Seven Reasons to Avoid TalkTalk HomeSafe

This week TalkTalk launched their HomeSafe security system. This is a system, which is “Helping our customers keep their families safer online”.

Previously called BrightFeed the name was changed to appeal more to families, and this is clearly the market that TalkTalk are after. But this new service is fraught with problems, which could cause families more harm than good.

Here are seven reasons why you should not rely on TalkTalk HomeSafe.

1. 24 Hour Time Lag

The scanning system can be anything from 24 hours out of date. What this means is that if a website is infected with a virus, or contains unsuitable content, then TalkTalk will not know about it, and not block sites for up to that time. This means that a child browsing a website that is assumed to be ‘safe’ may not be safe.

New malware sites, gambling and pornography sites are being created every minute on the internet. TalkTalk (or any other service) could never be able to identify and block all of them in sufficient time.

2. Dodgy Sites can Fool TalkTalk

The ‘bot’, which scans websites, in order to determine if they are malware or unsuitable can easily be fooled. The bot is called

TalkTalk Virus Alerts Scanning Engine



and thus it is very easy for dodgy websites to detect and fool the system.

A dodgy webmaster, identity thief, or hacker can easily detect when the TalkTalk bot is visiting their shady site by looking for either of those names and serve a perfectly harmless page to that bot, whilst serving unsuitable content to TalkTalk customers.

This is not rocket science. It is a very simple way to fool the TalkTalk bot and it is their biggest Achilles heel. It means that the TalkTalk bot will visit a webpage and declare it ‘safe’. When Johnny or Jessica visit the same page they could be served malware or shown unsuitable content.

3. Homework Time Blocking Ineffective

One feature of HomeSafe is that sites such as Facebook can be locked out during ‘homework time’. Kids are not stupid. They can easily get around this by accessing Facebook on their mobile phones. Some may even be clever enough to access their neighbour’s wi-fi.

This kind of lockdown is giving children the wrong impression of what is acceptable and what is not. Parents should be able to set their own verbal rules; to have the confidence to state that there is a time for work, rest and play. By automatically controlling children to only browse specific sites at specific times is akin to automatically feeding and watering animals in a zoo.

This is another example of technology, which is conditioning today’s children for a future totalitarian state. We already have children being fingerprinted in schools, and now parents have the option of electronically controlling relaxation time.

4. Not All Sites are Scanned

The system can only categorise and detect viruses and malware on pure HTTP sites. Sites that use encryption (HTTPS sites) are unable to be crawled and thus categorised or checked for malware.

Whilst secure sites such as banks use HTTPS it is very easy for dodgy sites to set up as HTTPS and thus never be crawled or categorised. A child may browse a HTTPS site without any warning that it is unsuitable.

5. File Sharing is not Blocked

HomeSafe can block popular torrent listing / search websites such as piratebay but it does not block the process of sharing files at all.

Children can email each other torrent files, which they can then use to download and share music, films, TV programmes, and viruses.

6. You and Your Child’s Browsing is Fully Monitored

This is a problem for all TalkTalk customers whether they use HomeSafe or not: your internet browsing is shadowed, recorded and processed.

In order to build up a database of good and bad sites TalkTalk need all their customers to browse as many websites as possible. TalkTalk then visits those sites and information which customers read is read, and processed by Huawei-Symantec equipment.

This means that the private information you read: the religious, political, sexual information site you read will be read and processed by TalkTalk.

Customers have no way of opting-out of this surveillance. And this has to be the number one reason why you should call up TalkTalk and cancel your internet subscription with them right now.

7. Can you Trust TalkTalk?

TalkTalk will go to great lengths to state ‘privacy’, ‘anonymous’, ‘safe’. But can you trust them after they performed illegal trials without informing anyone?


The TalkTalk HomeSafe system is a cynical attempt at fooling parents into thinking their children will be safe on the internet. But the system is full of holes, and is about as useful as an umbrella made out of swiss cheese.

The system will never be 100% safe and yet parents may be lulled into a false sense of security in assuming that it is safe.

