Robert McMillan of Wired did an interesting piece on how Microsoft became the self appointed Sheriff of the Internet. The article starts off detailing the facts in the case of No-IP. Apparently Microsoft had noticed that an unusually high amount of malware was going out to domain from No-IP.org.
It was 7 o’clock in the morning when the knocking on Dan Durrer’s front door woke him up. His dog started barking, and Durrer thought he was getting an early morning package. But when he opened the door, he wasn’t greeted by the FedEx man. He was face-to-face with a process server, a messenger from the courts, who handed him a stack of legal documents—three inches thick. Somewhere in that stack—buried in all the legalese—was the news that Microsoft had taken control of his company, but Durrer didn’t have time to read it. Almost immediately, his pager lit up with messages saying the company’s internet services had stopped working.
For the past 15 years, Durrer has worked as the CEO of a small internet service provider called No-IP. Based on Reno, Nevada, the 16-person company offers a special kind of Domain Name System service, or DNS, for consumers and small businesses, letting them reliably connect to computers whose IP addresses happen to change from time to time. It’s used by geeks obsessed with online security, fretful parents monitoring nanny cams in their toddler’s bedrooms, and retailers who want remote access to their cash registers. But it’s also used by criminals as a way of maintaining malicious networks of hacked computers across the internet, even if the cops try to bring them down.
That’s why Microsoft landed those documents on Durrer’s doorstep this past summer—and effectively shut down his operation. No-IP was in the crosshairs of Richard Boscovich, an assistant general counsel with Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “The amount of malware that was reaching out to domains in No-ip.org was astronomically large,” Boscovich says.
The No-IP situation has been rectified but Microsoft plans to go after malware networks as it sees fit.
Microsoft says it needs to wield this kind of extreme power to keep the internet safe. It’s part of determined attitude towards security that has pervaded the software giant since its Windows operating systems were attacked by a series of malicious internet worms more than a decade ago—an attitude that, in some respects, the company should be commended for. It has helped make the internet a better place. But some now worry the company has gone too far, acting as a kind of all-powerful internet sheriff, willing to shutdown legitimate companies as well as bad actors in its quest for online security.
Read the full article on Wired