We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
78,131 News Articles

Wikipedia anti-SOPA blackout bypass trick roils backers

Security firm Sophos takes heat for publishing Firefox-NoScript circumvention of site's protest

A security company's advice on how to circumvent today's Wikipedia blackout has roiled some users.

Earlier Wednesday U.K.-based Sophos told users they could access Wikipedia -- which blacked itself out as part of a Web-wide protest against pending anti-privacy legislation in the U.S. -- by running Mozilla's Firefox with the NoScript add-on installed.

With the NoScript add-on installed in Firefox, users can circumvent Wikipedia's SOPA blackout by selecting 'Forbid wikipedia.org.' from the NoScript menu at the left of the address bar.

NoScript blocks JavaScript, which Wikipedia is using to replace its content with a page that prompts people to lodge their dissatisfaction with two bills, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

SOPA and PIPA are being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Opponents of the bills , which are designed to make it easier for U.S. copyright holders to retaliate against foreign websites that distribute pirated movies, music and software, have argued that the legislation will give content owners too much power -- enough to censor domestic websites.

By running NoScript in Firefox, then disabling scripting on

Mozilla joined the protest as of 8 a.m. ET today by changing the default home page of Firefox from a white background to black.

Graham Cluley, a Sophos senior technology consultant, said he found the NoScript workaround when he browsed to Wikipedia earlier today and did not see its anti-SOPA pitch.

"I could see Wikipedia, and wondered, 'What's this?'" said Cluley in an interview Wednesday. "But then I realized it was NoScript that was preventing the blackout."

Some commenters , however, weren't happy that Sophos publicized an end-around.

"You must be very proud of yourself for posting a way to get around the protest," said someone identified only as "Andy" in a comment early today. "I hope you enjoy the Internet under your new SOPA overlords."

"I must say I am very unimpressed and deeply disappointed [about] the utter lack of support [from] a very reputable company like Sophos in presenting this workaround," said another reader, Simon Cousins. "The 'Going Dark' message is not meant to be a challenge for people to get around because it spoils their Internet experience. It is an important message that people NEED TO READ to understand the huge violation of free speech that is SOPA."

Others were more supportive.

"Mr. Cluley's post does not defeat, or deflate, or depreciate, or even effect an online protest at all," said someone labeled "Solenoid."

Wikipedia itself has offered ways to access its content today, Cluley noted.

"People feel very, very strongly about SOPA, and the comments show that, but come on, Wikipedia themselves tell you how to get around the blackout," said Cluley. "It doesn't have to be a 100% blackout to be effective. What they did was enough to get the message across."

As Cluley mentioned, Wikipedia has published instructions on how to reach the site's content today. In an FAQ , Wikipedia told users they could disable JavaScript in their browser or visit the site's mobile version, noting, "The community has asked us to preserve emergency access options."

Chrome users, for instance, can disable JavaScript for Wikipedia by clicking on the wrench icon and selecting Options in Windows, or by choosing Preferences under the Chrome menu on a Mac. From there, click "Under the Hood" on the left, then click "Content Settings" under the Privacy heading. Next, click "Manage Exceptions" under JavaScript, enter "en.wikipedia.org" in the box under Hostname Pattern, and finally select "Block" in the pull-down list at the right.

Cluley called the pending U.S. legislation "daft," and argued that it would not be effective in regulating content piracy.

"[My blog post] seems to have really roiled people, but I think anyone with the smarts to modify their browser, chances are they've heard about SOPA," Cluley added. "I don't think we're attempting to diminish Wikipedia's protest."

He said as much in a reply to one commenter on his blog.

"Telling people the way to get around the Wikipedia blackout is hardly saying we're pro-SOPA/PIPA," Cluley said. "And -- bonus! -- maybe some more folks now know how to better protect themselves against malware using NoScript."

NoScript , which runs only on Firefox, can be downloaded and installed from the add-on's website.

Wikipedia will return to normal at midnight ET.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

See more articles by Gregg Keizer .

See more on the controversy over SOPA .

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.


IDG UK Sites

6 cheapest 4K TVs in the UK 2014: Get a UHD telly without breaking the bank

IDG UK Sites

Apple MacBook Air (11-inch, 256GB, Early 2014) lab tests and benchmarks

IDG UK Sites

How to stop your parents opening and responding to phishing emails

IDG UK Sites

Google to ship first Project Ara developer boards in July