Australia Demands Filter-Hacking Investigation

Tod Hunter
CANBERRA, Australia — Reports of a Melbourne teenager hacking into a government-supplied antiporn filter are being investigated, according to Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan.

Following up on a campaign promise by Prime Minister John Howard, the federal government of Australia announced an extensive Internet regulation program that included free Internet filters for households to block "blacklisted" material.

Tom Wood, a 16-year-old Melbourne student, claims he was able to completely override the filter after half an hour, and Coonan said the software vendors are looking into the matter.

"Their contracts require for them to continually upgrade, so if there is some cracking of a filter it will be addressed, and addressed very quickly," she said.

"Sadly, just as a seatbelt will never prevent every fatal car crash — as the government has always maintained — no filter is foolproof, but a computer with a filter is infinitely safer than one without."

The filter is one of several Internet safety measures, including an information and education campaign, telephone hotline and mandated filtering by user request at the ISP level, proposed by the Australian prime minister at a closed-circuit speech to churches and implemented less than a week later.