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    USA Goverment Relations Terrorist Speculators or Tragedy Squatters or Topical Sites? You decide.
    posted by michael on Tuesday September 25 2001, @03:08AM

    fnord writes "The Washington Times has published a strange piece entitled Terrorists network in cyberspace, dealing with some uses of the internet since the tragic events of last September 11, both for positive ends and for what it calls the darker side. After two prefunctory paragraphs on some positives, the rest of the article details aspects of said dark side. But other than passing mention of various jihad Web rings without naming them or further explanation, the article doesn't really deal with what its headline implies although terrorist uses of the net have received considerable media coverage elsewhere since the attacks, indeed there was this unprecedented anti-terrorist internet-related raid one week beforehand that seems to have since gone unmentioned in relation to subsequent events.

    Instead, in a jarring change-up, the bulk of the article takes the speculator probably equals cybersquatter mantra/meme/misunderstanding one very large and disturbing step further to speculator may equal terrorist."



    The chain of logic begins innocuously enough:
    In the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, hundreds of new Internet domain names were registered containing "references to the terrorist attacks," notes Cybercast News Service.
    This isn't particularily surprising or atypical. Domain name speculators have done the same with various newsworthy (and then current) events, tragic or otherwise, for some years. See here for Keith Dawson's take on domain registrations regarding a certain Elian, for example. The Times article then veers off into unchartered territory with a remarkable claim:
    But according to Neal [sic, it is Neil] Livingstone of Global Options, a D.C.-based counterterrorism and investigative group, 22 of these names may have been registered by those terrorists who planned and executed last Tuesday's siege on New York and Washington.
    Dr. Livingstone is a prolific author, TV pundit, creator of global intelligence networks, suppressor of thefts of intellectual property (keep that one in mind), and much more. Dr. Livingstone, I presume (sorry, couldn't resist), then gives some examples, and makes an even more remarkable claim, alleging registrations regarding the events of September 11 in advance of September 11 (of course, if you accept his first premise, they couldn't have registered them afterwards):
    The disturbing names include "attackontwintowers.com," "worldtradetowerattack.com," "horrorinnewyork.com" and "pearlharborinmanhattan.com."
    Some were registered as far back as June 2000.

    [emphasis mine]

    Let's look at these. I've used MS-DOS based whois, nslookup, tracert and similar tools. Others are free to duplicate or approximate the exercise to readily verify the data. Following is the domain name, the registrant's apparent name and location, date of registration, and status at time of writing:

    worldtradetowerattack.com, registered
    by E&A Enterprises, Texas, USA
    (admin/tech contact in Korea)
    on September 20, 2001
    Status: Does not resolve via HTTP.

    horrorinnewyork.com, apparently registered
    by D. Ludford, Alberta, Canada
    (no name given, see admin contact for same address)
    on September 21, 2001
    Status: Does not resolve via HTTP.

    pearlharborinmanhattan.com, registered
    by D. Dehay, Texas, USA
    on September 20, 2001
    Status: Live, presently a Network Solutions registrar placeholder page.

    attackontwintowers.com, registered
    by Able Ribbon Technology, Inc., California, USA
    on September 11, 2001
    Status: Live, presently a visitor controlled redirect to libertyunites.org a site to raise funds for American relief organizations, it is a partnership of some of the largest computer and internet companies including MicroSoft and Amazon. While Able Ribbon isn't in that category, there is no evidence than this is anything other than what it appears. FYI, online donations now exceed $85 million dollars.

    Nothing in the above seems to bear out Dr. Livingstone's contentions. Admittedly some registrant names and locations could be false, that alone is hardly uncommon and does not normally point to a terrorist. There doesn't seem to be anything here too untoward, and I suspect further research would show this is largely valid data, in comparison to the Afilias mess for example. The dates of registration are all on or after September 11, 2001. The relevant IP netblocks were registered prior to that date of course, so that could have confused the expert Dr. Livingstone if he mistakenly queried the wrong database. He does seem confused as he then goes on to support his thesis with an even more bizarre statement:

