The Australian federal government doesn’t know where to hide its face. No, it has nothing do with the Indian doctor Mohammed Haneef episode.
Tom Wood, a 10th standard student in a private school in Melbourne, has cracked a new internet porn filter it had introduced nationwide amidst a lot of fanfare.
The filters are supposedly designed to stop access to sites on a national blacklist, bar use of chat rooms, and can be tailored by parents to stop access to sites.
The 16-year-old boy says it took him just over 30 minutes to bypass the filter, released on Tuesday. Just a few clicks should do, the whiz kid said as he demonstrated to reporters of Herald Sun.
His technique ensures the software's toolbar icon is not deleted, leaving parents under the impression the filter is still working.
A former cyber bullying victim, Tom feared a computer-savvy child could work out the bypass and put it on the Internet for others to use.
The filter exercise, the government says, cost it around $84 million.
Tom felt the government should have developed a better Australian made filter.
"It's a horrible waste of money," he said.
"They could get a much better filter for a few million dollars made here rather than paying overseas companies for an ineffective one."
In response to the Herald Sun's inquiries, the Government added an Australian designed filter, Integard, to the website yesterday, which Tom cracked within 40 minutes.
Communications Minister Helen Coonan said the Government had anticipated children would try and find ways to get around the NetAlert filters, and suppliers were contracted to provided continuing updates.
"The vendor is investigating the matter as a priority," Senator Coonan said.
"Unfortunately, no single measure can protect children from online harm and ... traditional parenting skills have never been more important."
Family First Senator Steve Fielding, a long-time campaigner for cyber safety, said cracking the software showed the need for compulsory filtering by Internet providers.
"You need both. You need it at the ISP and at the PC level," Senator Fielding said.
"The Government has not listened to common sense and it leaves kids exposed."
Tom stressed the filters were missing the mark by a long way regardless of how easy they were to break.
"Filters aren't addressing the bigger issues anyway," he said.
"Cyber bullying, educating children on how to protect themselves and their privacy are the first problems I'd fix.
"They really need to develop a youth-involved forum to discuss some of these problems and ideas for fixing them."