UK Government tries whitelisting system to stop ISP 'pornwall' false positives

Doomed to fail?

Stung by criticism that ISPs have been blocking legitimate websites as part of 'Cameron's pornwall', a working group is drawing up a whitelist of exceptions for use by the industry, it has emerged.

According to the BBC, a working group under the auspices of the Government-backed UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has been creating and testing a whitelist of sites with the aim of eventually sharing it with participating ISPs.

Group chair David Miles said that he believed that the number of wrongly-filtered websites - for example sites dealing with sex education - had so far been "low"

Nevertheless, "if you are a charity and you deal with teenagers in distress that 1 or 10 matters to you," he was quoted as saying.

"What we are seeing in the UK is quite unusual, said Miles, contrasting the introduction of ISP controls to those implemented by mobile operators years ago.

"At the ISP level, on public Wi-Wi and via mobile operators, the UK will be subject to a substantial amount of network-level filtering all of a sudden. That new network-level filtering could increase the level of over-blocking."

The working group would also look at establishing a complaints procedure for websites that believed they had been incorrectly filtered. In future, Miles suggested that it might be also possible for sites to automatically flag their own content to filtering systems.

Some critics will welcome the scheme, but deeper reservations remain. Some might agree that hardcore porn and violence should be open to filtering but what are the limits and definitions? Libertarians see the whole system as a way of imposing a top-down system of censorship that uses moral pressure to get subscribers to accept controls.

A few months into the roll out of filtering by some large ISP, problems have certainly emerged; the TorrentFreak news site being one of a number of reported victims of the false positive problem in early January.

Meanwhile it's not clear that the initiative will even meet its stated objective or blocking inappropriate websites with anonymous proxies being one possible workaround for determined web users. Even whitelisting has elicited scepticism.

"Whilst protecting children from the darker recesses of the internet by forcing ISPs to block sites might make great headlines for the Government, the [whitelisting] initiative will fail," commented Andrew Goode of brand protection firm, Project Sunblock, referring specifically to sites hawking pirated material.

"Unfortunately for the Government, using whitelists is never going to work as the ability for sites to be mirrored is just too easy for those people who are committed to making illegal and inappropriate content available online. For example, there are over 160 proxies from which you can access Pirate Bay, and new proxies are being set up all the time to circumnavigate exactly this initiative and stay one step ahead," he said.

He believed a better approach was to block the ad systems that supported them. Without a broader approach, ISPs would be left "chasing shadows."

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags BBCPersonal Techsecurity

More about Andrew Corporation (Australia)BBC Worldwide Australasia

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John E Dunn

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place