    Three of the names contained dates: "august11horror.com," "august11terror.com" and "worldtradecenter929.com"
    One wonders if he is getting his information by misreading Nostradamus. Not surprisingly, none of these names are even registered as of this writing. Perhaps it is a series of typos. While september11horror.com is still available, september11terror.com and worldtradecenter911.com are taken. Their info, following the above format, is:

    september11terror.com, registered
    by J. Holcomb, South Carolina, USA
    on September 11, 2001
    Status: Live, presently a Register.com registrar placeholder page.

    worldtradecenter911.com, registered
    by B. Perham, NY, USA
    on September 11, 2001
    Status: Live, presently a GoDaddy.com registrar placeholder page.

    Again, there is nothing particularily suspicious or threatening about these registrations. They parallel what can be found throughout the .com namespace, where a majority of the names don't resolve or resolve only to placeholders (and Dan could point out that none of the above names properly belong in .com anyway, and he'd be right as usual) Nevertheless, Dr. Livingstone builds further upon his rickety inductive reasoning (is there such a thing a fuzzy illogic?) and winds up with a final speculatory flourish:

    The names, he surmised, might be part of a greater propaganda campaign that never reached fruition.
    There you have it, the namespace as a potential tool of war, never mind that there is no explanation of how this might be done, nor any evidence that isn't demonstrably false. Why am I trashing this at length? Well, there's a stinger at the end of this tale:
    Domain registration requires a credit card, billing address and other data that could benefit investigators following the paper trail of terrorists on these shores and beyond. The information, however, is not readily forthcoming. Companies that provide these domain names have strict privacy policies.
    At least they did, online privacy seems to be up for rethinking. With no shortage of scammers and crooks online, offering up credit card info to anyone who asks seems a Very Bad Thing to do. OTOH, getting a warrant or subpoena or court order takes time that the authorities may not think they have. It isn't a great leap to surmise that those with a certain security clearance level will be given access to this data in the near future. It isn't difficult to take that a step further, if everyone is required to have a smart ID card, it could be used to prove one's identity before registering (or re-registering) a domain name.

    Do you think I'm being alarmist? Well, the Washington Times speaks from within the DC Beltway, the good Doctor's alarmist scenario meme is already out there. And Dr. Livingstone otherwise speaks in similar ears, whether out of ideology or as a PR flack or to use a tragedy to further IP interests is probably immaterial to the end result, but interested readers should follow and read each of the links on the left of his site and draw their own conclusions. I suspect the WHOIS, and probably other aspects of internet addressing, are about to be drafted into the war effort. In what is now normal ICANN fashion (I think the military term is SNAFU), this will not require a bottoms-up, consensual, open, transparent process. That is all. -g

     
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    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Terrorist Speculators or Tragedy Squatters or Topical Sites? You decide. | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 11 comments | Search Discussion
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    Wrong database
    by alexander on Tuesday September 25 2001, @03:52AM (#2501)
    User #22 Info | http://www.icannchannel.de
    This is now one of several attempts to argue against the allegations (note: I'm not saying they are true!) by looking up the current Whois database.

    To check whether the Livingstone allegations could be even remotely true, one would need old lists of dropping domains! Livingstone claims that the domain names mentioned had already expired: That's how he supposedly found out about them. He does not claim that they are in use by terrorists now. From the original CNS news article: "Adding a one-year registration period to the 60 to 90 day waiting period indicates that the addresses were probably originally registered between mid-June and mid-July of 2000."

    If someone has such lists and looks them up, fine. But looking at the current database doesn't make sense, if I understand the allegations correctly.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    Re: Terrorist Speculators or Tragedy Squatters or
    by fnord (groy2kNO@SPAMyahoo.com) on Thursday September 27 2001, @09:12PM (#2611)
    User #2810 Info
    Ummm, a dose of real realness here. Proctor and Gamble own the famous brand flu? As in flu.com? Please point me to that particular trademark. When exactly was PandG given IP rights over numerous illnesses? This being an all-ages forum I won't list them all. What I like about this name craziness is it allows me to point out proctorandgamble.com, which is a site for sore eyes if ever I've seen one. -g
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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