Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
United Kingdom Censorship Government Your Rights Online

BT, Sky, and Virgin Enforce UK Porn Blocks By Hijacking Browsers 294

An anonymous reader writes with this story at Ars Technica, excerpting: BT, Sky, and Virgin Media are hijacking people's web connections to force customers to make a decision about family-friendly web filters. The move comes as the December deadline imposed by prime minister David Cameron looms, with ISPs struggling to get customers to say yes or no to the controversial adult content blocks. The messages, which vary by ISP, appear during browser sessions when a user tries to access any website. BT, Sky,TalkTalk and Virgin Media are required to ask all their customers if they want web filters turned on or off, with the government saying it wants to create a "family friendly" Internet free from pornography, gambling, extreme violence and other content inappropriate for children. But the measures being taken by ISPs have been described as "completely unnecessary" and "heavy handed" by Internet rights groups. The hijacking works by intercepting requests for unencrypted websites and rerouting a user to a different page. ISPs are using the technique to communicate with all undecided customers. Attempting to visit WIRED.co.uk, for example, could result in a user being redirected to a page asking them about web filtering. ISPs cannot intercept requests for encrypted websites in the same way.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

BT, Sky, and Virgin Enforce UK Porn Blocks By Hijacking Browsers

Comments Filter:
  • Nice (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They enforce the law by breaking the law. Sounds like a good plan if you want to piss everyone off.

  • But only if they are the ones doing it. Who watches the watchers?
    • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @11:46AM (#48660025)
      There is no Man-In-The-Middle attack. The man at the end is cut off. Nobody tricking you into anything; just annoying you.

      And if you read the article, this only works for unencrypted connections where you should have known that anything can happen.
      • by statusbar ( 314703 ) <jeffk@statusbar.com> on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @02:21PM (#48661261) Homepage Journal

        Until relatively recently, these re-directions would adversely affect a debian/ubuntu linux system update procedure. A cron job would apt-get update and pull in new index files. Since the transport was not encrypted, the index files would not be what the apt system were expecting. It would store the content of the redirected web page instead of the proper index files into a cache and then apt-get update would be forever broken until you manually figured out how to delete the corrupted files someplace in /var/*/apt

        ISP's and WiFi Access points that do this redirection are the reason why HTTPS everywhere is a good idea.

  • Legal? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If this is legal I can only assume it is also legal to hijack these companie's routers and servers. Right? If it is done in good faith. To protect children.

    • Not sure these really correlate well. What kind of hijacking are you implying? Do you own their network? How is asking someone to update their terms of service before browsing considered hijacking? I do think its baloney they even have to opt out/in for such a thing but I dont see how asking them their preference before continuing on is a problem.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      There is precedent. GCHQ says it's okay to hijack servers and other equipment for national security purposes. Protecting children is often mentioned in the same breath as national security, so...

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @11:46AM (#48660027)

    "free from pornography, gambling, extreme violence and other content inappropriate for children"

    And I want a user friendly internet, free from governments, corporations, extreme advertising and other content inappropriate for ANYONE.

    Cameron, please, for sanity's sake: Stop talking. Or, better, stop breathing.

  • Intentionally running a MITM attack against your customers aside, there is a huge problem with the legislation to begin with. There is a valid answer, and has been for quite a while, for people that want to keep their kids away from porn without the heavy handed Government regulation.

    Cybersitter and NetNanny are not for me, but if I had young kids I may use that type of service if I was worried about their access. These companies get paid to manage content for you, and are _completely_voluntary so don't i

    • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @11:58AM (#48660121) Journal

      Intentionally running a MITM attack against your customers aside, there is a huge problem with the legislation to begin with.

      Yes. The fact that no such legislation exists. This is a voluntary ISP scheme

      Cybersitter and NetNanny are not for me, but if I had young kids I may use that type of service if I was worried about their access.

      Or you could use the service the ISP provides you with for free, that's easy to set up, available in the UK, and works with all network connected devices.

      These companies get paid to manage content for you, and are _completely_voluntary so don't impose restrictions on everyone.

      The UK ISP filters are completely voluntary as well.

      And if those services are not available in the UK, or not good enough in the UK, why not create the company and let the free market do the work?

      We tried. No suitable product became available. David Cameron pushed the market into providing such a service. The market obliged. If you really have a problem, you can always choose one of the dozens of ISPs that doesn't offer this service.

      As bad as the US has become, I'm glad I'm not from the UK.

      Why? You don't even have a choice of ISP in a lot of the US.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:03PM (#48660157)

        We tried. No suitable product became available.

        Which is pretty clear proof that pretty much no-one wants their Internet pre-censored.

        David Cameron pushed the market into providing such a service.

        And, last I read, something like 4% of people had chosen to have their Internet censored. They're probably the ones who clicked 'Yes' by mistake, thinking it meant 'Yes, I want the Internet, not Davenet'.

        • Which is pretty clear proof that pretty much no-one wants their Internet pre-censored.

