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A cursory and superficial analysis of the Google/Symantec “knife fight”

20 November 2016 07:32:16 +0000

There is an African proverb: “When elephants fight the grass suffers.” I think this fairly describes the “knife fight” — a popular term in some recent media coverage of the American presidential transition — between Google and Symantec recently.

As described on our status blog, a bug (Google, Symantec) in the Google Chromium web browser caused Chromium users to see certificate errors when trying to access websites secured with valid certificates issued by Symantec and it’s subsidiaries — e.g., Geotrust, RapidSSL, Thawte and possibly others too. This included large websites such as Amazon, Flickr and Yahoo.

The knife fight first came to our attention probably a year or so ago, likely in an email from the certificate authority (CA) that we use for most of the SSL certificates we sell to clients and use ourselves. That CA is RapidSSL, a subsidiary of Symantec.

Now, it seems that Symantec did something bad in 2015: they created some certificates for domains that had neither requested nor authorised them. This was likely for testing purposes, although you do have to wonder about the IQ of the person at Symantec who authorised this. Google was particularly annoyed, because two of those certificates were for google.com and www.google.com.

What followed was some serious holier-than-thou public finger wagging at Symantec by Google, pontification worthy of a schoolmarm armed with a wooden ruler rapping the knuckles of the Symantec child. Bad, bad Symantec, now we’re going to shame you and be nasty to you in public, and tell you how you should be running your business. Which is all well and good, because Symantec did something stupid and should suffer the consequences.

One of those consequences was Google using the power it wields by virtue of the fact that it creates the most popular web browser on the planet — power that Microsoft used to wield, and also abused — to single out Symantec certificates for special treatment. (Why Google Chrome [and its progenitor Chromium] are so popular is beyond me. I’ve used Chromium and Chrome as secondary browsers on Linux and Windows machines, but my personal experience is that it’s slower and less configurable than Firefox.) Starting in June 2016 Google required Symantec to jump through hoops it doesn’t require of other CAs. Is that abuse of power? Some say no, and it’s difficult to disagree with them. However, Google then also did something bad and stupid themselves, by creating a situation that led to what they’ve called a “time bomb”, meaning that most (if not all) Symantec certificates stopped being trusted by Google Chromium in early to mid-November.

The upshot of this is that it was innocent third parties — the proverbial grass, the customers of Symantec that bought their certificates, and some users of Chromium — that were hurt by this knife fight. I’d love to know how much business Amazon lost as a result, and if we can expect a lawsuit and a payout from Google.

Office hours

10 October 2016 06:44:37 +0000

NinerNet‘s offices will be closed from Tuesday 11 October and will re-open on Thursday 20 October. Emergency support will continue to be available 24/7, but routine emails and enquiries will be dealt with on Thursday 20 October. Thank-you.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q4 2016

1 October 2016 00:03:14 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are lowering our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by about 9%.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 157.50
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 105.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 199.50

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

New Canadian address

29 September 2016 04:26:12 +0000

Due to the ongoing incompetence at Canada Post and the constant threat of postal disruptions by strikes and lockouts there, we have decided to do what we should have done twenty years ago when we mistakenly thought that a Crown Corporation would be more stable than a private enterprise in providing mail receiving services. Our new Canadian head office mailing address is as follows:

NinerNet Communications Company
535-15216 North Bluff Road
White Rock BC  V4B 0A7

This is effective immediately. Our old address is theoretically valid until the end of 2016, but we know that some mail sent to that address has been returned as undeliverable in recent weeks.

Our apologies for this inconvenience. We do provide ways to pay your invoices online; see the payment link in any invoice or payment reminder email.

Fraud alert

27 September 2016 19:33:46 +0000

We have been receiving phone calls today on our North American toll-free number from people who are claiming that we have charged their credit cards. So far the amounts have been under $100 which, in our experience with being on the receiving end of credit card fraud, are small enough amounts that they might slip under the radar of both credit card companies and some consumers.

Please be assured that NinerNet Communications does not have the facilities to charge credit cards without the explicit permission of the credit card holder. Our agreement with our payment processing company simply does not allow it. We also do not send spam, especially SEO scam spam. (We don’t even offer any kind of SEO [search engine optimisation] services.) It would seem that someone has simply lifted our company name and phone number from our website, and so we are as much a victim of this fraud as you are. We are a reputable company that has been trading under the same name for eighteen years — and only two years before that under our initial name — and plan to continue trading under our good name for many years to come.

The best advice we can give you is to contact your credit card company and initiate a chargeback. There is nothing that we can do other than post this notice so that anybody affected by this fraud can take that action.

Stanbic account number change

20 September 2016 13:17:12 +0000

We have just sent out an email to our Zambian clients about the fact that Stanbic have suddenly changed our account number, with no notice whatsoever or any indication if the old account number will work for an overlap period. Since sending out the email a few minutes ago we’ve heard from one client, who is also unfortunate enough to be a Stanbic customer, that they have heard there will be a one-year overlap period during which the old account number can be used, but we have not been able to confirm this with Stanbic ourselves.

