[News] Riseup Server Seizure

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 20 10:49:06 EDT 2012

On Wednesday April 18th, a server hosted in Riseup's NYC facility was
seized without warning by the US Federal authorities. Be assured, the
machine does not have any Riseup data on it. The machine that was seized
was operated by the European Counter Network (ECN), an Italian
technology collective with a deep history providing email, lists and web
hosting services to colleagues around the world supporting social change

To repeat: no Riseup service or user data is on this machine. No Riseup
keys or certificates are on the machine. Furthermore, the root
file system of this machine is encrypted.

The server was seized because it hosted an email anonymizer called
Mixmaster. By design, Mixmaster stores zero data, which the FBI is well
aware of. In a display of gross overreach, they decided to seize the
machine anyway.

For more information, please read the full press release:

The Riseup Collective
Server Seizure, April 2012
April 18th, 2012, Riseup had a server seized by 
the US Federal Authorities. This is our press release.


FBI seizes server providing anonymous remailer 
and many other services from colocation facility.

     Riseup Networks, Devin Theriot-Orr, 206-708-8740, sunbird at riseup.net
     May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, jm at mayfirst.org
     ECN: Isole Nella Rete, inr at riseup.net

Attack on Anonymous Speech¶

On Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 
Eastern Time, U.S. Federal authorities removed a 
server from a colocation facility shared by 
Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New 
York City. The seized server was operated by the 
European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest 
independent internet service provider in Europe, 
who, among many other things, provided an 
anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that was 
the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb 
threats against the University of Pittsburgh.

“The company running the facility has confirmed 
that the server was removed in conjunction with a 
search warrant issued at the request of the FBI,” 
said May First/People Link director Jamie 
McClelland. “The server seizure is not only an 
attack against us, but an attack against all 
users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication.”

Disrupted in this seizure were academics, 
artists, historians, feminist groups, gay rights 
groups, community centers, documentation and 
software archives and free speech groups. The 
server included the mailing list “cyber rights” 
(the oldest discussion list in Italy to discuss 
this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, 
and other groups working to support indigenous 
groups and workers in Latin America, the 
Caribbean and Africa. In total, over 300 email 
accounts, between 50-80 email lists, and several 
other websites have been taken off the Internet 
by this action. None are alleged to be involved 
in the anonymous bomb threats. The seized machine 
did not contain any riseup email accounts, lists, 
or user data. Rather, the data belonged to ECN.

“The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, 
shutting down service to hundreds of users due to 
the actions of one anonymous person,” said Devin 
Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup. “This is 
particularly misguided because there is unlikely 
to be any information on the server regarding the 
source of the threatening emails.”

“We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh 
community who have had to deal with this 
frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such 
threatening actions. However, taking this server 
won’t stop these bomb threats. The only effect it 
has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites for 
thousands of unrelated people,” continues Mr. 
Theriot-Orr. “Furthermore, the network of 
anonymous remailers that exists is not harmed by 
taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder 
why such drastic action was taken when 
authorities knew that the server contained no 
useful information that would help in their investigation.”

The FBI purportedly seized the server because it 
was hosting an anonymous remailer called 
Mixmaster. Anonymous remailers are used to send 
email anonymously, or pseudonymously. Like other 
anonymizing services such as the Tor network, 
these remailers are widely used to protect the 
identity of human rights activists who place 
themselves and their families in grave danger by 
reporting information about abuses. Remailers are 
also important for corporate whistle blowers, 
democracy activists working under repressive 
regimes, and others to communicate vital 
information that would otherwise go un-reported.

The Mixmaster software is specifically designed 
to make it impossible for anyone to trace the 
emails. The system does not record logs of 
connections, details of who sent messages, or how 
they were routed. This is because the Mixmaster 
network is specifically designed to resist 
censorship, and support privacy and anonymity. 
Unfortunately, some people misuse the network. 
However, compared to the rate of legitimate use, 
the abuse rate is very low. There is therefore no 
legitimate purpose for the FBI to seize this 
server because they will not be able to obtain 
any information about the sender. This is plainly 
extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free 
speech and anonymity on the internet and serves 
as a chilling effect on others providers of 
anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.

In absence of any other leads, the FBI needs to 
show that they are making progress in this case, 
and this has meant seizing a server so they can 
proudly demonstrate they are taking some action. 
But what this incident shows is they are grasping 
at straws and are willing to destroy innocent 
bystanders for the sake of protecting their careers.
About the organizations involved¶

MayFirst/People Link (mayfirst.org) is a 
politically-progressive member-run and controlled 
organization that redefines the concept of 
“Internet Service Provider” in a collective and 
collaborative way. May First/People Link’s 
members are organizers and activists who elect a 
Leadership Committee to direct the organization. 
Like a coop, members pay dues, buy equipment and 
then share that equipment for websites, email, 
email lists, and other Internet purposes.

Riseup Networks (riseup.net) provides online 
communication tools for people and groups working 
on liberatory social change. Riseup creates 
democratic alternatives and practices 
self-determination by controlling our own secure means of communications.

ECN (European Counter Network – ecn.org) is the 
oldest independent service provider in Europe 
providing free email accounts, mailing lists, and 
websites to organizations, activists, and 
movements that are involved in human rights, 
freedom of speech and information in Italy and 
Europe. ECN is anti-fascist and works towards a 
just and equal society. Years ago, before sites 
like Youtube and Vimeo existed, ECN created a 
platform called NGV where people could upload and 
share independent video of human rights 
violations. Nowadays ECN works primarily with 
anti-fascist and anti-Nazi movements in all of 
Europe, providing space and resources to political and social centers.
Questions / further reading¶

Q: Doesn’t Mixmaster/anonymous remailers enable criminals to do bad things?

A: Criminals can already do bad things. Since 
they’re willing to break laws, they already have 
lots of options available that provide better 
privacy than mixmaster provides. They can steal 
cell phones, use them, and throw them in a ditch; 
they can crack into computers in Korea or Brazil 
and use them to launch abusive activities; they 
can use spyware, viruses, and other techniques to 
take control of literally millions of Windows machines around the world.

Mixmaster aims to provide protection for ordinary 
people who want to follow the law. Only criminals 
have privacy right now, and we need to fix that.

Some advocates of anonymity explain that it’s 
just a tradeoff — accepting the bad uses for the 
good ones — but there’s more to it than that. 
Criminals and other bad people have the 
motivation to learn how to get good anonymity, 
and many have the motivation to pay well to 
achieve it. Being able to steal and reuse the 
identities of innocent victims (identify theft) 
makes it even easier. Normal people, on the other 
hand, don’t have the time or money to spend 
figuring out how to get privacy online. This is 
the worst of all possible worlds.

So yes, criminals could in theory use mixmaster, 
but they already have better options, and it 
seems unlikely that taking mixmaster away from 
the world will stop them from doing bad things. 
At the same time, mixmaster and other privacy 
measures can fight identity theft, physical 
crimes like stalking, and so on. Please see the 
tor FAQ on abuse for more information.

Q: How does Mixmaster / Anonymous remailers work?

A: Anonymous remailers work by connecting to 
other anonymous remailers in a chain, and every 
one in that chain removes the mail header 
information making it impossible to find the real 
sender. The Tor project maintains a list of 
typical users of this and other anonymity systems, and the Mixmaster home page

Freedom Archives
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415 863-9977

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