Tag Archive: Internet service provider

Dutch court rules in favor of unblocking Pirate Bay as ban ‘ineffective’

Published time: January 28, 2014 17:28
Image from flickr user@campuspartymexico

Image from flickr user@campuspartymexico

People in the Netherlands will soon have access to The Pirate Bay, one of the world’s most censored file-sharing websites, as a court in The Hague ruled that Dutch ISPs need to stop blocking the site after the ban proved ineffective against piracy.

The Court of The Hague released its verdict that two leading ISPs operating in the country – XS4All and Ziggo – no longer have to block access to file sharing website The Pirate Bay.

“In applying the case law from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the Court of Appeal held that an access provider is not under an obligation to take measures that are disproportional and/or ineffective” according to the legal representative of XS4ALL.

The court’s verdict was based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which includes the “freedom to conduct a business” and “right to property.” Entrepreneurial freedom overrides property rights, the court ruled.

The Pirate Bay was blocked by Ziggo in 2010 after anti-piracy group Stichting Brein, which represents copyright holders in the Netherlands, went to court, citing the file-sharing website’s copyright violations. In 2012, XS4ALL joined Ziggo to appeal the court’s previous ruling. Brein took the case to court again, winning a full trial.

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– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

In a decision that may “serve as a sorry memorial to the corporate abrogation of free speech,” a U.S. appeals court on Tuesday struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s rules on “net neutrality.”

Image: Free Press Net neutrality means that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must treat all content the same. Internet freedom group Free Press explains that with net neutrality, ISPs “may not discriminate between different kinds of online content and apps. It guarantees a level playing field for all websites and Internet technologies.”

Reuters reports that during oral argument in the lawsuit brought by Verizon Communications Inc,

Verizon’s lawyer said the regulations violated the company’s right to free speech and stripped control of what its networks transmit and how.

Ahead of the ruling Josh Levy of Free Press warned that “If Verizon gets its way, the FCC’s rules protecting Internet users from corporate abuse will disappear.”

Tuesday’s ruling siding with Verizon “is a game-changer,” business and technology site Gigaom reports,

because it upsets the FCC’s current practice of requiring broadband internet providers to act akin to “common carriers.” In plain English, this means that they have had to behave in a similar way to phone companies and not give special preference to one type of call (or traffic) over another, even though the FCC’s authority to regulate the broadband providers was not clear cut.

Net neutrality advocates are calling Tuesday’s ruling “disappointing,” and are warning that big telecommunications companies will be able to turn what was a move towards an open Internet into “something that looks like cable TV.”

The ruling “is poised to end the free, open, and uncensored Internet that we have come to rely on,” former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, special adviser to advocacy group Common Cause’s Media and Democracy Initiative, said in a statement.

Craig Aaron, President and CEO of Free Press, issued a statement saying that “ruling means that Internet users will be pitted against the biggest phone and cable companies—and in the absence of any oversight, these companies can now block and discriminate against their customers’ communications at will.”

“The compromised Open Internet Order struck down today left much to be desired, but it was a step toward maintaining Internet users’ freedom to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and communicate freely online. Now, just as Verizon promised it would in court, the biggest broadband providers will race to turn the open and vibrant Web into something that looks like cable TV. They’ll establish fast lanes for the few giant companies that can afford to pay exorbitant tolls and reserve the slow lanes for everyone else,” Aaron added.

“Without prompt corrective action by the Commission to reclassify broadband, this awful ruling will serve as a sorry memorial to the corporate abrogation of free speech,” Copps added.

The FCC may appeal the ruling.


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Cartoon depicting violation of first amendment rights online
Image Source  :  techfreep.com


August 9, 2013

Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction to Protect Free Speech after EFF Challenge

Court Blocks Enforcement of Dangerous New Jersey Law

Newark, NJ – A New Jersey federal district court judge granted motions for a preliminary injunction today, blocking the enforcement of a dangerous state law that would put online service providers at risk by, among other things, creating liability based on “indirect” publication of content by speech platforms.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argued for the injunction in court on behalf of the Internet Archive, as the statute conflicts directly with federal law and threatens service providers who enable third party speech online.

