Free NoIP!

I just had a little service outage. Sorry if anyone tried to access a file and couldn’t. As it turns out it has an interesting story that deserves attention. And as so often happens, the cause of the computer problem goes back to Microsoft.

As I detailed in a previous article, I use a dynamic DNS to run a server at home. A few days ago I noticed that none of the links to my machine worked. I realized that the subdomain didn’t resolve. The problem came from my dynamic DNS provider No-IP.

I originally chose No-IP because as a blind user I had problem using the captchas on all of the other dynamic DNS provider web sites. They actually had a phone number where a human answered and helped me create a free account. Because of their outstanding customer service and because I didn’t feel like renewing it every month, I became a paying customer. I figured my account had expired or something so logged in to the control panel. Instead of seeing a notice about owing them money, I saw a statement about the Microsoft takedown.

As it turns out, Microsoft seized 23 domains used by No-IP in an attempt to control malware. Some malicious hackers used these domains to infect many Windows machines. This made up a small percentage of the No-IP network. Microsoft went to a Nevada court and ordered this without contacting No-IP. This sets a dangerous precedent.

I could do nothing but wait and watch Twitter. No-IP had done nothing wrong and I did not blame them. As a sysadmin I could empathize, and sent good vibes. People began using the #FreeNoIP hash tag. This became a way to congregate.

The outage started on the night of Sunday June 30. The next day Microsoft released an untrue letter claiming service returned at 06:00 AM. The taunting and concern built on #FreeNoIP. Clearly Microsoft’s servers could not handle the flood of requests. On Monday night No-IP also apparently suffered a distributed denial of service attack. Finally at 07:00 PM on Tuesday July 2 my service returned. It felt kind of scary to have Microsoft take away my service for a few days. I have had a Microsoft-free house since 2009, so it felt annoying that they should cause a problem with my Linux server.

I encourage the media to investigate this story. We should all worry when one corporation can seize another’s assets. If Microsoft had contacted No-IP they could have resolved (ha ha) the matter. Instead they went straight to a judge, an four million innocent servers went offline. At least they shut down the 18,000 malware servers using exploits in Microsoft Windows.

Imagine if the police wanted to go after a small gang in Philadelphia, but instead of arresting the members they nuked the entire state of Pennsylvania. They would focus on the fact that they got the criminals. When people would point out that they also nuked the entire state and caused much collateral damage, they would just return to the point that they got the criminals. Microsoft acted similarly, though in this case they could undo the damage they had done. If these events go unreported and unquestioned they will only get worse. If we want a free internet we must peacefully demand it.

In the audio movie Not from Space, the owner of a radio network goes up against Bill Gates in an alien war over Earth. At one point Microsoft disrupts the station’s network to broadcast their propaganda. I guess sometimes life really does imitate art, at least a little. And on a conspiratorial note, I find it interesting that many sources list the number of seized domains as 22, but the court order clearly states it as the mystical 23.