Chester Cathedral has shut down its public Wi-Fi after a Chronicle investigation discovered anyone could watch hardcore porn in the cafe on their mobile devices.
This week The Chronicle tested free Wi-Fi hotspots across the city centre and was shocked to discover it was possible to view thousands of videos of explicit porn which weren’t blocked or filtered by networks.
During the investigation, shops, restaurants and cafes with free Wi-Fi were unwittingly allowing shoppers and passers-by to access Pornhub.com – a free streaming website containing thousands of explicit videos and images of hardcore porn.
The site could be viewed via mobile phones, laptops and tablets in Chester Cathedral cafe – after getting the Wi-Fi password on the bottom of a receipt for the price of a coffee or a snack.
On Tuesday (November 26), the cathedral immediately shut down its public Wi-Fi after the Chronicle made them aware of the situation.
Access will not return until the system is 'safe' and blocks have been applied.
Other places where the porn site could be accessed included Carluccio’s restaurant, Cinderbox Coffee on Bridge Street, and the new Lakeland store on Northgate Street – some of whom are now looking into their Wi-Fi restrictions.
And, after signing up for free Wi-Fi using an email address and password, shoppers of all ages could view the site from Waterstone’s book shop on Eastgate Row South – including in the children’s section.
Chester Library and the market, which use Deva Hotspot – a free Wi-Fi network in Chester where users have to sign up providing personal details including their date of birth – could not access the site.
Meanwhile stores using iCloud services, including WH Smith, Marks and Spencer and Caffe Nero, blocked the site. And McDonald’s and Starbucks blocked all pornographic content.
The investigation – which saw The Chronicle test a selection of businesses across the city – comes as Chester MP Stephen Mosley welcomed news that Google and Microsoft have set out measures to block child abuse images and videos, saying it was ‘good news for parents and children across Chester’.
Simon Warburton, director of operations at Chester Cathedral, said they were aware of the importance of controlling content for the peace of mind of visitors and staff.
“For this reason, we explicitly requested that our IT providers set certain appropriate restrictions – including banning websites that feature gambling and pornography – when the system was implemented. Unfortunately, it appears that these restrictions had not been applied,” he said.
“We can, however, confirm that as soon as this fact was brought to our attention we took action and have shut down access to our public Wi-Fi system until further notice.
“We would like to assure visitors to the cathedral and the wider general public that the Wi-Fi system will not return until it is deemed to be safe and all relevant restrictions have been applied.”
Jez Scott from Cinderbox Coffee, an independent coffee shop on Northgate Street, said: “My free Wi-Fi is a continuation of the free Wi-Fi used by the previous owners of Cinderbox Coffee which I purchased and opened on September 30.
“The Wi-Fi and free customer Wi-Fi are provided by BT and they are aware of its purpose. I will therefore contact them immediately regarding this issue and let you know once appropriate restrictions have been placed upon the free Wi-Fi.”
A spokesperson for Waterstone’s said: “Currently our Wi-Fi has no restrictions and we rely on our customers to use the service responsibly.”
And a spokesperson for Lakeland said: "Lakeland's free public Wi-Fi is accessible in 15 stores. We use commercial software to filter access to the internet for customers using our Wi-Fi in store.”