CloudFlare Helps Save Wikileaks’ Bacon

Wikileaks‘ website is up again after over a week of denial of service attacks, though as of this writing I’m still seeing errors on the site. On its Twitter account Wikileaks credited CloudFlare, a company that provides a web security service, for helping the organization get its site back online.

Earlier this month Wikileaks resumed publishing e-mails acquired (yes, illegally) by the hacktivist group Anonymous from the private intelligence firm Stratfor Global Intelligence. The latest batch concern Trapwire, the sinister sounding surveillance product from private company called Abraxis. Trapwire collects video and other surveillance from multiple sources in a central location for analysis using facial recognition algorithms and other techniques (see here for more details).

Since around the time of the publication of the Trapwire e-mails the Wikileaks site has been bombarded by DoS attacks. A group calling itself Antileaks is taking credit and claims its actions were not motivated by the Trapwire e-mails specifically.

On Friday Wikileaks complained on Twitter that CloudFlare had preemptively blocked the organization from signing up. But the company responded from its Twitter account that it has a special process for signing up high traffic sites. CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told me that Wikileaks switched over to CloudFlare today and was back online within minutes.

CloudFlare, which debuted at TechCrunch Disrupt 2010, provides what Prince describes as a reverse proxy. Customers route their traffic through CloudFlare’s servers, which block illegitimate traffic, reducing the customers’ traffic load. In essence it serves as a cloud hosted firewall and traffic accelerator. He says the company handles roughly as much traffic as Yahoo, which puts it in a unique position to analyze traffic to determine what is and isn’t legitimate traffic. Many companies, governments agencies and non-profit organizations use the service to increase security and decrease spam.

Prince says he isn’t too worried about government push back. “I spent a lot of time this weekend talking to our legal counsel,” he says. “We’re a network provider. We don’t host any content. Going after us is the equivalent of going after Comcast.”

And this isn’t the first time CloudFlare has helped keep a controversial site online. The company made headlines last year for providing its service to LulzSec, another hacktivist organization that endured extensive DoS attacks. “We throw ourselves in the way of DOS attacks because it makes our network more resilient,” Prince says. “It’s like strengthening your immune system.”

Prince says that he never received any government threats regarding LulzSec, but some customers complained about it. “We don’t discriminate against customers based on a political belief of what’s good or bad,” he says. “We try hard not to play censor.”

But he does say that if ordered by a court through due process of law the company would take down a customers’ site.