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Even though there are known problems with blacklists, money will go towards expanding such a blacklist of nasty sites that Australians aren't supposed to see. If it were the United States, it would be considered part of the argument about net neutrality and what it means to be designated a 'Common Carrier', though there are probably a number of Australian ISP customers secretly pleased that they might get to sue their ISP for allowing them to view nasty content (the Government was supposed to stop it, right?).

The effectiveness and speed with which malicious content can be placed on 'trusted' sites through blended attacks makes all of these efforts almost worthless. Any impartial observer who noted the big trends at recent Information Security conferences would have been able to identify this pattern in an instance.

A hotline to help families install the Internet filtering software being provided will presumably join the National Security Hotline as a widely derided black hole of funds, with limited usefulness (if VCR clocks are taken as a precedence, then the helpline is probably going to be staffed by the very children that the filters are meant to stop looking at nasty material).

While voices against the measures have largely focussed on the choice of audience (Christian conservative), it should not be forgotten that there will be criticism from those in the technical community who understand the sorts of threats and problems that are trying to be faced by the measures.

With fairly strong support for the measures from those who watched the presentations, ranging from those who are supportive of measures to help them limit what they and their children can see online to those supportive of the additional resources to hunt down online predators.

Countering this is the argument that parents should not expect the State to do their parenting for them if they are unwilling to. No one is arguing against extra resources to track, identify, and prosecute predators - so long as law enforcement get it right. The amount of money being thrown at the problem has raised some objections, though.

Others have pointed out the abject failure of filtering software to deal with health resources like breast cancer awareness and support groups, breast feeding information, and the heavy handed treatment of sites that push information and opinions that the filtering companies object to (consider how various Left and Right blogs / news sources are treated by different filtering programs). Others have pointed to the inability of filters to keep up with the ability of those with malicious intent to change the location and presentation of their 'objectionable material'.

At the end of the day, any teenager or young child that is adept enough to intentionally seek out the content that this scheme is designed to suppress will have the ability to sidestep the protection mechanisms implemented by the program.

This article originally appeared at Sûnnet Beskerming

© 2007 Sûnnet Beskerming Pty. Ltd

Sûnnet Beskerming is an independent Information Security firm operating from the antipodes. Specialising in the gap between threat emergence and vendor response, Sûnnet Beskerming provides global reach with a local touch.

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