The point of this blog post is to confirm that the email you received from NinerNet is indeed authentic. Thank-you for your time.

Office hours

8 August 2016 20:45:51 +0000

NinerNet‘s offices will be closed from Monday 8 August and will re-open on Wednesday 17 August. Emergency support will continue to be available 24/7, but routine emails and enquiries will be dealt with on Wednesday 17 August. Thank-you.

Digital Matrixx customer notice

7 July 2016 00:46:15 +0000

It has come to our attention that customers of Digital Matrixx, formerly of Abbotsford, BC, appear to have been abandoned. If this describes your situation, NinerNet Communications may in some cases be able to help you.

Unfortunately it appears that the domains of many of Digital Matrixx’s customers were actually registered in the name of Digital Matrixx, rather than the names of their rightful owners. This was not necessarily the result of malice, but probably expediency and a lack of foresight or knowledge on the part of Digital Matrixx. (To compare, that would be like your real estate agent registering your new house in his or her name “because it’s easier.”) However, the result is that now the rightful owners of those domains have no control over them and cannot take the necessary action to get their domains back online again, or even renew them.

We do not have a list of customers or contact information for any of them, so if you are a former Digital Matrixx customer you need to take the initiative to contact us to see if we are in a position to be able to help you. (We do have a list of 179 domains that we may be able to assist with.) You can contact us at the same email address that Digital Matrixx used to use — info@thepostaloffice.com — or via one of the methods listed on our contact page. While we have not bought or acquired Digital Matrixx, we have acquired their former domain — thepostaloffice.com — through the normal domain expiry process. (The same applies to the domain they used to use for nameservers, securelinksserver.com.) Because many of the domains registered by Digital Matrixx use the info@thepostaloffice.com email address as an email contact, we can now in some cases help some rightful domain owners.

Please read the following information carefully.

What we can do for some former customers:

  • We can help some people regain control of their domain registrations.

What we cannot do for you:

  • We do not have any access to websites or email on any domains. In some cases we may be able to retrieve copies of websites from public caches, but this takes time and effort. We can determine the probability of success and give you a quote to make a copy based on our hourly rate. We can also refer you to web designers or make recommendations for economical options.

What we require:

  • To assist anyone to regain control of their domain we require scanned or high-resolution photographed copies of documentation to connect you to the domain. This could include at least two items from the following non-exhaustive list:
    • business licence (municipal),
    • business registration (federal or provincial),
    • an invoice from Digital Matrixx or the owner of the company, or
    • a cancelled cheque or some form of proof of payment to Digital Matrixx or the owner of the company.
  • If we are able to assist you to regain control of your domain, we will require you to transfer the registration to a new NinerNet domain registration account. (We have no way to give you access to the account where it is currently located.) This will require you to agree to a standard registration agreement, which you will be presented during the process to effect a registrar transfer of your domain. Following this transfer your domain registration period will be extended one further year (or more as described below) beyond its current expiry date, and the contact information will be changed from that of Digital Matrixx to the contact information of your choice.
  • In order to enter the contact information of your choice, you’ll need to send it to us: registrant company, registrant contact name, registrant mailing address, registrant email address, and registrant phone number. Per the registration agreement, this information all needs to be valid. Once we have that information from you we will send you an invoice based on our current domain renewal rates for the renewal period of your choice (up to ten years). On payment of the invoice we will initiate the registrar transfer, which will usually complete within a week of all of the steps being completed by you. Once that completes we will send you the log-in information for your domain registration account. Also per the registration agreement and as dictated by ICANN, you will not be able to transfer your domain registration to another registrar for 60 days; however, after that 60 days you are free to manage your domain as you see fit.
  • You can, however, set new nameservers immediately so that you can set up new hosting for your domain or redirect it to another domain. You are not obligated to host your website and/or email with NinerNet, but we’ve been in the hosting business for twenty years and seen companies like Digital Matrixx come and go. Our hosting rates are available on our website and we are very willing and able to answer your questions and give you advice on how to proceed.

We look forward to being able to assist you, as we have done already for some former Digital Matrixx customers.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q3 2016

1 July 2016 22:51:01 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are lowering our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by 4%.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 172.50
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW 115.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW 218.50

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

Quarterly kwacha rate review, Q2 2016

1 April 2016 08:35:07 +0000

Based on the current value of the Zambian kwacha in US dollars and recent trends, we are lowering our retail kwacha prices effective today and until the next quarterly review by 11%.

Some sample rates:

  • webONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW180.00
  • mailONE hosting plan (monthly): ZMW120.00
  • gTLD domain (annually): ZMW228.00

Our new kwacha rates will be online within 24 hours.

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This is the corporate blog of NinerNet Communications. It's where we post announcements, inform and educate our clients, and discuss issues related to the Internet (web and email) hosting business and all that that entails. This includes such concomitant industries and activities such a domain registration, SSL certificates, online back-up, virtual private servers (VPS), cloud hosting, etc. Please visit our main website for more information about us.

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