Elections Canada is being asked to decide whether a federal political party can host a WikiLeaks mirror after a request made Dec. 16.
The Pirate Party of Canada (PPCA) is seeking to support the tell-all Web site that has run afoul of U.S. authorities lately by releasing thousands of diplomatic cables to the press and the Internet at large. WikiLeaks has been cut off from Web hosting services by Amazon.com Inc. and domain name system (DNS) services by French host EveryDNS, but managed to stay online with the help of thousands of organizations and individuals willing to support it – including several Canadians.
More than 1,000 WikiLeaks mirrors are now in place online. These sites provide duplicate copies of the original WikiLeaks.org domain, hosting the same data on different servers so that if one goes down, the information remains online and is easily found via search engines. Now the PPCA wants to become the first Canadian political organization to host a mirror.
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“At this point it’s more symbolic than anything,” says Mikkel Paulson, leader of the PPCA. “We’re being cautious, we’ll be checking with Elections Canada and making sure it’s allowable under the Elections Act.”
PPCA made the inquiry with Elections Canada on Wednesday. A spokesperson from the arm’s-length crown organization wouldn’t comment on the matter before responding to the request with the PPCA. It’s not clear how long it will take to respond.
Elections Canada did say that if an election campaign is not underway, it does not govern how a political party spends its funds. Parties are responsible only for filing an annual return that is posted publicly to Elections Canada’s Web site.
If they do go ahead and set up the WikiLeaks mirror, Toronto-based EasyDNS Technologies Inc. is willing to provide the DNS services, says Mark Jeftovic, CEO for the hosting provider.
“They’re just the same as any other customer,” he says. “We would just treat them like any other domain.”
Jeftovic’s firm was serendipitously roped into the WikiLeaks saga after a blog mistakenly named it, instead of EveryDNS, as the hosting provider that cut off WikiLeaks DNS services. That error was repeated in several media reports. After making efforts to correct the error, EasyDNS was approached by groups to begin providing DNS services to two WikiLeaks mirrors.
DNS is the Internet’s system to turn numbered addresses into word addresses. Currently, EasyDNS is hosting WikiLeaks.ch and WikiLeaks.nl. The dot-ch address points to a server hosted by the Pirate Party of Switzerland. So far, other EasyDNS customers voicing opinions on the matter are 95 per cent in favour of the move, Jeftovic says.
“WikiLeaks hasn’t been charged formally with any crime,” he says. “We find it very disturbing that as the facts come in, service providers are denying service to them based on extra-judicial pressure.”
The batch of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks included some Canadian references. The former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency depicted Canadians as being naïve about terrorism threats in one cable, and other shows a diplomat in Afghanistan describing Hamid Karzai as a “corrupt narcotics trafficker.”
The PPCA would be joining other Pirate Parties around the world that are already supporting WikiLeaks and hosting mirrors, Paulson says. Canadian members of the party recently voted to provide support to the site.
The Pirate Party represents a demographic that are described as “free thinkers” and “anti-authoritarian” by Paulson.
“It’s better to have reliable open access to government than to have haphazard glimpses through leaks, but this is a start,” he says. “It’s a little bit chilling what extra-judiciary rights are being exercised, particularly by American Authorities.”
Mitigating security risks
Parties providing assistance to WikiLeaks say they are aware of the risks associated with hosting the controversial site and have taken precautions. At the same time, sites who’ve cut ties with WikiLeaks have been the target of attacks by a loose-knit group named Anonymous. Using a piece of software available for download on the Internet, any Internet user can lend their computer to denial of service (called “DDOS” or “DOS”) attacks conducted against parties such as Mastercard, Visa and Paypal in retaliation for their perceived betrayal of WikiLeaks.
EasyDNS hasn’t been the target of any DOS attacks in relation to the WikiLeaks saga, Jeftovic says.
“EveryDNS who unplugged them in the first place to protect their customer base from a DOS attack ended up being hit with a DOS attack,” he says. “If there was going to be a DOS attack leveled against WikiLeaks name servers we would have seen it by now.
That being said, Jeftovic isn’t leaving anything to chance. He’s put WikiLeaks on a Prolexic Technologies server, a company that specializes in protecting against DOS attacks. The site is also segregated from the rest of EasyDNS’ client sites so that if an attack should succeed in bringing it down, other customers won’t be affected. EasyDNS also uses Anycast DNS routing, a decentralized approach to addressing that provides redundancy by routing through multiple servers on different continents.
“They are there to soak up DOS attacks,” Jeftovic says. “If someone attacks WikiLeaks, they’re attacking the strongest part of our network.”
PPCA would run its WikiLeaks mirror on a donated server, Paulson says, not the same servers the party relies upon for its own Web site hosting and e-mail servers. It will also get a new domain name not associated with www.pirateparty.ca, since domains have been seized elsewhere for hosting WikiLeaks mirrors.
Other Canadian WikiLeaks mirrors
As reported by the National Post, at least two individuals in Canada are hosting WikiLeaks mirrors. David Gilbert runs Internet service provider EI Catalyst and is hosting wikileak.eicat.ca. Andrew Tejero set up a mirror on his personal Web site, wikileaks.tejero.ca.
According to public Whois database information, the Wikileaks.ca domain is hosted by Vancouver-based registrar NamesPro Solutions Inc., owned by Oswald Chu. The firm didn’t respond to a request for interview from ITBusiness.ca.