As part of ‘Operation Save Our Children’ ICE’s Cyber Crimes Center has again seized several domain names, but not without making a huge error. Last Friday, thousands of site owners were surprised by a rather worrying banner that was placed on their domain.
‘Advertisement, distribution, transportation, receipt, and possession of child pornography constitute federal crimes that carry penalties for first time offenders of up to 30 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, forfeiture and restitution,’ was the worrying message they read on their websites.
As with previous seizures, ICE convinced a District Court judge to sign a seizure warrant, and then contacted the domain registries to point the domains in question to a server that hosts the warning message. However, somewhere in this process a mistake was made and as a result the domain of a large DNS service provider was seized.
The domain in question is mooo.com, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the most popular shared domain at afraid.org and as a result of the authorities’ actions a massive 84,000 subdomains were wrongfully seized as well. All sites were redirected to the banner below.
The FreeDNS owner was taken by surprise and quickly released the following statement on their website. ‘Freedns.afraid.org has never allowed this type of abuse of its DNS service. We are working to get the issue sorted as quickly as possible.’
Eventually, on Sunday the domain seizure was reverted and the subdomains slowly started to point to the old sites again instead of the accusatory banner. However, since the DNS entries have to propagate, it took another 3 days before the images disappeared completely.
Most of the subdomains in question are personal sites and sites of small businesses. A search on Bing still shows how many innocent sites were claimed to promote child pornography. A rather damaging accusation, which scared and upset many of the site’s owners.
One of the customers quickly went out to assure visitors that his site was not involved in any of the alleged crimes.
‘You can rest assured that I have not and would never be found to be trafficking in such distasteful and horrific content. A little sleuthing shows that the whole of the mooo.com TLD is impacted. At first, the legitimacy of the alerts seems to be questionable–after all, what reputable agency would display their warning in a fancily formatted image referenced by the underlying HTML? I wouldn’t expect to see that.’
Even at the time of writing people can still replicate the effect by adding ‘18.104.22.168 mooo.com’ to their hosts file as the authorities have not dropped the domain pointer yet.
Although it is not clear where this massive error was made, and who’s responsible for it, the Department of Homeland security is conveniently sweeping it under the rug. In a press release that went out a few hours ago the authorities were clearly proud of themselves for taking down 10 domain names.
However, DHS conveniently failed to mention that 84,000 websites were wrongfully taken down in the process, shaming thousands of people in the process.
‘Each year, far too many children fall prey to sexual predators and all too often, these heinous acts are recorded in photos and on video and released on the Internet,’ Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano commented.
‘DHS is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to shut down websites that promote child pornography to protect these children from further victimization,’ she added.
A noble initiative, but one that went wrong, badly. The above failure again shows that the seizure process is a flawed one, as has been shown several times before in earlier copyright infringement sweeps. If the Government would only allow for due process to take place, this and other mistakes wouldn’t have been made.
By Mike Melanson / December 9, 2010 9:53 AM
Ever since whistle-blowing site Wikileaks began its latest round of document releases, it has found opposition and support in various places. It has hopped around from server to server, had its bank account closed, watched as PayPal, Visa and Mastercard all shut down donations to the site, and even had an anonymous group of hackers retaliate in Wikileak’s name. One thing that keeps Wikileaks going, however, is the simple fact that it has hundreds of mirror sites in different languages and locales.
One such listing of these sites hosted on name-in-kind service Wikipedia has been deleted by the collaborative encyclopedia’s editors. Should we cry “Foul!” or is the deletion just more business as usual for the site?
If you take a look at the discussion page for the deletion of the “List of WikiLeaks mirrors” page, you can see some of the views for and against its deletion. While proponents argue that the list of links should be kept until Wikileaks finds more stable hosting, or that it offers a value outside of just listing links, most opponents cite clear Wikipedia policy stating that “Wikipedia is not a mirror or repository of links.” In the end, and despite all of the lofty debate, the article’s removal looks like a simple matter of policy.
We got in touch with Wikipedia’s parent organization, Wikimedia, to find out what was really going on. Moka Pantages, a spokesperson for Wikimedia, told us it was “business as usual.”
