Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - Page 12 News List

The Switzerland of cyberspace

CloudFlare protects Web sites from hackers, but the company is facing tough questions from law enforcement agencies

By Gerry Shih  /  Reuters, SAN FRANCISCO

Prince said CloudFlare would comply with a valid court order to remove a customer, but that the FBI has never requested a takedown. The company has agreed to turn over information to authorities on “exceedingly rare” occasions, he acknowledged, declining to elaborate.

“Any company that doesn’t do that won’t be in business long,” Prince said. But in an email, he added: “We have a deep and abiding respect for our users’ privacy, disclose to our users whenever possible if we are ordered to turn over information and would fight an order that we believed was not proper.”

Juliannne Sohn, an FBI spokeswoman, declined to comment.

Michael Sussmann, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted computer crimes, said US law enforcement agencies may in fact prefer that the Web’s most wanted are parked behind CloudFlare rather than a foreign service over which they have no jurisdiction.

Federal investigators “want to gather information from as many sources as they can, and they’re happy to get it,” Sussmann said.

In an era of rampant cyber warfare, Prince acknowledged he is something of a war profiteer, but with a wrinkle.

“We’re not selling bullets,” he said. “We’re selling flak jackets.”

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