back to article US Homeland Security mistakenly seizes British ad agency's website in prostitution probe gone wrong

A Brighton-based ad agency is scratching its collective head after its website was effectively seized by US Homeland Security. The agency stopped receiving external emails and turned to its IT support company Ingenious for an answer. They discovered that anyone trying to visit the company website – designate.com – met a …

  1. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Devil

    ...will not strike twice.

    It may have been a mistake. But now they are known. Known for causing inconvenience, trouble, whatever. And surely on some watchlist.

    Next time lightning strikes, it will be no mistake.

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      Holmes

      Watchlists

      The watchlist is the key problem. There is no "forget me" for the government. Their information is on multiple government servers just waiting for the next query.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      LEA seem to have an institutional mentality that anyone who is demonstrably innocent "must be guilty but very clever - we'll get them next time".

      A similar phrase was once uttered by a police office when recounting tales of some of the ones they had arrested "on suspicion" but couldn't find a law they had broken.

  2. jake Silver badge

    WTF?

    What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"? Shirley that's Vice, and up to the state and local authorities?

    1. BinkyTheHorse
      Trollface

      Re: WTF?

      Two words, Jake: client lists.

      1. Aussie Doc
        Black Helicopters

        Re: WTF?

        Is this where somebody says "EpStEiN dIdN't KiLl HiMsElF" or something?

        1. TwistedPsycho

          Re: WTF?

          Who?

    2. Suricou Raven Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      The DHS was originally established for counter-terrorism purposes, but their role has been expanded greatly since then. Many previously-independent agencies have now been merged as sub-agencies within the DHS. The coast guard, ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and Citizenship and Immigration Services included.

      The DHS announced just last month their new priority, a "Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking, the Importation of Goods Produced with Forced Labor, and Child Sexual Exploitation." I'm guessing this seizure was under the human trafficking part.

      1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

        Re: WTF?

        Sounds like systemd.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF?

        You have to think like an agent: "I've just the slightest hunch about them, but let's terminate them just to be sure, at worst they'll be "collateral damage", which we know is okay and inevitable".

      3. tibfulv

        Re: WTF?

        Worst part is afaik, the police have never found any trace of human trafficking according to Brooke Magnanti, who did research into that.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

      homeland security is a fight against terrorism, and terrorism is funded by, well: prostitution, drug trafficking, child trafficking, software, hardware and wetware piracy, money laundering, as well as any other human activity, including, but not limited to those deemed "illegal", "immoral", or just "cool", nevermind those mundane activities considered "uncool", but legal. EVERYTHING has to do with so-called "homeland security" ;)

      1. phogan

        Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

        It's also what happens when the government takes a bunch formerly fairly independent agencies and merges them into an even bigger bureaucratic cluster fuck. (thanks G.W)

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

          One agency to rule them all (and a whole 'nother level of politically appointed bureaucrats drawing salaries for "coordinating" the work of other agencies.

          ...and untouchable, because "it's all different after Sept 11th"

          Objectors will be dealt with.

        2. asdf Silver badge

          Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

          G.W had a lot of help and pressure from the 9/11 survivors group to get that done. Asking for down votes if I say anything more so yeah.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

        I thought terrorism funded home taping of music ?

      3. NoneSuch Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

        Don't forget that with Homeland Security everyone is a suspect until proven innocent. And no one is ever proven innocent. As US law does not stop at their borders, that means everyone globally is suspect and subject to US law.

        Holding a domain name ransom until the company signs a non-suing pledge is bottom feeder tactics.

        1. Kibble 2
          Megaphone

          Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

          @ NoneSuch

          It sounds like blackmail to me. Perhaps DHS can be sued for that tactic. Making a big deal of it in the media may or may not be to one's advantage, but a second lightning strike could become a political nightmare for the US.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

            > Perhaps DHS can be sued for that tactic

            You can't possibly legally fight "[Redacted]" and "reasons of national security". You'll lose your money, at best.

            "National security" is an even stronger magic word than "somebody think of the children", absolutely nothing can stand in its way. No law, no reason, no logic, it trumps everything (no pun intended).

        2. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: What the fuck does prostitution have to do with so-called "homeland security"?

          I wonder if the lawyer was Saul Goodman.

    4. Thicko

      Re: WTF?

      Protecting The President probably. He has a few scrapes already!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: WTF?

        Do they still use that STI test where they scrape the inside of your urethra then? I can imagine he's needed a few of them.

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: WTF?

