Third Party DNS Services’ Servers Allow People To Access Websites That Are Protesting Against SOPA/PIPA. When SOPA/PIPA Become Law, Only Malicious Third Party DNS Servers Might Be In Service!

DNS on the roadWikipedia and other popular online services are opposing and protesting against SOPA and PIPA, therefore these services might go dark (i.e., turning off their services) today.  In case you can’t use these online services today, you should think about using Google’s Public DNS or OpenDNS since these third party DNS services might have route their DNS through servers that locate outside of the United States of America, consequently allowing you to access these online services just fine even though you live within the United States of America.  For your information, I’m able to access Wikipedia’s English website just now, and this means my using of popular third party DNS services such as Google Public DNS and OpenDNS has allowed me to access these popular services just fine.

The blackout of these popular online services has exposed the useless effort of trying to block websites at DNS level.  As you can see, by using third party DNS servers, people can access the blackout websites just fine.  It’s rather pointless, and it might encourage people who have no idea of DNS to use the wrong third party DNS servers that may get them in situations where they can be infected with computer viruses, malware, and so on.  Don’t think so?  What if those third party DNS servers are intending to redirect targeted victims to the phishing websites where people will enter their confidential information such as banking credentials?  I think you know where I’m heading, and so I hope you know how important it’s for us to make sure the integrity of DNS structure within the United States of America stays innocent and harmless (i.e., does not discriminate against specific types of web traffics), otherwise people might find themselves to be victimized by computer viruses, identity theft, and more just because they try to use unknown, unpopular third party DNS services’ servers.

Even worse, I don’t think Google Public DNS and Open DNS services will be fine and dandy when SOPA and PIPA become law!  Why?  If you read Yahoo article’s Why SOPA is Dangerous, it explains that any service enables/allows people to access copyright infringed materials would be subjected to SOPA and PIPA regulations.  This means Google Public DNS and Open DNS services might have to be shut down since these popular third party DNS servers are clearly within the United States’ jurisdiction and allowing people to access all contents (i.e., even copyright infringed contents).  Since well known third party DNS servers such as the ones that belong to Google Public DNS do not have the ability to screen every web traffic (i.e., simply not cost effective), third party DNS servers simply cannot function under SOPA and PIPA.  Without having access to popular third party DNS servers, people might just have to rely on malicious third party DNS servers that locate outside of the United States.  I’m going in a loop in explaining to you over and over again on purpose, because I think SOPA and PIPA are just downright dangerous!

Some of you might argue that since the founders of SOPA and PIPA had taken out the specific bits that allow to block web traffics at DNS level, therefore we might not need to worry about SOPA and PIPA anymore.  I think you’re wrong!  Why?  Other bits within SOPA and PIPA are still gunning for shutting down websites and online services that are just simply enabling users to access infringed copyright contents.  Knowing these bits are still within SOPA and PIPA, it’s simply making sense that DNS servers that are being targeted or will be targeted by Attorney General (i.e., as how it is explained by Yahoo’s article Why SOPA is Dangerous) will have to be shut down still.  So, how can we be sure that Google Public DNS and OpenDNS will be in service in our near future?  I think we simply just don’t know!  So, the idea that DNS structure as a whole isn’t going to be regulated by SOPA and PIPA is an irony.  When SOPA and PIPA become law, the Attorney General might still have the power to shut down specific DNS servers within the United States, because the languages within SOPA and PIPA are just too broad.

When I say DNS servers get shutdown, it might mean certain affected websites might not be accessible within the United States.  It’s all depending on how the Attorney General wants to make things happen under the contexts of SOPA and PIPA.  For all we know, the Attorney General can just shut down the DNS servers that allow Internet users within the United States to access certain copyright infringed websites.  When DNS servers get shutdown, not only infringed copyright websites but all websites that are relying on the same out of service DNS servers will be unreachable.  To put this in another way, it doesn’t matter which website, because all websites and online services accept all web traffics, and Internet users who rely on out of service DNS servers might have to rely on malicious third party DNS servers.  In the case where specific websites are being blocked by DNS servers and not the DNS servers are being shutdown, Internet users can still access such websites with relying on malicious third party DNS servers.  Of course, not all third party DNS servers are malicious, but I think the probability of having people who don’t know much about DNS using malicious third party DNS servers is high!  End rant!

Advertisements

The Vibrance Of The Internet Would Wither Away Starting With SOPA Passes As Law; The Day The Internet Ceases To Exist Is When More Countries Begin To Form Their Own National Intranets

Turkey internet ban protest 2011

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve a feeling that when SOPA becomes law, it encourages not only the United States but many other countries to eventually form each own national Intranet.  Consequently, the Internet that we know so well at this point in time will cease to exist.  Say what?

