Student Cracks Australian Porn Filter

Student Cracks Australian Porn Filter
Tod Hunter
MELBOURNE, Australia — A 16-year-old student cracked the federal government's new $69 million Internet porn filter in minutes, leaving the toolbar icon intact so the filter still appears to be functioning.

The student, Tom Wood, who spoke to Communications Minister Helen Coonan about cyber safety during a forum in May, said the Federal Government should have developed a better, Australian-made filter.

"It's a horrible waste of money," Wood said. "They could get a much better filter for a few million dollars made here rather than paying overseas companies for an ineffective one."

Wood said it took him just over 30 minutes to bypass the government's filter. A former cyber-bullying victim, Wood said he was afraid that a computer-savvy child could develop a bypass and put it on the Internet for others to use.

On Aug. 25, the government added a new Australian-designed filter, Integard, to its Internet safety website. Wood defeated it within 40 minutes.

Communications Minister Coonan said the government had anticipated children would try to get around the filters, and said that the supplier contract includes continuing updates.

"The vendor is investigating the matter as a priority," Coonan said. "Unfortunately, no single measure can protect children from online harm and ... traditional parenting skills have never been more important."

Senator Steve Fielding of the Family First party said that cracking the software showed the need for compulsory filtering by Internet providers.

"You need both. You need it at the ISP and at the PC level," Fielding said. "The government has not listened to common sense and it leaves kids exposed."

The filters were designed to block sites on a national blacklist, stop use of chat rooms, and also can be tailored by parents to stop access to sites parents select.

"Filters aren't addressing the bigger issues anyway," Wood said. "Cyber bullying, educating children on how to protect themselves and their privacy are the first problems I'd fix. They really need to develop a youth-involved forum to discuss some of these problems and ideas for fixing them."

The $156 million NetAlert program includes $69 million for the National Filter Scheme, plus funding for online policing, a help line and education programs. The program also will mandate filtering by Internet service providers per user request.