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Perils of the Cloud – FBI Seizure

NY Times: FBI had confiscated three racks of servers and the equipment plugged into them from space in a data center in Virginia

As Andy Grove would say, "Only the paranoid survive."

After Amazon went down and the general chatter suddenly became shot through with talk of availability zones and redundancy, public cloud users and people hesitating to use a public cloud started articulating another deeply held fear: what if the FBI or the CIA or one of their spook friends seized the multi-tenant machine.

Roundarch, for instance, one of Abiquo's enterprise customers, raised the potential risk with Abiquo CEO Peter Malcolm after the Sony hacks.

At the time - which was right before the recent flood of cyber break-ins started - it seemed a tad far-fetched that an innocent multi-tenant cloud user could be shut down because the government seized the machines he was using.

Au contraire.

News broke Tuesday justifying Roundarch's paranoia.

The New York Times reported that in the wee hours that morning the FBI had confiscated three racks of servers and the equipment plugged into them from space in a data center in Reston, Virginia, leased by a web hoster in Switzerland called DigitalOne.

It caused a number of evidently innocent bystanders, like New York publisher Curbed Networks and Instapaper, to go down or look for lodgings elsewhere.

The Times and then Cnet reported that feds were only after one specific DigitalOne client, still unidentified.

Cnet quoted DigitalOne CEO Sergej Ostroumow as saying, the "FBI was interesting only in one of the clients and it is absolutely unintelligible why they took servers of tens of clients. After FBI's unprofessional ‘work' we can not restart our own servers, that's why our web site is offline and support doesn't work."

Ostroumow told the Times the feds took more servers than they had to even though DigitalOne pinpointed the servers they were looking for through the specific IP address.

The Times got a statement from an unidentified government official that suggested the FBI was hot on the trail of the Lulz Security miscreants and was working in concert with the CIA and their counterparts in Europe.

The Times said DigitalOne had no employees on-site and thought a technical hitch was responsible for the outage until the data center operator explained three hours later that they had been raided.

Peter Malcolm says, "The fact that the FBI appears to have walked in and removed hardware irrespective of what was running on it, or what the consequences would be to entirely innocent third parties, is alarming to say the least."

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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