Wait, let me backtrack a bit to clarify something so you can see where I’m going with this.  So, how come SOPA will encourage the United States and other countries to form each own national Intranet?  SOPA is a bill which disrespects the vibrance of the Internet.  It encourages the breaking up of the Internet since it implies the United States would easily overlook mistakes on shutting down websites of the world by doing it fast and effective at the DNS level.  Nonetheless, we know that even though United Sates can shut down websites of the world through DNS under SOPA, the websites that are being targeted by SOPA can still easily adopt DNS servers outside of the United States and effectively avoid SOPA effect altogether.  Instead of solving problems of piracy, SOPA encourages nations of the world to form their own SOPA.  By forming their own SOPA, each nation of the world will be able to disrupt foreign websites that are doing business within their nation.  As SOPA leads the way to disrespect the vibrance of the Internet, I think more rules and regulations might follow and lead to a point where each nation of the world will have their own national Intranet.

The day the Internet ceases to exist is when more countries begin to form their own national Intranets.  When the Internet ceases to exist, each nation with their own Intranet can be more effective in regulating, tracking, filtering, firewall-ing, and managing the networks within a nation.  What Intranet does is to prevent people from being able to surf for information, knowledge, educational materials, shopping online, and communicating with others from foreign countries other than the nation itself.  E-commerce of today would cease to be the same.  Intranet would only encourage the exchanges of businesses and consumers within a nation only (i.e., preventing the exchanges of businesses and consumers outside the Intranet), because it will not be effective in firewall-ing people if it cannot prevent people from surfing for whatever that are beyond the scope of the Intranet.  I think it’s critical for SOPA to be stopped at all cost, or else the vibrance of the Internet would wither away starting with SOPA passes as law.

What worse is that only the innocent computer users might be affected by a national Intranet.  Technological savvy users might be able to use alternative technology or hack the national Intranet so they can circumvent the restrictions of a national Intranet.  This might prove the point that an Intranet is anti-business, anti-consumer, anti-innovation, and anti-knowledge-exchange (i.e., educational materials to be limitedly shared only within a nation, consequently preventing the people of the world to exchange educational materials with each other.)  I do feel the openness of the Internet must be protected at all cost, or else the vibrance of the Internet would cease to exist and might be too hard to be revived by then!

Pragmatic Security Tips To Protect Routers And Networks In 2012 And Beyond

Some rights reserved by gcg2009 (Creative Commons License - Attribution 2.0 Generic) from Flickr.com

Tips to how to secure your router and network in 2012 and beyond.  These tips are pragmatic, and so it’s most likely that you may be able to apply these tips onto most routers and network setups.  Unfortunately, even though these tips are pragmatic in details, sometimes the tips here won’t be any useful for you if you have older routers or your network setups are too unique and special.  Let us get on with the tips.

In no particular order, the tips to secure your routers and networks are:

