Bomb-making tips tied to blog shut-down

Analysts say info about terrorist material should serve as wake-up call for hosting companies

The Internet has been abuzz with rumors and conjecture about why blogging Web site and its reported 70,000 bloggers went dark last week.

Now the answer is out and it seems to be straight out of a movie. And industry analysts say it's a problem that all hosting companies should be aware of.

Execs at BurstNET, the host for the blog platform Blogetery, released a statement this week to put the rumors to rest.

"On the evening of July 9, 2010, BurstNET received a notice of a critical nature from law enforcement officials, and was asked to provide information regarding ownership of the server hosting," the statement says.

"It was revealed that a link to terrorist material, including bomb-making instructions and an al-Qaeda 'hit list'," had been posted to the site.

"Upon review, BurstNET determined that the posted material, in addition to potentially inciting dangerous activities, specifically violated the BurstNET Acceptable Use Policy," the statement continues.

"This policy strictly prohibits the posting of 'terrorist propaganda, racist material, or bomb/weapon instructions.' Due to this violation and the fact that the site had a history of previous abuse, BurstNET elected to immediately disable the system," it says.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said it's not surprising to hear terrorist-related material could make its way onto a hosted site. "I think there are probably a lot of terrorist-related activities going on in the Internet," Olds said.

"The rest of the world is using the net to communicate, collaborate, and be more efficient. It's naive to think terrorists wouldn't do the same thing," he said. "Even though much of their philosophy is 16th or 17th century, and they want to impose that on the rest of the world, it doesn't mean they're going to confine themselves to using that level of technology in pursuit of their goals."

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said shutting down Blogetery made business and legal sense until the issue can be sorted out.

"You basically have to shut things down, and have to be broad about it," he said. "Things like this have the potential to crop up anywhere - anywhere someone can publish to the world. Blogs are just quick and easy publishing sites, and there is certainly a potential to publish very toxic content."

Olds said this is a good wake-up call for every hosting company.

"Hosting companies should be concerned about what's on their systems and networks," he said. "As we have seen, law enforcement doesn't have a light touch when it comes to this stuff, and if there is evidence of an actual plot or crime, then the investigation process could have a very bad impact on business."

Gottheil said he thinks the blogs that were taken offline will be reviewed and remounted fairly quickly if they're not involved. "It's just an outage," he said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is .

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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