[ISN] Web rebels profit from net controls

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jul 10 2002 - 05:16:18 PDT

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    By Alfred Hermida 
    BBC News Online technology staff 
    9 July, 2002
    A crumbling concrete anti-aircraft tower off the east coast of England 
    is home to a dot.com venture with a difference. 
    The military platform, dubbed Sealand, is the base of internet hosting 
    company HavenCo which is bucking the downturn of the dot.com economy. 
    The company has been exploiting Sealand's self-proclaimed sovereignty 
    to offer an offshore data haven, free of government interference. 
    "We believe that people have a right to communicate freely," said Ryan 
    Lackey, co-founder of HavenCo. "If they want to operate certain kinds 
    of business that don't hurt anybody else, they should be able to do 
    The venture comes at a time when governments across the world are 
    tightening controls on the internet. 
    New laws both in the US and Europe are giving officials greater powers 
    to snoop on online activities. 
    Self-styled nation 
    Mr Lackey came up with the idea for HavenCo two years ago and started 
    looking for somewhere to create an electronic refuge. 
    "We looked all around the world for somewhere that would have secure 
    internet hosting, outside of government regulation and we could not 
    really find any," Mr Lackey told the BBC programme Go Digital. 
    In the end, he settled on the self-styled sovereign principality of 
    Britain built the anti-aircraft platform during the Second World War. 
    It remained derelict until the 1960s when a retired Army major, Paddy 
    Roy Bates, took over the 10,000 square foot platform and declared it 
    the independent nation of Sealand. 
    At the time, the platform was beyond the then three-mile limit of 
    British territorial waters. All this changed in 1987, when the UK 
    extended its territorial waters from three to 12 miles. 
    Little regulation 
    Britain does not recognise the sovereignty of Sealand but this has not 
    deterred HavenCo. 
    It has installed internet servers on the platform, linked to the 
    outside world via satellite links. 
    There are few controls on the kind of websites that HavenCo is 
    prepared to host. 
    "We have a strict policy of three things we prohibit here," explained 
    Mr Lackey. "We prohibit child pornography, spamming and hacking from 
    our machines to other machines." 
    So far many of the sites are online gambling ventures. But a growing 
    number of political groups banned in their own countries have turned 
    to HavenCo, such as the website of the Tibetan Government in exile. 
    "We also permit any sort of free debate about issues whereas a country 
    or company might try to censor this or sue you," said Mr Lackey. 
    Providing a service to companies or groups who want to keep their data 
    secret or publish it on the web without censorship is proving a 
    worthwhile enterprise. 
    "We've been profitable since the summer of 2001 so from a commercial 
    standpoint we can continue forever," said Mr Lackey. 
    "Regulations in other countries simply increase demand." 
    However, how long HavenCo will escape the attention of the authorities 
    is uncertain, with officials insisting that any site hosted on Sealand 
    will have to comply with British internet regulations. 
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