Australian Government To Force Internet Users To Install State-Approved Software

 

No firewall, no internet connection in latest salvo of web regulation

Australian Government To Force Internet Users To Install State Approved Software 220610top

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Australian government is set to intensify its war against Internet freedom by forcing web users to install state-approved anti-virus software. If they fail to do so, they will be denied an Internet connection, or if their computer is later infected, the user’s connection will be terminated.

“AUSTRALIANS would be forced to install anti-virus and firewall software on their computers before being allowed to connect to the internet under a new plan to fight cyber crime. And if their computer did get infected, internet service providers like Telstra and Optus could cut off their connection until the problem was resolved,” reports News.com.au.

A 260-page report released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications outlines a plan to mandate Internet users to install government-approved software before their Internet connection can be activated.

Of course, the vast majority of Internet users already use anti-virus software, but by creating the precedent of having to conform to government mandates simply to get online, this opens the door to later requiring government permission to use the Internet at all, as well as a Chinese-style ID verification system which will prevent “undesirables” from using the web.

It also makes it easier for the government to use the law to subsequently demand that a mandatory Internet filter also be installed as part of the software package that blocks websites deemed “offensive” to the authorities.

Efforts to place restrictions on the internet are unfolding apace in Australia where the government is implementing a mandatory and wide-ranging Internet filter modeled on that of the Communist Chinese government.

Australian communication minister Stephen Conroy said the government would be the final arbiter on what sites would be blacklisted under “refused classification.”

The official justification for the filter is to block child pornography, however, as the watchdog group Electronic Frontiers Australia has pointed out, the law will also allow the government to block any website it desires while the pornographers can relatively easily skirt around the filters.

Earlier this year, the Wikileaks website published a leaked secret list of sites slated to be blocked by Australia’s state-sponsored parental filter.

The list revealed that blacklisted sites included “online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.”

The filter will even block web-based games deemed unsuitable for anyone over the age of fifteen, according to the Australian government.

Senator Joe Lieberman on Sunday called for the United States to move towards a a Chinese-style system of Internet control. Under Lieberman’s 197-page Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act (PDF), President Obama would be given a ‘kill switch’ to shut down parts of the Internet.

Constant fearmongering about cyber attacks is the cover for a global assault on Internet freedom by authorities. The web is being overtaken by independent media outlets which are now beginning to eclipse establishment news organs. This has enabled activists and the politically oppressed to expose government atrocities and cover-ups at lightning pace, something the system is keen to curtail.

 

Leaked Australian blacklist reveals banned sites

Asher Moses
March 19, 2009 – 11:44AM

The Australian communications regulator’s top-secret blacklist of banned websites has been leaked on to the web and paints a harrowing picture of Australia’s forthcoming internet censorship regime.

Wikileaks, an anonymous document repository for whistleblowers, obtained the list, which has been seen by this website, and plans to publish it for public consumption on its website imminently.

Wikileaks has previously published the blacklists for Thailand, Denmark and Norway.

University of Sydney associate professor Bjorn Landfeldt said the leaked list "constitutes a condensed encyclopedia of depravity and potentially very dangerous material".

He said the leaked list would become "the concerned parent’s worst nightmare" as curious children would inevitably seek it out.

But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

"It seems to me as if just about anything can potentially get on the list," Landfelt said.

The blacklist is maintained by ACMA and provided to makers of internet filtering software that parents can opt to install on their PCs.

However, if the Government proceeds with its mandatory internet filtering scheme, sites on the blacklist will be blocked for all Australians. The Government has flagged plans to expand the blacklist to 10,000 sites or more.

In a special report, written in conjunction with the Internet Industry Association and presented to the Government over a year ago, Landfeldt warned that "list leakage" was one of the main issues associated with maintaining a secret blacklist of prohibited sites.

Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, dug up the blacklist after ACMA added several Wikileaks pages to the list following the site’s publication of the Danish blacklist.

He said secret censorship systems were "invariably corrupted", pointing to the Thailand censorship list, which was originally billed as a mechanism to prevent child pornography but contained more than 1200 sites classified as criticising the royal family.

