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AntiOnline Forces Packet Storm Security OffLine

Jul 01, 1999, 17:01 (12 Talkback[s])

Written by Cult_Hero and Space Rogue [ forwarded by Kragen Sitaker -lt ed ]

Wednesday afternoon, the PacketStorm Security site (packetstorm.harvard.edu) was abruptly shut down with little warning. PacketStorm was one of the largest and most respected sites catering to security professionals worldwide. Boasting an average of 400,000 hits a day, pushing out roughly 10 gigs of traffic, the site was a valuable resource to an estimated 10,000 security professionals world wide.

This major security resource did not suffer at the hands of hackers, crackers, network intruders, or cyber terrorists. Instead, a new kind of malicious bad guy found success through a fear that haunts more and more Americans today. A single piece of email from John Vranesevich (founder of AntiOnline) to the university hosting Packetstorm requested that the site be shut down. This email claimed that PacketStorm was hosting potentially libelous material about John Vranesevich. Like most US institutions, the idea of being taken to court for any reason is enough to scare them into hasty action. With that mail, Harvard University pulled the plug.

Email from Ken Williams, primary administrator for the site, indicated that not only did Harvard shut down the site, they denied him access to the machine and all information stored on it. The correspondence noted the likelihood that all information on the machine, and all backups would be destroyed in order to avoid any sort of legal fallout from AntiOnline. "All of the content and the backups made are either destroyed, being destroyed now, or will be before I can do anything to prevent it." said PacketStorm founder Ken Williams.

Williams went on to say that he does not fear any fraudulent lawsuit Vranesevich could attempt to level at him. The information contained on the site regarding Vranesevich was not in violation of any US law that he was aware of, and had been there for over a year. Along with the security site, months of William's own school work was lost. "I have just lost seven weeks of [class] work and data that cannot be replaced in 4 weeks." Williams said, referring to deadlines on the school work.

"What bothers me the most is that all of the countless hours I put into that web site and the archives, thousands of hours, are gone now, for good." - Ken Williams, PacketStorm founder

These vague and unfounded accusations only serve to hurt the security community. AntiOnline's mission statement claims they exist "to educate the public on computer security related issues." Apparently, this mission statement forgot to include such things like "educate the public through OUR site only" or "as long as we profit from it".

So now what? Ken is fearing for his job, and wonders if he will be able to finish school with his schoolwork missing. Numerous offers of alternate host sites have been made to Ken Williams but it is unlikely that there is data available to put on such a site due to Harvard Universities hasty actions.

For examples of the 'libelous' material hosted on the Packet Storm site see attrition.org

Ken Williams was kind enough to provide his thoughts on this sordid mess.

Email from Ken Williams

We attempted to contact John Vranesevich for comment but he did not respond to our email. We also attempted to contact AntiOnline's ISP and have received no reply.

John Vranesevich has posted his version of events on his site.

Comments from John Vranesevich

Oh, yeah, AntiOnline considers HNN evil and blocks links from HNN to his web site. We assume that he doesn't want people to read both sides of the issue.