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Jun 4, 2013

ASIC accidentally blocked 250,000 sites in scam campaign

The finance industry regulator admits that its new internet blocking campaign has caused some collateral damage.

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In an appearance before Senate Estimates this evening, ASIC has admitted that, in addition to accidentally blocking 1200 sites in April, in March it found that it had blocked 250,000 websites by accident, as part of its efforts to force Australian ISPs to block access to scam websites.

ASIC told Greens senator Scott Ludlam that it used its powers under s.313 of the Telecommunications Act to block websites 10 times over the last year, but had only commenced doing so in 2012.

Australian site Melbourne Free University found itself blocked in April and was unable to find out from its ISP who had ordered the blocking. Eventually the blocking was traced to ASIC, which had ordered ISPs to block access to a scam site, and in doing so had removed over 1200 other sites, including that of Melbourne Free University.

In relation to the 250,000 sites blocked in March, ASIC advised the committee that “the vast majority (in excess of 99.6%), appear to contain no substantive content. In this instance we that less than 1000 actives sites (less than 0.4%) may have been temporarily affected. None of thse are .au sites.”

ASIC also stated that “a small number” of other sites had been blocked on the 8 other occasions it had used its s.313 power.

ASIC’s opening statement to the committee can be found here (PDF).

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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1 comments

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One thought on “ASIC accidentally blocked 250,000 sites in scam campaign

  1. Jason Brooks

    This makes my blood boil. Not only the act of stupidity and sabotage of innocent sites, but the impunity with which they regard their behaviour.
    > “the vast majority (in excess of 99.6%), appear to contain no substantive content. In this instance we that less than 1000 actives sites (less than 0.4%) may have been temporarily affected.”
    – On what basis did they judge these sites had “non substantive content” – I am a web developer and I have MANY clients with sites that are VERY important to their daily operations that may show little public content, but contain all sorts of “substantive content” – extranets behind a login, private sites for content sharing (photographers etc) and sites that provide web services to other sites.

    > “None of thse are .au sites.”
    – Does that matter a single jot in this day and age? Many of my clients operate .com, .net, .org and other sites to service a US or global market. That does not make them less important!

    I had hoped that the utter shambles that is the “ASIC Connect” portal for business name registration was the worst that ASIC was going to do – sadly, I was mistaken.

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