          "I have the best tests, the biggest tests... everyone says so. Scraping Urethra sounds like fun -- that girl's up for anything. But I won't use a condom, a Trojan, because I won't get pregnant... Trojans are for Greek. Women like it when I grab them by the pussy, and no condom means maybe they'll have a baby and it could be a baby like Ivanka. Another Ivanka... and she won't know I'm her daddy."

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: WTF?

        >Protecting The President probably....

        That's one of the few jobs that DHS doesn't do -- that's the Secret Service which is part of the Department of the Treasury (which used to be about managing federal government revenue but now appears to be the "Department of Sanctions, Entity Lists and General Chucking Our Weight Around".)

    5. phogan

      Re: WTF?

      It is generally up to the states and local governments to regulate it, but when the internet gets involved the Feds see interstate commerce and potential sex trafficking.

    6. ava007

      Re: WTF?

      Do you not yet know how incompetent Trump/Pence are? And how they put lobbyists and billionaires {equally incompetent) in charge of agencies? Please take them away from here, send them back where they came from - about 800 years in the past.

    7. tekHedd

      Re: WTF?

      When your sting involves something else entirely, but you need a plausible explanation, you just screwed up, and the truth is embarrassing, "prostitution" will do just fine.

    8. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: WTF?

      But America is the World Police. Forcing them to throw away their rights to sue is an arsehole move.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    US Homeland Security

    Hang on a mo, how come the "US Homeland Security" of the US has jurisdiction over a US-Based Company ?

    Is'nt Big Brother outgrowing his boots a little here ...

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: US Homeland Security

      Sorry, that should have read a "UK-Based Company"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why?

        Two simple reasons

        1) The UK Company had the temerity to use a .com domanin. That is regarded as for the sole use of US companies by many inside Trumpland.

        2) These US Agencies have laws passed years ago behind them that gives them jurisdiction over the whole planet (And often beyond) to go tramping over small companies and people in their pursuit of what they see as wrongdoing and as this case shows, they seem to be able to do it without fear of being sued for their inevitable mistakes.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          tramping over small companies countries

          FTFY

          1. The Boojum

            Re: Why?

            tramping over small companies countries.

            FTFTFY

            1. Anon

              Re: Why?

              Trumping over small companies countries.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Why?

                That must be one huge ripsnorter!

                <holds nose>

        2. phogan

          Re: Why?

          It's some much for sole use as it is controlled by a U.S company that can be ordered to hand over domains. Generally though, they have to come up with probable cause, signing that waiver was a mistake.

          1. EnviableOne Silver badge

            Re: Why?

            The waiver is invalid, as it was signed under duress

            also they have been punished without due process

            this is a direct 4th ammendment violation.

            1. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Why?

              Although a US company can claim to be a US citizen I don't think a UK company could do the same.

              No rights for you...

              1. elgarak1

                Re: Why?

                The US constitution does not recognize citizenship. It applies to all people. (In theory, of course.)

                1. Suricou Raven Silver badge

                  Re: Why?

                  It does now. It didn't recognise citizenship when first introduced - it didn't need to, as there was no concept of federal citizenship. State decided for themselves who could be a citizen. Then things got ugly as states started disagreeing on how exactly a citizen was defined after the end of the civil war - a person could be a perfectly legitimate citizen in one state, travel to another, and promptly be declared an alien and deported from the country. The fourteenth amendment settled that by establishing a mostly-agreed-upon definition of citizenship, though it still took a lot of court rulings to iron out all the details.

              2. phogan

                Re: Why?

                Anyone in the U.S, citizen or not, is entitled to all rights granted by the constitution which includes due process.

            2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
              Big Brother

              Re: Why?

              You sound like a troublemaker.

              We here at DHS don't like troublemakers.

              Assume the position, troublemaker!

              // wish I were kidding.

              // it's not fun anymore

            3. phogan

              Re: Why?

              I don't doubt that you are correct, but signing has just created one more step in the process (assuming they want to even pursue it), as it now means they have to convince a court that waiver is invalid before they can seek any damages.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US Homeland Security

        Had same thought... There is the use of a .com... Having said that, that nowadays is more synonymous with a "generic, global, commercial" than a "US, commercial" label...

        Then again, it wouldn't be the first time the US for example invades a country because they don't like locals not buying US products, not speaking English, and having the local practice of hugging trees, right?

        1. Test Man

          Re: US Homeland Security

          "Had same thought... There is the use of a .com... Having said that, that nowadays is more synonymous with a "generic, global, commercial" than a "US, commercial" label..."