          Only if the free market works perfectly. Given that 4% of customers have turned on the filters, clearly there was some demand for this. This is much higher uptake than any software solution, so evidently that was not the solution the 4% wanted, and this is.

          And, last I read, something like 4% of people had chosen to have their Internet censored.

          So, 4% of the customers wanted filters. 96% did not. We now have a situation w

          • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:15PM (#48660249)

            Only if the free market works perfectly.

            The free market gives people what they want. If there was money to be made selling pre-censored Internet, the service would exist.

            But, no, you and Dave say, since the service doesn't exist, companies must be forced to create it, and the vast majority who don't want Davenet must be forced to pay for the few who do.

            Why do you want to remove the choice from those 4%?

            Those people are free to install filters on their PC or router, or find an ISP that will filter the Internet for them. You're the one forcing your 'choice' on the other 96%, and making them pay for other peoples' choices.

            And we know how this goes. We've seen it all before. When it turns out that almost no-one has switched from the Internet to Davenet, you and Dave will announce that 'The Internet is not safe for CHILDRUN!' and now the filter will have to be compulsory. Right?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Slashjones ( 3879223 )

        Yes. The fact that no such legislation exists. This is a voluntary ISP scheme

        David Cameron pushed the market into providing such a service.

        Right. He "pushed the market," and yet it's all 100% voluntary. More like coerced them with threats.

        Censorship is evil, and so is "voluntary" default on censorship.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @01:10PM (#48660721) Homepage Journal

        The UK ISP filters are completely voluntary as well.

        Nope, Cleanfeed cannot be opted out of except by blocking it with something like a VPN.

        David Cameron pushed the market into providing such a service. The market obliged.

        He threatened to legislate, the ISPs decided to develop a crappy, ineffective token service to shut him up rather than deal with being legally required to do the impossible.

        If you really have a problem, you can always choose one of the dozens of ISPs that doesn't offer this service.

        Nope, Virgin Media is the only choice available to me. My BT line can only get a very unstable 1-2Mb/sec.

    • by unrtst ( 777550 )

      As bad as the US has become, I'm glad I'm not from the UK.

      This isn't very different from what most US based ISP's do with DNS these days (go to a non-existent page, and they redirect to their own search/helper site). In the DNS case, it's somewhat difficult to disable (finding the URL where you can set it is difficult), and it will occassionally re-enable itself.

      I don't really like any of this crap, but it's been done for a long time and it's not *too* awful (once disabled, everything works as it should; more-or-less a one time setting). The way they get that ans

      • I don't really like any of this crap, but it's been done for a long time and it's not *too* awful

        This is how these things grow into bigger and bigger problems. When it gets worse, people will be saying, "Well, it's not *that* much worse." Power creep is slow, but it exists. We've already seen this with their stupid filters.

        And it's really sad that some people think this is voluntary when there are plenty of implied government threats to get ISPs to implement this.

    • This particular filter isn't legislation.

      It's the threat of legislation. The government has repeatidly made it very clear that if all major ISPs do not voluntarily set up filtering, they will pass some form of law compelling them to do so. Faced with the prospect of having to comply with some vague and impossible mandate written by an MP who last used a router in woodshop class, they decided it would be better do so as was asked. Though they certainly dragged their feet over it as long as they can.

  • Brilliant idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @11:54AM (#48660095) Homepage

    Brilliant idea.

    Now instead of offering the parents an option to enable a porn filter, little Billy goes to a random kids website and gets asked "Do you want to watch porn?".

  • with the government saying it wants to create a "family friendly" Internet free from pornography, gambling, extreme violence and other content inappropriate for children

    Would this exclude, say, a site containing a drawing of kids playing a gambling game with a toy gun [pineight.com]?

  • Use HTTPS. The article mentions:

    ISPs cannot intercept requests for encrypted websites in the same way.

  • Utter waste of time. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Chayat ( 2550860 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:11PM (#48660229)
    My brief experience with this was really rather annoying. the filters activated a couple of weeks ago. A bunch of websites (inc my porn) just gave 500 errors. I was not taken to a page to explain what was happening. I only realised that my Cameronwall had been activated when my friends confirmed that they could still access the sites I could not. I logged into my BT account, found the part where I turn them back off again and did so only to be told that it would take up to 24 hours for the change to take effect. Additionally my partner's Macbook started to give a range of weird errors when connecting to a variety of webpages. I'm not overly techy but it seemed our router was remembering the redirect and still using it for a bunch of sites (even though the block had been removed by this point) and the macbook was refusing to display the sites it was being redirected to because it had detected a suspicious re-direct.
  • by Maquis196 ( 535256 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:16PM (#48660265)

    The sodding "no thanks" button would just not work so you had to accept the request, then log back into the BT portal to disable it again. Then it finally went.

    What also finally went was my patience with BT, ordered my MAC code and migrating to Andrews and Arnold.

    BT, you lost a customer over this. Idiots.

