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UPDATE4 Political Twist as Sky Broadband Fix Wrongful Block of ISPreview

Friday, May 26th, 2017 (7:57 am) - Score 4,126

Customers of Sky Broadband, specifically those who have enabled the ‘Shield’ (Parental Control) service, won’t have been able to view ISPreview.co.uk since yesterday evening because the ISP has wrongfully blocked us under their “Phishing and Malware” category. But there’s a political twist..

Upon first hearing about the unusual censorship (thanks to all those who Emailed or Tweeted) we immediately began conducting some scans in order to see if any nasty viruses or malware had crept in but came up empty. Similarly none of the popular online website security monitors (e.g. Sucuri) have reported an infection. So far as we could tell, all of ISPreview.co.uk’s systems and files were clean.

sky_broadband_block_ispreview

At this point things start to get very interesting. A quick test via Quttera’s scanner claimed that two of our news articles contained a link to EXTERNAL sites (i.e. nothing to do with our own server) that had apparently been blacklisted for Malware and those articles are here:

* UK Liberal Democrats Pledge 30Mbps+ for All by 2022 and 2Gbps+ FTTP

* 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto is Short on Surprises for Broadband

Naturally we were intrigued, particularly given the political angle of the blacklist. Sure enough Quttera stated that the problem wasn’t with ISPreview.co.uk itself but rather the fact that Amazon’s Cloud server, specifically the one holding the PDF formatted 2017 Conservative Party Manifesto (s3.eu-west-*.amazonaws.com), appears to have been blacklisted for Malware.

A lot of news sites used the same PDF link for their Manifesto coverage and the Conservative’s own website also uses it. I’ve changed the Amazon URL above to avoid this news article being blacklisted too and below is an example of the problem. The Liberal Democrat article was most likely tagged incidentally because it linked to the same news article and had a link to the same PDF on Amazon’s Server.

wrongful_manifesto_block

In short, ISPreview.co.uk is fine but it appears as if most or all of our entire site is being blocked by Sky’s Parental Controls because a single EXTERNAL link in just one of our news articles may have been compromised. NOTE: I ran a check on the Conservative PDF and it was clean, instead the issue seems to be with two .JS [Javascript] files that were hosted on the same Amazon server, which doesn’t even affect the PDF itself.

Now to me that is overzealous filtering at its worst, with an odd political plot twist to boot, but others may take a different view. As a site that has existed for nearly two decades we obviously have hundreds of thousands of pages, yet to block most or all of that site just because one EXTERNAL link has briefly gone bad seems ridiculous (Amazon will hopefully have cleaned it by now). Not to mention that we’re a consumer information site that covers broadband ISPs like Sky, which adds another fun dynamic to the filtering debate.

I should add that we have only tested the Sky Broadband Shield block with the PG (Parental Guidance) level restriction, although the same block may apply on their other age related restrictions. In the meantime we’ve removed the direct link to the Conservative manifesto, although assuming Amazon’s server was the cause then the Malware tag might be affecting many more sites than ours.

At least we’re in good company because everybody from Facebook to Imgur has in the past been hit by Sky Broadband’s network-level filtering systems (examples here, here and here).

We have of course attempted to contact Sky about this and are awaiting their response.

UPDATE 10:19am

Apparently Vodafone Home Broadband customers may have also faced a similar block today.

UPDATE 10:38am

The Quttera scanner should no longer report any Malware on the two news stories as it has now recognised that the Manifesto links were removed earlier this morning. Still waiting to hear from Sky.

UPDATE 11:25am

We’ve run a quick test and it appears as if Sky has now removed the block. The operator has confirmed this and we are awaiting some clarity on their reasons.

UPDATE 1:18pm

Now for Sky’s official response, which more or less confirms what has already been said.

A Sky Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Our Broadband team were advised that the ISPreview website contained a threat of Malware of Phishing and for this reason it was automatically blocked. After manually investigating, we identified that there was no risk from the site itself and removed the block.”

No mention of any changes being made to avoid other sites being blocked like this in the future.

Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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