"In January the Thai system was used to censor Australia reportage about the imprisoned Australian writer Harry Nicolaides," he said.

"The Australian democracy must not be permitted to sleep with this loaded gun. This week saw Australia joining China and the United Arab Emirates as the only countries censoring Wikileaks."

The leaked list, understood to have been obtained from an internet filtering software maker, contains 2395 sites. ACMA said its blacklist, as at November last year, contained 1370 sites.

Assange said the disparity in the reported figure is most likely due to the fact that the list contains several duplicates and variations of the same URL that stem from a single complaint. Alternatively, some sites may have been added to the list by the filter software maker.

ACMA said Australians caught distributing the list or accessing child pornography sites on the list could face criminal charges and up to 10 years in prison.

Opposition communications spokesman Nick Minchin said the leaking of the list was irresponsible but highlighted how this type of information could surface despite the efforts of ACMA to protect it, and could be used by those with a perverse interest in its content.

"The regrettable and unfortunate reality is there will always be explicit and illegal material on the web and – regardless of blacklists, filters and the like – those with the means and know-how will find ways of accessing it," he said.

"Adult supervision is the most effective way of keeping children safe online and people shouldn’t be led into believing by Labor that expanded blacklists or mandatory filters are a substitute for that."

Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users’ lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the leak was not surprising and would only get worse once the list was sent to hundreds of Australian ISPs as part of the Government’s mandatory internet filtering policy.

He said the Government could be considered a "promoter and disseminator of links to some pretty unsavoury material".

"The list itself should concern every Australian – although plenty of the material is unsavoury or even illegal, the presence of sites like YouTube, MySpace, gambling or even Christian sites on the list raises a lot of questions," he said.

"There is even a harmless tour operator on there, but there is no mechanism for a site operator to know they got on or request to be removed. The prospect of mandatory nation-wide filtering of this secret list is pretty concerning from a democratic point of view."

The Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, said the leak and publication of the ACMA blacklist would be "grossly irresponsible" and undermine efforts to improve cyber safety.

He said ACMA was investigating the matter and considering a range of possible actions including referral to the Australian Federal Police. Australians involved in making the content available would be at "serious risk of criminal prosecution".

"Under existing laws the ACMA blacklist includes URLs relating to child sexual abuse, rape, incest, bestiality, sexual violence and detailed instruction in crime," Senator Conroy said.

"No one interested in cyber safety would condone the leaking of this list."

 

EFA has received many queries from overseas in the last few days asking: What on earth is going on down there? Well, we hoped that sense would prevail; that more important policies would get in the way, or that the Minister would get seated on a plane next to somebody who actually understood how the Internet works. Instead, at a sudden press conference it was announced that Australia will next year join the ranks of countries who censor the net.

It’s hard for any government to resist pursuing a policy when children are involved, or are seen to be involved. The censorship push started its life as a cyber-safety policy, where ISPs would be required to provide a filtered solution to families, but has since morphed into something at once less useful and more sinister. An announcement on Tuesday confirms it: next year, all Australian ISPs will be required to filter access to a government-supplied blacklist containing "refused classification" (RC) web content. That would include nasty stuff like child pornography, but also a broader range of content: fetishy sex, instruction in crime (such as euthanasia), any computer game not suitable for under 18s. The list will be partly generated by complaints from the public, and may include lists imported from overseas police departments.

While this is sold as a kid-friendly measure, to "improve safety of the internet for families", it’s clearly nothing of the sort. A few thousand URLs hardly constitutes a national net nanny. The list would almost be laughable if only it was not mandatory and secret – unlike censorship decisions made in other media, blocked URLs will remain secret and expressly excluded from freedom of information requests. Just as worrying is the fact that once this list is in, a conga-line of special interests will be approaching the government to have their pet peeves added to the list. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine AFACT (Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft) clamouring to have bittorrent trackers added, and several parliamentarians are on record calling for a ban on pro-anorexia sites and pornography in general.