This article was started two days ago and deleted yesterday. This is business as usual for our community of volunteer editors. Deleting link lists are common. When there is no encyclopedic value, an article is deleted. In this case, the article was simply a list of links, so our community deleted it quickly. A recent article deleted for the same reason was “List of Active Drive in Theaters” People editing Wikipedia have nothing against drive-in theaters, of course, it’s just that lists like these don’t belong on Wikipedia.
For a bit of an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how this was done, you can look at the discussion page yourself. In the deletion of the article, editors cited a number of clauses, including a particularly interesting one – the “Snowball clause”. It states that “If an issue does not have a snowball’s chance in hell of being accepted by a certain process, there’s no need to run it through the entire process.”
Of course, if you were using the Wikipedia article to keep track of how to find your favorite classified document releasing, Whac-A-Mole website, you can also visit its own list of mirror sites. If that doesn’t work, simply search for “Wikileaks mirrors” and you’ll run across more than enough lists. This is, of course, the distributed wonder that is the Internet – take down one thing and a million more pop up in other locations.
Wikileaks lists ‘targets for terror’ against US | The Australian: “Wikileaks lists ‘targets for terror’ against US
* Deborah Haynes, Alexi Mostrous and Giles Whittell
* From: Times Online
* December 06, 2010 3:45PM
WIKILEAKS raised the stakes in its battle with America last night by releasing a secret list of all the global industries and assets that the US most wishes to protect.
Security experts said that the cable, published by the whistleblower website as part of an unauthorised package of diplomatic correspondence, was a gift for terrorist organisations.
It spelt out hundreds of pipelines, undersea cables and factories across the world, including a number in Britain, that would cause most damage to US interests if destroyed.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former British Defence and Foreign Secretary and chairman of the Commons Intelligence and Security Committee, said WikiLeaks had made no credible attempt to find out whether the material could assist terrorists.
‘This is further evidence that they have been generally irresponsible, bordering on criminal. This is the kind of information terrorists are interested in knowing,’ he added.
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A spokesman for Downing Street condemned the unauthorised release of classified information, saying: ‘The leaks and their publication are damaging to national security in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.
‘It is vital that governments are able to co-operate on the basis of confidentiality of information.’
In Washington, Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State, said: ‘There are strong and valid reasons information is classified, including critical infrastructure and key resources that are vital to the national and economic security of any country.
‘Julian Assange [the founder of WikiLeaks] may be directing his efforts at the United States but he is placing the interests of many countries and regions at risk. This is irresponsible.’
But WikiLeaks said that the document, approved by Hillary Clinton, provided further evidence that the US Administration was hoarding sensitive information on countries without their knowledge. The Secretary of State faced embarrassment after earlier cables revealed that US diplomats were asked to collect information on high-ranking UN diplomats and other individuals.
Kristinn Hrafnsson, a spokesman for the website, said: ‘This further undermines claims made by the US Government that its embassy officials do not play an intelligence-gathering role.
‘In terms of security issues, while this cable details the strategic importance of assets across the world, it does not give any information as to their exact locations, security measures, vulnerabilities or any similar factors, though it does reveal the US asked its diplomats to report back on these matters.’
US embassies were told to update a 2008 list of critical infrastructure and key resources in their host countries whose loss would ‘critically impact the public health, economic security and/or national and homeland security of the United States’, according to the leaked cable.
The order was under the direction of the Department for Homeland Security in co-ordination with the Department of State.
The cable said: ‘Department is surveying posts for their input on critical infrastructure and key resources within their host country which, if destroyed, disrupted or exploited, would likely have an immediate and deleterious effect on the United States.
‘Posts are not/not being asked to consult with host governments with respect to this request.’
The leaked document, written in February last year, gives Washington’s 2008 list of key infrastructure and resources overseas, naming each relevant country and its factories, railways, ports or other areas of interest.
The file identifies where the US is reliant on a range of substances, from smallpox vaccines in Denmark to bauxite in Guinea and liquefied natural gas in the Middle East. Several underwater pipelines are listed in Japan, China and Britain, while Indonesia is flagged up for its tin mines and Iraq for its oil.
The embassies are specifically asked not to include US government or ‘war-fighting’ facilities, but a number of defence-related sites are listed, including three in Britain run by BAE Systems.
A spokeswoman for the company said: ‘BAE Systems recognises its role as a custodian of key industrial and military assets. We would be concerned at any activity which comprises this.’