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:19PM (#48660283) Homepage Journal
    I must say I've never needed a filter to avoid porn on the internet. I'm not sure why the government feels it must block access to something I don't wish to see in the first place, unless it ultimately has ulterior motives, intending to derail the free flow of information necessary for a participative democracy in the name of public morality. It's ironic that a government which recently ruled that health practitioners must refer patients for abortion in spite of their individual moral objections is now suddenly concerned about access to porn. I find it more believable that the ultimate goal is to restrict access to information embarrassing to the ruling party, using the ostensible reason of porn filtering to silence dissent.
    • Slight correction: The ruling is not that health practitioners must refer patients for abortion. It related to supervision of staff. There already exists a law which makes it quite clear that no medical professional can be required to be directly involved in abortion against their objections - the dispute was with middle-management staff, who are in charge of managing those who are directly involved. Minor difference, but important to get the details right.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's a good question, and it may be instructive to look at how these blocks came to be. AIUI it involved pressure from a very few very vocal (I'd say "hysterical") pressure groups that wished The Government Do Something because they're apparently entirely incompetent to do any such thing themselves. Such as getting a home network router that does the filtering, or getting internet service from an ISP that sells "filtered" internet access like those catering specifically to religious users, for example. No,

  • Filters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:25PM (#48660335) Homepage

    I don't have a filter on my bookcase.
    I don't have a filter on my movie collection.
    I don't have a filter on my video game collection.

    Why do I need one on my Internet connection?

    I work in schools. Nobody's ever really given me a satisfactory answer that doesn't include pushing parental responsibility to a third party.

    I'm with Virgin. They haven't asked me yet. The only time I've ever been asked such things is when I signed up to a mobile network and they asked me if I wanted to turn off the filter on the connection. Given that I work IT, the answer was yes. I want as few third parties between me and my service providers as possible, thanks. But the number of times I'll be using 4G to go looking for anything is going to be slim.

    By all means ask... but it would have been so much easier to not ask and let those who worry about it fix it for themselves.

  • I see a small percentage of the population complain about something, and if they come off as being on the side of a society approved message ie; "porn is bad" then they can get their way, an inordinate amount of power for a small whiny percentage of the population.

    While I understand that parents don't want their young children watching anal fisting porn, it's troubling parents choose to allow others to be responsible for that control.
    I see this a lot, parents complaining about the need for more controls and

    • I see a small percentage of the population complain about something, and if they come off as being on the side of a society approved message ie; "porn is bad" then they can get their way, an inordinate amount of power for a small whiny percentage of the population

      bingo! we have a winner...

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Tuesday December 23, 2014 @12:35PM (#48660421) Journal

    ..with the government saying it wants to create a "family friendly" Internet free from pornography, gambling, extreme violence and other content inappropriate for children

    Point #1: You do not 'own' the entire Internet
    Point #2: It's not up to you to 'clean up' the Internet
    Point #3: It has been proven over and over and over again that 'net nanny' and other censorship does not work
    Point #4: Governments will subvert any censorship technology for their own propaganda and agenda purposes, destroying the original (misguided) intent
    Point #5: Regardless of whatever you're telling your citizens, you likely will end up discriminating against people who don't want your filtering
    Point #6: Ultimately your efforts will fail, for reasons of Point #3, and because people will always find a way around it regardless.

    ..and finally, not a 'point', but just my personal opinion on the matter: I think any government that engages in censorship are a bunch of fucking assholes who don't deserve to be in power. Leave the Internet alone and let people decide for themselves what they do and do not want their families and themselves to encounter or do there. Police UK-hosted sites against outright illegal activity or content? Yes. Make moral decisions for everyone else? Hell, no.

  • ... because that's obviously the least convenient time and I'll be most annoyed and most likely to ignore it! Oh, no, wait, I bet their logic is "that's the time I'm definitely sitting there and watching". Either way, I press "exit" and go on. It's annoying to get ads on a service I'm paying for (as opposed to ads on broadcast TV, that's just the way it is).
  • It will not be long that the UK government will choose to put any site they do not like into the black list.

    In a few years time, the internet will contain government-approved material only.

    If you want to read an opinion that is different than the government's, you will not be able to without turning the filter off.

    If you turn the filter off, then you might be flagged as a terrorist.

    The sad part in all this is not what the governments are trying to do though...it is the people's reaction. There is a largs pe

  • Enough said. I nearly made the 'l' an 'r' but I must think of the children, as Dave Camoron the suppository salesman has said.
  • Cover the UK with cameras and now forbid what you are allowed to watch in the privacy of your own home.

    Fuck Cameron. Seriously. This is insulting.

  • Step 1: Pray that the foundational assumptions of state-of-the-art crypto remain true (no P=NP or quantum computer cracking nonsense, please).

    Step 2: Rent/buy/lease/colo a VPS or dedicated server in a country that respects users' freedom and doesn't tamper with their network connection.

    Step 3: Set up a VPN on said server.

    Step 4: Use the latest crypto algs you can get your hands on; apply security patches aggressively; and watch out for notices of weaknesses.

    Step 5: Use the VPN on absolutely every device you

Loose bits sink chips.

Working...