Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 18th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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I recall writing a column many, many years ago in which I mooted a way for Microsoft to take control of the internet.
At the time, they were busy recovering from an aborted attempt to create their own Net-alternative and had just started to gain some real ground with their Internet Explorer browser.
It seemed that no matter what they did, the Net didn't really want to know about Microsoft.
Sure, a rapidly growing number of people were using Microsoft's own browser and other tools -- but none of Microsoft's online properties were attracting much traffic and their lead in the desktop world did not look to be translating into a similar position of strength in cyberspace.
My suggestion might have changed all that.
Unfortunately, with Aardvark's archives now spanning back over 17 years I haven't got the time to hunt out the column of which I speak -- but the idea was simple.
My proposal was that Microsoft create its own version of DNS -- a version that ran over the Net but outside the existing, established DNS service.
Had MS done this, they could have created, maintained and controlled a whole new alternative to the naming system that was (and remains) the backbone of the Net.
While the rest of the world was still living with dot-com, dot-net and other generic TLDs -- or using their own country-specific TLDs, Microsoft could have done what ICANN is doing now and open things up to a raft of different options.
Only MS could have done this - because they had the dominant browser and email tools.
Offer MS-DNS alongside the existing service and users of the company's tools could transparently access either naming system.
Offer MS-based domains at a knock-down price and they could grow their own DNS to a point where it was a very real competitor to the standard one.
The key to this strategy is that "he who owns the DNS, owns the Net".
There was a window of opportunity - but MS failed to spot it and now, as has been the case for the past 20 years, MS remains very much a second-tier player in the online world.
So what prompted me to recall this old column and this alternative DNS concept?
Well later today, as set of nameservers run by the FBI, will be switched off and that, so we're told, will effectively render hundreds of thousands of computers around the globe into a state of "disconnect".
The cause of this situation is a piece of malware known as DNSChanger. It's a trojan that has reportedly infected as many as 50,000 PCs in the USA and an unknown number in other countries.
The goal of this trojan was to redirect DNS requests from infected computers to a server which would deliver fake data -- allowing the malware writers to transparently redirect users to fake sites or to allow "man in the middle" attacks that had the potential to deliver valuable information such as login details, credit-card numbers, etc.
Indeed, the criminal group behind this deception are said to have netted $14m from it last year.
Once the plot was uncovered, the FBI replaced the bogus servers with servers of their own which served up valid data to those computers seeking to navigate their way around the Net. However, as of this afternoon, those computers will be turned off and any infected PCs which have been relying on them will suddenly find themselves parked up on the side of the information superhighway.
It seems that even though Microsoft could not see the value in setting up an alternative DNS service as a legal alternative to the established one, others certainly saw the chance to make money from such activities -- albeit illegally.
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