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WikiLeaks reappears on European Net domains

Publisher of classified information disappeared from the Net yesterday when an address service cut the group off. It's back with new sites hosted in Switzerland, Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
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WikiLeaks' tweet about losing its Internet address service yesterday
WikiLeaks' tweet about losing its Internet address service yesterday screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

WikiLeaks re-emerged today on a Swiss Internet domain and later on domains in Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands, sidestepping a move that had in effect taken the controversial site off the Internet.

The group, under heavy criticism in some quarters for publishing U.S. diplomats' classified cables, has been working hard to keep operating amid distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks over the Internet and Amazon's decision to stop hosting WikiLeaks' Web site.

Meanwhile, Swedish authorities said they had re-submitted an international arrest warrant asking U.K. police to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange following sex crime allegations, according to the BBC. Assange, who is staying in a hidden location in England, has denied the allegations. The original arrest warrant issued last month was rejected on legal grounds.

A new problem with the WikiLeaks site arose at 7 p.m. PT Thursday, when EveryDNS.net stopped providing WikiLeaks with Domain Name System (DNS) services. The DNS translates the Web addresses that people type, such as CNET.com, into the numeric Internet Protocol addresses that actually get the job done delivering data from one computer to another. When EveryDNS.net stopped the service, typing "WikiLeaks.org" into a browser led nowhere.

In a statement on its Web site, EveryDNS.net said it terminated WikiLeaks' service to protect others using the service while WikiLeaks was under the DDoS attack.

The services were terminated for violation of the provision which states that "Member shall not interfere with another member's use and enjoyment of the Service or another entity's use and enjoyment of similar services." The interference at issues arises from the fact that WikiLeaks.org has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure, which enables access to almost 500,000 other Web sites.

Thus, last night, at approximately 10 p.m. EST, December 1, 2010, a 24-hour termination notification e-mail was sent to the e-mail address associated with the WikiLeaks.org account. In addition to this e-mail, notices were sent to WikiLeaks via Twitter and the chat function available through the WikiLeaks.org Web site. Any downtime of the WikiLeaks.org Web site has resulted from its failure to use another hosted DNS service provider.

As it did when tweeting about the Amazon termination, WikiLeaks mentioned the EveryDNS.net's United States connection.

"WikiLeaks.org domain killed by US everydns.net after claimed mass attacks," WikiLeaks said in its tweet.

Anyone with WikiLeaks's numeric Internet address can get to the site without using the DNS, and WikiLeaks offered instructions in a follow-up tweet today: "WIKILEAKS: Free speech has a number:"

And later, it re-emerged with a more human-friendly Internet address, also broadcast over Twitter: "WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland http://wikileaks.ch/" although that site remained inaccessible to some people who tried to view it throughout today.

This afternoon, WikiLeaks announced on its Twitter page that it was accessible also at http://wikileaks.de, which is a German Internet domain, wikileaks.fi in Finland and wikileaks.nl in The Netherlands.

Also later on Friday, several groups not affiliated with WikiLeaks created mirrors of the site on their servers, which means copies of the site would remain up even if WikiLeaks loses its domain name and hosting service. The hacker group 2600 created a mirror site at "http://wikileaks.2600.com/" and another one is here. The 2600 Twitter account explained: "#wikileaks website stolen by authorities. we will point wikileaks.2600.com to backups and mirrors in solidarity for as long as necessary."

And a group of Dutch journalists launched CableSearch.org, a searchable index of all the cables that have been published.

After getting dumped by Amazon WikiLeaks took issue with the company's explanation that it terminated WikiLeaks' service for violating Amazon's terms of service. Amazon said of its decision: "It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy."

WikiLeaks doesn't buy it. "Amazon's press release does not accord with the facts on public record. It is one thing to be cowardly. Another to lie about it," WikiLeaks tweeted.

The DNS, centrally administered by a nonprofit group called ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a critical service when it comes to publishing and finding information on the Internet. Rerouting addresses through the DNS is how the U.S. government seized 82 domains associated with copyright infringement.

One response to this situation involves a new effort to create a decentralized DNS, also using peer-to-peer technology. Peter Sunde--one founder of a site called The Pirate Bay that indexes content shared with the peer-to-peer BitTorrent technology--is involved in the project, called P2P-DNS.

"Alternative DNS system based on P2P," Sunde said about the effort in a tweet, though he later took pains to say he was only interested, not the person behind the effort. He added that the "core of the DNS problem is not ICANN. It's that governments and companies can control ICANN (i.e. it's centralised)."

Since Amazon dropped WikiLeaks, a French company, OVH, has picked up some of the slack, much to the dismay of a French official, according to Reuters. The French Industry Minister wants to ban OVH from hosting the site, but OVH is seeking a court opinion arguing that it is legally a provider of technical services and not a host.

In the U.S., government agencies were prohibiting employees from viewing the controversial site, including reportedly the State Department and the Commerce Department, while the Library of Congress blocked access entirely. Military contractor Raytheon is forbidding employees to access the WikiLeaks site on company or personal computers in response to federal guidelines.

New information from the leaked cables trickles out each day. Some of the latest information relates to U.S. officials' concern about Mexico's effectiveness in fighting drug cartels and information on foreign contractors in Afghanistan hiring "dancing boys" for local police.

CNET's Elinor Mills contributed to this report.

Updated 4:42 p.m. PT with launch of CableSearch.org. Updated 2:31 p.m. PT with new domains in Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands, and mirror sites on different domains owned by other groups. Updated 12:53 p.m. PT with France trying to block hosting of WikiLeaks site there and U.S. government agencies and military contractor barring workers from the site or blocking it. Updated 11:25 a.m. PT with information on Swedish officials refiling arrest warrant for Assange, more details on cables released, and Raytheon banning WikiLeaks.