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UPDATED: Wikileaks Loses DNS Service, Supporters Spread Mirrors as 'Infowar' Continues

BY Nick Judd | Friday, December 3 2010

The Wikileaks.org domain was disconnected last night when Wikileaks' now-former domain name system service provider, EveryDNS, stopped serving the domain.

Since then, a network of supporters has started sharing the domain names and IP addresses of mirror sites.

Prominent Internet personalities are calling for supporters to rally to Wikileaks' cause. NYU professor visiting scholar Dave Winer, credited with pioneering Really Simple Syndication, is pushing out the IP addresses of Wikileaks mirrors on his Twitter feed. John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead songwriter and EFF co-founder, wrote on Twitter that efforts to muzzle Wikileaks are the start of an "infowar," and called for people to set up mirrors of Wikileaks' material.

Winer is also pointing people to a list of mirrors of Wikileaks' website and content. In the hours after losing its DNS service, Wikileaks established a new domain at Wikileaks.ch, using a Swiss top-level domain, that redirects to 213.251.145.96. Writing on his Skeptic Geek blog, TechMeme editor Mahendra Palsule observed that while it was a Swiss domain, traffic appeared to be going to servers in Sweden.

My own traceroute of that domain stops at a server on the domain of i2b.se, apparently a Swedish web host and Internet service provider.

Why is this necessary, as far as Wikileaks' tech-savvy supporters are concerned? Put broadly, DNS providers give clients the use of their nameservers, which do the work of connecting a domain name — like wikileaks.org — with the IP address of the actual server hosting the website. Ceasing to provide DNS service is basically stopping computers from doing the work of pointing people to the websites that were supposed to be connected with Wikileaks.org.

"... Wikileaks.org has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks," a statement on EveryDNS' website read in part. "These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other websites."

A hacker going by the moniker "Jester" has previously taken responsibility for distributed denial of service attacks against Wikileaks' website.

Wikileaks had already lost some of its web hosting services when inquiries by the office of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman apparently encouraged Amazon to stop providing its cloud hosting to the organization. Tableau Software, which was providing use of its free data visualization platform, also attributed its own decision to stop serving Wikileaks' data to Lieberman's efforts.

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UPDATED: Forbes' Andy Greenberg, who also got a recent interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, points you to an open letter from Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in which Ellsberg calls on Amazon employees to leak information about why the company discontinued Wikileaks' hosting.

(Despite reports that document the rapid succession in which Lieberman's office contacted the massive web company and the company cut Wikileaks' hosting, Amazon attributes its decision to end Wikileaks' service to a violation of its terms of service. Greenberg has more on that, too.)

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In an online chat last night hosted by the Guardian and posted earlier today, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claimed that this was at least partly expected.

"Since 2007 we have been deliberately placing some of our servers in jurisdictions that we suspected suffered a free speech deficit inorder to separate rhetoric from reality," Assange wrote. "Amazon was one of these cases."

He also claimed that suppressing the Wikileaks website would not stop the spread of its information, saying the archive of leaked secret U.S. diplomatic cables that began this online fracas, called Cablegate, has been spread "to over 100,000 people in encrypted form.

"If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically," he wrote. "Further, the Cable Gate archives is in the hands of multiple news organisations."

Wikileaks, in cooperation with news organizations like the Guardian, Der Spiegel and El Pais, is slowly releasing a trove of over 250,000 leaked communications from the State Department.