I saw the keynote speech by one of the key technologists and organizers of WikiLeaks at the last Hackers on Planet Earth conference. Although the talk was mostly political, there was enough techie talk about encryption and anonymity that I assumed WikiLeaks web infrastructure was ready for any kind of attack.
Apparently not. All the encryption in the world doesn't help you if you are hosted in the Amazon Cloud or, for that matter, with any host who doesn't care for your politics.
To their credit, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon because a technical denial of service attack took down their previous Swedish host (I don't imagine that they moved without a good reason). However, essentially they traded one form of denial of service for another one.
Today WikiLeaks encountered a new form of censorship that should make all of us shudder. Rather than being shutdown at the web hosting level, EveryDNS shutdown the wikleaks.org domain name.
Unlike most aspects of the Internet, the domain name system is hierarchical. There is pyramid - with a limited number of Domain name registrars (just "over 500" according to Wikipedia) that control all the domain names in the world. When you type a domain name, like wikileaks.org, into your web browser, that domain name must be translated into an IP address that is used to route your request to the correct server. The 500 or so registrars control this process.
So what can you do?
That's a good start. But what if there were more? Here's an idea. What if everyone who controlled a domain name volunteered a subdomain for WikiLeaks? For example: wikileaks.mayfirst.org. Just create an A record that points to the IP address 126.96.36.199.
If WikiLeaks has to change providers (and therefor their IP address again), our subdomain won't work until we update it. On the other hand, seems like a good way for us all to really pitch in and share the risk that the folks at WikiLeaks are taking all by themselves. And, if the IP address changes, WikiLeaks only needs to leave behind a simple page on the old IP with a redirect to the new one.
The UK Guardian has picked up this idea. Also - check out Paul Carvill's blog where he documents the imwikileaks twitter tag detailing many others following on this and similar ideas and posts a link to WikiLeaks web site with directions on how to mirror their content.
It's great to see WikiLeaks reaching out and asking for help from the community - there is clearly a huge number of us that want to offer our support.
And, I'm reasonably confident that the IP addresses 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 are under the control of WikiLeaks so we're not spreading false information.
However, if you work with a political organization that is currently not under fire, now is a good time to consider publishing some form of a public cryptography key so if you are under attack in the future, people can verify this kind of information. Since news travels and is repeated so quickly on the Internet, it would not be hard for someone to post an "official" IP address for WikiLeaks that doesn't belong to them.
This episode prompted us at May First/People Link to publish two OpenPGP keys. We work hard to digitally "sign" every piece of official May First/People Link information with one of these two keys, or with a key that is certified by one of these two keys. This approach provides everyone with the ability to verify that a piece of information supposedly sent by us really was sent by us.