Why the LA Schools iPad Fiasco Was Self-Inflicted

iPads are cropping up everywhere, from homes to work and even in school settings. But can an iPad truly be secured to the satisfaction of a conscientious IT department? One expert says no, and a high-profile example may prove him correct.

The city of Los Angeles has been planning to roll out iPads to their students, but it backfired slightly for them this past week. They initially rolled out the iPads with web restrictions, and within a few days many of the schools realized they underestimated the ability of children to circumvent technological roadblocks. All the students had to do was head into settings and delete the restriction profiles, and the iPad became wide open for them to browse as they pleased. According to an anonymous source, this isn’t a big surprise to those who work in IT and mobile devices.

Here’s what our source shared:

Every ISV in the mobile device management (MDM) space knows that there is absolutely no way to 100% secure Apple products. This is because Apple has designed their device management solution to be controlled by the end-user. If you have an Apple device protected by an MDM application, it’s as easy as going into settings and removing the management profile at which point the device is wide open again. The students didn’t have to do much hacking to figure this out.

Our source also suggested that Samsung’s SAFE program is much more tightly controlled and less likely to be hacked like the iPads were. It’s not clear why LA picked iPads; perhaps they were misinformed, driven by money, or they simply didn’t do their research … but what is clear is that this shouldn’t have been a shock to LA, and that’s more embarrassing than anything else!


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4 replies

  1. >It’s not clear why LA picked iPads; perhaps they were misinformed, driven by money, or they simply didn’t do their research

    I suspect that the LAUSD didn’t buy the iPads directly from Apple but through a reseller instead (with “service” contracts included), and that there were certain “incentives” for the person who made the decision.

    • What are you basing your accusation that the person who made the decision had “incentives”? It’s not a fair statement whatsoever unless you have some sort of evidence that helps push you toward it. My suspicion is that they didn’t do their homework into things. That’s bad enough but to jump to the fact that they personally benefited from making the decision? That’s a bit ugly.

      • The LAUSD has had a documented history of financial decisions made despite glaring conflicts of interest, inappropriate use of allocated funds, lack of oversight, lack of transparency, disbursement of funds without board approval, attempts to drastically curtail the budget of their own OIG oversight agency, and a revolving door of employment between the district and the consulting firms it has contracted with. This was most dramatically demonstrated in a report by the OIG a couple years ago.

        But you’re right; I don’t have any evidence of any impropriety occurring in THIS case. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. I apologize for my cynicism.

  2. Eanes ISD here in Austin uses iPads, and hasn’t seen this kind of problem. I don’t know what kind of software they’ve installed and what the IT folks have done to cripple the access, but short of jailbreaking, I haven’t been able to get around the restrictions, and we haven’t seen those kinds of issues district-wide, at least so far as I know. Just another data point.