Microsoft posted a somewhat self-congratulatory blog post yesterday about how it was taking on a “global cybercrime epidemic” and effectively targeting systems used by malware. Of course, part of the details were that Microsoft totally misrepresented the nature of No-IP and how dynamic DNS solutions work. No-IP’s parent company, Vitalwerks Solutions, was painted by Microsoft as being something of an accomplice to the malware epidemic, allowing Microsoft to convince a judge to seize a bunch of very popular No-IP domains without any notice or immediate recourse. Microsoft claims that it’s just stopping malware, but the collateral damage from grabbing those domains is immense.
According to No-IP:
Unfortunately, Microsoft never contacted us or asked us to block any subdomains, even though we have an open line of communication with Microsoft corporate executives.
We have been in contact with Microsoft today. They claim that their intent is to only filter out the known bad hostnames in each seized domain, while continuing to allow the good hostnames to resolve. However, this is not happening. Apparently, the Microsoft infrastructure is not able to handle the billions of queries from our customers. Millions of innocent users are experiencing outages to their services because of Microsoft’s attempt to remediate hostnames associated with a few bad actors.
As No-IP further notes, Microsoft could have easily contacted them, and the company would have taken action:
Had Microsoft contacted us, we could and would have taken immediate action. Microsoft now claims that it just wants to get us to clean up our act, but its draconian actions have affected millions of innocent Internet users.
Vitalwerks and No-IP have a very strict abuse policy. Our abuse team is constantly working to keep the No-IP system domains free of spam and malicious activity. We use sophisticated filters and we scan our network daily for signs of malicious activity. Even with such precautions, our free dynamic DNS service does occasionally fall prey to cyber scammers, spammers, and malware distributors. But this heavy-handed action by Microsoft benefits no one.
Except, instead, it appears that Microsoft went to court (secretly, without telling Vitalwerks/No-IP) and convinced the judge that the company itself was violating the law. And the court bought it:
There is good cause to believe that, unless the Defendant Vitalwerks is restrained and enjoined by Order of this Court, immediate and irreparable harm will result from its ongoing violations the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (15 U.S.C. § 1125) and the common law of negligence. The evidence set forth in Microsoft’s TRO Motion, and the accompanying declarations and exhibits, demonstrate that Microsoft is likely to prevail on its claim that this Defendant has engaged in violations of the foregoing laws through one or more of the following:
a. Leasing to Malware Defendants No-IP sub-domains containing Microsoft’s protected marks; and
b. Negligently enabling Malware Defendants to participate in illegal acts, and failing to take sufficiently corrective action to stop and prevent the abuse of its services, all of which harms Microsoft, Microsoft’s customers, and the general public.
Given the nature of the ex-parte (without Vitalwerks being able to present its side of the story) proceedings, Microsoft was able to paint the fact that a platform provider (which has a full anti-abuse program), was somehow liable for actions of its users. This flies in the face of a variety of laws and caselaw on secondary liability, which protect the service provider from being held liable for abusive behavior by its users. Yet here, not only did the court ignore all of that, it simply flat out handed over to Microsoft a whole bunch of No-IP’s domains (which, clearly, Microsoft was unable to handle), bringing down a big chunk of the web that relied on No-IP’s dynamic DNS services.
This seems like a tremendously dangerous move for the internet in a variety of ways. Microsoft needs to take some of the blame. Even if its goal was to stop malware proliferation, there are better ways to do that than to falsely blame No-IP, and to misleadingly represent the service to the court, allowing the domains to be seized and rerouted.