It looks like the Australian blogosphere and twitterverse are in an uproar, and the media have not been verykind. What remains to be seen is how much this issue can crossover into the mainstream public consciousness. If the policy is seen as a vote-loser rather than a crowd pleaser, the Government might be a little readier to see reason.

So is Australia the new Iran? Should you encrypt your hard drive or install a VPN before visiting Australia next year? Well, it’s not the law of the land yet, but unless the political winds change, Australia is set to join a club with some rather unsavoury members.

 

Joining China and Iran, Australia to Filter Internet

Published December 15, 2009

Australia is forging ahead with plans to filter Internet content in a bid to stop its citizens accessing obscene and crime-linked Web sites.

Under the Chinese-style system, Internet service providers (ISPs) in the country would be legally obliged to filter out banned material.

The move would mean more than 1,300 sites that show child pornography, bestiality, sexual violence or give instructions about committing crime would be blocked. The government says such a system would help protect people, especially children, from harmful material found online.

At the moment officials can order people to take down material if it is hosted online in Australia, but cannot directly regulate content hosted abroad.

However critics say filtering would not prevent determined users from sharing illegal content and could also see over-enthusiastic officials carrying out unnecessary censorship. They also complain that it would slow down Internet speeds.

Outlining the plans, communication minister Stephen Conroy said an independent body would decide which sites should be blacklisted by being "refused classification" (RC) through a public complaint process.

"ISP filtering reduces the risk of Australians being inadvertently exposed to RC-rated material when they are online," he said. He added that a seven-month trial found blocking could be done with 100% accuracy with little impact on connection speeds.

ISPs would also be given grants to provide additional filters tackling, for example, X-rated content and gambling sites, but this would not be compulsory. Colin Jacobs, spokesman for online rights group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said of the plan: "Any motivated user will be able to get around it, it will be quite easy, so who is this being targeted at?"

The legislation will be introduced to parliament in August 2010 and will take a year to implement.

Communist China is known for its wide Internet censorship under a system of controls nicknamed the "Great Firewall of China".

 

How to Shut Down the ‘Net: A Guide for Repressive Regimes

By Jeremy A. Kaplan

Published December 07, 2009

The Internet may be a worldwide superhighway, but it’s all to easy to shut it down. Governments aiming to squelch free speech in don’t even have to work hard to do so: It’s all too easy to restrict the Internet and keep their people in the dark.

The practice is all too too easy, and all too common.

First, the government talks to the major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that control the flow of data in and out of the country. Not every country has the wide array of ISPs we have in the United States. In many countries, people get online through a limited selection that are authorized to work in the country.

For example, there were only nine ISPs controlling the physical lines connecting China to the outside world in 2002, according to a BBC report at the time. That makes it much simpler for the regime to control information.

And China is well known for restricting access to the Internet for its citizens, a project the country calls "the Golden Shield." The rest of the world calls it the Great Firewall of China. With the agreement and help of those ISPs, the government can control traffic through a variety of techniques, including filters that control certain words, blocks in specific domains or users, even by blocking entire domains (such as .com or .net).

An Iranian woman who declined to give her name uses the Internet at an net cafe in northern Tehran, Iran. Iranian authorities have slowed Internet connections to a crawl or choked them off completely before expected student protests Monday, to deny the opposition a vital means of communication.

"Governments can censor Internet traffic using the same technology tools found in large corporate enterprises," explains PCMag.com lead networking analyst Samara Lynn. "Sophisticated security andnetwork management appliances and software can be used to block specific keywords or categories from Internet searches, and they can perform DNS blocking and Web filtering."

Keyword blocking prevents people from searching for such obviously dangerous words as "freedom" and "democracy." Custom black listsalso server to block content that specifically rankles the government. Is it unions, student protests or something else?

When the government catches someone searching for these terms, they can automatically turn off their access for a period of time. "If a user happens upon a site or search result that has been flagged unacceptable, that user’s connection to the Internet can be dropped altogether for a specified period of time," notes PCMag.com’s Lynn.

Beyond the technical, these regimes rely upon a hand-picked group to police access. The Iranian police recently created a special 12-member Internet police unit charged with acting "against fraudattempts, commercial advertising and false information" and hunting down "insults and lies."

