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Engineer Looks at the Facts on Anti-Piracy Bills
Author:  Paul Hortenstine
Date:  12/21/2011

The PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act target foreign criminal websites.  They have broad bipartisan support and the rare backing of the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce.   There is nothing new about the techniques of domain blocking used to target criminals in the Stop Online Piracy Act.   They are currently used to protect consumers and combat all kinds of harmful behavior including spam, phishing, malware, viruses, copyright infringement and other forms of Internet crime.  And this is happening without claims of harm to the Internet.   Recently many opponents of the legislation, especially the Stop Online Piracy Act, have made many claims about the technical aspects of the bills.  These claims just do not hold up to the facts.   

George Ou, a respected network engineer who has written extensively on information system security and related topics, addresses these very issues in a recent blog post. He writes:

“Members of the House recently addressed the claims that their bill would allegedly threaten Internet Cybersecurity by offering some amendments.  They made explicit assurances that their proposed bill should not be construed in any way to compromise or impose onerous obstacles to the security of the Internet.  Neither the House nor Senate bills in their original forms made any threatening moves to DNSSEC but this new amendment makes it explicit that there is no intent to impair security operations of DNS.”

Ou also points out Stop Online Piracy Act opponent have offered no evidence of DNS fracturing on the Internet:

“The engineers opposed to DNS Filtering claim is that if courts are allowed to block infringing websites, alternative DNS systems will pop up and replace the Internet’s official DNS service controlled by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and fracture the Internet.  But this speculation of DNS fracturing has been proven wrong by real-world examples.

The Internet’s official IANA controlled DNS already coexists with hundreds of thousands of private DNS services operated by organizations, businesses, governments, and militaries.  Those private DNS services have to coexist because wholesale replacement of the Internet’s DNS service is impractical and there is no reason for infringing website operators to do any different.  When the US courts began seizing rogue websites a few years ago, a web browser plug-in called MAFIAAFire was created to bypass those court blocks by patching in the blocked domain names.  The plugin used the practical and easy method of listing addresses for the blocked domain names but did not attempt to replace the entire IANA DNS service which would have been horrifically challenging.”