“The Constitution does not permit states to pass overbroad and vague statutes that threaten protected speech. The New Jersey statute created that threat and the court was right to block it,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. “Similarly, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act prohibits the state from threatening to throw online providers in jail for what their users do and the statute violated that rule as well. We are grateful that the court recognized the importance of these bedrock principles to online libraries and other platforms that make the Internet the vital and robust tool it is today.”

The New Jersey law at issue is an almost carbon-copy of a Washington state law successfully blocked by EFF and the Internet Archive last year. While aimed at combatting online ads for underage sex workers, it instead imposes stiff criminal penalties on ISPs, Internet cafes, and libraries that “indirectly” cause the publication or display of content that might contain even an “implicit” offer of a commercial sex act if the content includes an image of a minor. The penalties – up to 20 years in prison and steep fines – would put enormous pressure on service providers to block access to broad swaths of otherwise protected material in order to avoid the vague threat of prosecution.

“Within the past month, we’ve seen a coalition of state attorneys general ask Congress to gut CDA 230 to make way for harmful laws like New Jersey’s,” said Zimmerman. “This misguided proposal puts speech platforms at risk, which in turn threatens online speech itself. Law enforcement can and must pursue criminals vigorously, but attacking the platforms where people exercise their right to free speech is the wrong strategy.”

Backpage.com separately filed suit against this law, represented by the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, who also joined today’s argument.

For more on this case:


Matt Zimmerman
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Several major ISPs embroiled in a copyright lawsuit with an adult film copyright holder are appealing a ruling in the case that could permit hundreds of innocent subscribers to be harassed by copyright trolls.

The reversal was requested in papers [PDF] filed last week in the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia by Cox Communications; Bright House Networks, which is owned by Time Warner; and Verizon.

Wants subscriber names

In the case—AF Holdings v. Does 1-1058 and Cox Communications, et. al.—the copyright holders allege that 1058 “John Does” engaged in file-sharing through BitTorrent of a sexually explicit film.

As part of the discovery process in the case, AF Holdings wants Cox and the other ISPs to turn over to them personal information on the John Does. The order came from a federal district court judge, Beryl A. Howell, a former lobbyist for the RIAA and Senate staffer who worked on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a federal law aimed to protect the rights of copyright holders in cyberspace.

beryl howell federal district court judge
Judge Beryl A. Howell

The ISPs are asking the appeals court to overturn Howell’s decision ordering the disclosure of subscribers’ names as part of evidence discovery.

According to the ISPs, AF Holdings and its attorneys aren’t interested in obtaining the names of the alleged infringers to pursue their case in court, but in order to squeeze settlement money from the subscribers.


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Published on Mar 29, 2013

Web users’ online communications may be about to get a wider and possibly unwanted audience. The FBI is seeking more powers to spy on people’s emails and internet chats in real time. The proposals have already been met with criticism, that they are a complete breach of privacy. RT’s Marina Portnaya reports.

Ars asks and Comcast obliges, giving us copies of Alerts 1, 2, 4, and 5.

by – Feb 27 2013, 7:12pm CST

Earlier this week, the Copyright Alert System (CAS)—better known as “six strikes”—finally debuted. Both Verizon and Comcast activated the service on Wednesday.

The new system is funded by a group known as the Center for Copyright Information (CCI), which is made up of five major American ISPs, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It’s been in the works for years and may provide a significant change to the copyright infringement policing regime in the United States.

At the end of a series of six alerts, accused infringing customers could have their home Internet connection significantly slowed down. Those accused of infringing can file an appeal for $35. (Here’s the CCI’s new video explaining the process, as well as its new promo video.)

