TalkTalk’s pornography filter slips up

Hole in the system grants access to major pornography site

December 6, 2011
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TalkTalk has suffered something of a PR gaffe after its new internet filter system, designed to keep surfing family friendly and the children safe, slipped up by failing to block a pornography site.

TalkTalk first wheeled out its HomeSafe back in May, and it now has some four million users who rely on it for protection from the various ills of the web.

The main attraction is that because it’s a network level system, it’s in place on the other end of the home’s broadband connection protecting every single device. It also doesn’t need updating or any action taken by the user.

However, a report in the Telegraph has uncovered the fact that a major UK pornography site wasn’t covered by the filters, so anyone was free to access its content under HomeSafe.

The failure was discovered by Cherith Hately, a mother and IT whiz who contacted the newspaper with her findings.

She told them: “The ‘you have been blocked’ page has been diverted to an advertising slot within the Pornhub homepage thus opening access to it.”

“The HomeSafe barrier has been knocked down, technically and literally. TalkTalk should inform all their HomeSafe customers that their children are still able to see pornography so that parents can supervise more.”

Indeed, relying on parental control software or ISP systems is never going to give you a 100% cast-iron guarantee that your kids won’t be able to find anything alarming on the internet.

It’s an unthinkably large sprawling web of content, after all, so some level of supervision is always wise. It’s more embarrassing for TalkTalk due to the high profile nature of this website, which is apparently the third largest provider of adult-rated images on the web.

TalkTalk is now working on a fix which will presumably have been implemented by now. It’s not certain if those connected with the site managed to find a way around HomeSafe, or if it was a failing of the ISP’s system itself.

If you really want to ensure a totally safe net playground for the family, the way to go isn’t black-listing sites, but compiling a white-list – a list of definitely safe sites, with all other content blocked. Obviously that very much limits any net access, however.


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