Rather than teach their children what is acceptable, and what is not, on the internet they will rely on ‘the machine’ to stop them visiting harmful sites, but the machine is not infallible.

When BT and Phorm tried to introduce their behavioural targeting advertising system they realised that they had to give some incentive to the customer. They came up with a similar system called WebWise – a system that would keep customers safe and protect them from visiting sites with viruses.

The ulterior motive then was indeed to record, monitor, shadow, capture users browsing information and process it in order to build up profiles of users. Can TalkTalk categorically deny that their ulterior motive is not the same?

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48 comments on “Seven Reasons to Avoid TalkTalk HomeSafe
  1. the guy who wrote this article is is clearly biased say can you trust Talktalk can you trust any company? Google store much more information the what pages you vist and these are not linked to you so are untraceable

    also if it was illegal why why the ICO allow them to continue with it?

    many other company’s offer this same service how do you think that Norton and avg build up there database of infected web pages?

    another point is that it dos not record the web-pages content as you so say it only scans the page then it ONLY save the webaddress in a white list for 24 hours

    Finally at no point does the system claim to be full prof it is only a free security tool is any online thing 100% working no it isnt.

    and befor anybody says it no i do not work for talk talk

    • The guy who wrote the article is concerned only with freedom of expression on the internet. He is 100% correct in his assertions. Incidentally, many of the speed related issues are because of the huge processing that HomeSafe has to conduct with every internet session. My advice – turn it off for a better internet experience.

      • I cannot find out how to disable the Homesafe. I have looked on many things on talk talk on My Account. I do not need this as I have my own bought security sytem in place.

        Please help thank you.

        • You need to login to your TalkTalk account and access My Account. There are settings to turn on / off or configure HomeSafe.

          Turn it off and wait a few minutes before it updates.

          Please note that turning off HomeSafe only turns off the censorship filters. Your browsing will still be tracked wherever you go. The only way to avoid TalkTalk from shadowing you is to change to a different ISP.

    • My fav game was took away from talktalk homesafe now that really isnt fair. I just played it then I click games on it and it poped up homesafe talk talk NO FAIR my fav game is like just FLUSHED AWAY D;

    • Actually he is very right and TalkTalk have previously been in trouble for breaking the law on data protection and snooping on customers browsing.

      phorm and the snooping is legal up to the point where NO information is stored or revealed that idenyifies you. It has to be anonymous and the customer must be made aware of it. Virgin Media did inform customers that it intended to operate phorm, however they pulled out due to protest.

      BT and TalkTalk did not inform customers and who knows what they were doing with all that information and how much money they actually made from it. I certainly didnt see any revenue share!

      another one is sky, they used to test your connection randomly also snooping on your websites and also slowed your connection down to the point where you had to reboot the modem, but only made matters worse as the automated system at sky would just start over from square one.

      and last but not least EE/orange/t-mobile storing all your personal call,text and data history longer than they need to, why? It would cost a lot of money to store so much data, what was in it for them?

  2. So Chinese equipment provider is helping British homes fight cybercrime, all data goes back to China, watch out!

  3. According to both the press, their website and the configuration settings within “My TalkTalk” account – Home Safe is disabled by default.

    However this does not actually appear to be the case, looking at my webserver logs it shows that the “TalkTalk Virus Alerts Scanning Engine” visited the page less than a minute after I had browsed the page myself. Given that I had just created this page, it was empty and was not linked to from any other source it would indicate that TalkTalk is tracking my browsing.

    XX.XX.XXX.XXX – – [03/Jun/2011:12:49:54 -0700] “GET / HTTP/1.1” 200 26 “-” “Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_7; en-gb) AppleWebKit/533.21.1 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.5 Safari/533.21.1” – – [03/Jun/2011:12:50:26 -0700] “GET / HTTP/1.0” 200 6 “” “(TalkTalk Virus Alerts Scanning Engine)”

    I’ve reported this to TalkTalk and I’m awaiting a response. Not impressed to say the least.

