Sex-starved MPs, serious security scare or misinterpreted statistics?

happygeek

A Freedom of Information request from staff at the UK offices of the Huffington Post has revealed, according to a BBC report on the story, that more than 300,000 attempts were made to access pornographic websites from the Houses of Parliament during the last 12 months. Of course, just looking at the headlines or even the figures quoted in the stories that follow them doesn't always reveal the bigger picture. Often, sadly, all you are left with is something of a blank canvas.

The original Huffington Post story reported how authorities had "acknowledged that users of the Parliamentary Network servers, including both MPs and their staff, have repeatedly attempted to access websites classed on Parliament's network as pornographic". It also went on to note that officials had explained the figures were 'inflated' by websites which automatically refreshed, and pop-ups and pop-unders, along with embedded images or video, could also increase the access attempt numbers greatly. Perhaps most confusing, and making the whole investigation somewhat pointless, was the fact that parliamentary officials refused to define what the servers classified as pornographic in the first place, and refused to do so on the good old get out of security grounds.

Philip Lieberman, CEO of security outfit Lieberman Software Corporation, reckons that the officials are right in that regard at least: pornography is a security issue. "Porn sites as bait, has been a long time vector of malware and those that seek to gain surreptitious access to systems" he says, continuing "Web filters would not be effective in stopping the threat as many such attacks occur in email that contains payloads marked as potential porn." Not forgetting, of course, that many legitimate non-porn sites may have a compromised section containing an infection that is also representing itself as pornographic. "As strange as it might sound" Lieberman concludes "conventional porn sites run by legitimate corporations will not normally contain infections and will not compromise national security."

Tim Erlin, director of risk and strategy for security firm Tripwire, agrees as attackers will always follow the best target. "People viewing pornography tend are already more likely to be careful" Erlin explains "and less likely to share what they’ve found than those viewing religious or political websites."

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About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to Forbes.com, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Administrator Featured Poster

Typo in original posting corrected, said month when I meant 12 months. Bit of a brain fart :)

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LastMitch

Typo in original posting corrected, said month when I meant 12 months. Bit of a brain fart :)

It's fine with the typo! The article itself is shocking.

more than 300,000 attempts were made to access pornographic websites from the Houses of Parliament during the last 12 months.

That is very sad, that most UK office personal does that. It wouldn't shock me if they say Ace. I mean there's a lot of beautiful ladies over there. Their Fit.

Tim Erlin, director of risk and strategy for security firm Tripwire, agrees as attackers will always follow the best target. "People viewing pornography tend are already more likely to be careful" Erlin explains "and less likely to share what they’ve found than those viewing religious or political websites."

I mean porn and malware hasn't change a bit over the years. It's been the same. So you have to be careful.

rubberman 1,355 Nearly a Posting Virtuoso Featured Poster

The trouble with these blacklists is that a lot of the sites blocked are not porn - probably more than 1/2 of them. So, though the statistics (there are lies, damned lies, and then there are statistics) indicate that the UK Parliament consists of a bunch of horny, unfulfilled pricks (probably true enough), there is a good likelihood that most of these "attempts" at self-gratification have more innocent reasons for happening.

Ancient Dragon 5,243 Achieved Level 70 Team Colleague Featured Poster

That is very sad, that most UK office personal does that.

I'd bet the data is over stated. What they could count is only those who stay on the porn sites for more than 10 seconds or so. Anything less could just be accidental.

MidiMagic 579 Nearly a Senior Poster

They might be sending each other (especially the opposing party) emails with unexplained links in them.

Or a search engine bot might be following the same few links that were saved by a few MPs again and again.

When I opened this, I was thinking of the MPs in the US - military police.

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