          The .com top-level domain is owned by a US company. That's it. Doesn't matter how it's generaly perceived.

          1. Mage Silver badge
            Black Helicopters

            Re: .com top-level domain is owned by a US company

            Um, doesn't the USA in some sense control the Internet and all domains?

            I know the UN / ITU is a bit flawed, but the USA isn't a better alternative.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: .com top-level domain is owned by a US company

              Except that all it would actually take to remove that control is for everyone else to start using different name servers.

              1. jake Silver badge

                Re: .com top-level domain is owned by a US company

                That's all, is it.

                1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

                  Re: .com top-level domain is owned by a US company

                  Well obviously there would be other details to work out, but it's certainly do-able.

                  Most people seem to have the idea that the internet is a 'thing' rather than what it actually is, which is a *lot* of things, all agreeing to talk to each other.

                  If enough people wanted to wrest control of DNS from the Americans then it could be done.

            2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: .com top-level domain is owned by a US company

              doesn't the USA in some sense control the Internet and all domains?

              Nope. .uk domains are controlled by Nominet (A UK company) who manage the .uk TLD. And, since the various root servers are scattered around the world it would take *very* drastic action for the US to impose control..

          2. ThatOne Silver badge
            Devil

            Re: US Homeland Security

            > The .com top-level domain is owned by a US company.

            And the .org top-level domain will soon be owned by a US company too... (Just a reminder)

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: US Homeland Security

          > Having said that, that nowadays is more synonymous with a "generic, global, commercial" than a "US, commercial" label...

          .com never _WAS_ "US, commercial" - it's always been international.

          At the time the TLDs were created they were all international - although getting a .gov or .mil assignment outside the USA was difficult-to-impossible, on paper it was supposed to be doable.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: US Homeland Security

            "At the time the TLDs were created they were all international"

            Incorrect. .MIL was never a part of DARPA, it was always owned outright by the US military, and administered initially by the Defense Data Network Program Management Office (DDN-PMO). See RFC-920.

            You are quite correct in saying that .GOV could, in theory, have become international, but the idiots in charge said no.

          2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

            Re: US Homeland Security

            ".com never _WAS_ "US, commercial" - it's always been international."

            Most people have never even heard of .us though.

      3. Warm Braw Silver badge

        Re: US Homeland Security

        You were right the first time. The US does indeed have jurisdiction over the domain name registration.

        I gave up trying to explain to clients that it was in their best interests to have their domain name registered in the jurisdiction where they traded and where they also held any relevant trademarks if they wanted to minimise the risks of foreign courts getting involved in any disputes. However, it seems that because people have heard of the ".com" boom but not of a ".uk" boom, there is something intrinsically inferior about ".uk" for the kind of people that worry about that kind of thing. It's about as futile as arguing with an anti-vaxxer.

        1. Stork Silver badge

          Re: US Homeland Security

          It's more complicated than that. When we started, a .pt domain was more expensive, slower to get and more restrictive than a .com.

          Some things have improved, but it is also more complicated as .com.pt has been introduced since, there is not much interest. Even government institutions use a variety of .pt and .gov.pt.

          You sense some influence of new ministers or bureaucrats who want to prove their existence by meddling.

          1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: US Homeland Security

            It took me way too long wondering why you were going on about platinum before I realised .pt is Portugal...

        2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: US Homeland Security

          I get somewhat worried by people who have decided that .com is too long, and want to register in .co

          What is even more worrying is when I remind them that .co is the country domain for Colombia, and they are not too concerned, even when I remind them about their ongoing issues with marching powder.

          Not really sure I want to have financial transactions with a website in .co!

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: US Homeland Security

      how come the "US Homeland Security" of the US has jurisdiction over a UK-Based Company ?

      Check out that documentary made a few years ago: "Team America: World Police"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a few years ago: "Team America: World Police"

        that was way more than just "a few years ago". Funny, how the world has changed since then, and yet, hasn't changed at all (worse?! WORSE?! How can it get any worse?!)

    3. asdf Silver badge

      Re: US Homeland Security

      By the way don't blame everyone in the US for this. Funny thing about our government is usually the powers that be put two rich people up for us to choose from and regardless which one we pick this stuff happens.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: US Homeland Security

        Seems like it is time for a revolution, you are overdue anyway.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: US Homeland Security

          "Seems like it is time for a revolution, you are overdue anyway."

