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Updated: November 30, 2010 02:36 IST

WikiLeaks site evades hackers with shift to Amazon

Charles Arthur
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The Hindu

Website moves front page to Amazon server hire service but keeps U.S. embassy cables out of reach

WikiLeaks, the site that has infuriated the US government by releasing thousands of US diplomatic cables, is being hosted by one of the symbols of that country’s internet success — Amazon.

The site came under a “Distributed Denial of Service” (DDOS) attack on Sunday night (28NOV) from an unidentified hacker, forcing it to seek a new location for its computer files. And it found it though Amazon’s “Elastic Cloud Computing” (EC2) service, which enables businesses to hire its servers and store their data there.

DDOS attacks typically force sites off the net unless they have enormous bandwidth at their disposal or highly effective countermeasures. WikiLeaks, being small and struggling for funds, is neither.

But EC2 allows companies to pay for their usage as it mounts up, rather than upfront.

While Amazon is American, not all of its servers are hosted there — and it could cause a major incident if the U.S. government were to take action against a company on the basis that it might be hosting material the government finds embarrassing.

But the US government would not be able to remove the diplomatic cables from the internet by ordering Amazon to take down the WikiLeaks pages — partly because the cables are not hosted there: further digging shows that, where the documents are being held, is actually hosted by Octopuce, a French company.

The use of Amazon’s EC2 is therefore more likely to be a convenient way of evading the DDOS attack. The pages that are hosted there do not appear to contain any of the sensitive information that the US government has been complaining about — meaning that it would have little legal cause to complain to Amazon. — © Guardian News & Media 2010

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