Los Angeles schools halt home use of district-issued iPads after students hack security restrictions
The Los Angeles Unified School District has suspended home use of Apple's iPad by students until further notice following the revelation that a number of students had bypassed the school-installed security features on the device.
After one week with the devices, 300 LAUSD students were able to bypass the content restrictions the district had installed on their iPads, enabling them to browse sites such as YouTube and FaceBook, both of which were blocked along with other sites by the district's policy. Administrators were still handing out devices last week when the students' workaround was discovered, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Now, the district has halted home use of the devices, and scrutiny of the program has increased. Sources within the district say that the development may delay the rollout of a massive program that would see Apple providing an iPad for every student in the LAUSD.
Student profiles on the devices come with restrictions built in, preventing them from accessing services such as Twitter, Pandora, and other popular sites. This restriction reportedly extends to when the devices leave a campus and are taken home, leading to student complaints about the severity of the limitations.
The students who circumvented the restrictions did so by simply deleting their personal profiles, whereupon they were free to surf and tweet.
Within hours, the details of the bypass spread throughout the district by word of mouth and Twitter.
With the at-home use suspension, administrators are looking to head off further spread of the workaround, as they believe it raises potential issues regarding student safety.
"Outside of the district's network, a user is free to download content and applications and browse the Internet without restriction," two senior administrators said in a memo to the Board of Education and L.A. Schools Superintendent John Deasy. "As student safety is of paramount concern, breach of the... system must not occur."
However, administrators seemed only mildly confident that they could keep the workaround under wraps.
"I'm guessing this is just a sample of what will likely occur on other campuses once this hits Twitter, YouTube or other social media sites explaining to our students how to breach or compromise the security of these devices," LAUSD Police Chief Steven Zippermean wrote in a confidential memo. "I want to prevent a 'runaway train' scenario when we may have the ability to put a hold on the roll-out."