          If you are talking to us Yanks, we are civilized. We vote instead. Sometimes it kinda works. Sometimes we cock it up. But at least we can attempt to fix our mistakes in the next election.

          If you are talking to the Brits, I suspect they are closer to that awful last result than we are.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: US Homeland Security

            If you are talking to us Yanks, we are civilized. We vote instead.

            If you call all those mass shootings civilized? A properly directed revolution would generate less victims combined with better results than the combined mass shootings of an average year.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: US Homeland Security

            If you are talking to the Brits, I suspect they are closer to that awful last result than we are.

            Revolution? Been there, done that (twice, 1649 when we executed the King, and arguably again in 1688 for the "Glorious Revolution ").

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: US Homeland Security

              again in 1688 for the "Glorious Revolution "

              Paraphrasing Gibbon here (about the Holy Roman Empire): The Glorious Revolution was neither glorious nor a revolution - it was a (mostly) bloodless coup by a foreign king to take over England from the anointed (but unfortunately Catholic) monarch. Said foreign king happened to be married to said monarchs daughter but that was the extent of his claim to the throne (apart from the fact that he and said daughter were Protestant). It was directly followed by the law that no Catholic can inherit the throne (which is still in place)

              It mde the populace fairly happy (no-one wants to be ruled by a Catholic right? Apart from the Catholics..) but they really didn't participate much (although quite a few nobles did).

              It was as much a revolution as the whole Stephen/Matilda debacle but just with a much, much lower body count.

    4. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge
      Boffin

      Re: US Homeland Security

      A whois search indicates they're registered with Enom, which is located in the United State of Washington. This might be a case of overreach had they gone with a registrar based anywhere else, but this is firmly within Uncle Sam's jurisdiction.

  4. Olivier2553 Silver badge

    Would that be the same for .org, .edu, .net...?

    1. BinkyTheHorse
      Unhappy

      .net is controlled by Verisign, same as .com, so, yes. .edu - same thing, just with one degree of separation through a nonprofit. And .org - well, you have been following El Reg lately, haven't you?

  5. Mike Lewis

    > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

    Isn't that extortion?

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      Yes!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      That's one of the privileges if you consider yourself the worlds BOFH...

    3. Mike007

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      I assume (hope) that as it was signed under duress it is worth less than the email it was typed in to...

    4. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      Apparently not if a government does it

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      not exactly extortion, exactly bullying / blackmailing to avoid being defeated and humiliated in court and having to pay a sizeable fine for your incompetence. You surely didn't believe justice and fairness prevail in 21st century?

      ... which reminds me of a UK case a couple of days ago, when a bloke got jailed for "redecorating" an office front with a mini-digger because he didn't get paid and everybody around told him it's fine, what's your problem, have a sandwich...

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        "justice and fairness"

        Surely "truth, justice and the American way". It's odd that a visitor from Krypton crash landed in the US. It was a much smaller target than the then USSR.

        1. MAF

          Re: "justice and fairness"

          See the Superman: Red Son DC Comic series...

          1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
            Holmes

            Re: "justice and fairness"

            No-one comments at all about the other 71% covered by water..

            Or how about super man looking distinctly Caucasian and being fortunate enough to land in a majority Caucasian country (politics aside).

            I mean seriously, Kal-El could have had the name 'Yang Lang' or some such...

            1. Strahd Ivarius
              Headmaster

              Re: "justice and fairness"

              In the then USSR, Caucasian meant people from the Caucasus area (and it still does in the successor states).

              So he couldn't very well fit...

    6. Crisp

      Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

      In the UK you cannot sign away your statutory rights. No matter how clever the legalese is on the contract.

      1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

        Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

        "

        In the UK you cannot sign away your statutory rights. No matter how clever the legalese is on the contract.

        "

        Unless it is a government contract. He who makes the law can break the law ...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

          No tin the UK they can't. Otherwise Heathrow would be looking forward to a third runway rather than scrabbling for an appeal.

        2. kmedcalf

          Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

          Contracts with the Government are null ab initio. A valid contract requires intent by the parties and the intent to be bound by the contract. Since the Government cannot be bound in contract, contracts with the Government are a nullity.

          1. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

            "Since the Government cannot be bound in contract, contracts with the Government are a nullity."

            Which jurisdiction are you referring to?

            Not the UK (or NL, etc.) I presume - if you conclude a contract, say to provide IT services, with a government body here and they don't fulfil their part of the deal you can definitely take them to court.

