CSO: Voluntary filtering removes the controversy

My first op-ed for CSO, “The Resource for Data Security Executives”, has just been posted. It’s voluntary ISP-level internet filtering, but a different angle from my Crikey piece earlier today.

After nearly four chaotic years, Australia’s internet filtering scheme is finally coming together in a way that makes sense technically and politically, if not necessarily for effective child protection.

The chaos wasn’t all communications minister Senator Stephen Conroy’s fault. The “clean feed” was announced as Labor policy back in March 2006 by then-leader Kim Beazley. ISPs would filter out the nasties hosted overseas, where they couldn’t be hit with a takedown notice from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

But Conroy’s name was on Labor’s Plan for Cyber-safety published just five days out from the federal election in late 2007, and once in government it was Conroy’s job to explain that plan and sell it to voters. Everyone presumably imagined it’d be a protect-the-kiddies no-brainer.

Problem was, neither the plan not Conroy’s explanations were clear…

As I say, it’s my first outing for CSO, but if all goes according to plan there’ll be more. And in case you’re wondering, CSO is a job title. Chief Security Officer.

Zombie Generation: The spreading infection

ZDNet Australia logo: click for the Zombie Generation article

“If you had to identify the biggest single issue confronting the security and safety and the confidence of the internet these days, particularly in the commercial space, you could only point to zombie botnets as the major concern,” says Peter Coroneos, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association (IIA).

On Wednesday, ZDNet.com.au published my feature story Zombie Generation: The spreading infection, which kicks off with a backgrounder on zombie botnets and then some worrying trends.

  • The malware used to create botnets is getting more sophisticated. Traditional stay-safe-online messages are no longer adequate — if they ever were.
  • Young people’s eagerness to share cool new things amongst their peers is natural human behaviour, but it runs counter to the “don’t share” messages.
  • It’s easy for kids to break out of the security restrictions of the laptops supplied under the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution program — something we also spoke about on Patch Monday.

Australian ISPs are now developing a more formal code of practice to detect and deal with their customers’ zombie computers.

I also posted a lengthy rebuttal to some fool trying to over-simplify this as “a Microsoft problem”.

Is Internet filtering inevitable?

I’ve written previously that the Federal Budget sort of explained what’ll be happening with Internet filtering. Now that Senator Conroy has announced his Cyber-Safety Consultative Working Group I’m not so sure.

As Michael Meloni says over at Somebody Think of the Children:

When you consider people like Anthony Pillion, manager of filtered Australian ISP Webshield, and Child Wise CEO Bernadette McMenamin are on board, the odds of mandatory filtering being found a good solution are disappointingly high.

Pillion has a business interest and for McMenamin the gesture alone of protecting children is better then doing nothing, even if it has no chance of working. Here’s part of her letter to Stilgherrian:

If filtering of child pornography cannot work then why is there so much anger, fear and resentment to any attempt to block child pornography and other illegal sites?


Thankfully, the group does contain at least two people opposed to mandatory filtering: Sue Hutley from the Australian Library and Information Association (who asked Conroy questions about his plan that we all want answered and is opposed to filtering in public libraries) and Peter Coroneos from the IIA.

I’ve written plenty about censorship before. so while I’m busy at CeBIT‘s Transaction 2.0 today, feel free to discuss this amongst yourselves. Play nice. I’ll ponder it in more detail later.