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Porn filters ineffective against Tribbles

Pulitzer prize winning stuff from El Reg

Letters This Friday's post bag was bulging with comments about the number of child porn sites blocked by BT's new CleanFeed filter, ISPA's subsequent call for clarification, and BT's response.

For anyone just back from an extended holiday in Cuba, the only way you could have missed this one, this is the story that BT kicked off by reporting that in the last three weeks, it has blocked nearly a quarter of a million attempts to access child porn. As always with statistical stories, the devil is in the details:


250,000 web accesses in 3 weeks? Ok, but how many of those were unique accesses? BT must have the means to track how many unique MAC addresses accessed the website since the above statistics mean BS if they are not related to unique accesses. Some child porn sicko could just as well ahve been pressing the refresh button on his IE browser 250,000 times in 3 weeks to make up the stats you so proudly display.

Please supply your readers with the full numbers and proper explanations on what those numbers mean as I'm sure we're interested to hear the truth about how many of these sad sickos are really out there! BT saying 250,000 hits in 3 weeks don't mean anything unless they are proper unique hits / accesses from unique systems [hence, not re-ocurring]

Thanks, Marco

HI Tim,

I saw this reported in several places as a dreadful indication of the scale of the problem. However I wonder how many of these attempts are real attempts to access child porn and how many are people recieving emails 'advertising' these sites which have embeded pictures?

anyway keep up the good work on the regiseter, it's always a pleasure to read.


These figures are interesting but does the filter stop people who use web based proxy pages like If it doesn't then its a pointless feature.

Regards Bryn

This next note demonstrates exactly why stats and figures need to be treated with caution, and in context. and without making assumptions...

Wow - what an attitude!

"The UK's ISP trade body, ISPA, said the Cleanfeed solution would "only prevent 'casual' browsing of known websites...It will not hinder organised distribution of such images. It will not prevent access to new websites offering illegal content, nor will it prevent children being abused.""

This sounds like they are saying "So why should we bother doing anything?" 250,000 attempted visits is a long way from "casual browsing" (yes I know what **they** meany by "'casual' browsing"!).

I am sure it is not one little greasy slimeball in Grimsby trying to make all those hits on child porn. More likely it is tens of thousands of individuals looking for something to leer at.

If we assume that it was 'only' 20,000 individuals, all attempting 12 or so times to access smut, that represents 1% of BT's subscribers! If we assume there is a 50-50 split between male and female subscribers, and we assume it is mainly men who are hunting filth, that means as many as 2% of the male population in the UK ...

OK I know that is a lot of assumption, but I am shocked!

Who were you sitting next to on the way to work this morning? :-/


I'm baffled, all this spouting about statistics and the ISPA and BT and CleanFeed and hits and visits

If cleanfeed has a list of 'KP' [kiddie porn], that it is blocking, then how come the target sites haven't just been shutdown, it's illegal. The Americans have demonstratwd that they can prosecute their law in any country on the planet (DeCSS and DVD Jon and the DMCA anyone?), and it's illegal in the USA, so why isn't it just shutdown?

Or conversely, look at the problem th other way up, if CleanFeed has list of KP, why doesn't it run a massive DOS attack against it till it goes offline, what's the hoster going to do? sue them? Def: "Yessir your honour, my five gigabytes of hardcore underage KP was unavailble for several days, damaging my business and reputation.", Jdge: "Yes, about your business and reputation..."

Instead we get spin, lies, statistics and censorship (what's in the CleanFeed list that you can't see anymore?) Why doesnt' anybody actually try and engage the problem ?


Regarding BT's "response" to the query about the "child porn" stats, I believe they are making the sensationalist comments purely for publicity. They mention "blocks" without actually mentioning what is registering as a "block" - is it page impressions or is it blocked objects? Bear in mind that simply accessing one page of The Reg for example will generate several lines in a log as things like advertising banners and graphics are accessed. I manage several web proxies as part of my BOFH type job, and have been involved in several abuse cases resulting in disciplinary action for the person concerned for inappropriate web access, and the first thing you have to bear in mind is that a few minutes web surfing of sites that are high on graphic content will generate lots of log entries. Also bear in mind that a pornographic HTML email with links to external content will generate accesses to the web without the user doing anything apart from trying to delete their junk mail. When coupled with a filtering proxy, to the untrained eye a proxy report could look as though the person had been blocked for example 50 times or so, when in actual fact they may simply be checking their mail.

Consider also that people who go looking for porn on the net do so relentlessly, particularly adolescent males. Something I see a lot of is attempts to access porn over our networks; often I will remote control the viewing PC to see just what is going on - to see if they obviously know what they are doing or is it accidental with hundreds of popups, and what methods are they using to find this material. I've sat on several occasions and observed sessions lasting around an hour feeding the sites being accessed by the individual involved into our proxy filters on the fly, and observed how they have reacted - when they cant access a site any more they simply go elsewhere. One guy I've seen logs for would spend entire working days surfing porn. (He's sacked now). Were I to count "blocks" he alone probably clocked up around half a million over the space of two weeks.

