On Friday, February 11, 2011, the United States government made another huge domain seizure. The Cyber Crime Centers of ICE seized a slew of domains acting on behalf of “Operation Save Our Children,” an anti-child pornography initiative. ICE acquired a seizure warrant via a District Court judge and presented it to the domain registrars, requiring them to point the DNS entries of the seized sites to the threatening-looking banner shown below.

DHS Seizure Banner

Department of Homeland Security Banner that was displayed across tens of thousands of innocent domains this week.

As has become all too common with these types of seizures however, a mistake was made and innocent sites were targeted. In this case, a domain called mooo.com, belonging to the large DNS service provider FreeDNS was seized. This rolled down into 84,000 innocent subdomains–mainly personal pages and small businesses–which were also wrongly accused of child pornography. This issue was not remedied until Sunday, and even then it took three days for all of the DNS records to propagate back towards the original site contents.

More amazing than the giant screw-up is the utter lack of acknowledgment from the Department of Homeland Security. In an issued press release, DHS focuses solely on their victory of removing ten offending domains in the seizure, with no mention of the glaring error and the damage it may have caused.

13 Responses to “Oopsy! Dept. of Homeland Security Mistakenly Shuts down 84,000 sites”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Tough! It got the 10 offending sites. The ones wrongly accused can suck it up

  2. Waybe says:

    This is outrageous! Government has no right to tell us which domain name to visit and not to visit. This is freedom of speech. What the Government did by forcing shutdown of domain name is unconstitutional and unfair regardless of any reason. We should never let Government decide.

  3. JLS says:

    I agree Suzanne, the inconvenience to those with personal pages for a couple days is not catastrophic. Shutting down child porn however is a major victory and more of such actions need to be taken.

    Waybe….allowing “freedom of speech” has nothing to do with the exploitation of children and combatting those that do. If you think it does then I am concerned about what kind of behaviour you yourself engage in. It is not unconstitutional to shut down illegal sites and child porn is illegal no matter which way you look at it.

  4. admin says:

    @Suzanne & @JLS- I don’t think anyone takes issue with the shutting down of a child pornography site. I think many take issue with the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach. Any number of small businesses were mistakenly included in this shut-down erroneously, and every minute down means lost money to these often “Made in the USA” family businesses. It also may have done irreparable harm to their reputations. If I went to “Ma’s Jams” and saw a warning such as the above; I would certainly never go back to that domain again!

    I think the main thing this article draws to attention is the need for checks and balances to prevent these errors in the future. Certainly, we should keep ahead with the initiate and be aggressive in shutting down illegal sites; just make sure no one innocent gets caught in the crunch and merely deemed collateral damage.

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  6. DL says:

    It is indeed a shame, that small businesses were shut down for awhile due to this raid by DHS. I don’t believe that DHS intended to do this deliberately. However, we should take notice of the fact that it is THIS EASY for child pornography, child torture and child murder sites to access and do business on the internet with every other kind of business. So, I guess, in the interests of free speech for a select few “artistic businesses”, the free speech of the young, innocent and abused weakest of our society must be silenced?,,, according to those who defend free speech as if it were the magic talisman of the poor man!

    Listen up people! The slime of this planet have been around for a long time. Many a parable in the Bible tells the tales of these sleaziest of predators. A lot of metaphors and adjectives/adverbs are used to describe them. And… suprisingly, these passages within the Good Book seem as appropriate today as they did two thousand years ago. I guess THAT means that the slime element of our society hasn’t really changed much in that amount of time. So, pardon me if I snicker and sneer a bit if MY SIDE of society wins just this one more time. It does my heart good to know that the BAD GUY’s free speech was abridged this time. Again. And, hopefully, again. Because, when THEIR free speech is silenced, mine is set free again.

    Raise your glasses (milk, soda pop, whatever) to the triumph of innocence over deception, leachery, and debauchery! It doesn’t happen often, and it doesn’t last long enough. But when the many innocent voices can be hear again because THEIR free speech is guaranteed, it means that all of our free speech rights were just upheld. Those of you who disagree with this know where you should be looking for your next job. Definitely NOT on my side of society. And, don’t let the door knob hit you in the arse on the way out!

