Teen cracks AU$84 million porn filter in 30 minutes

Summary:A 16-year-old Melbourne schoolboy has taken just 30 minutes to crack the federal government's AU$84 million dollar Internet porn filter software.

A Melbourne schoolboy claims to have cracked the AU$84 million Internet filtering software which the government is giving away to schools, libraries and families across the country.

Tom Wood, 16, claims to have broken the filters, which were released as part of the government's Net Alert scheme earlier this month, within half an hour.

The ease with which the filter can be broken came as a surprise to Wood, he told Channel Seven. "For that money, I thought it must have been unbreakable." After circumventing the filter in half an hour, Wood claims to have broken a second version of the porn-blocking software released on Friday, within 40 minutes.

Under Watts' workaround, the filtering software will, to a parent's untrained eye, appear fully functional, with the software status bar untouched.

"AU$84 million is a horrible waste of money," he told the Sunrise show. "I'm willing to work with the government if they like." Watts denied he disabled the software so he could look at porn.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan said the government had anticipated children would find ways to get around the NetAlert filters. Suppliers were contracted to provide updates, Senator Coonan said.

"The vendor is investigating the matter as a priority.

"Unfortunately, no single measure can protect children from online harm and ... traditional parenting skills have never been more important," said Coonan.

The government has already piloted Web filtering technology three times in the past. Following the most recent trial, in 2005, Coonan acknowledged problems with the concept saying: "Each report has found significant problems with content filter products operating at the ISP-level ... The Australian trials have also found the effect on performance of the Internet by ISP filtering to be substantial and a lack of scalability of the filters to larger ISPs."

The Internet filtering scheme comes as part of a wider AU$189 million package of measures announced by the government earlier this month. The NetAlert -- Protecting Australian Families Online program will also see publicity campaigns stepped up, including a AU$22 million awareness scheme to "inform parents and carers of children about online safety issues and provide information about where they can go to receive support and assistance", and 10 new ACMA Internet safety officers who will visit schools to talk about online dangers.

AAP contributed to this story.

Topics: Censorship, Broadband, Browser, Government, Government : AU, Security, Software

About

Jo Best has been covering IT for the best part of a decade for publications including silicon.com, Guardian Government Computing and ZDNet in both London and Sydney.

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