[LINK] Complaint to Min Communications re Telstra's redirection
stil at stilgherrian.com
Tue Nov 23 16:00:51 EST 2004
[Telstra's redirection of www.caseydonovan.com to cover their mistake
with their Australian idol advertising has incensed me to the point
that I've made a formal complaint to the Minister. I'll post any
response here. Comments greatly appreciated, one way or the other.
And of course any support would be appreciated too! -- Stil.]
23 November 2004
Senator the Hon Helen Coonan
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
fax 02 6273 4154
Telstra's illegal redirection of www.caseydonovan.com:
request for investigation
Good afternoon Senator,
I write to express my outrage that Telstra Corporation Limited is
re-directing Internet requests for the domain www.caseydonovan.com to
cover its embarrassing mistake earlier this week. Such interference
with the basic infrastructure of the Internet sets a dangerous
precedent and is probably illegal.
I request that the Minister directs Telstra to cease this
interference, and to seek legal advice as to whether criminal charges
should be laid against those who sanctioned it.
Yesterday, Telstra BigPond placed newspaper advertisements in
Sydney's "Daily Telegraph" and Melbourne's "Sun Herald",
congratulating the winner of Australian Idol, Casey Donovan. Due to
an unfortunate error, instead of giving the correct website address
www.caseydonovan.com.au, the advertisements carried the address
www.caseydonovan.com, which is a website belonging to New Millennium
Video of Woburn, Massachusetts.
To cover up its mistake, BigPond customers who request
www.caseydonovan.com are now being re-directed to a Telstra BigPond
web page which in turns directs them to www.caseydonovan.com.au.
In other words, to protect their commercial interests, Telstra is
deliberately interfering with the delivery of someone else's website
-- presumably without their permission. And they're doing so by
subverting a fundamental technical mechanism of the Internet.
Telstra is causing the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS) to deliver
incorrect data. That is, when an BigPond user's web browser is
looking up the Internet Protocol (IP) address for the domain
www.caseydonovan.com, instead of being given the correct address
188.8.131.52, they're instead being told it's 184.108.40.206 -- a
web server belonging to Telstra BigPond.
This kind of redirection is extremely dangerous. The Internet relies
on a properly-functioning DNS to ensure that website and other
requests are directed to the correct server.
For example, an Internet banking user who enters www.stgeorge.com.au
is relying on DNS to ensure that the website into which they enter
their username and password is indeed their bank's and not that of a
criminal. For this reason, DNS servers are some of the most
frequently attacked servers on the Internet. Protecting the integrity
of DNS is vital for Internet security.
DNS is as important to the Internet as lighthouses, satellite
navigation and other such aids are to shipping and aviation. Perhaps
more so, as ships and aircraft often have other means of determining
their location -- even just looking out the window. Internet users
only have DNS.
Telstra's actions indicate that they are willing to subvert this
vital "navigation system" simply to meet a commercial imperative and
cover an embarrassing mistake.
This is of particular concern because Telstra is charged with the
responsibility of running one of the DNS "root servers" -- the
servers which all others rely upon for accurate information.
Telstra's actions set a dangerous precedent:
* Instead of DNS being treated as a vital "navigation aid"
whose integrity must be protected at all times, DNS is now
being treated as something which may be manipulated for
* It implies that an Internet Service Provider may choose to
divert users from viewing material which it doesn't want them
to see. In this case, even users who do want to visit the
American website are instead shown Telstra's promotion for
Australian Idol. This is no different from diverting requests
to see the websites of Optus or Vodaphone or Telstra's other
competitors to Telstra's own website.
* It implies that it's permissible to add your own advertising
to another business' website without their approval. This
makes it much more difficult to combat "spyware" and other
such malicious software which subverts web browsing.
In their defence, Telstra will doubtless make much of the fact that
www.caseydonovan.com is the website of an American gay pornography
star, and that their actions are to "protect the children" who are
looking for their Australian Idol. This is irrelevant. The US website
has not been found to be unlawful, and Telstra has no right to
interfere with its traffic.
My attention has also been drawn to Section 85ZD of the Crimes Act
1914, which states:
Wrongful delivery of communications
A person shall not intentionally cause a communication in the
course of telecommunications carriage to be received by a
person or carriage service other than the person or service to
whom it is directed.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 1 year.
Telstra's breach here is clear. If a user types www.caseydonovan.com
into their web browser, then that's the website to which they should
be connected. Telstra has no right or authority to decide that the
user "really meant" www.caseydonovan.com.au.
If you need any further information, please feel free to contact me
via phone or email.
Senator the Hon Stephen Conroy, fax 02 6277 3317
Senator the Hon Bob Brown, fax 02 6277 3185
Senator the Hon John Curry, fax 02 6277 3728
Stilgherrian <stil at stilgherrian.com> http://www.stilgherrian.com/
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