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

            Ask our Native People. They had several contracts, or treaties, with The Government.

            They know all about how binding they are.

            // completely on them, never on The Government

            // 'twas always thus

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

            Errr.. if government contracts are null ab initio, how come the UK govt can lose a contractual case?

            A number come to mind.

            Rob

            1. Martin-73 Silver badge

              Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

              They choose to continue the fiction that they're bound by contract law in order to prevent the uprising that would happen if the people found out the truth?

        3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

          "He who makes the law can break the law"

          In the US, it is Congress who makes the law and USG is a distinct entity, very much subject to those laws.

          They used to have a different system, with a King who could tell them to eat shit and that was the end of the discussion, except that it turned out that that wasn't the end of the discussion.

          1. Claverhouse Silver badge

            Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

            Yup, they then were able to produce their own shit and eat it; then make the rest of the world eat it.

        4. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

          He who makes the law can break the law ...

          Although, these days, the laws come already broken and unworkable.

          Usually not so much a law as half baked opinion by half baked minds.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

        I suspect you can't sign away constitutional rights in the US either and in the context of other stories we have frequently been told that those rights are granted to "persons" and not just "citizens", but they might only apply to "resident persons" (which this UK company isn't) and would in any event require the hiring of a lawyer to actually enforce. Since you are effectively trying the stop the Homeland Security people from doing what they believe is their job, it might need to be quite an expensive lawyer.

        1. asdf Silver badge

          Re: > signing a waiver reneging any claim against the US government for damages

          > I suspect you can't sign away constitutional rights in the US either

          No but there is few things the judicial branch in the US likes to do more than punting based on standing or jurisdiction. Worse case US government has pretty deep pockets (being able to write trillion dollar IOUs helps with that) so I wouldn't count on collecting any time soon either.

  6. ExampleOne

    I wonder if that would put the US government on the hook for a GDPR breach over the emails lost? I mean, email adds are personal data in scope. As it would be egregious and blatant breach of so, imagine a 4% fine...

    1. cbars

      Joke icon? GDPR is for the EU only, and only public companies anyway, governments and national security are protected, obviously

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Actually, the GDPR applies to any non-domestic processing of personal data by any person or any organisation including governments. The only difference for government is that when we get fined for data breaches we pay and when government departments get fined for data breaches, we ultimately pay as well (out of taxation).

        1. cbars

          Mike 137 the article states that you cant offload your processing to an outside country, to prevent EU companies doing so to get round it. The article can only be enforced by territories that recognise it, the US doesn't. The only way it works is by fining the EU arms of US business.

          That's why California tried to introduce similar legislation (which got watered down).

          Down votes is a strong response, any of you down voters got a reference to the bit of the article which magically makes the GDPR globally applicable...? Was there a global reverse Brexit treaty that made us all one state...?

          1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

            That's why California tried to introduce similar legislation (which got watered down).

            It's quite a bit more complicated than that - the state of California was effectively forced to do so to avoid getting an even tougher set of laws that would have been harder to water down. For teh gory details see this Register story.

      2. Cederic Silver badge

        Data Protection Act 2018 then, which isn't EU legislation, and does not give the US Government a free rein to do as it pleases.

        1. cbars

          Again, good luck bringing the DPA2018 against Uncle Sam. If we could go after the US government there is a certain foreign dignitary who's wife would brought to trial for dangerous driving, manslaughter etc

          Let me know when that happens

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "If we could go after the US government there is a certain foreign dignitary who's wife would brought to trial for dangerous driving"

            You mean: "a certain US diplomat whose wife"

            Or, far more accurately: "a certain three letter agency cryptoanalyst"

          2. Cederic Silver badge

            Oh, I don't know. Tell the ICO there's a chance at 4% of the USA's annual turnover and it'd make a nice contribution to reducing our deficit.

            Position us nicely for trade talks that one, too.

          3. Martin-73 Silver badge

            I think the charge is murder.... she deliberately drove at someone on the wrong side of the road and then fled the country.

            1. Claverhouse Silver badge

              How do you know it was deliberate ?

              1. Martin-73 Silver badge

                One does not drive on the wrong side of the road when visiting a foreign country by accident... I know, i've driven in foreign countries. it's one of the first things on your mind. Fleeing the country just proves that she knew she was guilty

      3. Peter2 Silver badge

        Nope, it's actually in scope. This is the sort of thing that could actually cause problems with whatever the successor to the "safe harbor" scheme is.

        And this was a cockup, not anything to do with national security.

