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A net loss: Wikipedia attacked, closing off Russia? welcoming back Turkey?

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By Smallbones and Tilman Bayer

Net loss?

Wikipedia down: 'Malicious attack' brings down online encyclopedia after pages fail to load according to The Independent on Saturday, September 7. The attack was a distributed denial of service (DDoS). About a dozen other news outlets reported the story, but few went beyond the report on the WMF News which condemned the attack and attributed it only to "bad faith" actors. One exception was Haaretz, which reported that a Twitter account named "@UkDrillas" (since suspended) had claimed responsibility for the attack, indicating that it was exploiting an Internet of Things (IoT) vulnerability. Haaretz quoted an expert (Alp Toker, head of NetBlocks) as saying that the attack had lasted at least nine hours, and that "our data suggest at least two regional networks were targeted, in the U.S. and in Europe, causing different parts of the world to be out at different times."

Toker also pointed out that "organizations like the Wikimedia Foundation seek to maintain a direct relationship with users in the interest of privacy, which means they can't readily opt for commercial DDoS protection services. Developing defenses against large-scale attacks while running a free and open service is an unsolved technical problem." He was apparently referring to the fact that Wikimedia's privacy principles generally preclude the sharing of private reader data such as IP addresses with third parties, whereas e.g. Cloudflare's standard DDoS protection service involves redirecting traffic to the company's proxy servers. However, on the day after the attack began, WMF Executive Director Katherine Maher stated that Cloudflare was indeed coming to the rescue: "they’ve been absolutely top notch, helping us roll onto a new service offering of theirs that was barely yet in the wild, direct lines of collaboration between staff on both sides" - apparently a reference to the "Magic Transit" service Cloudflare had announced in mid-August, with presumably somewhat differing privacy implications. In any case, the apparent attacker had already announced they would stop targeting Wikipedia (at least for some time) and take down certain video gaming services instead, with and Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft subsequently seeing major outages as well. On September 20, PC Gamer reported that a suspect had been arrested, quoting a Blizzard employee.

Perhaps something good came out of the attack: Wikipedia Gets $2.5m Donation to Boost Cybersecurity from Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, according to InfoSecurity. Other coverage followed that of the WMF News.

Turkey's ban of Wikipedia to be overturned? Citing a pro-government journalist, Ahval News on September 11 was the first of several outlets to predict: "Turkey’s top court set to rescind Wikipedia ban". But there's no actual news yet.

Russia's internet to be sealed off and the Great Russian Encyclopedia is still the future of the Russian internet according to Belsat, a Belarusian-language broadcaster funded by the Polish government. Tests are scheduled on equipment that has already been installed that will enable the Russian government to isolate the Russian internet in case the World Wide Web threatens its stability. The Great Russian Encyclopedia, which has been proposed since at least 2016, is predicted to cost the state $30 million and to be available in four years. It will be edited exclusively by experts. The Signpost predicts that the GRE will always be the future of the Russian internet and that Belsat will continue to have a contentious relationship with the Belarusian and Russian governments.

Net gain?

Grant Ingersoll has been hired as the Chief Technical Officer of the WMF (WMF News). His background with Apache Solr (now part of Lucene), and especially Apache Mahout led him to be interviewed by Java technology zone technical podcast series back in 2011. During the discussion, Ingersoll speaks primarily about scalable machine learning. More recently, Ingersoll has been the CTO of Lucidworks. Ingersoll is a recognized expert on automated data retrieval.


XOR'easter cleans up. The Washington Post reports that editor XOR'easter cleaned up the Hunter Biden article after the former Vice-President's son became news last week. The article was reportedly biased by sources including the Epoch Times and The New American. WaPo quoted XOR'easter saying "I had to get in there and clean it out like a garbage disposal. Sometimes you just have to muck around."

You've been published in a fake academic journal

BuzzFeed News reports that This Website Will Turn Wikipedia Articles Into "Real" Academic Papers. If only it were that easy. The so-called academic papers are missing a few things, like a listing of the authors' names, abstracts, publishing dates, footnotes, graphs, tables, and other illustrations. But if your professor has never read an academic paper, you may be in luck citing the "academic paper".

The best way to view the output is to go to the site and enter the name of your favorite Wikipedia entry. The site then generates the "article" and can also generate a citation. If you resubmit the same Wikipedia entry, you get a nearly identical article, but with a different title, authors and publication dates. See the two citations for Seth Kinman below.

Those who get upset at violations of the CC-By license will have enough material to be angry for at least a year. But don't take this seriously folks. Please don't take this seriously.

Odd bits

The ultimate source of these problems, according to O'Leary is the anonymity and lack of accountability of the authors. Mind Matters and O'Leary are associated with the Discovery Institute which is known for its strong support of intelligent design over Darwinian evolution. The Discovery Institute has previously taken issue with how Wikipedia handles intelligent design content.
No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider,
in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Every Wikipedian could benefit from knowing the issues surrounding these words and how this law might change.

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Was UkDrillas and/or the suspect also accused of going after explainxkcd? Because that seemed more like the Chinese launching their Hong Kong-fueled Streisand Effect Cannon. The Russian Conservapedia should be great. Good thing Intel is so heavily invested in Cloudfare, the endowment should pick up some of that. (talk) 19:42, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

I'm very glad @HaeB: wrote the section on the DDoS. It's the best write-up I've seen anywhere. Of course many techies might know many more sources on this than I do. During the attack (I only had minor problems, but they were noticeable) I mainly wondered "what would anybody have to gain by attacking Wikipedia?" Haeb mostly answered this.
As far as the Russian Conservapedia, if you mean the Great Russian Encyclopedia, it reminds me of the "Nedostroy" that I saw during the 1990s when I lived in Moscow. Nedostroy are buildings that were left over from the Soviet period that were "not completely built" or "not yet finished" and were probably going to stay that way. Most were poorly designed, poorly built, dinosaurs waiting to collapse from neglect. The GRE will likely be declared to be finished sometime, after copying large parts from the last Great Soviet Encyclopedia but nobody will ever say that it is the backbone of the internet. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:38, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
I was surprised that we don't have an article on Nedostroy, but I did look up an example on Google maps dated 2017 [1]. This building was probably in the same condition in 1993. Smallbones(smalltalk) 20:56, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
Yekaterinburg TV Tower is a good example of a Nedostroy. Smallbones(smalltalk) 22:09, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]
"недострой" (nedostroy) is a regular informal term for incomplete construction, not necessarily due to neglect or abandonement. Therefore there is no such article even in Russian wikipedia. Not only Russia suffers from abandoned construction projects. Heck, we even have a worldwide catalog of notable these, see "Unfinished building", and Russia is of minimal representation there. This neologism is based on the Soviet-era term "wikt:долгострой" (dolgostroy) - a construction project sluggishly dragging for long time.Staszek Lem (talk) 23:18, 30 September 2019 (UTC)[reply]

BTW: Great Russian Encyclopedia has nothing to do with the internets. Staszek Lem (talk) 21:03, 4 October 2019 (UTC)[reply]

Cleaning up, or enforcing a preferred POV?

I'm confused by the triumphal tone used in describing XOR'easter's editing. I have heard many cases where our biased editors come to consensus against alleged right-wing outlets. I wonder if XOR'easter does much to clean up the left-wing rags being used as sources here? Chris Troutman (talk) 19:30, 2 October 2019 (UTC)[reply]

What 'left-wing rags' in the Hunter Biden article did you have in mind? Richard Nevell (talk) 21:11, 2 October 2019 (UTC)[reply]


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