August 19, 2017

Using VPNs makes blocking sites pointless

By Abel Sanchez '18, Staff Writer

I was desperately waiting for my friend to send me a study guide for English class. My friend has a Samsung while I have a iPhone, which means we can’t use services like iMessage in order to communicate. My friend and I mainly interact through Snapchat because of its great free messaging capabilities. As I waited for him to send me the guide during a nerve racking lunch block, I noticed that I was unable to connect to Snapchat. Dumbfounded, I panicked, and found no other way to reach my friend. In the end I received a C on the test. This horrible situation could have been easily avoided with the use of a VPN.  

VPNs are virtual private networks, used to encrypt connections over less secure services. But due to their encrypting capabilities VPNs can block administrative restrictions because the server cannot identify the privileges the users has on the network. In a more basic sense, VPNs make it so you can access any website or app independent of whether or not it is blocked on the school wifi.

Because of VPNs, blocking Snapchat and other forms of social media is pointless. The school restricts these forms of communication in order to protect itself against liability issues; but little does the administration it is opening itself up to far more civil suits by ending these programs.

With the introduction to programs such as VPN Defender and Better Net on the new iOS, the restrictions the school has placed on students become virtually harmless. And due to the availability of VPNS to students, I believe the school should remove regulation all together on the wifi.

With VPNs students at the high school are able to access all restricted services available on iPhones and Android devices and remain virtually untraceable. On top of the services of better net and VPN defender being readily available, they are also incredibly difficult to block.

Worse, most of these services come with bugs and viruses that can break students phones, but users take the risk anyway in order to use their social media outlets. In addition, these services steal information from users in order to make profit.

For instance, in an article by Softpedia titled “Beware of This App That Steals Twitter Credentials,” Catalin Cimpanu warns against a VPN application which, after being allowed access to a phone’s mainframe, took Twitter credentials and uploaded them to a online server. The parties that were victimized lost accessibility to their accounts.

From these examples, it is obvious that these services not only diminish the control the school has over internet but hurt students as well. By unblocking the apps and services from the wifi, there would be possible means of regulation.

The high school can no longer stand by and deny when dealing with VPN. Students should be allowed to use their phones as they see fit. They are their property and putting restrictions doesn’t make sense given students’ ability to circumvent them. Allowing students at the school to use the wifi for whatever they want would also allow students to have a broader sense of responsibility. On top of that it would lead to a greater sense of control for the school, giving them the ability to access sources from students phones in order to prevent such heinous crimes such as cyber bullying and hate crimes. It is a win-win for both parties involved.

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