watchguard’s Firebox X55e-W are De La Salle University (DLSU), Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), University of the East, San Beda College and University of Makati.

Many students now consider online activities as an extension of their inworld learning in schools. Network administrators in schools know better. Aside from basic virus threats, school officials are also wary of another problem: Productivity, or lack of it due to online distraction.

For schools equipped with computers, one of the challenges now is in making sure that students use the technology for learning while in class. For most teachers, their main concern is to make sure students are earning better grades than harvesting high yield in Farmville. They monitor students to ensure that they are researching data and not accessing their crushes’ profile, or writing down lessons and not twitting sweet nothings online.

“Students and teachers increasingly use the web as an important learning resource, and the need to defend school networks from viruses and other threats is growing,” said Terry Haas, vice president of international sales in Watchguard Technologies.

Online security threats used to be just about viruses. Then came worms, spams, malwares, artificially intelligent bots, suspicious links that spring out from chats, and other threat vectors that match, if not exceed, the sophistication of programs that meant to protect users.

When several programs are opened at the same time, they slow down the overall connection’s speed, opening the school’s network to various threats, said Haas. The Firebox X55e-W unit can protect up to 150 active users at a time. So far, the Philippines and Japan are the only Asian countries chosen as beneficiaries of their corporate donations.

Social media applications are not entirely banned from schools, but school IT administrators are keenly aware how these networks open the school’s portal to vulnerabilities.

“We use a firewall. We cannot proscribe the students from accessing [social network sites] because these sites have invaded the electronic world. In as much as we want to proscribe that before, our president made a commitment to our students, so we opened that to them,” says PLM’s IT director Garrie De Gracia. “But we are looking at the opportunity of fortifying our defenses.”

At DLSU, webfilters permit Facebook usage but block games. The school network disapproved the use of Skype due to its large bandwidth consumption, but re-allowed YouTube two years ago after seeing how this once banned site has academic value to students, says IT services assistant director Harold Bautista.

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The school-beneficiaries will also receive training from Lamco International and iPlus Intelligent Network Inc. in using the Watchguard units.

Apart from schools, Watchguard has been providing Internet protection to major retail stores, government agencies, BPO centers, transportation and healthcare companies since 1996, taking care of 600,000 clients worldwide.

TOPICS: Internet, Schools
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