UK censorwall bans VPNs

UK mobile providers, including O2 and its reseller GiffGaff, are blocking commercial VPN providers that help to secure sensitive communications from criminals, hackers and government spies. In particular, O2/GiffGaff block IPREDator, my favorite VPN service. The carriers claim that because these services could be use to bypass their Internet censorship tools -- switched on by default, a regime that is coming soon to hardline Internet connections, thanks to demands from Prime Minister David Cameron -- they, too, must be blocked.

The only way to stop Internet users from accessing "bad" websites is to spy on all their Internet traffic (you have to look at all their traffic in order to interdict the forbidden sites). So it follows that any censorship system must also ban any privacy/security tools. The UK is raising a generation of Internet users who are told that "security" requires them to make their sensitive, personal information available to anyone who is listening in on the network, because otherwise they might see sexually explicit material. Instead of teaching kids how to stay safe online, the official UK Internet safety policy requires them to be totally naked in all their online communications.

Adults are allowed to opt out of the filter -- though some carriers make this hard, requiring them to present themselves in person with their passports in hand -- but that's beside the point. Having been told that the filter blocks "adult" content (though it fails miserably at this, by any definition of "adult"), how many parents will be willing to say, "No, I don't want this filter on my kids' phones?"

TorrentFreak has learned that VPN provider iPredator is already blocked under the “adult filter” of some, if not all, mobile providers. TorrentFreak has seen communication between the mobile provider GiffGaff and iPredator which makes it clear that the VPN’s website is blocked because it allows kids to bypass the age restrictions.

“[...] websites or services that offer, inter alia, a method for younger members to access over 18 content, without age verification; such as VPN services, are blocked [...],” the provider explained.

GiffGaff claims that they can’t change anything in the filter’s settings since they use O2′s network and referred to the Independent Mobile Classification Body (IMCB) for further details. TorrentFreak contacted IMCB for a comment on the issue last week, but they are yet to respond.

UK Internet Filter Blocks VPNs, Australia to Follow Soon? [Ernesto/TorrentFreak]

(Image: Caméra de vidéo-surveillance, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from zigazou76's photostream)