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FBI seizes servers and knocks out service to numerous companies

On June 22, 2011, in Cloud Computing, Law enforcement, United States, by Jorge Espinosa

Your cloud data may be relatively protected from disasters such as floods, storms and earthquakes.  However, it has no protection from the overreaching hand of law enforcement.

Early yesterday morning the FBI raided an Internet hosting facility in Renton, Va., and seized several of its servers.  The facility is owned by DigitalOne, a company based in Switzerland. The raid and seizure seem to be related to the FBI’s search for a wanted hacking organization Lulz Security Group (“LulzSec”).  LulzSec is associated with a series of Internet denial of service attacks against CIA and other government agencies.  At the same time that the Virginia raids were taking place Scotland Yard arrested Ryan Cleary in the United Kingdom for alleged involvement with the organization.

Although the FBI was only interested in one of DigitalOne’s clients whose data was hosted on one of the seized servers and who may have had ties to LulzSec, various servers were seized thereby shutting down access for “tens of clients” who also maintained data on the server.  In an email to a client, published by the New York Times, DigitalOne’s chief executive, Sergej Ostroumow, said that in the “night FBI has taken three enclosures with equipment plugged into them, possibly including your server.  .  .  After FBI.’s unprofessional ‘work’ we can not restart our own servers, that’s why our website is offline and support doesn’t work.”  The New York Times reported that Mr Ostroumow said DigitalOne had provided the FBI with details of how to find servers linked to an IP address they were investigating, but agents also seized unrelated equipment.  The DigitalOne website was still not accesible this morning, a day after the raid.

This seizure is reminiscent of a raid undertaken by the FBI in 2009 where it seized servers belonging to Core IP Networks in Dallas, Texas.  In the 2009 raid the FBI was investigating two companies who had allegedly defrauded AT&T and other telecom companies of service fees.  The seizure of the servers effectively shut down dozens of a companies.  One company in particular, Liquid Motors, a provider of data services for car dealerships was effectively shut down by the raid.  A legal suit for return of the servers filed by Core IP Networks before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas failed where the Court found that there was probable cause the servers had served as an instrumentality of a crime.



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