A fascinating side-effect of the attacks at various levels on Wikileaks in the last week has been a demonstration of exactly how tough it is to take out a site without widespread support from people on the net.
Love them or hate them, you have to admit that these folks are effective at creating and sustaining an audience for their content. Their glacially slow release of secret information, a few tastes each day, is calculated to feed a media storm that could easily last for months.
If nothing else, the massive amounts of traffic they are attracting, and the efforts of actors unknown to shut them down, have created a unique laboratory for studying Internet resilience.
In the beginning (a week ago)
In recent months, wikileaks.org’s content had lived happily in just a few IP address blocks, hosted byBahnhof and PRQ (two Swedish ISPs with … let’s say … liberal policies for the content they host), and French provider Cursys. Then, when the cables were first released at the end of November, WikiLeaks added additional hosting in Amazon’s EC2 cloud (presumably to cope with the tremendous volumes of traffic being generated in the first days of the release).
Then the attempts to take the site down started. So what happened?
Are you getting the picture yet?
Taking away WikiLeaks’ hosting, their DNS service, even their primary domain name, has had the net effect of increasing WikiLeaks’ effective use of Internet diversity to stay connected. And it just keeps going. As long as you can still reach any one copy of WikiLeaks, you can read their mirror page, which lists over 1,000 additional volunteer sites(including several dozen on the alternative IPv6 Internet). None of those is going to be as hardened as wikileaks.ch against DNS takedown or local court order — but they don’t need to be.
Within a couple days’ time, the WikiLeaks web content has been spread across enough independent parts of the Internet’s DNS and routing space that they are, for all intents and purposes, now immune to takedown by any single legal authority. If pressure were applied, one imagines that the geographic diversity would simply double, and double again.
And we’re only considering the website itself, not the torrented data files, which ensure that cryptographically signed copies of the website and its backing data are dispersed beyond all attempts to recall or suppress the information they contain. That’s an Internet infrastructure subject for another day.
That thousand sites only started to be assembled on sunday. It has added 500 plus since yesterday. The total will start to increase geometrically in response to the attacks (largely by people in the US) upon the internet. Similarly the financial, legal and technical support will increase to make sure that the idiots in the US and elsewhere are unable to damage the net by succeeding in taking out the site extra-legally.