The British sites identified in the latest cable, which include a telecommunications hub in Hereford, and one end of an undersea cable that stretches from Cornwall to New York, were already in the public domain, but it was not helpful to have them listed as being of such importance to the US, added Sir Rifkind.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired army officer with experience of intelligence issues, felt that the revelations were highly irresponsible and could cost lives. ‘I think it’s obviously not a great thing to have that kind of information in the public domain. It just helps the terrorists to do their job. If terrorist groups are looking to attack the UK’s critical infrastructure then this has given them a big steer,’ he said.
But Mr Hrafnsson said that the cable – as with the rest of the quarter of a million documents that comprise the website’s diplomatic stash – was available to 2.5 million people, including civilian, military and private sector personnel.
‘[This is] a very wide distribution for information claimed to be of such high sensitivity,’ he said.
Pornographic videos flood YouTube: “(BBC News)
Video-sharing website YouTube has removed hundreds of pornographic videos which were uploaded in what is believed to be a planned attack. The material was uploaded under names of famous teenage celebrities such as Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers. Many started with footage of children’s videos before groups of adults performing graphic sex acts appeared on screen. YouTube owner Google said it was aware and addressing the problem.
(Via QuickLinks Update.)
So silly that I am also publishing the FBI seal……
By John D. Sutter, CNN
August 3, 2010 — Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The FBI’s seal, shown here in a photograph, is the subject of a legal dispute between the bureau and Wikipedia.
* The FBI threatens Wikipedia with legal action over the use of its seal
* Wikipedia says it will not remove the FBI seal from an entry on the federal agency
* FBI claims website duplicated its seal without permission, in violation of federal law.
(CNN) — The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has threatened Wikipedia with legal action if the online encyclopedia doesn’t remove the FBI’s seal from its site.
The seal is featured in an encyclopedia entry about the FBI.
Wikipedia isn’t backing down, however. The online encyclopedia — which is run by a nonprofit group and is edited by the public — sent a chiding letter to the FBI, explaining why, in its view, the FBI is off its legal rocker.
‘In short, then, we are compelled as a matter of law and principle to deny your demand for removal of the FBI Seal from Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons,’ the Wikimedia Foundation’s general counsel, Mike Godwin, wrote in a letter to the FBI, which was posted online by the New York Times.
‘We are in contact with outside counsel in this matter, and we are prepared to argue our view in court.’
The whimsically written letter from Wikipedia says the FBI’s reading of relevant law is both ‘idiosyncratic’ and ‘more importantly, incorrect.’ It also notes that the FBI’s seal appears on other websites, including in an online entry from Encyclopedia Britannica.
In a letter dated July 22, and also posted online by the Times, the FBI told Wikipedia it must remove the bureau’s seal because the FBI had not approved use of the image.
‘The FBI has not authorized use of the FBI seal on Wikipedia,’ the letter says. ‘The inclusion of a high quality graphic of the FBI seal on Wikipedia is particularly problematic, because it facilitates both deliberate and unwitting’ copying and reprinting of the seal’s image.
The FBI’s deputy general counsel, David Larson, cities a particular law that says duplicating an official ‘insignia’ is illegal without permission.
But Wikipedia strikes back on that point, saying the FBI redacted the most important part of that U.S. code, which defines an insignia as ‘any badge, identification card, or other insignia.’
‘Badges and identification cards are physical manifestations that may be used by a possessor to invoke the authority of the federal government. An encyclopedia article is not,’ Wikipedia’s letter says. ‘The use of the image on Wikipedia is not for the purpose of deception or falsely to represent anyone as an agent of the federal government.’
The Wikipedia letter also adds:
‘Even if it could be proved that someone, somewhere, found a way to use a Wikipedia article illustration to facilitate a fraudulent representation, that would not render the illustration itself unlawful under the statute.’
It’s unclear if this tussle — which has already made its way into a Wikipedia entry on the FBI’s seal — will be taken to court. For now, the tech press is weighing in, often with amazement.
On the blog BoingBoing, Rob Beschizza writes that this is a no-win situation for the FBI.
‘The part that’s hard to understand is why the FBI would seek to abuse the law in such petulant fashion,’ he writes, ‘knowing that it will be subject to public ridicule for its actions.’
