Is Defense Distributed “Wussing Out?”


Back when Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed started up their DefCad downloads, they made a promise. Cody looked square in the camera and promised that there would be no takedowns. Ever. And set the vow to some trendy music. But when the rubber actually met the road and Cody was faced with the full might of the U.S. government if he didn’t comply with a takedown request, they folded. They pulled the files, like every other depository has before them. On the surface, it seems like DefDist isn’t living up to its promises. But was that really a lack of personal convictions and flinching when the moment of truth arrived? Or is Defense Distributed simply biding its time until they’re in a more sustainable position to thumb their nose at the government? . . .

When I was talking with Cody, he mentioned some servers in a western European country that they had set up. He quickly moved on to other topics, but that was all I needed to hear. My day job is doing network security for a large hosting company, so not only did I understand what he meant and what he’s trying to do, but also how hard that is and how long it takes to set up.

For an idea of what Cody was hinting at, let’s take a look at another popular website that continues to host content despite numerous takedown requests and even a trial: The Pirate Bay.

This is actually an excellent documentary about TPB and I recommend you watch it, but the takeaway is this: it takes time and technical skill to set up a website on servers that are legally protected and hard to locate. The guys behind TPB are such geniuses when it comes to routing protocols that they actually appeared to be hosted in North Korea for a period of time, and no one could prove otherwise. Still, even with that level of expertise, keeping the site online and free from government raids is a massive undertaking.

Defense Distributed, by comparison, is in its infancy. They merely adopted the internet; TPB was born in it, moulded by it. They didn’t see a TOR connection until they were already under indictment. Setting up servers with the level of redundancy and protection that even the United States government couldn’t interfere is a massive undertaking, and one that we here at TTAG understand all too well (as we’re making the same preparations — just in case).

From what I could glean from Cody, it seems like their internet-fu isn’t quite there yet. They have the blueprint, but the building isn’t complete. They want to be able to run to their offshore servers when Uncle Sam busts into their local datacenter and starts ripping out server blades. Right now, though, there’s nowhere to run.

In the meantime, it looks like our old friend Kim Dotcom (yes, that’s his real last name) is lending a helping hand. There’s a copy of the files on Mega, which was founded and run by people who have a proven track record of being able to host files the U.S. government finds objectionable and have yet to see any legal action. Sure, KD’s crib was raided at the request of Uncle Sam, but the charges didn’t stick and he’s fighting back bigtime.

Is the inability to shrug off takedown requests like water off a duck’s back annoying Cody? Probably. And the inability to keep his promise isn’t doing anything good for their credibility. But despite the files being removed from DefDist’s site, they remain available on the internet. And they will be, forever.