    2. phogan

      They'd have to settle for Verisign, there is no mechanism to enforce such a thing against a sovereign state.

    3. Peter X

      Presumably the victims here could go after their domain registrars who presumably are trading in the UK and therefore fall under GDPR? It'd be up to them to pursue either their own suppliers or the DHS.

      I'm not seeing a reason why they shouldn't do this so I'm surprised at the number of negative comments.

    4. DavCrav Silver badge

      It's like nobody in any of the comments has heard of 'sovereign immunity'.

      Edit: except perhaps phogan.

    5. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

      Even if the company shouldn't have been a target, the domain was still seized as a result of a criminal investigation, so I doubt they'd have a leg to stand on.

      1. Martin-73 Silver badge

        It was seized by a bunch of incompetents, not an actual law enforcement agency (DHS doesn't count as one)

  7. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    So the biggest, fattest, orangeist kid in the playground decides one day that he wants to be the Police of All Things (TM), and sets about doing what he damn well pleases. What's yours is mine now. And you can only have it back when (and if) I say so. And to get it back, YOU have to write ME a letter saying you're very sorry and you promise not to tell the teacher.

    In any sane world, that kid would get a reality check very quickly. But as we know, this isn't the real world....

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      I suppose you could set up an entirely new IP network segregated from what we term "The Internet" and not governed by the United States.

      I mean, you could.....

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I suppose you could set up an entirely new IP network

        I've been thinking vaguely around those lines in the last couple of years, given how things unfold. But then, even if you had a capacity, well, you could expect various types of pressure to be applied by some well-known state players, to drop this idea. And if gentle "please" doesn't make you see the light, the sanctions will. And having an alt-internet run within just your own country is kind of... not good enough. But yes, I'm waiting for an open source, cheap to run and use alternative internet... Yeah, right :(

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "I mean, you could."

        Ultimately the internet runs an a mutual agreement to trust a particular root service and sync all the mirrors to it. That implies that a mutual agreement to distrust it and trust one of the mirrors would be possible. If that were to happen the US would have the options, after all the shouting, of accepting it or cutting itself off from the rest of the world.

    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      This pre-dates Trump

      Civil forfeiture really took off in the '80s. Plenty of states only require "probable cause" to find some property or pile of money guilty and seize it. Getting stuff back requires proving beyond reasonable doubt that the seized items were not involved in a crime. The different standards of proof and 'guilty unless proven innocent' may sound a bit unfair and provoking abuse but remember the legal action is against things without any rights rather than against people who might still have some rights promised by the constitution.

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: This pre-dates Trump

        It's still popular (although it looks like this practice has stopped in Wyoming, but there are plenty of other stories out there)

      2. asdf Silver badge

        Re: This pre-dates Trump

        Its worse than that now. In some states they can take any money you have in an account if there is no activity for three years and then you have to jump through hoops to say no I am not dead so no its not yours by default.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: This pre-dates Trump

          In some states they can take any money you have in an account if there is no activity for three years

          Wasn't that sort of thing a contributory cause for the colonial rebellion you guys had? Something about "unreasonable searches and seizures"?

          Next they'll be quartering US Marines in your house..

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's a government cock up. Which is another reason for less government.

      1. H in The Hague Silver badge
        Pint

        "It's a government cock up. Which is another reason for less government."

        How about better government?

        Here's one for the weekend -->

        PS: this case illustrates why I opted for .NL and .EU domains rather than .COM.

        1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

          All government is incompetent. Stop voting for more of it.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        It's a government cock up.

        If only (the US) government could get its cock up, but it can't even manage that.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    so they could redirect traffic to their landing page

    5 years later: some outsourced chap (bot?) at US Homeland Security gets to review the cache of redirected traffic, nods and goes back to what he/she/it had been doing.

  9. imanidiot Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    You're tanked anyway

    So if you're tanked anyway and need to rebuild everything, why not just switch to a different domain and sue the pants off of the DHS? They'd probably settle for a pretty penny once they realize you're not backing down, just to be rid of you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You're tanked anyway

      Would they? What do they care?

      *You* have to retain a US legal team to pursue the suit (and how long are you willing to do that for?) They just get one of their office juniors to turn up and say hello to the judge.

  10. Len Silver badge
    Meh

    Deprioritise .com

    I have to say that for a new venture I am working on the main domain was going to be a .com with a .eu and country TLDs as secondary.

