Recent events in Tunisia and Egypt have dispelled a tenacious myth, that it is impossible to block communications in internet. Practically it doesn’t take long for a clever technical staff to turn off part or all of a national internet. Indeed, due to a very small number of popular applications provided by USA based quasi-monopolies, the net is no longer enjoying the characteristics of its initial design.
Instead of peer-to-peer traffic exchanged between a large numbers of users, the net has regressed to a primitive client server model of proprietary services typical of the 70’s. As a result traffic is aggregated on a limited number of major pipes that may be cut off easily. While dominant service providers may be credited of brilliant money making ability, their architecture vision has been definitely mediocre. If this is taken as a notable achievement of the private sector leadership, we’d better look elsewhere for innovative concepts.
A second myth has also been badly hit, that of the USA being a guardian of the freedom of expression. Like in China, Egypt, Iran, Myanmar, Tunisia, and more, the US government makes every effort to eradicate from the internet information it doesn’t like, e.g. Wikileaks, but not only. The seizure of domain names, by administrative rather than judiciary process, is a clear symptom of a dangerous drift towards denial of justice and witch hunt. Remember McCarthyism. Sadly, in the western world this present trend is not limited to the USA.
The case of rojadirecta, a Spanish site, is an interesting example of messy seizure by DHS. Actually, rojadirecta remained on the net through other links, which was the most expedient alternative.
As argued by some postings, DHS seizure of domain names seems to be a blatant violation of the US Constitution. Suing DHS in a US court is not a practical solution. DHS would be a sure winner, either by a biased judgment or by dilatory tactics. However, publicity on the process would call world attention on the risks involved in dealing with US controlled registries.
A major lesson to be drawn from those recent events, and not to be forgotten, is that no country and no application is a safe haven. Putting all corporate information systems under some .com, .net, .org or similar TLD’s is not just naive but irresponsible. Domain names should be hosted in a diversity of countries and registries. Check which organization is operating the DNS and where it is physically located. Have a private DNS, or at least keep track of IP addresses of essential sites. Maintain dialup telephone access to servers on voice grade modems. What else in extreme conditions ? Ham radio, satellite telephone, mail pigeons.
At the same time frustrated citizens in authoritarian countries rush to Facebook for setting up demonstrations and keeping the world informed. Do they realize that security flaws give the police clues to identify them and their friends, collect their profiles, and impersonate them ?
Btw, 500 millions of Fakebook profiles are a gold mine for all kinds of data collectors.
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DHS – US Department of Home Security
DNS – Domain Name System
TLD - Top Level Domain
WSIS – World Summit on the Information Society
EUROLINC is a non profit organization founded for promoting native languages in Internet. It is accredited to WSIS.