4 steps to create a CIPA-compliant network for your school

 In Hardware, Networking

This question will be on the final exam, and it’s one you don’t want to get wrong: Are you CIPA compliant?

We’re talking about the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), the federal legislation that requires schools and libraries to restrict access to obscene or harmful content on the internet.

It’s so important that eligibility for E-Rate funding hinges on schools’ and libraries’ CIPA compliance. They must certify that they’re enforcing a policies relating to internet safety, including blocking or filtering access to material considered obscene, pornographic, and harmful to minors.

Are your students protected? Does your school network fit the letter of the law? Here’s how to make sure you’re CIPA compliant.

internet schools

What CIPA compliance looks like

Do you have a system to monitor what sites library users are visiting? Does your school have an eye into your wireless network? How are you preventing students from accessing inappropriate sites?

These are some important questions schools and libraries must address to ensure CIPA compliance. Though there’s no auditing system in place yet, schools must be proactive and build systems capable of enforcing CIPA demands before audits are issued.

Don’t be lax about compliance and neglect the rules; after all, meeting CIPA standards only strengthens your IT environment and wireless network. Here are four steps to take to ensure CIPA compliance.

  • Conduct a security assessment. Use the remediation report generated by the assessment as a roadmap to compliance. Conducting an assessment not only alerts you to your network’s shortfalls, but also gives you a clearer idea of what technologies and services to request through E-Rate funding. This remediation report and lessons from the assessment can help administrators fill in the details of Forms 470 and 471, the two integral reports for E-Rate.
  • Use content filtering tools. They block inappropriate material and websites, but more importantly, they create activity logs that determine which user was acting inappropriately. When IT is proactive in blocking restricted content, schools and libraries prevent users from accessing unsavory sites in the future. A cloud-based DNS server that extends web filtering and security to mobile devices can be used, too.
  • Update and maintain a strong firewall defense. Outdated firewalls are an easy way to fall out of compliance, and firewall protections equipped with filters that restrict access to specific sites are eligible for E-Rate funding. For that reason, firewalls should be a priority.
  • Proactively monitor who is accessing your wireless network. Consider restricting access to your Wi-Fi network to avoid unauthorized users. Schools may have firewalls that keep intruders out, but are students accessing the network with their own mobile devices? Securing the network more thoroughly, and by providing imaged devices to students, will help wall off rogue users.

Review your compliance report card

CIPA compliance is crucial for schools and libraries – without it, they’re out of luck for E-Rate funding. Fortunately, E-Rate helps offset some of the costs of technologies that put schools into compliance. By protecting and securing their network, schools and libraries can maintain compliance while offering secure access to users.

SHI will hold a CIPA crash course in an upcoming webinar. Sign up today and prepare to understand CIPA compliance and E-Rate funding more fully.

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