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TalkTalk’s HomeSafe adult filter workarounds exposed

As the UK Government launches its public consultation on ISPs limiting access to adult content, TalkTalk’s headline-grabbing HomeSafe software has been breached.

An extensive report by PC Pro shows inconsistencies and details how easily the content block can be circumvented. The flaws, described as “basic” detail how photo sharing sites such as Flickr can be banned, but the nude section of 500px is freely accessible.

Ditto, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be blocked under a filter designed to help stop cyber-bullying, but Google+ and Reddit (including posts related to sexual content) can be accessed.

TalkTalk’s HomeSafe adult filter broken

Proxymorons: HomeSafe can be circumvented with proxies

As with workarounds for The Pirate Bay’s block, TalkTalk’s HomeSafe filter can be circumvented by use of proxies, creating new URLs to access the same content, or VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) which use a different network without any filters in place.

TalkTalk has never shied away from this fact, noting in its HomeSafe FAQ’s that:

“HomeSafe can only block web addresses which are looked up via the TalkTalk network (those which you type into a standard browser). If you use our network to access a web proxy or VPN we cannot control what content is passed back to you by that proxy or VPN.”

All the same it’s pretty embarrassing that, proxy or no, there’s plenty of elementary workarounds that see content blocks failing. The FAQ page also notes that “no system is 100 per cent failsafe, but Kids Safe and Homework Time will help protect your family from inappropriate websites.”

Admittedly the point of something like HomeSafe is to stop children inadvertently stumbling upon inappropriate content, something which TalkTalk says parents can help mitigate by make sure things like Google Safe Search for Kids is turned on.

In a statement given to PC Pro, TalkTalk said “most young children do not seek out pornography and violence online but, as many parents know, they may stumble across it inadvertently. Determined seekers of online porn are one thing; an eight year old doing his or her homework online is another. We are continually working to evolve and improve HomeSafe and have a mechanism for parents to feedback to us.”

Whichever side of the fence you’re on, parent or not, the UK Government has invited feedback as part of a public consultation. Read the consultation’s proposals here and respond using this form.


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