Police Col. Mehrdad Omidi, who heads the Internet crime unit, specifically said that the 12-member unit will intervene in "political matters on the Internet should there be an illegal act." The official said the unit will operate under the direction of the prosecution office.

Local activists often struggle to work around these restrictions. During the recent Iranian election scandal, activists turned to social networks like Twitter and Facebook to spread information the government would otherwise oppress.

"I think the Iranian government is learning quickly how to control and contain these things," Andrew Lewman, executive director of The Tor Project Inc., told the Associated Press.

His group’s free downloadable Tor program allows Internet users to work through a network of relays run by volunteers around the world to access blocked sites and hide what they are doing on the Internet. Active sessions using Tor in Iran have jumped from a few hundred before the election to thousands after, the nonprofit group said.

Other governments are actively trying to help out as well. In July, the U.S. Senate approved the Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act, which Congress hopes will strengthen the ability of the Iranian people get access to news and information and overcome the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian regime.

The bill authorized $30 million to support free radio broadcasts worldwide; $20 million to developmenttechnologies and Websites that will let Iranians gain access information; a report by the President on non-Iranian companies that have aided the Iranian government’s Internet censorship efforts; and more.

If you’re interested in helping out, there are several things you can do:

* Support Voice of America, the U.S. government funded radio station that broadcasts to over 125 million people a week.

* Post information about current proxies on your Web site. Proxies allow people to circumvent content filters; a list is updated weekly at VOANews.com.

* Spread the word about Freegate, software that lets people living in areas that restrict access view blocked sites.

 

Obama Pushes Freedoms, Open Internet in China

Published November 16, 2009

Monday: President Obama speaks at a town hall style event with Chinese youth at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai, China. (AP Photo)

President Obama nudged China to stop censoring the Internet on his first-ever trip to the communist-ruled country, after he was posed a question Monday about Twitter, apparently selected by a U.S. reporter.

The president touched on the sensitive issue at a town hall meeting with students in Shanghai. The question, one of nearly 1,200 that were submitted through the U.S. Embassy Web site, asked whether the Chinese should be able to use Twitter freely.

"I think that the more freely information flows, the stronger the society becomes, because then citizens of countries around the world can hold their own governments accountable," Obama said. "They can begin to think for themselves."

Before answering, Obama explained that the question was selected by a member of the U.S. press corps — presumably to give the impression that the White House had no hand in choosing it. White House spokesman Nick Shapiro later explained that Edwin Chen, a Bloomberg reporter and president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, picked the questions at random.

"The Internet questions were numbered and Ed picked a number — the corresponding question was asked," he told Fox News.

Chen later confirmed that he selected a few questions, saying that the U.S. Embassy was concerned about picking them and wanted an independent party to step in. Chen said the Twitter question was the only one picked randomly by him.

Reporters in Shanghai for the town hall had very limited access to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which the White House itself uses to promote its agenda.

Just hours ahead of talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Obama tried to find a political balance, couching his admonitions with words of cooperation, praise and American humility. He said few global challenges can be solved unless the world’s only superpower and its rising competitor work together, and he insisted: "We do not seek to contain China’s rise."

But in his opening statement and in answers to the wide-ranging discussion with university students, Obama spoke bluntly about the benefits of individual freedoms in a place known for limiting them.

"We do not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation," Obama said. Then he added that freedom of expression and worship, unfettered access to information and unrestricted political participation are not principles held by the United States; instead, he called them "universal rights."

The line offered echoes of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, who often talked of the "universality of freedom." Obama talked at length about the Internet, which he said helped him win the presidency because it allowed for the mobilization of young people like those in his audience in Shanghai.

"I’m a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. "I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."

Given where Obama was speaking, such a comment carried strong implications. He appeared to be talking directly to China’s leaders when he said that he believes free discussion, including criticism that he sometimes finds annoying, makes him "a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don’t want to hear."

China has more than 250 million Internet users and employs some of the world’s tightest controls over what they see. The country is often criticized for having the so-called "Great Firewall of China," which refers to technology designed to prevent unwanted traffic from entering or leaving a network.