  4. Yes the Home Safe ‘feature’ is disabled by default. However, the scanning of every TalkTalk users web browsing is turned on and can not be turned off!

    This is something TalkTalk will not tell you. They will talk up the benefits of HomeSafe, and that it can be turned off and on (thus appeasing the ICO), but they do not say that near enough every web page a TalkTalk customer visits is then visited a few moments later by the TalkTalk bot.

    You do not have any choice to stop this happening: your browsing data is being copied and processed (by Huawei). And even worse, every website owner out there can not stop this happening either. If a website is visited by a TalkTalk customer the website owner will see his / her traffic double. Again there is no opt-out facility for this.

  5. Just how low or sneaky can TalkTalk get? Well, here is a bit of insight to their tactics if anybody is foolish enough to give them a try! 2 reps came to my door with their usual spiel of, “did I know my phone line had been upgraded”. Upgraded to what I asked? Free broadband! Oh yes and when did this happen I asked? The mouth-piece of the 2 said TalkTalk had upgraded my line for faster broadband. Well that’s news to me as I’ve been with Plusnet for 2 years and never been with TalkTalk. He asked how much I was paying, and I told him £22.85 a month for line rental, 60GB usage and free calls anytime.
    We can give you fibre optic was his reply (I will add here that I have A+ network support, A+ hardware/software, MCP and an MCSE). I became a bit flippant at first and said, what are you some sort of magician or something, because this area (ALLOA) does not have fibre and there is no intention of the powers that be ever supplying it to this area, now or in the near future. Now for the bullshit! His reply was that TalkTalk can do it (they just have to flick a switch—Laughable or what eh!), and I sort of lost the rag a bit and told the pair to politely naff off (in Glaswegian terms of course).
    What happened next throw me and caused a blistering row with the wife and I, because about 3 weeks or so later they were back, only this time I was out, and yes they got my wife to sign up (damned cheek). I immediately called their cancellation number to get the order cancelled, which they assured me was done.
    Now for the juicy part! Last week I received a letter from TalkTalk (along with what has to be the cheapest, tackiest router I have ever clapped eyes on). The letter was a notification of my TalkTalk connection going live on 27th June, and of a direct debit to be deducted from a certain date + a £30 connection fee. We immediately contacted the bank to have this cancelled (STRONG ADVICE: DON’T EVEN LET THESE TALKTALK PEOPLE OVER THE DOOR).
    I phoned them up again and warned them if they ever attempt anything like that again, I will be instructing my bank to initiate legal proceedings for attempted fraud.

  6. No but I have no choice.

    They should only be redirecting the traffic of the users that request the system. I could do it so I know they or rather Huawei-Symantec could.

    I have a system which checks my website is up every five minutes. Now I find an Opal malware bot pretending to be IE8 not even saying it’s a scanning engine connecting from 62.24.222.(132|131) every 5 minutes too.

    I have a passive monitor and my mail server does no layer 7 parsing or virus scanning for the very reason that it can be exploited and then I find my ISP compulsorarily lowering my networks security for me and for what. recommend passive taps due to past exploits in this kind of filtering for this very reason and what a good target, a MITM of everyone.

    The poster at the following url is right ( they’ve blinkered MPs yet again for ad revenue, otherwise they would have prevented IP spoofing at a much safer layer. As if a company with such long customer service waiting times and such a low broadband price would pay for this out of the goodness of their hearts. ISPs originally refused to prevent IP spoofing because they said the routing should be as safe and simple as possible, by only transporting data. Not only were they right but that would be a much safer layer to filter on than homesafe operates on and you can’t opt out.

    All they accomplish is advertising the dodgy sites. The day the judge announced newzbin2 blocked newzbin was back up and I didn’t even know about newzbin. Malware creators like new malware ideas too.

    Do I really have to use a VPN to a server on the net to get around their incompetence or hire a lawyer to get my contract terminated as from what I’ve read I do believe it’s illegal under european law??

    It also potentially doubles dos attacks.

    I posted to talktalks site but had my comments deleted every time. I phoned them and they didn’t even know what the service was and this is the business call centre.