The magazine Vanity Fair posted the FBI’s seal on its website in a symbol of jest. And, as the blog Geekosystem says, an editor on the site aggregator Reddit jokes that maybe the FBI got Wikipedia confused with WikiLeaks — the site that’s been causing a stir lately over leaked war documents.
Cindy Cohn, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the New York Times, which first reported this story, that she found the whole ordeal to be ’silly’ and ‘troubling.’
Microsoft backs down over online 'spy guide': “(Guardian)
Microsoft has been forced to backtrack after it closed down a whistleblowing website after it published a leaked version of the company’s ’spy guide’. The American software giant took action against the Cryptome website for publishing a copy of the Microsoft Global Criminal Compliance Handbook, a document explaining how law enforcement officials can access millions of people’s private information online. Microsoft said the publication infringed its copyright and lodged a complaint with Cryptome’s web hosting company, Network Solutions. Network Solutions shut down the website entirely – a move that caused uproar among civil liberties campaigners, and led Microsoft to withdraw its complaint so that Cryptome could go back online. The company did not intend to close the site – just remove the document in question.
(Via QuickLinks Update.)
Leading article: Not the way to police the web’s Wild West – Leading Articles, Opinion – The Independent: “Leading article: Not the way to police the web’s Wild West
Thursday, 25 February 2010
In some ways, the internet has been like another Pandora’s Box which has unleashed new furies on the world, from online child pornography rings to cyber bullying. The case of four students in Italy who filmed themselves victimising an autistic child and posted their taunts online is the latest example of the ways in which the web facilitates cruelty.
Human vindictiveness and depravity are nothing new, of course. The difference is that now this kind of vile behaviour can be shared among millions with a video phone, an internet connection and a few mouse clicks.
The question is: how should the authorities respond? An Italian court has come up with one answer by imposing a suspended jail sentence on three Google executives, on to whose site the clip was uploaded. Alas, this is unlikely to be a practical solution.
One might sympathise with the judgment of Judge Oscar Magi. By holding the most powerful player in the internet to account in this fashion, the court has sent an electrifying message to all websites that they need to be careful about what they allow to be posted; that grossly cruel or nakedly defamatory material will not be tolerated.
But if website hosts are going to be held legally responsible for everything that goes up online, the danger is that they will begin censoring text, images, videos, indeed every kind of contribution from the public, on the precautionary principle. That would be a deeply regressive curb on the freedom of the web.
Those who argue that the internet will always be like the Wild West, with no standards of conduct or decency, are being too pessimistic. Powerful web hosts can – and should – do more to make their sites civilised spaces. But threatening the employees of such organisations with jail is no way to advance this cause.
(AFP) –22 February, 2010
ROME — Politicians and Internet activists in Italy have denounced a page on the social networking site Facebook that calls for children with Down Syndrome to be used for target practice.
Police were trying to track down who set up the page, which features a photo of a Down Syndrome baby with the word ‘idiot’ superimposed on it, and by late Sunday had attracted nearly 1,700 members.
The page proposed what it said was ‘an easy and amusing solution’ to get rid of ‘these foul creatures’: use them as targets at shooting centres.
Equality minister Mara Carfagna, promising legal action against those responsible for the page, denouncing it as ‘unacceptable and dangerous.’
A number of rival groups have already been set up on Facebook to denounce the original page, one of which had attracted more than 17,000 members.
‘People’s ignorance has no limits,’ Manuela Colombo, the president of a support group for families with Down Syndrome children told ANSA news agency.
Police action to get the site shut down might take some time according to some experts, because Facebook is based in Palo Alto, California, and the procedure might entail a lengthy legal process.
One baby in 1,200 is born with Down Sydrome in Italy and there are 38,000 with the condition living there, 61 percent of whom are older than 25 years, according to figures cited by the Italian Down Syndrome Association, ANSA reported.
Google shuts down music blogs without warning: (BBC)
Bloggers told they have violated terms without further explanation, as years of archives are wiped off the internet. In what critics are calling ‘musicblogocide 2010′, Google has deleted at least six popular music blogs that it claims violated copyright law. These sites, hosted by Google’s Blogger and Blogspot services, received notices only after their sites ? and years of archives ? were wiped from the internet.
(Via QuickLinks Update.)