The head of Britain’s newly formed cybersecurity agency says authorities are exploring the creation of a national internet filter to block malicious software and rogue websites.
Ciaran Martin, the chief executive of Britain’s new National Cyber Security Centre, told a conference in Washington that his agency was working on a flagship project which would block Britons from coming into contact with “known malware and bad addresses”.
According to a text of his speech published on Thursday, Martin said the system would allow consumers to opt-out – meaning that privacy and choice were “hard-wired into our programme”.
Those assurances didn’t sit well with some activists.
Martin said rogue websites would be blocked using DNS filtering, a venerable if clumsy censorship technique which prevents internet users from reaching a targeted server when they click a link or type out a web address.
But the technique is imprecise, occasionally blocking an entire website over a single rogue link.
The London-based Open Rights Group worried that the Cyber Security Centre’s mother body, intelligence agency GCHQ, risked tampering with the integrity of the internet.
The Financial Times newspaper described the project as a “Great British Firewall” – a reference to China’s vast internet censorship system.
The intentions are good but the idea is bad.
There are lots of private sector anti-malware solutions for people to choose from.
The trouble with a Government filter is that different parts of Government will then want the filter expanded to fit their needs. Justice will want sites included that breach suppression orders. Health will want sites with bad health information included etc etc. And while they start voluntary, at some stage politicians will want them compulsory.