Both Verizon and Comcast updated their terms of service as of Wednesday, and each informed customers of their participation in six strikes on their websites. (But more than likely, most customers don’t spend much time checking out the corporate homepages of their ISPs.) Ars has reached out to all five of the participating ISPs—AT&T, Verizon, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Comcast. Only the latter responded and agreed to provide copies of actual alerts. (Full disclosure: I am a Comcast customer.)

Charlie Douglas, a Comcast spokesperson, also told Ars that the company already sent out a “small number” of alerts despite this being the first day of Comcast’s compliance. Douglas declined to disclose the actual number or the reason that number was being kept secret.

When Ars asked him to confirm that six strikes would not be able to see a potential violation if the user was using a VPN, he responded: “I think you’re right.”

Douglas did provide the language for alerts numbered one, two, four, and five. He has not yet responded concerning why Comcast is unable to provide the actual language for all six alerts or why he chose these particular ones to share with Ars. Comcast has also not shared any technical details of how it serves up an in-browser pop-up alert.

Numero uno

Here’s “Copyright Alert! #1”:

There are a few things we noticed after reading through these alerts.

The notice refers to a comcast.net e-mail address. Prior to updating some information on my own account earlier this month, I’ve never seen any messages sent to that account. I didn’t even know that I had it. Apparently I’m not the only one.

“I will note, just as a single data point, that I’m sure that I personally have a comcast.net e-mail account and that I have no idea what it is,” Sherwin Siy told Ars. He’s the vice president of legal affairs at the advocacy group Public Knowledge and also a residential Comcast customer in Washington, DC.

“Were I to receive one of these notices, a lot of my time would likely be spent trying to figure that information out so I could know what I was actually being accused of,” he added.

Comcast’s Douglas also told Ars that all alerts were communicated via e-mail to users’ comcast.net e-mail address and via an in-browser pop-up. That could suggest that if a Comcast user maintains a constant VPN connection and doesn’t check their Comcast e-mail account, they could plausibly say that they never received any alerts.

The alert refers to a URL redirecting to a post titled “New Copyright Alert System.”

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Internet Blackout Arrives For Thousands as FBI shuts down Internet users infected by US counter-cyberintelligence operation

Thomas Hendrick
7News The Denver Channel

Who needs a ‘conspiracy theory’ when the government is run by psychopaths?

Users Whose Computers Infected With DNSChanger Won’t Be Able To Access Web

Having trouble getting online? Some may find their smartphones working overtime because the family computer couldn’t seem to connect to the Internet Monday morning. You may be one of thousands across the United States who waited too long or simply didn’t believe the warnings, and your Internet may have shut down just after midnight because of malware that took over computers around the world more than a year ago.

At 12:01 a.m. EDT, the FBI turned off the Internet servers that were functioning as a temporary safety net to keep infected computers online for the past eight months. The court order the agency had gotten to keep the servers running expired, and it was not renewed. Now, if your computer is infected, your only hope is your Internet service provider’s help desk.

In South Korea, there were no reports from affected computers Monday. As many as 80 computers there are believed to be infected with the malware that may cause problems in Web surfing, down from 1,798 computers in February, according to the government.

“The impact will be limited,” said Lee Sang-hun, head of network security at the Korea Communications Commission, a government body. The government and private broadband providers opened helplines and issued warnings. They also asked users to check if their computers were infected and to download antivirus software. South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, with more than 90 percent of households connected to broadband Internet.

The problem began when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to take control of more than 570,000 infected computers around the world. When the FBI went in to take down the hackers late last year, agents realized that if they turned off the malicious servers being used to control the computers, all the victims would lose their Internet service.

In a highly unusual move, the FBI set up the safety net. They brought in a private company to install two clean Internet servers to take over for the malicious servers so that people would not suddenly lose their Internet.