I was pleased to see ISPA's request to have the stats independantly analysed, but I do not believe BT will cooperate in this matter as they will be exposed for the frauds that they are and they know it.

Next of course we will have the invariable calls to control the web as the UK slowly turns into China.


Sticking with the seedy theme, we also reported this week that a well rounded villain had got his come uppance, as spammer, pornographer and all-round-menace-to-digital-society John Lamb, was jailed for his piratical activities. But did we miss a couple of things off his CV?

That's odd - I thought we'd recently been led to believe that he was also one of the al-Qaida Provos and a illegal drugs seller as well.

Ah well, I suppose that means you can't believe everything you read in the press ....

[why can't we just spell it "Kaida" and be done with all these Qs ??]


That is true, Mike. You can't.

"Evidence was found of one order for a computer program valued at approximately £12,000 being sold for just ten pounds."

Do me a favour. 12K for software?

What was it? (software cost, not the consultants that you'd have to pay to install it)


Whatever it was, we think it must have been diamond encrusted. High-tech bling, y'know?

Meanwhile, across the pond, Napster and the RIAA are gaining ground in their quest to lease music to students. This first response really qualifies as a flame, but we've already run two flames this week, and couldn't really justify a third.

in regards to your article titled "Napster gags university over RIAA's Student tax" there are some point you might want to consider before you pulitzer prize winning ambition comes back to haunt you. The reason that napster is brokering such huge deals with universities is to obviously curb illegal downloading of music on campus's (which is where most of the lega cases are ending these days) but there is NO, and i repeat NO "hundredes of millions of dollars" being shelled out by universities otherwise these universities wouldnt make any deals. I mean seriously, do you like printing whatever you see fit or do you actually call these people to find out some facts. Might do you some good in teh future if you want to get that pulitzer. By the way, i know this because i work for one of these universities and know the deals firsthand. So check around some next time.

John Scott Smith

John, as we understand it, Ashlee eats Pulitzer prizes for breakfast.

I liked your portrayal of the RIAA as a criminal organisation selling protection to American universities. If your story is accurate, and I expect that it is, then the behavior of the RIAA described in the story is nothing more than extortion. I'm not a lawyer but I play one when I'm feeling romantic so I should know about this sort of thing.

First, these universities are nothing more than an ISP for their students. The issue of ISP liability for content transmitted over their lines was settled almost ten years ago. The ISPs are considered common carriers, like the telephone company. Therefore the ISP is not liable if pirated or otherwise illegal content is transmitted over their network. The same thing applies to the so-called Wi-Fi hotspots springing up all over the place here in the U.S.

Next, charging the students a fee for the university to enjoy protection from lawsuits from the RIAA suggests to me that students that don't want to download music from the Internet should be able to 'opt out' of the fee. For instance, I'm 46 years old and I don't download music over the Internet. If I returned to college as a full time day student then I shouldn't have to pay a RIAA/Napster fee.

Lastly, the fact that the students are paying some kind of a fee for this RIAA/Napster approval to download music and then only get a license to use the downloaded software while they are students is rubbing salt into the wound. That's just plain unfair.

Corporations are getting away with this stuff because the university administrators are too gutless to fight for their legal rights. The RIAA is essentially conscripting the universities to be their collection agents forcing students to pay something whether they engage in music downloading or not.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.


Lastly, we come to a very few of the zillions of mails we recieved about the Star Trek flat that went on sale for a million squids. No more comment needed from us:

Re: Star trek Flat

<geek hat

Wrong series. The scene pictured is Next Generation/Voyager era, so it's Picard or Janeway, not Kirk.

</geek hat HunterCat

Personally I think all those neon lights make it look like a gay bar.


Star Trek flat: yours for $1m:

[quote] If you'd like a better look before flying the shuttle up to Leicestershire, the flat will apparently be shown on Channel 5's 20 Ways on Sunday 25 July at 8pm. ® [unquote]

A quick review of the TV listings shows the Title of the TV show its going to be aired on has been somewhat cropped, its full title being .."The 20 Quickest Ways to Lose Money on Your Property"

I don't know if its a tad late or worth adding a footnote edit on the item now, it made me giggle when i looked it up anyways.

Keep up the good work. John

"Accordingly, we decided to travel back in time to 1883 and offer him 10 guineas for the place. Then someone pointed out that we had the wrong sci-fi reference: that would only work with a Back to the Future residence."

Hardly. All you would have to do is get Bones freaking out and follow him down to the City on the Edge of Forever. I seem remember that diving the Enterprise at the sun at Warp something god-awful would get you back to the early 1960s and the 1980's whenever the productin budget was a bit tight. dsullman

Regarding the Star trek flat.

What's all this about then?

"Right-o, we conceded, we'll infest the place with tribbles thereby lowering the price to a manageable level. Result."

Personally, having been a Tribble all my life, I don't see how our presence would detract from the value of the place. Quite the opposite, in fact...

p tribble

So, with apologies to any other offended Tribbles, we'll be on our way. There is an unstable wormhole with our name on it out there somewhere, and provided we make it past the pub, we'll stop at nothing until we find it. Onward...®

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