  7. I’ve activated TalkTalk homesafe with view to blocking access to pornographic websites but it has made not the blindest bit of difference – you can still access as much porn as you like. Does this service even work at all?

  8. Since going on “homesafe* I have been unable to get onto “facebook” Please don`t block access to “facebook” again. Otherwise you can cancel my membership.

    • George:

      Be grateful that TalkTalk have at least got something right in blocking facebook. If you care for your privacy you shouldn’t be using facebook either.

    • I did not even Switch home safe on and now I cant access Facebook Youtube or likedin. They have spent 6 days telling me that its fixed but its not. I have had the phone doped on me by TT staff and I say that nobody should trust them to provide there broadband service

  9. HomeSafe has been a nightmare for me, went live on 7th June noticed HomeSafe is blocking access to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Lottery. Rang them to ask them to switch it off, they tell you to go to ‘My Account’ This does not work! You may aswell ring B&Q rather than customer services, that is just an awful, scripted, unhelpful experience. After a month of e mails, phone calls they sent an engineer. Only problem they forgot to tell him why he was coming and he cannot de-activate HomeSafe. Several more phone calls and e mails and all they say is the problem has been escalated to a higher department. The worst experience ever and BT I am so sorry I left you!!!

    • We are exactly going through the same experience. Our access to many websites like facebook, youtube and many other common webpages is blocked by homesafe. Technical support team people are useless bunch, wasting time. After hours of wasting time, they say we have escalated the fault. Nothing happens.
      Where do you take this one further to? Who is responsible? Why should we pay if they break their word to provide the service they are supposed to provide.
      Can anybody provide answers please!

      • Very strange, I know there are some issues with Homesafe but did not realise this was such an issue to report. I would advise posting on the TalkTalk Members Forum and hopefully these guys will pick it up, they are pretty quick to get the issue to the correct team where they can resolve them.


  11. Somebody should somehow prevent people from getting talktalk. I totally agree with all the above but worse than that. If i didnt now realise that its time again to reset the router as is cut off whilst norton was background scanning and not only have i ended in blue screens and full destructive recovery (vista), system repairs/restores and complete reinstall (win7) i would still be doing the same. Talktalk also slow down the service in peak time so any streaming is worse than the usual rubbish, and yet they claim to be good, offer upgrades frequently via mail and nuisance calls, yet after frequently complaining and advising most in our area are leaving them, not a letter, not an improvement, certainly no compensation,

  12. TalkTalk need to explain how to use homesafe better. Homework time is a good feature but this element is not explained carefully enough. Many users are surprised to find that Facebook and YouTube are blocked at those times. If I remember correctly the blOck message does not mention a time And simply says Facebook block for social networking. Should allow adding sites to blacklist and whitelist also.

    Additionally if it is policy not to block anonymizers then is makes the whole filter useless.

  13. You are totally bullit proof with the Kiddysafe feature. Been trying for two days to dump the crock of crap and cant. Ok I am only 66 and probably not responsible enough! Had a super Ladbrokes account which is is now BARRED. What a piece of horse s_it, so its on to the devious phone line tomorrow.

    TalkTalk pleeese read this, wise up, no one else serves this garbage.

  14. Absolute nightmare!!!

    I had no idea of Homesafe until today, when it affected me.

    I have my Homesafe & Kidsafe turned off (I have no kids) and yet, it still wont let me access harmless sites. I cannot even access the euro millions site FFS! This is not on and I’m not happy that TalkTalk are controlling what sites I can access!!!

    If they do not sort this out, they will lose this customer!!!

  15. I signed up for talktalk phone, TV and internet today. How long
    do I have to cancel. should I cancel? I have been with basic TT
    for years with no problems.

    I do not want interference with my facebook.

  16. You should have a cooling off period of a week or two. Check the small print.

    If you are happy with them to profile your web browsing in order to categorise what you can and can not view then stay with them!

    Note that you can turn on / off the HomeSafe feature but you cannot turn off the profiling.