    I think I am now going to change that strategy to making the .com secondary. A .com is probably still the most common TLD people put after a brand name if they try to guess the domain. However, the thought of some US mouth breather taking our domain down just like that makes that a quite risky strategy. I may need to consider having the .com do a 301 to whatever non-American tld we want to make primary.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do you draw a map of the USA?

    You don't.

    You just draw an oblate spheroid...

    1. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: How do you draw a map of the USA?

      But the Earth America is flat and only 9,000 years old...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A typo

    I guess if you add or drop a [d] or a few other variations, you could get a few dating site addresses. Nonsense addresses, but they would have the word "date" in them. Oh well, automation gone wrong, of fingers fell off the keyboard. Sad it was not audited before they trashed the place.

  13. fly4whiteguy

    Is it a Cyprian name?

    Because no self respecting Greek would allow their family to be called the roses. Perhaps those wacky Cypriots but not the Greeks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is it a Cyprian name?

      Not true, I know a Greek family with that name and they are definitely from Greece.

  14. lijogrg444

    if it was just the nameservers,why cant you change it and host it somewhere else with backup ? or am i missing something ?

    1. Alister Silver badge

      or am i missing something ?

      Yes.

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      "

      or am i missing something ?

      "

      The intertubes are all a bit timey-wimey.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When a domain is hijacked by the government, you lose any and all abilities to adjust anything about the domain, including, but not limited to nameserver settings.

      You basically don't own the domain anymore so long as the government still has the stolen ownership.

    4. Neal L

      I don't think the internet works how you think it works.

  15. The Nazz Silver badge
    Joke

    Damages?

    Damages suffered by an ad agency being down for 10 days? You're having a laugh ain't ya?

    A GoFund me page for more DHS actions anyone?

  16. Grogan

    This is why Americans just should not have that power. Time to do something about those root servers.

    Really... they get their property (domain that they registered and paid for) back only after jumping through American hoops and agreeing not to sue for damages? How generous of them. Again, typical American bullying.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Personally, I wouldn't have signed or jumped through the hoops. I would have made contact, once they asked me to sign, I'd say no and request they release it.

      Simply because no crime was committed, and they have ceased property which is not involved in any illegal activities.

      If they refused, I would calculate on a day by day basis of my lost earnings. I would publish their actions on reddit or other places where it can be noticed under the guise of "What should I do?" post with proof, in order to get the old "A foriegn government is hurting a small business" sympathy, submit that post anonymously to the reg, slashdot etc in media and put them in a bad light and let the news spread. And if all goes will, start legal proceedings for my lost income.

      Just sayin'

      Wherher I win or lose? It doesn't matter it's the principal, I will not allow my self to be forced to sign documents.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        They make their money by their main business, and whereas the website is probably nice to have, their email addresses are likely to be crucial.

        Government has all the time in the world to let junior paper pushers deal with complaints and lawsuits, apart from taking attention off running their business they may run out of cash.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          "their email addresses are likely to be crucial."

          In that respect they made a fundamental mistake in not setting up a .uk domain so they could continue to use email. Get the business going again and argue back at leisure.

          1. Martin

            In that respect they made a fundamental mistake in not setting up a .uk domain so they could continue to use email. Get the business going again and argue back at leisure.

            Easy to be wise after the event. I mean, why would you suspect that your dotcom site was going to be intercepted by some US government security outfit?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Optimistic?

        I would have thought that what's going on with Assange would suggest that you're not going to get anywhere like that. (...and then there's also the case of Chelsa Manning who's been in jail for about a year so far without being charged or convicted of a crime....just a technicality really).

        The general rule is that you don't mess with Federal agencies because they have a lot of power and no accountability (especially if you're not a citizen and lack resources) and, unfortuantely, you can't rely on your own government to support you. Suck it up, learn your lesson and keep away.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      "This is why Americans just should not have that power."

      Americans don't have that power unless you register under one of the three-letter TLDs. If you use your own country-code TLD then they'd have to deal with your country's legal system. That's not impossible, but I haven't heard of it actually happening. I suspect that if this UK outfit registered under .uk then they'd be pretty safe from American mistakes.

      Given that just about everyone *finds* stuff with a search engine, I'm surprised that businesses still believe that a ".com" actually matters. It doesn't. It just means that an important part of your business is outside your country's legal system.

      1. Stork Silver badge

        Depending on where you are, being outside your country's legal reach could be an advantage.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about...

    Everyone seems to be assuming the US Government screwed up here.

