Harmless websites such as YouTube, several newspaper websites, and Dublin pubs and restaurants are among some of the surprising victims of the Houses of the Oireachtas strict firewall.
Details of the blocked sites searched by TDs, senators, civil servants, the media, and all others who work in Leinster House in the last 11 months show that many benign sites fell foul of the Dáil’s strict network rules.
In total, 1,075 different websites were blocked by the firewall since September 1, 2018, according to documents released to the Irish Examiner.
Ping.chartbeat.net clocked up 116,900 hits. Described as an analytical data gathering site, the network recognises this as a threat and therefore blocks it, the records show.
“If someone is on a website, chartbeat may be running in the background, gathering analytical data from the user, hence why it is blocked,” said the Oireachtas.
It determined that pop-up talk windows from Google were not allowed. According to the records, 116,463 attempts to connect to Google Talk were blocked since September 1 2018. Many moderate websites were included in the list as well as extreme content websites such as Liveleak.com, which also fell foul of the censors.
LiveLeak is a controversial website which features videos which often include very graphic content involving fatal accidents, shootings, and torture. The site came to international prominence in 2007 after it featured the unauthorised filming and leaking of the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Although it has moderated its content in more recent times, extreme videos are still available. Among some of the newspaper websites blocked at the Oireachtas were the dailymail.com, Scottish newspaper the Daily Record, the British Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Star.
Some restaurants, pubs, and barber shops in the vicinity of Leinster House have also fallen foul of the firewall settings, the released documents show.
Searches for the Piglet Wine Bar in Temple Bar and the Ely Wine Bar on Ely Place are among the list of sites blocked, as was the popular chain of barber shops, the Grafton Barber, the records reveal.
In providing the data, the Oireachtas stated that some of the data may have been generated by automatic links from other sites via pop-ups.
Some access attempts may be related to the presence of spyware, malware, or viruses on the computers from which these blocked attempts originated. The service would not consider these to be meaningful or user actioned attempts to access a site.
A firewall is a programme or hardware device that filters the information coming through the internet connection into your private network or computer system. If an incoming packet of information is flagged by the filters, it is not allowed through.
Parliaments and state websites are often targets for malicious hackers and authorities in Australia had to respond to an attempt to hack into its parliament’s computer network in February.
Lawmakers said there was “no evidence” that information had been accessed or stolen, but politicians’ passwords were reset as a precaution.