And they arranged for a private company to run a website (www.dcwg.org), to help computer users determine whether their computer was infected and find links to other computer security business sites where they could find fixes for the problem.

From the onset, most victims didn’t even know their computers had been infected, although the malicious software probably slowed their web surfing and disabled their antivirus software, making their machines more vulnerable to other problems.

Efforts to solve the issue have been hindered a bit by a few factors: Many computer users don’t fully understand the technologically complex machines they use every day to send e-mail, shop, and surf for information. The cyber world of viruses, malware, bank fraud and Internet scams is often distant and confusing, and warning messages may go unseen or unheeded.

And other people simply don’t trust the government, and believe that federal authorities are only trying to spy on them, or take over the Internet, by pushing solutions to the infection. Blogs and other Internet forums are riddled with postings warning of the government using the malware as a ploy to breach American citizens’ computers — a charge that the FBI and other cybersecurity experts familiar with the malware quickly denounced as ridiculous.

Still, the Internet is flooded with conspiracy theories:

“I think the FBI just wants everyone to go to that website to check our computers so they can check our computers as well. Just a way to steal data for their own research,” one computer user said in a posting on the Internet.

Another observed: “Yet another ploy to get everyone freaked out … remember Y2K.”

There is an underlying sense that this has been much ado about nothing — like the hoopla over Y2K — when the transition to the year 2000 presented technical problems and fears that some computers would stop working because they were not set up for the date change. In the end there were very few problems.

Considering that there are millions of Internet users across the country, several thousand losing access isn’t a big deal — unless you are one of them.

Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who co-founded the cybersecurity caucus in Congress, said computer users have a responsibility to practice good cyber hygiene and make sure their computers have not been infected or hijacked by criminals. “These types of issues are only going to increase as our society relies more and more on the Internet, so it is a reminder that everyone can do their part,” he said.

FBI officials have been tracking the number of computers they believe still may be infected by the malware. As of July 4, there were about 45,600 in the U.S. — nearly 20,000 less than a week earlier. Worldwide, the total is roughly 250,000 infected. The numbers have been steadily declining, and recent efforts by Internet service providers may limit the problems Monday.

Tom Grasso, an FBI supervisory special agent, said many Internet providers have plans to try to help their customers. And some may put technical solutions in place Monday that will correct the server problem. It they do that, the Internet will work, but the malware will remain on victims’ computers and could pose future problems.

Other Internet providers have simply braced for the calls to their help lines.


To check and clean computers, http://www.dcwg.org

Comcast Warning



Check to see if your computer is infected here

300,000 Infected Computers to Go Offline Monday

By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld

As many as 300,000 PCs and Macs will drop off the Internet in about 65 hours unless their owners heed last-minute calls to scrub their machines of malware.

According to a group of security experts formed to combat DNSChanger, between a quarter-million and 300,000 computers, perhaps many more, were still infected as of July 2.

DNSChanger hijacked users’ clicks by modifying their computers’ domain name system (DNS) settings to send URL requests to the criminals’ own servers, a tactic that shunted victims to hacker-created sites that resembled real domains.

At one point, as many as 4 million PCs and Macs were infected with the malware, which earned its makers $14 million, U.S. federal authorities have said.

Infected machines will lose their link to the Internet at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday, July 9, when replacement DNS servers go dark.

The servers, which have been maintained under a federal court order by Internet Systems Consortium (ISC), the non-profit group that maintains the popular BIND DNS open-source software, were deployed last year after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) seized more than 100 command-and-control (C&C) systems during the take-down of the hacker gang responsible for DNSChanger.

The FBI’s “Operation Ghost Click” ended with arrests of six Estonian men — a seventh, a Russian, remains at large — the C&C seizures, and the substitution of the replacement servers. Without the substitutes, DNSChanger-infected systems would have been immediately knocked off the Internet.

Originally, the stand-in servers were to be turned off March 8, but a federal judge extended the deadline to July 9.