    While it's certainly possible, on the other side we have an advertising agency with a website that's likely to have been built using cat+paste from StackOverflow. Or a CMS from 10 years ago with no patches. Or someone actually doing something dubious if not downright illegal.

    Source: have worked with advertising agencies in the past.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Devils advocate.....

    or... what if DHS were bang on the money... they were a front for an international prostitution ring... minimal investigation, all the heat has been redirected by filling in an online form and clicking a dozen little squares with traffic lights

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Devils advocate.....

      The fact they got the domain back tells me the devil doesn't have all the best tunes.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Devils advocate.....

        tells me the devil doesn't have all the best tunes

        Probably too busy going to Georgia..

  19. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Is there any significant difference between an ad agency and organised prostitution?

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Prostiution is the oldest profession in the world. Advertising comes somewhere in the Middle Ages, alongside printing.

      1. Strahd Ivarius

        You should visit Pompei or Herculanum, there are a lot of advertising on the walls (mostly for prostitutes, which may explain the DHS 'mistakte')...

    2. theblackhand Silver badge

      Organised prostitution usually has some morals and ethics.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Organised prostitution usually has some morals and ethics.

        And always better than advertising.

  20. macjules Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    TITSUP?

    Total Inability To Stop USA Prostitutes?

  21. oiseau Silver badge
    Alert

    Bad, bad, bad ...

    He said they had no intention of switching to a .uk domain ...

    That would be a big mistake but then, seeing the direction things are going in the UK and what Brexit will bring on, it will probably end up not mattering much.

    ... hopes that lightning will not strike twice.

    Hmmm ...

    If it only were lightning, but it is not: it's US Homeland Security.

    O.

  22. The_Idiot

    So...

    Killing someone by shooting across the US border into Mexico isn't a crime because the crime bit - the death - didn't take place in the US even though the shooting bit did. But a UK web site is fair game for US law because, um, mumblety-mumble. something-something, er...?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: So...

      "Killing someone by shooting across the US border into Mexico isn't a crime"

      Yes, it is. In fact, you will commit several crimes if you do that.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: So...

        Sounds like an act of war.

        1. Strahd Ivarius
          Devil

          Re: So...

          not at all, it falls under "unsanctioned export of military supplies"

      2. The_Idiot

        Re: So...

        @Jake

        "Yes, it is. In fact, you will commit several crimes if you do that."

        Apparently not according to a US Judge and court:

        https://www.npr.org/2018/11/25/670668243/a-not-guilty-verdict-absolves-border-patrol-of-cross-border-killing

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: So...

          That case is one of the reasons we say the Law is an ass.

          IMO, so-called "security forces" shooting guns at children throwing rocks is murder or attempted murder. This is true in Northern Ireland, Turkey, Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Israel or the United States. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

          And it does not alter what I wrote. You do, in fact, commit several crimes merely shooting across the border. Shooting at someone and fataly connecting are more crimes.

    2. Carpet Deal 'em Bronze badge

      Re: So...

      The TLD is owned by an American company(Verisign) and, assuming the whois is accurate, they're using an American registrar. So DHS didn't need to do any international faffing about to do what it did.

  23. Muscleguy Silver badge

    Meanwhile I applied for a PVG cert here in Scotland, filled in the form with all the info requested which I possessed and was informed they could find no trace of me. I have a passport, number supplied, NI #, ditto, registered to vote, pay council tax in my own name, own my own home. I have a Fb page and a LinkedIn account. The NHS knows about me. The council's info is out of date but I'm there.

    It doesn't give me confirdence that they can actually look at enough stuff to check and clear someone.

  24. MonsieurTM

    "Special relationship"?!

  25. John Savard Silver badge

    Blackmail

    Excuse me? Since the firm was innocent of all wrongdoing, the website should have been returned to it immediately.

    Since, instead, Homeland Security retained control of it in order to secure a waiver of damages from the firm, the persons responsible for imposing that condition should face criminal charges of extortion. Pure and simple.

    1. Strahd Ivarius

      Re: Blackmail

      Depends on the process to get back the site.

      If it requires the administrative or technical contact registered with WOHIS to click on a link sent by mail, it may become difficult...

      So you'll have to prove by other means that you are the rightful owner.

    2. Degenerate Scumbag

      Re: Blackmail

      Any waiver or disclaimer signed under such obvious duress is likely to be invalidated by a court, and possibly considered an admission of wrongdoing and/or an aggravating factor.

  26. gerryatric

    Cheap shot

    Advertising and prostitution = easy mistake

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