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Tuesday, 04 May 2010 17:58

Sen. Conroy agrees circumvention makes filter pointless


$24M buys the Government an Internet filter which they can install, but cannot stop people bypassing.  Senator Conroy says so.

In mid January this year Greens Senator Scott Ludlam asked Senator Conroy a series of "questions on notice."  The answers were finally provided yesterday.

Sen. Ludlam has done a fine job of laying out the full range of "points of contention" with the Internet filter proposal and the Minister's replies make it very clear the Department's understanding of the issues is not as strong as Ludlam's.

The questions and answers form an extensive body of correspondence and this article cannot address all points raised.  However, there are a number of highlights that clearly address the absurdity of the proposal.

Let's start with the most damning admission. 

Has the Minister ever been shown how to circumvent ISP filters of the type tested by Enex Testlab in 2009; if so, where and when was that demonstration conducted, which acts were demonstrated, and how long did the demonstration take?

Yes, the Minister has been shown a demonstration of a number of circumvention techniques of the filter products used in the ISP filtering pilot. This demonstration took place on Friday 5 June 2009, at the Enex TestLab at RMIT in Bundoora, VIC. The demonstration was of one hour duration, and a number of circumvention techniques were demonstrated including VPN and TOR.

Let's get this clear - the Minister was shown the total pointlessness of his proposed filter in June 2009 yet six months later was announcing that it would go ahead. 

Is he crazy?

Further responses add to this.  Not only does the Minister know it cannot be enforced, but he concedes that ISPs will not be required to inhibit circumvention attempts.

Will an ISP be allowed to offer a service or product that aids in the bypassing or circumvention of the filter if;
(a) the product or service is solely for the purpose of circumventing or bypassing the filter; or (b) the product or service has other uses apart from bypassing or circumventing the filter.

ISPs will not be required to block circumvention attempts by their customers or other end users.

Many of the questions focussed on the ability of ACMA to regularly review and update the so-called banned list.  Conroy's responses indicated quarterly reviews would be the norm, perhaps with the ability to monitor some material more regularly.

The problem here is that, according to comments made to this author by more than one Anti-malware technical expert, web pages containing nasty material (of any kind, be it malware, kiddie-porn or whatever) have a typical life span of a few days.


Not the weeks required for someone to complain and have their complaint investigated.

And that's only for the material that is in public view; which again according to the experts is only a tiny proportion of the total material.  For instance, how could ACMA investigate kiddie porn hiding in some secret compartment located behind a paywall set up to sell other-wise legal material (perhaps 'normal' porn)?  Who would complain about that?  How would the Department find it?  How quickly could it more elsewhere?

Folks, we're spending a lot of money to build a small empire for which the emperor has already declared failure; and yet he persists.

Readers, please watch out for a further in-depth follow-up later today.



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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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