Home Instapaper Server, Including Data and Codebase, Seized by FBI in an Unrelated Raid

Instapaper Server, Including Data and Codebase, Seized by FBI in an Unrelated Raid

Early Tuesday morning, the FBI raided a datacenter run by the Swiss hosting company DigitalOne in what it claimed was a move to thwart “international cyber crime rings distributing scareware.” But it appears as though the Feds seized a lot more than just those “scareware” servers, as, according to Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, one of the servers that the startup leased from DigitalOne was also taken.

The FBI raid on Tuesday caused outages to several services unrelated to the alleged criminal activities, including that of the bookmarking tool Pinboard. While Instapaper itself wasn’t knocked offline, Arment says that the server it leases from DigitalOne remains offline.

“As far as I know,” says Arment, “my single DigitalOne server was among those taken by the FBI (which I’m now calling “stolen” since I assume it was not included in the warrant). I’m assuming this because it became unreachable and stopped sending updates to my internal monitoring system at approximately the time that the FBI raided the datacenter, and has not come online again since then.”

Arment was using this server as a MySQL replication slave to help improve the site’s performance. Without this server, says Arment, Instapaper has been slower. While, yes, Instapaper did remain online, the results of the seizure are still incredibly troubling.

Arment says that the FBI now presumably is in possession of a complete copy of the Instapaper database, including a full list of users and any non-deleted bookmarks. While passwords for Instapaper are stored only as hashes, the email addresses associated with users are stored in the clear as are the contents of the bookmarks. The server also contained a complete copy of the Instapaper website codebase.

Arment laments that, “due to the police culture in the United States, especially at the federal level, I don’t expect to ever get an explanation for this, have the server or its data returned, or be reimbursed for the damage they have illegally caused.”

The FBI has been actively seizing domains lately, something that the EFF among others are challenging as First Amendment violations. The seizure of the DigitalOne servers certainly points to other problems that are being caused by the U.S. government’s efforts to crack down on “cybercrime.”

As an avid Instapaper and Pinboard user, I certainly don’t feel safer now. Do you?

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