Police move in on Ihug attacker

An appearance on the Holmes show may have backfired badly for the man who attacked the Internet Group's homepages server last week. After seeing the show, police called Ihug management to discuss grounds for prosecution, and will be meeting today with the company's directors. But the option of extraditing the young man to try him under tougher US laws, canvassed in the press over the weekend, is not being considered.

An appearance on the Holmes show may have backfired badly for the man who attacked the Internet Group's homepages server last week.

After seeing the show, police called Ihug management to discuss grounds for prosecution, and will be meeting today with the company's directors. But the option of extraditing the young man to try him under tougher US laws, canvassed in the press over the weekend, is not being considered.

The attacker admitted the attack and gave his online handle as Spazrat on the TV show, but @IDG understands he actually goes by the name SharkDogg. Spazrat is listed on the Web as a fellow member of the "Net clan" Elite X.

The Elite X homepage, hosted on the Ihug homepages server lists SharkDogg's real name as Luke Whyte, but he also appears to go by the the names Morehu Whyte and Max Whyte. He has an address with Net Central's free Citymail service, and has also apparently used an Xtra account.

Meanwhile, Ihug's closest competitors, Xtra and Clear Net, have both moved to make capital out of the incident. Xtra issued a press release emphasising its security and backup practices and declaring it has "a network to be proud of". Clear Net ran a large ad in Saturday's New Zealand Herald declaring that "a Web site hosted by Clear Net is extremely robust, with a back-up system designed to survive disaster."

The response from the rest of the Internet community appears to have been more sympathetic. Ihug director Tim Wood posted a newsgroup message thanking others in this industry for their support over the past week.

Ihug customers, including those who lost pages, have largely praised the company in newsgroup discussions. Arthur Hiscock, who lost all his pages, says he does not want the company to back up Web page files.

"I reloaded everything in under 3 hours using two 56k dial-up connections, and since they are the latest updated pages I don't have to worry about 23 hour-old outdated information getting put back by a backup.

"I don't want Ihug spending my money on unnecessary backup equipment."

Jonathan Sadler says he restored his lost homepage from his own hard drive in "all of five minutes".

"It's only idiots that direct author - which keeps sessions open for ages and ages and wastes server time - that lose stuff anyway," he says.

David Farrar admits to having been "fairly peeved at first" at the loss of his page "but Tim Wood's and Ihug's attitude has been all you can ask for. [Wood] acknowledges the communication could have been better and has apologised. That settles it for me."

Newsgroup opinion has - with a few exceptions - lined up behind the argument that fully backing up the Ihug homepages machine (which contains more than 12,000 directories, and is used around the clock, with the number of ftp and user sessions rarely dropping below 150) would be unsustainable in a free hosting service.

"People should pay if they want to have their stuff backed up," says John Holley, Y2K project manager at Auckland University. "After all there are real costs to doing this."

But Ihug's position - that it warned customers they were responsible for their own backup if they used its free hosting service - is "naïve" according to Auckland IT lawyer Craig Horrocks.

"In terms of the fact that it is a free service, I don't think that that's a sustainable position," says Horrocks. "If you as part of your access services offer a free Web page, that is part of the contract."

The company's terms and conditions don't mean non-commercial customers can't hold the ISP liable under the Consumer Guarantees Act, says Horrocks.

Ihug's terms and conditions may provide the company with some defence with commercial users, but not with individual consumers who are protected under the Consumer Guarantees Act. Horrocks says such claims can be taken to the disputes tribunal.

"I think this is really an illustration of the fact that the contracting practices of our ISPs need to catch up with the rest of the world."

Horrocks cites the US ISP PSINet which includes daily tape backups and RAID protection for hosting services in its contract.

Ihug has pointed out that the homepages server was running a 17Gb RAID system to protect data, but this was damaged along with a backup drive.

By the weekend, all but eight of the commercial sites deleted from the server had been restored and Ihug was working with those companies which had lost their files.

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