    Hail to the DHS for getting at least this one job right. You are not perfect, but this mistake is correctable and understandable. And… thank you for helping to enforce our free speech rights. and ensure that they really mean something and aren’t just words on some crumbling piece of paper.

  7. Rob says:

    @Suzanne and @JLS. Let’s see how much you would like to “suck it up” when you are publicly accused of being a pedo perv. In today’s society of guilt by accusation, if anyone so much as possibly hints that you were inappropriate with a kid then there will be a mob on your front door demanding you move. Even if you weren’t charged, every potential person who saw this add immediately will assume you are a pedo.

    By your arguments, then everyone should be randomly subjected to drug tests, immediately comply to a demand to search your house with no probable cause, and be able to be locked up “because you were standing on this block”. Yeah, you may catch a drug user, pedo porn hound, or gang member, but the damage done to innocent people is irreparable. The ends don’t justify the means.

  8. Carl says:

    I agree with Suzanne. The mistake is minor for the benefit.

  9. Brian Cook says:

    Yes it is terrible that this has effected legitimate and innocent persons, businesses and sites, and ways should be put in place to prevent this in the future, but on the other hand, don’t speak too badly of a process that did even more good in terms of blocking illegal content. I have to wonder about those raising a stink about this so vehemently, knowing that even more good was done.

  10. Paul Turner says:

    It is not just personal pages that this tactic can close it is also Business Pages and business sites that may rely on there sites for there income. Tactics like this can cause companies to lose massive amounts of income and traffic not to mention the lose in marketing position that they may hold on Google and other search engines. Maybe rather than the aggressive approach they should do there homework and actually find the offensive information or images trace who uploaded it arrest them and then shutdown the site down. I think those companies that have done nothing wrong and have been effected financially should have the right to sue for loss of earnings and reputation. They did a good Job stopping the 10 bad sites but there is a better way and more accurate way I think they are just being lazy and not bothering to check there information or sources correctly.

  11. Redrum says:

    I have to disagree with Suzanne. Although it is a good thing the government was successful in finding 10 predator sites, it is not a good strategy to effectively eliminate a couple thousand people’s income. I hope they get tortuted and humiliated for their crimes and all, but there are a lot of people who make money over the internet. To simply say that “the rest of the people can suck it up”, is retarded at best. Imagine if the FBI suddenly got the power to shut down every domain in the Google registry, does anyone know the magnitude of the damage they could cause?

    Let’s think about this for a moment: 84,000 websites were offline. Believe it or not, that could have been a couple million dollars they could have made during that time.

    So let’s get this straight: it probably cost a couple hundred thousand to pay the staff to perform a thorough investigation, to do police raids, and to do a domain/IP sweep. Along with the couple million dollars it cost for profits lost during down time. Wouldn’t it have been more logical to just suspend the domains of the website they know for sure and arresting those individuals. No, the police just wanted to cut corners and used a special program to domain block that website.

  12. cory synnott says:

    Suzanne is an idiot .. You dont sweepingly try and convict thousands just to catch 10 .. Would she like all the houses in her neighborhood raided at 3 AM looking for crackheads and finding ten in the other part of the city .. No way ..

    She would be the first to scream UNFAIR …

  13. Wim says:

    I agree with all of you, but you need to realize that the Cyber Crime Centers of ICE has almost no impact on the child porn sites, because the sites involved simply change the provider and another domain name and within hours or less they are again in the air, while the victims of the Cyber Crime Centers of ICE are not so professional in that aspect and they suffered, especially their name and loss of respect.
    It does not change anything, in the contrary. Now those sites will create multiple nodes with multiple domain names, which are held in reserve. The next time another such stupid action occurs, they will be in the air again within minutes.
    Child porn sites, just like porn sites itself, are filling a need to many people, who always look for these kind of things. The reason why those sites are there is not for the people who keep sites like that, but the ‘normal’ people who are visiting those sites. If there is no interest, then no one will visit those sites and they will automatically disappear.

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