  • Change router’s default password for the administrator username/login.  Make sure the new password is a lot harder than the default password.
  • Change router’s default passphrase for your wireless network.  Make sure the passphrase is strong enough.  It’s best to throw in at least 50 plus characters string.  Also, don’t forget to include capitalization letters, numbers, and special characters (i.e. signs) in your 50 plus characters string passphrase.
  • Make sure to disable UPnP feature within your router.  I’ve heard hackers can exploit this feature.  To be safe than sorry, I guess you should turn this feature off if you don’t have the need for it.
  • Make sure your router’s firewall is turning on and filtering inbound and outbound traffics.
  • Make sure your router has MAC address filtering turns on and allowing only Mac addresses of machines on the list to access network.  Of course, you have to know hackers can still spoof MAC addresses easily, therefore this is not 100% hacker proof.
  • Disable DHCP feature or limit the DHCP IP address range to amount to how many physical machines you have and want to connect to your network using DHCP protocol (DHCP IP addresses).  This way, if an undesirable person wants to use your network, he or she might not be able to get a lease of DHCP IP address from DHCP server which runs on your router, therefore he or she cannot use DHCP IP address to access your network.  Keep in mind that he or she can just assign himself or herself a local static IP address and connect to your network anyway.  Nonetheless, this method might prevent script kiddies from acquiring DHCP IP address from using hacker tools.  Still, there is no guaranteed DHCP might prevent hackers from just running another script which automatically demands a static local IP address.  If you turn off DHCP, you might prevent hackers to exploit DHCP weakness/exploits, and so you can disregard DHCP exploits for your router.  Turning off DHCP also encourages you to enter a local static IP address for each computer’s network configuration, therefore you might prevent a specific computer from automatically connect to your router; in a way this method helps preventing a specific computer of yours from automatically connecting to a fake access point, because hackers can use a special router which can emit an even more powerful wireless signal, overwhelming your wireless router’s signal and encouraging a computer to connect to the wrong/rouge access point which hackers have controlled of (i.e., man in the middle attacks).
  • Disable Wi-Fi Protected Setup feature, because this feature is weak against hackers’ brute force attack which exploits a weak secure PIN authentication process (i.e., this feature reveals too much information on PIN authentication algorithm while authenticating a device).  Nonetheless, this feature might be patched by the routers’ makers in the near future, but to be safe than sorry it’s best to disable it until you really have the need to use it and it has been patched.
  • Enable WLAN Partition if you are paranoid about your network security.  This feature prevents wireless devices to communicate with each other.  Why is this feature useful in securing your network?  Imagine if a hacker can insert himself in your network with a wireless device, he or she might not be able to hack another wireless device of yours if the network disallows the communication between wireless devices.  Unfortunately, this feature might prevent you from sharing files and data between your wireless devices.  One example is iTunes home sharing might not work on wireless mac laptops.  Therefore, if you need to have your wireless devices to talk to each other, then you should not enable this feature.  Otherwise, it’s an awesome feature for enhancing your network security.  Let not forget, if an elite hacker has hacked into your network, he or she might also have control of your router, therefore this feature in the end might be useless if a hacker can change the router’s settings at will.
  • Turning on several log features within your router.  Logs will help you trace back to strange network traffics, requests and errors.  Perhaps, logs can even tell you that you’re getting hacked.  Of course, elite hackers might have way to not trigger your router to log their hacking activities.  Therefore, this feature is just one more layer/tool for you to protect yourself against hackers.  This feature might slow down your router though, because it’s logging network traffics.  So, if your router isn’t equipped to log heavy network traffics, then you should turn this feature off.  It’s all depend on a network situation and the capability of your router really.
  • Enable Access Control.  This feature is useful only if your router is able to allow you to add two types of rules that matter most, and these two types of rules should be made available at the same time, so one rule is enhancing the other rule in security measures.  First rule should be disallowing all other machines to connect to your network.  Second rule should be allowing only the machines with the IP addresses listed in Access Control’s IP table to connect to your router/network.  Of course, you should note that this feature will enable a default blocking feature which might prevent your machines to access dangerous websites and so on, therefore some websites you might want to access will not be accessible.  Also, your router may allow you to add additional websites to be blocked, consequently enhancing the security measure for Access Control feature.  Some routers even go as far as allowing Access Control feature to block certain network ports, but I don’t think this feature is necessary.  After all, your router’s firewall should be blocking all incoming requests and ports.
  • If your router isn’t connecting to your ISP through DHCP protocol, then you should add a trusted but more secure DNS IP addresses of third-party/trusted/secure DNS providers.  One good example would be DNS IP addresses of Google Public DNS service.  Another good example would be DNS IP addresses of OpenDNS.
  • Update your router’s firmware to the latest firmware.  This way you can prevent hackers from using known firmware exploitations that specifically target your router’s firmware.
  • Reboot your router sometimes or add a schedule reboot for your router if your router has this capability.  This way you can actually clear up the router cache and might prevent your router from storing what hackers have uploaded to your router.  I don’t think that it’s yet possible for hackers to be able to permanently make change to your router in regarding to what the router could store and so on.  Therefore, when you reboot your router, your router clears up the cache in its memory and so everything within your router should work as how it was.  Reboot a router can be done in two way.  One is to do a soft reboot which requires you to log into your router’s administration panel and reboot it this way.  The other way is just to pull the electrical adapter which powers your router off the electrical outlet, forcing the router to reboot and reconnect to your ISP.
  • You might also want to disable the SSID broadcast.  When you disable this feature, your machines might not be able to connect to your router using DHCP protocol.  Nonetheless, as long you know how to connect to your router manually using static local IP addresses, then you should be fine.  Of course, you have to remember your router’s SSID name and enter the router SSID onto your machines correctly before your machines can talk to your router.

I Might Be Completely Clueless On SOPA Or I Might Be Right That SOPA Can Curb Innovations!

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick.  Image from Wikipedia.

Burning of three witches in Baden, Switzerland (1585), by Johann Jakob Wick. Image from Wikipedia.

I’m a small shrimp in the ocean of sharks.  Yet, I still think SOPA isn’t the solution.  I fear SOPA might encourage witch-hunts.  What witch-hunts?  Don’t freak out, I’m not talking about burning real witches.  I’m talking about having SOPA witch-hunts.  Furthermore, SOPA might have the Internet Service Providers add more things onto their already super long todo lists, consequently making them unable to be productive and competitive.  What about the lawyers?  Lawyers might have a field day when SOPA is becoming law, because they might have less time to doodle but more time to make sure SOPA is SOPA or isn’t SOPA.  I can already hear a lawyer says, ” SOPA sounds like kaching (i.e., sound of a cash register) to me.”  What makes it more clear that SOPA isn’t a solution, because affected websites can just switch to DNS servers that are outside of the United States’ jurisdiction (i.e., as in oversea), avoiding the SOPA effect easily.  Then there is the feeling that DNS business might be outsourced to foreign countries, because DNS servers within United States suddenly feel like so SOPA.

I think SOPA might look good, but in reality it can be devastating and holding back innovations.  If not for big corporations holding back innovations through patents, we might already have our brave human fellows travel on USS Enterprise, exploring the galaxies.  Perhaps, we even have electric cars however many years early if corporations aren’t so fonded with oil and patents.  Yes, I know, the tiredness of the what if jokes!  But what if the what if jokes aren’t jokes?

SOPA does feel eerily to be similar to whatever rules and regulations that govern patents to me, because it might curb innovations.  I feel innovations should be encouraged fairly, and by this I mean big and small companies alike should have a shot at being innovative.  As we have seen where patents are heading, only big corporations would have billions of dollars to acquire patents and use these patents to sue everyone else that might not really infringe on such patents, but of course such patent cases have to be settled somehow, and usually the situations come down to settling out of courts for huge amount of money.  Only when things cannot be settled out of courts, then let the court battles begin.

I don’t think small businesses even have the money and time to worry about patents and SOPA, because they are trying to hire more people and expanding their businesses.  SOPA curbs innovations from small businesses, because big corporations might have more influences on how things should turn out.  With great money comes great responsibility!  No, let me rephrase this, with great money comes great power!  Oh boy, sorry for the inconvenience, let me rephrase this again, with great power comes great innovations.  Fine, let me backtrack a bit, with great money comes great power, therefore big corporations can use SOPA to favor their agenda, right?  I fear there will be little scrutiny of the SOPA violations but the alleged SOPA violators (i.e., relatively speaking of small businesses) might be out of business in a flash, as in websites are going to be shut down immediately at DNS level (i.e., revenue streams of such websites will be completely cutoff).

Ironically, even big corporations might feel SOPA is a pain if they are the ones who are being sued.  It turns out SOPA works both ways, like a knife with both edges being sharped.  Nonetheless, big corporations have the money and power to fight off SOPA easier than small businesses.  Plus, they don’t have to get into a panic mode and outright shut down their businesses for a SOPA case, because they are going to fight for their businesses with all their might, knowing they have a chance to make SOPA favors them even though SOPA is clearly at their throats.  When facing SOPA, I think small businesses might just as well close their doors and not doing business.  Why fight in courts when SOPA could or might make them even more broke, right?  So, once again, SOPA favors big businesses!  Is this fair?  I don’t think so.

Not only small businesses might face dire circumstances when facing SOPA, but customers and Internet users might face their own SOPA dire circumstances as well.  Customers most of the time are likely the Internet users themselves, and in this aspect we relatively combine customers and Internet users as one.  (Let not talk about customers as a business is a customer of another business, because it’s about something else entirely, and it’s not relating to the case I’m trying to make.)  When a customer comes to YouTube, he or she wants to see user generated contents and some professional contents, but more likely they will be bombarded with user generated contents; this is happening, because Internet is rather freer than not.  Now, imagine one weird user generated content gets call out, and SOPA might block the whole YouTube.

Of course, YouTube is belonging to a big corporation which is Google, and so Google will have the power, the means, and the money to argue against SOPA.  Nonetheless, even Google might not prevail and customers might no longer have something as useful as YouTube.  When SOPA claims victory, YouTube and other similar services might end up biting the dust.  Of course, this scenario might be too extreme, because when SOPA becomes law, YouTube might no longer be the same YouTube as Google has to make sure their original YouTube got to be sane with SOPA.  Shall we say user generated contents might be scrutinized evermore closely by Google?  Then again, it’s only the figment of my imagination, because SOPA isn’t law yet.  If SOPA isn’t law yet, then we cannot know how YouTube will behave unless you are the one who is directing Google’s YouTube.

