PC Pro Mag Expose' Blasts British ISP's Porn Filter

Jun 29, 2012 9:00 AM PST

LONDON — An in-depth investigation into the flaws of British ISP TalkTalk's porn filtering system is the cover story of the U.K.’s PC Pro magazine July issue.

TalkTalk's HomeSafe has been championed by conservative members of parliament who are pushing for strict bans on Internet porn in an effort to protect children.

A recent online article based on the probe blasts the company’s HomeSafe filter as being riddled with problems and allowing easy workarounds for accessing adult material.

PC Pro said, “The HomeSafe filter sifts through all subscriber traffic and purportedly blocks content in selected categories, such as pornography, social networks and violence.

“Yet, even with the filter set to the highest safety level, we were easily able to access pornographic images and video using nothing more sophisticated than popular search engines."

The article points out that the software can easily be compromised through Google and Bing search engines. Even though large images and video were blocked, simply clicking on the thumbnails permitted access to larger images and streamed video.

“With Google's parental controls flipped off, we accessed pages of pornographic images using Google's Image Search. Although the sites hosting the images were blocked, we were still able to click on the thumbnail images in search results to see enlarged photos  — which ironically appear over the warning that the page has been blocked,” PC Pro said.

A number of other breaches including unblocked proxies — such as Google Translate — that allows porn to be accessed through using different languages, and inconsistent filters that don’t block all porn are also outed by the magazine.

Responding to PC Pro’s claims, TalkTalk said in a statement, "No security solution, whether online or in the real world, is ever 100 pecent fail safe and unfortunately there will always be a way of bypassing these systems, be it a parental control service (including those that are installed on individual computers) or a lock on our front door. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't use them — they make a significant contribution to protecting ourselves and our families.

“HomeSafe helps parents manage the content that comes into their home, alongside other tools, such as safe search solutions offered by the likes of Google. There is no silver bullet when it comes to protecting children online, which we have always been the first to point out, but it is important that parents have access to tools which can help them.

“Furthermore, most young children do not seek out pornography and violence online but, as many parents know, they may stumble across it inadvertently. Determined seekers of online porn are one thing; an eight year old doing his or her homework online is another. We are continually working to evolve and improve HomeSafe and have a mechanism for parents to feedback to us. But, for the 430,000 customers who are already using HomeSafe today, it is a simple and effective way of helping to protect their children online.”

The full story will be available in the magazine on July 12.

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