Deprecated – Praetorian Prefect "Information Security, a little slower...a little deeper" Mon, 23 Mar 2015 03:40:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 DHS incorrectly associates 84,000 web sites with child pornography Thu, 17 Feb 2011 03:36:01 +0000 On February 15th a joint project of the Department of Homeland Security Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Justice termed “Operation Protect Our Children” confidently announced the seizure of ten domain names involved in the advertisement and distribution of child pornography. What they failed to mention was that they also knocked out a popular shared domain by mistake, resulting in, according to TorrentFreak, some 84,000 web sites being taken down and redirected to a banner mentioning child pornography.

Free DNS is a service that provides free DNS hosting, subdomain, and domain hosting among other services. The most popular subdomain offered by the service,, was accidentally caught up in the ICE sweep of domains taken down.


That left legitimate sites such as redirecting to an ICE web page with this banner, telling visitors “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”:


ICE is able to force this by first getting a District Court judge to sign off on a seizure warrant, and then having the domain registrars re-point the domains to their server hosting the warning banner. At 7:07 on the 12th, the following message was posted by Free DNS after realizing what happened:


Operation In Our Sites
ICE launched their initial endeavor in domain seizures last year under “Operation In Our Sites”, aimed at seizing the domain names of those who infringe on copyrights. Legitimate criticisms of these seizure tactics included targeting web sites that claimed (with paperwork) they were not actually infringing on copyrights and investigations conducted by agents without adequate training or experience. For example, ARS Technica noted one definition from an affidavit provided by an ICE agent that read as follows: “A Bit torrent (referred to in short as ‘torrent’ or ‘torrent file’) is a files distribution system used for transferring files across a network of people.” The lack of technical understanding present in an investigator who is then providing direct input into which domains will be taken down is of concern.

Site owners in this most recent case were presented with the unenviable task of explaining to visitors that they had no affiliation with child pornography. Since these are personal web sites, blogs, and small businesses, this is material to some of the site owners.

This screw up in a well intentioned, but overreaching and ham fisted, government legal action on the Internet comes at a time when legislation requesting further capabilities, such as an “Internet Kill Switch”, is being discussed. Such screw ups, and glossing over them in reporting on the project, do not serve to strengthen ICE’s ability to be successful in future enforcement actions on what is the very serious problem of dissemination of child pornographic material on the Internet.

Colbert Explains Cyberwar Thu, 16 Dec 2010 03:32:15 +0000 stephencolbert-150x150

On the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert provided some background on “the First Great Cyberwar” as the hacktivist collective Anonymous has dubbed it, the “Defend Assange” sub-mission of Operation Payback. Operation Payback started as a fight against anti-piracy measures, but has moved to attacking web sites seen to be impeding Wikileaks in its mission to release diplomatic cables via distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. This includes sites that have frozen donations to Wikipedia like PayPal or Mastercard and the web sites of law enforcement and politicians either acting against or speaking out against Wikileaks or Anonymous itself.

“America is at Cyberwar, and lolcats says ‘I can has WMD’s?’” -Stephen Colbert

His guest in explaining the problem, Omar Wasow, presented himself well. Wasow is apparently best known from appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, where he explained aspects of the Internet.

“Time’s person of the year is Mark Zuckerberg. Sorry Julian Assange, I guess you didn’t violate enough people’s privacy.” – Stephen Colbert

I just wish it had been an actual information security expert on the show. Wasow mentioned many of the right examples (the Gawker breach from earlier this week, DDoS attacks on Georgia) but forgot to mention Colbert’s own human distributed denial of service (DDoS) on Conservapedia.

Colbert’s Human DDOS Fri, 23 Oct 2009 03:26:52 +0000 stephencolbert-150x150

Stephen Colbert launched an impromptu human distributed denial of service (DDOS) by instructing his viewers, or the Colbert Nation, to make edits to the collaborative wiki encyclopedia Conservapedia. Specifically he wants to be added as a character in the Conservapedia translated version of the bible, an ongoing crowd sourcing project of the web site.

According to Conservapedia, liberal bias has become a distortion in modern Bible translations including lack of precision in language both original and modern as well as translation bias. Thus the project seeks to provide a fully “conservative translation” of the Bible. The project seeks to identify liberal terms in the bible and replace them, identify where liberal terms for vices have been improperly omitted, identify conservative terms improperly omitted, and replace words that have lost their meaning.

“…I want you to go to Conservapedia and make me a Biblical figure…”
– Stephen Colbert


Conservapedia itself is a project written from an American centric and conservative Christian point of view, specifically young earth creationist (literal interpretation of Biblical texts). It was started by Andy Schlafy, a lawyer and social studies teacher who is the son of a conservative activist and constitutional attorney, Phyllis Schlafly. The project was initiated as a response to his perception that Wikipedia had become liberal, anti-Christian, and anti-American.

Apparently the “Colbert Bump” takes the form of a denial of service for web sites, as the site has been consistently inaccessible from when Colbert made his request and for hours following.

Colbert has been integrated into the Book of Genesis: