Recently I had a problem with a clients website timing out for some of their customers. After weeks of wasted bug hunting on server and website, I found the affected customers were using Sky broadband (BSkyB).

The problem occurred because to protect them from hackers and the like we set their website to use CloudFlare.

CloudFlare is a caching and security service which helps us block attacks by hackers. It also boosts our website by caching our images and other static content, what this does is speeds up our page delivery and reduces our bandwidth. With CloudFlare turned on we were saving 2.5GB of data transfer a month and we blocked in that last month 2,622 hacking attempts, also we stopped 888 attempts of people stealing our images, more on CloudFlare sucurity here https://www.cloudflare.com/features-security. The upshot is we lost hundreds of pounds of revenue because our clients cloudn’t order from our website.

The way CloudFlare works is to mask our ip address so DDoS attacks do not get us and checks the incoming traffic to stop other attacks too.

Now the major ISPs like Sky have been ordered by a UK court to block certain illegal websites that you can download copyrighted material. It seems Sky are the only ones that don’t use some intelligence here.

The court order sipulated that all ‘domains’ and ’subdomains’ and ‘IP Addresses’ of these illegal sites must be blocked. The important bit is the last bit about IP addresses. When the court ordered this, they missed the point that many legal sites would go down and be blocked because they have the same IP address as the illegal one. They are using what ispReview is quoted as using:

The approach of attempting to restrict access to Internet piracy websites by employing dumb DNS or IP based blocks (censorship)

Sky don’t have a page saying the site was blocked and why, the Sky subscriber gets nothing so they think it’s the fault of the website, when in fact their ISP is blocking their right to use the internet, and they are paying Sky to do this for them.

The normal response from Sky on this is to contact our web hosting provider for them to remove the illegal site. CloudFlare is not a web host, and therefore they do not host websites, they are like an Internet Service Provider that filters internet traffic to websites. So what Sky say does not apply in this case. What Sky and any other ISPs are doing in this case must be illegal and it is certainly immoral. They are holding websites to ransom for using an legitimate service.

Its not the first time this has happen the Radio Times site has been hit by this and also Facebook in the past has fallen pry this is insidious method of censorship. see the article http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2013/12/uk-isp-sky-broadband-removes-wrongful-imgur-com-website-block.html. When these sort of draconian methods are used then our fundamental right to freedom of information is being abused, and many websites that rely on use the internet to carry out their business are losing significant revenue, which of course happened to us.

Do these method that the ISPs use to block illegal websites work? No they don’t. Why do I say this? Well, if someone wanted to get round this they could use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which would route their traffic off their ISP or they could use a Anonymous Proxy Server.

The answer isn’t using blocking in this way, it’s education. People have to respect the ownership of the copyright material like Music, Film and computer programs.

So the question is what do we do about it. Together we can act against these nefarious ISPs by sending complaint emails to them in the thousands or voting with our feet and changing ISP. I for one will never go back to Sky broadband, or any other that does this sort of thing.

So who’s next to be censored in this way? How many thousands of pounds will be lost to businesses in this way?

I will be posting my responses I get from Sky in an effort for them to stop this illegal tactic.

  • Mark

    Shaun,

    Great article. I’ve been hit by the self same thing over the last few days, and after reading your article, I decided to perform some diagnostics. Surprise surprise, Sky is blocking CloudFlare’s CDN. I;m able to bypass this with the HOSTS file, but this simply isn’t on.

    Mass blocking a superb service like CloudFlare is not the answer here.

    Thanks