On June 21, 2011, the FBI raided a Reston, VA facility used by hosting provider DigitalOne, which is based out of Switzerland. According to this New York Times article, the FBI was actively investigating a company known as the Lulz Security Group, and seized their servers, which were hosted by DigitalOne. During the raid, servers of other clients not under investigation – including Cubred, Instapaper, and Pinboard – were seized, all of which were still offline at the end of last week.
The Lulz Security group or “Lulsec”, has claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile hacking jobs in America, and the FBI has been directed to find and stop them – apparently at the cost of the servers of companies that have no relation to the suspected hackers.
This isn’t the first time that servers beyond those targeted have been taken by the FBI. In 2009, the FBI raided a Texas datacenter, taking with it the servers of a number of companies that were not the target of the raid. While one company, Liquid Motors Inc., applied for a restraining order in an effort to have its servers returned, a court denied the appeal, saying that the FBI had probable cause to seize the servers. A mirror version of the servers was returned to the company, but without the servers themselves, costing the innocent company both the time to purchase new servers and the loss of several customers.
While DigitalOne is a company based outside of the US, using a datacenter on American soil subjects it to the rules of search and seizure as mandated by the US government. This means that for companies like Curbed, Instapaper and Liquid Motors, even having a server next to a company that is committing illegal activity – or is suspected of doing so – may result in the loss of a server, sometimes permanently.
A number of other options are available to companies that wish to move their web hosting beyond US borders, thanks to a growing global Internet reliability and the proliferation of VPS hosting options in countries around the world.
One of the most popular options for those companies looking for a familiar solution with minimal need for change in business practices is America’s northern neighbor, Canada. With a similar IT culture to the US, the same time zones and language as well as a reliable infrastructure, web hosting in Canada can be a viable way to keep data close to home without risking it in a potential FBI raid on servers that you didn’t even know were there.
At myhosting.com, we offer a variety of hosting solutions featuring a Canadian presence, such as VPS Hosting running on Windows 2008 based Hyper-V solutions, and Linux based Virtuozzo solutions, as well as shared web hosting, email hosting, and Hosted Exchange. We offer many of these solutions in our Canadian Data Center, where search and seizure laws are such that a raid as the one described in the New York Times article simply could not take place. While intelligence and police agencies are allowed to seize electronic material with a search warrant, what they take must be specific and cannot spill over into innocent servers simply because they are in physical proximity to those that are suspected of being used for criminal activity.
Hosting options in Canada and abroad are viable solutions for companies that are looking to maintain the same level of connectivity and uptime they currently enjoy, but remain free from events such as the recent FBI search and seizure that are beyond their control – events that may lead to the temporary or permanent loss of their servers.