Does this mean we just care not for SOPA, therefore piracy will forever rampage our Internet?  Yes, we should care not for SOPA, but we should care for stopping piracy at everywhere, whether that be on the Internet or off the Internet.  SOPA isn’t the solution since SOPA can be worked around easily by using DNS servers from oversea.  SOPA isn’t the solution since I hear that its language is too broad.  If SOPA’s language is too broad, it might dictate things that can affect not only the pirates but the innocents on the Internet as well.  I don’t think the majority is supporting piracy!  If SOPA’s language is too specific, it will not work, because it will not be able to justify when big corporations can just slowly comply to SOPA and stays in business while small businesses have to close doors immediately.  If small businesses can also slowly comply to SOPA, will big businesses favor SOPA still?

I know my understanding of SOPA is rather flaky, because my indirect knowledge of SOPA are from what I’d read online.  Nonetheless, if I’m wrong, then I have to admit I’m shortsighted.  Now, if I’m right, then SOPA might be very damaging to the whole old faithful structure of the Internet.  I believe the current Internet model isn’t bad.  In fact, I believe big corporations don’t need SOPA, but they need to only change their business ideas.  Steve Jobs knew this, because he had helped music labels stayed in business through iTunes store.  You can disagree with me, but you might change your mind if you read more on how Steve Jobs had convinced many players in the music industry to work with him to make iTunes store worked, and in return Steve Jobs had made some players in the music industry very happy in term of revenues.  If the music industry isn’t happy with iTunes store, how come they are so eager to sell their music on iTunes still?  It turns out that people might prefer buying music on iTunes store than pirating, because the quality for the music from iTunes store is simply better.  Let me put this in another way, an alcoholic cannot quit being an alcoholic unless he or she tells oneself to quit, but nobody else can!  SOPA cannot block a person from pirating or running a website with pirated contents, because he or she or an entity can simply use DNS servers from places that are outside of the United States’ jurisdiction.

You can argue that United States can make SOPA works by asking other countries to comply.  In my opinion, if United States asks nicely, only the countries that are aligning with United States’ agenda on SOPA will comply right away, but other countries will not.  Now, if United States forces other countries to comply on SOPA, the whole SOPA thing can only make the United States looks like an international bully.  For SOPA, is it worth it?

I fear SOPA might do its job too well that more people might find their computers infect by computer viruses!  How?  When web hosting companies and DNS service providers within the United States deny providing DNS service to some businesses to comply with SOPA, such businesses might use not so friendly DNS service from not so friendly DNS service providers, consequently helping the spread of the computer viruses, trojans, and malware.  It’s not like rouge DNS servers will spread computer viruses, but it’s more of rouge DNS servers might be hacked easier, consequently directing web traffics to dangerous web addresses.  Such dangerous web destinations might carry computer viruses, trojans, and malware.

You can argue that rouge DNS servers might have high security measures as how DNS servers that are being run within the United States, therefore we cannot assume rouge DNS servers might be easily hacked and redirected people to dangerous web addresses, consequently having people’s computers infected with computer viruses, trojans, and malware.  I don’t see anything wrong with such an argument.  In fact, I do think you are right on the money.  I do fear though when SOPA forces website owners to use rouge DNS servers, they might not have enough time to do a careful planning on picking the right DNS service providers oversea, and by rushing into picking DNS service providers oversea so their websites can get back online faster, website owners might sign up with bad DNS service providers, consequently allowing their websites to be subjected to DNS server hacks.  Evil doers might also take the chance of seeing some websites shut down by SOPA and reopen such websites with pirated contents but with different domain names, using DNS servers outside of the United States’ jurisdiction.  Customers (i.e., Internet users) might not know better and eager to download pirated contents without knowing what they download might infect their computers with computer viruses.

In summary, I think SOPA isn’t a right solution for stopping online piracy.  In fact, I think the right solution for businesses to stop online piracy is providing something which pirating cannot best.  For an example, by providing higher quality contents at affordable prices, this can effectively mitigate people from pirating since pirated contents tend to be poor in quality.  For whoever think SOPA is the solution to online piracy, don’t you fear the Internet, the engine which plays a big part in stimulating our current economy, might break down or become less attractive to innovations?  If you know something that I don’t on SOPA, please do tell.  If you’re supporting SOPA, let just hope you aren’t wrong by supporting SOPA so our Internet future will continue to shine for years to come.  Honestly, I just hope there are more people who want to have a more open and freer Internet so innovations can continue to spawn like crazy.