Obama’s town hall was not broadcast live across China on television. It was shown on local Shanghai TV and streamed online on two big national Internet portals, but the quality was choppy and hard to hear.

Obama is in the midst of a weeklong Asia trip. He came with a vast agenda of security, economic and environmental concerns, although always looming was how he would deal with human rights while in China.

The president left Shanghai after the event and landed a couple of hours later in Beijing on a cold afternoon.

His China visit features the only sightseeing of his journey. He will visit the Forbidden City, home of former emperors in Beijing, and the centuries-old Great Wall outside of the city. Aides have learned that finding some tourist time calms and energize their boss amid the grueling schedule of an international trip.

U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman called Obama’s event the first ever town-hall meeting held by a U.S. president in China. Yet former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also spoke to students and took questions from them during stops in China.

China is a huge and lucrative market for American goods and services, and yet it has a giant trade surplus with the U.S. that, like a raft of other economic issues, is a bone of contention between the two governments. The two militaries have increased their contacts, but clashes still happen and the United States remains worried about a dramatic buildup in what is already the largest standing army in the world.

Amid all that, Obama has adopted a pragmatic approach that stresses the positive, sometimes earning him criticism for being too soft on Beijing — particularly in the area of human rights abuses and what the United States regards as an undervalued Chinese currency that disadvantages U.S. products.

The two nations are working together more than ever on battling global warming, but they still differ deeply over hard targets for reductions in the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause it. China has supported sterner sanctions to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but it still balks at getting more aggressive about reining in Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Obama recognizes that a rising China, as the world’s third-largest economy — on its way to becoming the second — and the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt, has shifted the dynamic more toward one of equals. For instance, Chinese questions about how Washington spending policies will affect the already soaring U.S. deficit and the safety of Chinese investments now must be answered by Washington.

The White House hoped Monday’s town hall meeting with Chinese university students would allow Obama to telegraph U.S. values — through its successes and failures — to the widest Chinese audience possible.

But those hopes had their limits in communist-ruled China.

Fox News’ Kelly Chernenkoff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

No anti-virus software? No internet connection

  • By Andrew Ramadge, Technology Reporter
  • From:news.com.au
  • June 22, 2010 10:29am

Computer security

A parliamentary committee has come up with some big ideas for combating cyber crime.

AUSTRALIANS would be forced to install anti-virus and firewall software on their computers before being allowed to connect to the internet under a new plan to fight cyber crime.

And if their computer did get infected, internet service providers like Telstra and Optus could cut off their connection until the problem was resolved.

Those are two of the recommendations to come from a year-long inquiry into cyber crime by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications.

Results of the inquiry, titled Hackers, Fraudsters and Botnets: Tackling the Problem of Cyber Crime, were released last night in a 260-page report.

In her foreword, committee chair Belinda Neal said cyber crime had turned into a "sophisticated underground economy".

"In the past decade, cyber crime has grown from the nuisance of the cyber smart hacker into an organised transnational crime committed for vast profit and often with devastating consequences for its victims," Ms Neal said.

During its inquiry the committee heard a growing number of Australians were being targeted by cyber criminals and that increasing internet speeds were likely to make the situation worse.

It also heard the problem was costing Australian businesses as much as $649 million a year.

The committee looked at several different examples of cyber crime, including hacking, phishing, malware and botnets.

Among its final 34 recommendations were:

— The creation of an around-the-clock cyber crime helpline.

— Changes to the law to make unauthorised installation of software illegal.

— Companies who release IT products with security vulnerabilities should be open to claims for compensation by consumers.

Another of its recommendations was to create a new "e-security code of practice" that would define the responsibilities of internet service providers and their customers.

The code of practice would see companies like Telstra give their customers security advice when they signed up and inform them if their computer ever appeared to be compromised.

For their part, customers would have to install anti-virus and firewall software before their connection was activated and endeavour to keep the software up-to-date.

If a customer’s computer was infected by malware, the service provider could introduce gradual restrictions and eventually cut off their internet connection entirely until the machine was "remediated".

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