When should I be concerned about VPN use at my school?

This article is for IT support, school leadership, and wellbeing staff.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to control your computer’s identity and data when it connects over the internet to another website, app or network.

A VPN works by sending all of your internet traffic through an encrypted connection. VPNs mask your IP address and encrypt your data, preventing outsiders from intercepting it. Schools can use VPNs to allow staff and students to access school networks from off–campus securely. Students might use a VPN to remain anonymous online and hide their internet activity.

Positives of VPNs

There are numerous advantages to using a VPN in an educational setting. VPNs can:

  • Let users work or learn from home and access a school’s network.
  • Let users access a school’s resources even when working or learning from a location with changing or poor connectivity.
  • Link two or more geographically separated school campuses into a combined, single network.

Negatives of VPNs

The main disadvantages of using a VPN in an educational setting involve students using personal VPNs. Personal VPN services allow users to be anonymous online, hiding their internet activity and circumventing school content filtering and monitoring. The most common VPN issue schools encounter is students using VPNs to deliberately access blocked content and to hide from the school's filtering and reporting tools.

A school’s wellbeing and leadership team should ensure their school has clear expectations about VPN use in their ICT acceptable use policy. The processes for managing users, especially students, who consistently attempt to bypass the online safety the school has in place to ensure students are safe and distraction free online.

When is VPN use a concern?

VPN use is a concern when you find students are consistently using or attempting to use unauthorized VPNs in a school setting. It is likely that they are actively trying to bypass your school’s content filtering and monitoring, limiting your ability to fulfill your duty of care. Students are at risk of accessing inappropriate online content, which can negatively impact their emotional and educational wellbeing.

Identify and manage VPN use

To effectively identify and manage VPN use at your school, our help articles, Identifying and Managing VPN Usage and Quarantining Users Trying to Bypass Filtering, provide valuable insights and strategies using School Manager. Learn how to pinpoint VPN activity by exploring the User Journey Report, Red Flags Report, Search Report, and Blocked Report, as well as using the Dashboards and Red Flags Report for quick identification.

Additionally, discover how to prevent VPN usage by creating Block Policies targeting Proxies and VPNs, and consider enabling the Quarantine feature if your school uses a Linewize appliance to reinforce a safe online learning environment.

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