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UK ISP Sky Broadband Inadvertently Blocks Innocent Websites Again

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 (7:49 am) - Score 2,875

An unknown number of websites who use the popular CloudFlare Content Delivery Network (CDN) are finding that UK customers of Sky Broadband cannot view their content because one or more of the IP addresses that Sky blocks as part of their court ordered anti-piracy censorship tool includes an IP that’s shared with the CDN.

The situation is not an unfamiliar one. Back in 2013 Sky made headlines after a website that was known to facilitate Internet copyright infringement deliberately poisoned its own Domain Name Server (DNS) records by using an Internet Protocol (IP) address that many legitimate sites, such as Facebook, the Radio Times and Crystal Palace FC plus many more, also shared (here).

As a result of the 2013 incident Sky, which had added the IP address to their piracy filter (website blocking system), inadvertently ended up disrupting access to a large number of perfectly legitimate websites, which affected most of their several million strong UK customer base. Since then several similar situations have occurred with Sky and other UK ISPs.

Now a similar incident appears to be occurring again after a proxy redirect website for The Pirate Bay (TPB) called “ilikerainbows” was added to Sky’s blocking system. Unfortunately the proxy site also hosted itself through CloudFlare’s CDN and as a result Sky ended up adding at least one of the CDN’s legitimate IP addresses to their block list, which naturally created problems for CloudFlare customers.

A Sky Spokesperson said:

We have a process in place to monitor requested site blocks to limit the chances of inadvertently blocking sites, and in addition to this if we are advised by a site owner or Sky customer that a site is being inadvertently blocked we take the necessary steps to remove any unintended blocks.”

According to TorrentFreak, CloudFlare has written to the proxy site and called on them to either get the issue resolved with Sky “within the next 24 hours” or to be effectively removed from their CDN platform. The “ilikerainbows” proxy owner has since reverted their site back to the domain registrar’s forwarding services, although that still uses CloudFlare’s CDN.. as does the official TPB site.

In the endless game of whack-a-mole problems like this are bound to crop up and we expect that this will not be the last such issue of its kind. Luckily this time we don’t know of any major well-known websites that have been affected, but that doesn’t make the issue any less of a problem.

Website blocking at ISP level remains an imperfect solution because the provider is not physically removing the content at source (it’s impossible for them to do that) and is instead plastering a metaphorical “do not enter” sign over an otherwise open bedroom door.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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