In evidence of the dangers of the U.S.
government's increasing "kill
switch" powers regarding web servers inside the U.S., the Department of
Justice and Homeland Security’s ICE last week essentially shut down 84,000
sites in a case of mistaken identity.
The shutdowns targeted mooo.com, the most popular
shared domain at free web service provider FreeDNS. FreeDNS is a free
domain service that is immensely popular among file sharers, blogs, small
businesses, and other independent operators. Its homepage is afraid.org.
With the mooo.com shutdown last Friday, the ICE
accidentally shut down 84,000 subdomain pages. The pages were all
redirected to a banner that stated "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."
The court order to shut down and redirect the
sites was granted via a seizure warrant from a District Court. The
warrant was executed as part of the DHS ICE team's "Operation Save
The key problem is that none of the sites thus
identified under the mooo.com superdomain had child porn on them. They
appear to have been the victim of an overzealous government police force with a
bit too much power on its hands.
FreeDNS has expressed outrage. In a statement,
they comment, "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
Over the weekend they managed to begin restoring
some of the pages. Meanwhile small business owners were left to try to
reassure customers that they were note engaging in illegal activity [source example].
The DHS is actually bragging about the takedowns
citing 10 child porn sites that were taken offline, but conveniently forgetting
to mention the 84,000 legitimate sites it also killed. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano states [press
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...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.
The DHS has not yet released an official statement
on the abuse of power. It also has yet to comment on whether it plans to
compensate webpage owners for lost business or damage to their websites.
Website owners can still replicate the redirect by
adding "126.96.36.199 mooo.com" to their hosts file.