Monday, January 16, 2012

The iPad Loophole

This year my school gave iPads to all of our high school students. We were one of the first in the state. It's been an exciting year full of surprises and learning.

During the first semester some of our creative and talented students found an interesting iOS loophole that gave them unfiltered access to the web. The trouble stems from Apps that, instead of storing their help documentation locally on the device, pull in their help documentation from the web. To the average user there is no difference between the two methods, however some students discovered that by clicking through the help files, they could navigate to a Google search page and then to any website on the internet. Some apps featured only small help screens, while others, such as the Google Earth App, featured a full screen web browser.

Facebook accessed through the Google Earth App
Twitter accessed through the Screen Chomp App
Over Christmas break we were forced to remove the following apps, all of which contained this loophole.

Grace to you
Billy Graham
Touch Bible
Logos study bible
Powerone calculator
Loan calculator
Doodle buddy
Google Earth
Christianity Today
Word reference
super 8
Words with friends

It's unfortunate that security and safety frequently conflict with creativity and learning. 

Note: I understand that many educators are advocates of teaching students to browse the web safely instead of blocking access to social media and other potentially useful tools. While this is a noble goal, the reality of life as we know it includes the fact that the majority of schools block Twitter, Facebook, and other potentially useful sites. This post is not meant to be a discussion of internet freedom, but a report on a potential security loophole in iOS devices. 


  1. I wasn't going to comment about this, given your note at the end, but I keep thinking about it... For me it's not just about teaching them to use it rather than blocking access. Students have this amazing ability to get around blocks. So all we really do in the end do is cripple our tools more and more without solving the problem.

    It makes me sad when I look over the list of apps your school is removing from your iPads. There are some really good ones on that list and if you don't find a way to overcome this problem there will likely be many more you'll not be able to get in the future. It seems the only real way to truly block access to sites you don't want students to get to would be to remove internet access from your iPads. But then they might just as well only have paper notebooks.

    Anyway, I'm done with my mini rant now. I also wanted to mention that we don't have this problem with the apps listed. When I try to use any I can get to Facebook, I still our the "Blocked by Firewall" message. So either I'm not doing it right or it is possible to set up a firewall to block access.

    Feel free to shoot me an email and I can get you our firewall information or we can put your tech people in contact with our tech guy.

    Steve Dickie

  2. Hey Steve,

    The issue is off-campus web access. When students are on-campus, our firewall catches everything.

    I agree with your feelings. We are obligated to a certain protocol this year based on what we have communicated to our families. Next year we are planning on revising some things to make things work better.

  3. After I posted I realized it might be off campus access. Hopefully you'll be able to revise policies for next yer.

  4. That’s fascinating! I’ve never heard that before….thanks so much for passing this along


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