In an effort to seize domains involved with counterfeit goods and child pornography, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's ICE office and the The Department of Justice managed to shutter 84,000 legitimate websites, TorrentFreak reports. The gaffe occurred when ICE put the clamp on mooo.com, which belongs to FreeDNS, a free DNS provider. Mooo.com is the largest shared domain at afraid.org.
By now, we're all familiar with the recent practice of government agencies seizing domain names suspected of wrongdoing. But a new initiative could allow world governments to veto future top level domains. This could lead to accusations of stifling free expression, and unjust control over the internet. A meeting in San Francisco next month will be the site of the final decision on who gets to control the next set of domains that augment .com, .org, and the others.
Homeland Security and ICE recent seized multiple domains that simply linked to pirated content. On NPR's Marketplace Tech Report today, an agent from Homeland Security was on to defend the raids. The legality of the action is dubious at best, and host Jon Moe pressed the agent with one simple question: if linking to pirated content gets you pulled from the Internet, what about Google? Find out what he said.
It was just recently that the US Justice Department stepped in and shut down over 80 domains suspected in the distribution of counterfeit goods, or copyrighted content. Now the US intellectual property czar Victoria Espinel is saying we can "expect more of that". This announcement predictably won the praise of the entertainment industry, and will likely reignite debate on the COICA bill in congress that would expand federal authority to seize domains.
This effort is being framed as an effort to protect consumers and jobs, but we feel that more accurately describes the sites trafficking in counterfeit goods. Sites suspected of copyright infringement tend to be harder to pin down. For instance, one site taken down in the last round was only an indexer of existing torrent sites. It did not host any torrents, content, or run a tracker.
It's hard to see where the line is on the tubes these days. The administration is also talking up efforts to take down online pharmacies that are selling illegally copied drugs. We just find it odd that pirated content is being limped in here. How do you feel about these domain name seizures?
In the wee hours of the morning today, WikiLeaks went offline. Was it a coordinated DDoD attack? The authorities raiding WikiLeak's servers? Nah, their DNS host just got sick of dealing with all the traffic. Since releasing the newest round of leaked US diplomatic cables, the whistle blower site has been the target of repeated DDoS attacks. Hosting provider EveryDNS said it dropped WikiLeaks to protect the other 500,000 sites under their care. Some have suggested government figures may have influenced EveryDNS.
WikiLeaks was initially only reachable via their IP address, but within hours, had secured new hosting. WikiLeaks is now being hosted in Switzerland at WikiLeaks.ch. This domain name is being served by the Swedish Pirate Party, but the routing is still being done by EveryDNS. So WikiLeaks has now effectively been forced off two hosts in less than a week (attempts to use Amazon cloud hosting failed). Will this site find a permanent home, or is nowhere safe?
The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, or COICA, was recently passed through committee, and is set to move on to the full Senate. The bill would make it easier for the Justice Department to take domestic websites suspected of copyright infringement offline. It would also empower them to force ISPs to redirect traffic away from foreign infringing sites. But PC World is reporting that Senator Ron Wyden (D) from Oregon has promised to block the measure.
Wyden believes the bill is overreaching and could affect innovation on the internet. He does have the option to block it for now, which likely means the bill is dead in this session of Congress. The bill would have to be reintroduced next year. Opponents and supporters of the bill are both staunch in their positions. Supporters say drastic steps are necessary to combat rampant copyright infringement online. But the detractors believe these tools would be wielded clumsily, and would have the effect of censorship.
The bill was a bipartisan effort, but with the new atmosphere in Washington, it is unclear if the two sides will be able to bring the bill back next session. Do you think COICA is a good idea?
As a country, we like our privacy, and when we feel the government or some corporation steps out of bounds, we're quick to call foul (right, Mr. Zuckerberg?). But hey, if we're the goose, then screw the gander, he's probably up to no good anyway. The gander in this case is any other nation we feel might be a threat to national security, and in that case, we (again, as a country) are just fine with government snooping.
That's essentially what you'll glean from Sophos' mid-year 2010 Security Threat Report, which revealed that 63 percent of people feel it is perfectly acceptable for their government to engage in cyber spying on another nation.
"I think there might be an attitude of all's fair in love and war," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, when speaking to eWEEK in Europe. "There's always been one rule for your country and another rule for your citizens. But it goes one state further when you begin to ask, is it all right to launch attacks against communication systems and financial systems?
The answer to that question is a resounding "maybe." In the report, Sophos found that only 1 in 14 respondents felt okay with using denial of service (DDoS) attacks against another country's communication or financial websites during periods of peace. When at war, that number jumps to nearly half, and 44 percent said it was never the right thing to do.
Google began accepting applications from towns and cities back in February to be part of their new high-speed fiber broadband initiative. While the winning municipalities won’t be announce until later this year, Google is looking to help everyone get some faster internet access. To these ends, the search giant is launching the Google Fiber for Communities site.
This isn’t going to be some sort of magical site to get that sweet, sweet Google fiber, but rather a site to help communities get there themselves. Google said in the blog post that they were inspired to do this after seeing the 1,100 community applications and 200,000 individual responses to their fiber initiative. It's nice, but we'd rather have Google do it for us.
The site offers information about federal legislation and zoning that affect fiber deployment. They also link to various organizations that could be of help. We would like to see better connection become common place. Could the Google Fiber for Communities site help us get there?
Government officials will have to find something else to do during work hours than visit those other 'Tube video sites following a recent vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to block viewing or downloading porn.
Seems like a no-brainer, but in typical government fashion, it took a 111-page amendment to get the point across, along with some controversial wording.
"None of the funds made available in this act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography," the bill states on the second to last page.
The problem with that, says John Morris, general counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C., is "how broad the reach of this is, and will lead to constitutional problems and economic problems." Morris used the example of a mom-and-pop business landing a contract to deliver toilet paper to a military base that includes overhead. In this scenario, they would have to pay to filter their computer networks, even though no one but the owner would ever use it.
That wasn't the only point of contention.
"The Supreme Court has made clear that government attempts to eliminate sexually explicit speech on the Internet raises serious free speech concerns," said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office. "Congress should not pass such vague and potentially speech-restrictive provisions that are constitutionally suspect."
Ultimately, Congress voted in favor of the legislation by a 239-182 vote.
Death and Taxes are supposed to be the only universal constants you can depend on, but the Internet has long been a loophole many of us have enjoyed exploiting. If Rep. Bill Delahunt gets his way however, everything you buy online will soon be taxed at the same rates as their brick and mortar counterparts. Currently most Americans who buy from out-of-state vendors aren't required to pay sales taxes, but crushing government deficits could force legislators to take immediate action.
Normally we could write this off as one politician's pipe dream, but The National Conference of State Legislatures has voiced its approval of Delahunt's legislation, a law that could allow states to collect as much as $23 billion in new taxes. Not surprisingly, the Retail Industry Leaders Association also threw their voice behind the motion, a group made up of giants such as Wal-Mart & Home Depot.
The exact details of the proposed legislation haven't been made public yet, but we expect this issue to keep gaining momentum in the coming months. Perhaps they are hoping geeks don't vote?