It’s not just consumer PCs and Macs — DNSChanger was equal-opportunity malware — that remain infected, but also corporate computers and systems at government agencies, said Tacoma, Wash.-based Internet Identity (IID), which has been monitoring cleanup efforts.

Last week, IID said that its scans showed 12% of Fortune 500 firms, or about one out of every eight, harbored DNSChanger-compromised computers or routers. And two out of 55 scanned U.S. government departments or agencies — or 3.6% — also had failed to scrub all their PCs and Macs.

The newest numbers were down from earlier scans by IID. In March, for example, the company pegged the Fortune 500 DNSChanger infection rate at 19% and the government agency rate at 9%.

In January, both groups’ rate was an amazing 50%.

But there are still tens of thousands of laggards who have not cleaned their computers, even after a months-long effort by the DNSChanger Working Group (DCWG), a volunteer organization of security professionals and companies.

“We’re all struggling with this,” said Rod Rasmussen, chief technology officer of IID and a member of the DCWG. “There are a lot of people who just haven’t gotten the word.”

The cleanup, Rasmussen said, has been the tough part of the DNSChanger takedown.

“There was a lot of planning done for the initial takedown, the arrests, the swapping of servers, but there wasn’t as much for after the take-down,” said Rasmussen. “How do we clean things up? Victim remediation is a challenge for our industry. Everyone wants to do it, but how do you pay for it?”

The DCWG worked extensively with ISPs (Internet service providers) to help them alert customers with infected computers — identified by their being shuttled through the replacement servers — and advise them on removing the malware. The group also reached out to enterprises, government agencies and other organizations to offer the same assistance.

At times, that worked.

“Some ISPs have been very draconian,” said Rasmussen, citing providers that repeatedly called, emailed or phoned members with infected computers. “Some worked hard at a fair amount of expense.”

Others instead prepared for the support calls they expect to field starting Monday when startled customers realize they can’t get online. “They’re staffing up for [Monday], they know that they’re going to get [a large number of calls].”

For those that have done nothing, Monday will be rough, Rasmussen predicted. “For some ISPs, this may be a real flap,” he said.

But the project was sometimes frustrating.

One company, which Rasmussen would not name, had cleaned all its machines of DNSChanger, but was repeatedly re-infected. Finally, the firm discovered that laptops connecting to its public Wi-Fi network were spreading the malware, and even narrowed the list of suspects to the media because the timing of the re-infections coincided with press events the corporation held on its campus.

Even so, the effort has been worthwhile, not simply to ameliorate the impact, but as a learning experience for future such takedowns, or of “sinkholing” botnets in general.

“What we need in the future is a real-time alerting capability,” said Rasmussen, and described a system that would immediately notify a user if his or her computer had been shunted to a substitute server. The idea was discussed by the DCWG, but never implemented because it would have required much more hardware and support than was available.

“Someone has to support this volunteer effort,” said Rasmussen, who didn’t have an answer for where that support, whether financial or other resources, would come from.

Two of the Internet biggest companies have also pitched with their own anti-DNSChanger campaigns.

In late May, Google began warning infected users with a bannered message at the top of the company’s search results page. Several days later, Facebook kicked off a similar alert for its members.

Users have access to several free tools that identify infected computers, including several that just debuted under the DCWG’s auspices. In the U.S., for example, users can steer to the dns-ok.us website. Other detection sites are listed on the DCWG’s domain.

The DCWG’s website also has links to free tools that remove the malware.

But perhaps the loss of the Web is the only wake-up call some users will hear, Rasmussen said.

A few in the DCWG lobbied to stick to the original March 8 deadline and against an extension, believing that only a “tough love” approach would work, said Rasmussen.

“Some people haven’t been paying attention to the messages,” he said. “It’s not a lot, but they’re very reticent to do anything.”

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, send e-mail to gkeizer@ix.netcom.com or subscribe to Gregg’s RSS feed.

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