  17. I only discovered today that I have been hit by talk talk Homesafe. I am now blocked from several websites. Can anyone suggest how I can get out of this as Talktalk are refusing to answer my emails?

  18. I too now have the old “homesafe” issue, moved from network 3 because of cost reasons.
    I’m getting nowhere fast! If anyone on previous comments got the HOMESAFE issue sorted, please, please, could you drop me a line either here (with webmasters consent)or via my website, as to how it was cured. Thanks! Jimi.

  19. I am getting this every-time I go to certain web sites.
    What is annoying tho, I am not even a Talk Talk customer.
    I am with BT
    I am even connected to the Router via my net work cable.
    I phoned Talk Talk up, and they said I must be getting it Via the Wireless system.
    But I am not wireless.
    Think they are Wireless.

    Any help will be useful.
    As it is driving me mad.

    Also, I am a single male of 54 living on my own, So don’t need to stop sites.

    • What kind of message are you seeing? Are you sure it is talk talk homesafe blocking sites?

      It could be that the sites you are visiting have malware on them and that either your browser or antivirus package is blocking the site. Firefox and Chrome can be set to warn of web forgeries and malwares sites. Anti virus apps do the same with web shields. It could also be a third party tool bar that you have installed, which is doing this. Try a different browser:

      Internet Explorer

  20. If you want to have privicy use the tor browser just stay away from .onion sites as most of them are illegal. But you still cant be tracked because of its system but if you want total privacy use the tor browser.

  21. I signed up to talk talk with a connection date 3rd July. I have
    spent about 4 hours to engineers and technical help to try and have Home safe removed to date I am still BLOCKED. Does this problem ever get resolved as I have now had enough and will cancel in 2 days after reading this forum.

  22. I managed to disable it by going into my account, selecting off (even though they were all set to off anyway) and then restarting both my computer and router.

  23. How can they get away with trying to control MY internet that I pay for, found it tonight and turned it straight off. Bloody cheek of them, youre a provider talktalk, provide then go, i dont need you watching over my shoulder!!

  24. I dont need home safe as I dont have any children and I want to be able to do what I want to do on my laptop. It stops me going to my bingo clubs. Pleae talktalk turn it off.

  25. We just got TT last night and when I tried going onto YouTube today it tells me HomeSafe has blocked this website -____-

    Not impressed, and after reading this article I think we’ll have to change to a different ISP.

    Only question is.. which would be a better ISP to switch to?? Help :/

  26. Does anyone know where I can raise a complaint with TalkTalk regarding a false positive on my website ?

    This “HomeSafe” program of theirs is blocking it on the grounds of my website containing a virus. As of yet no-one at TalkTalk will tell me what virus it has found, if it really has found one at all.

  27. well I ‘ve been trying to get this homesafe removed all afternoon, didnt ask for it ,dont want it and all TT say is to phone their premium line where their team will take me trough things. Oh jolly good as a elderly person just what I wanted, ( to do someone elses job for them ) I really need this sorted to be able to buy my shopping, may be I shoud look for a new broadband if TT cant put right their errors

  28. Is the author a parent? Doesn’t sound like one. Most parents I know would rather have some kind of filter than nothing. It’s a no brainer, tbh: at least Talktalk are trying! The reality is, obviously, that you just switch off your wifi on your smartphone if you’re *that desperate* to facebook while your kids are doing homework. Same with YouTube, and if they need YouTube for homework, maybe enable it & sit with them – as in actually communicate with your child? Before anyone blasts off about no time/too busy etc, I’m a working parent too…it’s about priorities, no?

  29. Just joined talktalk because i was told they block all gambling web sites this is totaly untrue it only seems to block the big names like coral and william hill i clicked on betfair and that one still works plus loads more still work im not happy at all as i would have stayed with sky if i knew it didnt block all gambling sites so be warned before you dicide to purchase talktalk broadband.

  30. Thousands and thousands of TalkTalk customers get scam calls every day because they don’t look after customers personal information as required by law.

    TalkTalk has done nothing to stop it – and neither have any regulators. You’re far better off avoiding TalkTalk altogether.

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