“The site’s security certificate is not trusted!”
Many BYU students have experienced the red screen that pops up whenever a site is blocked. Some find comfort in the university’s efforts to protect students and faculty from online dangers, but others find it frustrating.
Parker Huber, a junior studying accounting, uses campus Internet every weekday.
“The Internet filter is useful and necessary in my opinion,” Huber said. “I feel like the filter is restrictive enough to prevent breaking of those standards, but liberal enough to allow me to utilize and enjoy the Internet as much as I need or want.”
“The filter prevents the viewing of a good amount of inappropriate sites,” Huber said. “However, it doesn’t fully protect BYU students if one is fully set on doing things he or she shouldn’t. I admit that I have seen one or two students on campus computers viewing pornography. Those who are set on hurting themselves through inappropriate Internet use will probably always find a way to do so.”
For some students, however, the filter is a source of frustration. If a student is not logged in to the secure network, the filter can cause other issues like misdirected pages and inability to access approved sites. John Carter, a mechanical engineering student, is frequently frustrated by these misdirections.
“The thing that annoys me is if you try to go to most websites before you have signed in, it does not take you to the secure network sign-in page like it used to,” said Carter, a sophomore from Idaho. “Instead, a strange red screen comes up saying that this is probably not the site you are looking for, and there is a suspicious-looking red slash through the URL. It’s annoying.”
Brian Buckner, a junior majoring in exercise science, thinks that the filter is extreme.
“I dislike the filter at BYU because it takes me longer than necessary to find the things that I need,” Buckner said. “If I search for something and I’m not specific, it will block it because there is one thing that is considered inappropriate even though there are thousands of things that are appropriate.”
Shelby Peterson, a master’s student studying information systems, believes that the filter is consistent with the values BYU espouses; but he also sees the need to evaluate sites individually.
“I think a filter is nice so you don’t get porn or obviously malicious stuff coming up in your browser accidentally while you’re surfing the Internet,” Peterson said. “For an organization like BYU that promotes honorable behavior, a filter seems helpful. However, if there is a grad student who is researching cures for breast cancer, they need to have access to materials that the automatic filter blocks. For those people who have a valid reason to look up blocked content, they can get permission to override the filter.”
Kirk Sanford, the director of network solutions in the Office of Information Technology, said that the filter blocks more than just inappropriate material.
“In OIT, we have multiple levels of security, and the web filter is just one of them,” Sanford said. “There are dozens of things you can (filter), and we use six or seven of those things, like gambling, pornography, malware, illegal content and sites that have known malicious content on them.”
There are times when the filter blocks a website or program that should not be blocked or that students need access to for academic purposes. When this happens, anyone can submit a ticket to have the site reviewed. Because anyone can ask to have a site reviewed, Sanford believes that keeping the filter updated and relevant is up to the campus community. This attitude has led the university to create a website, besafe.byu.edu., to help educate students on how to avoid damaging content.
“First thing, be aware,” Sanford said. “We need to recognize that there are multiple threats. Students should also be proactive in having their own filters and virus scanners. Be responsible, have integrity. Students should also be responsible and help each other know what to look out for.”