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Claims About China's April Internet Hijack Are Overblown

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the as-are-most-things dept.

Networking 78

sturgeon writes "Yesterday, we discussed what most of the world's major media outlets were reporting on China's April 2010 hijack of '15% of Internet traffic,' including sensitive US government and defense sites. The alarm came following a US Government report (see page 244) on China / US economic and security relations released on Tuesday. Unfortunately, few bothered with fact checking or actually reading the report. The actual study never makes any estimate of Internet traffic diverted during the hijack — it only cites a blog post to suggest large volumes of traffic were involved. And curiously, the cited blog at the heart of the report never mentions traffic at all — only routes. You have to go to an interview with a third-party security researcher in a minor trade magazine to first come up with the 15% number (and this article never explains where the number came from). In a review of real data and actual facts, Arbor Nework's Craig Labovitz has a blog post looking at the traffic volumes involved in the incident (only a couple of Gigabits per second, or a 'statistically insignificant' percentage of Internet traffic)."

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heh (0, Troll)

Anffyddiwr (1943830) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282182)

Who'd a thunk it?

Re:heh (5, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282246)

I certainly didn't. When I saw TFA was from "foxnews.com" I thought "This is going to be entirely reasonable and free of any fear-mongering."

Re:heh (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282384)

Of course. Everybody should know by now that 95% of statistics are made up on the spot.

Only more Evidence (4, Insightful)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282194)

That there are fewer and fewer journalist. Now there are only people posting thoughtless articles with little merit in order to entertain and draw traffic/viewers to a web site or channel.


Re:Only more Evidence (1)

Captain Murdock (906610) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282394)

That's the problem with the online journalism unfortunately.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282460)

Hello Rupert is that you?

But seriously, this is what old media claims time and time again, but the quality of their reporting is just as abysmal. A few original well researched pieces aside (I treasure those) every news item is either some unchecked internet hearsay or a rehash or an ANP newsitem (which is by the way used just as well on the internet).

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

Captain Murdock (906610) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282498)

Yeah I probably should of said that this is the problem with journalism in general. Writing well researched objective pieces is the exception rather than the rule.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

delinear (991444) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282950)

Indeed, the only real difference between online and offline is that offline is a day late (and has the chance to crib people's comments for extra misinformation fuel to pour onto the fire). I would pay good money for a reliable, independent, fact-checking news source at this point, but I suspect there are too few others who would do the same that the cost would be prohibitive.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283078)

I have the best of both, I pay good money for a newspaper subscription which gives me an online newsfeed of articles (with e-mail notification of important news) as well as the weekend newspaper. While the quality of news may decline the few good original researched articles in the newspaper are still wort it for me.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283436)

have you never read fark?

believe it or not, as much as their headlines are funny sometimes and generally sarcastic, they and reddit and a number of sites tend to debunk bad fact checking quite often.

Re:Only more Evidence (3, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282556)

What I'm very curious about is the claim that "the Chinese government holds a copy of an encryption master key" that a few of these "old media" made:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8142267/China-hijacks-15-per-cent-of-worlds-internet-traffic.html [telegraph.co.uk]

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/world/asia/18intel.html [nytimes.com]

Re:Only more Evidence (3, Insightful)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282940)

Excellent example of non-technical journalism which blindly copies something without understanding it or looking in to it. I can already imagine them reading something about some master key to decrypt communication, and the Chinese also have a master key, so they put 2 and 2 together and think that the Chinese can decrypt anything... Don't bother checking facts, FUD sells!

There are certain keywords to look for to know if the journalist knows what he/she is talking about (regardless of subject). Note: "there was speculation that ... " == "we're making this shit up as we go along, but try to cover our weasel asses"

Re:Only more Evidence (2, Insightful)

pedrop357 (681672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283172)

This panic over misinformation could be useful when discussing encryption and the clipper chip proposals of the mid 90s and the newer escrow law proposals.

If the government were to mandate a back door, there would effectively be a master key that could be leaked, requiring a complete digital "changing of the locks" every time the key were suspected of being compromised.

Probability is high... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287028)

...that some buds were helping out Richard Clarke, who was trying to push his book recently, titled Cyber War, warning the nation about the future Chines cyber war against America, but neglecting to mention to his readers that Clarke was National Security Advisor to Clinton when Clinton "gave away"*** the over-the-horizon targeting technology to the Chinese dictators, and Clarke was also Advisor the the Bush administration when they allowed China to purchase that highly technical and defense-sensitive ball bearings factory in Ohio.

***And people wonder why the USA flew and rolled so easily into Iraq a few years back after the Chicoms had installed their sophisticated electronic countermeasures (try tit-for-tat).

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

pedrop357 (681672) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283146)

Please. The old guard outlets are guilty of the same exact thing. Look at any "mainstream" print media's coverage of Four Loko for proof.

Re:Only more Evidence (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34282758)

Yet, this is what you demand in political journalists. If they don't praise Obama, or fail to ignore it when he talks about the 54 states, you rant and pull out the pitchforks and torches.

What do you expect to end up with when you shut down all opposing views. Politics is the news leader, and when you screw that up enough, why should you expect the rest of the media to act any differently? You don't want facts, you want a happy meal with apple pie.

Re:Only more Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34283092)

Mr. Anonymous Coward, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

x1n933k (966581) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285934)

Actually no, I don't expect this of political journalists at all, especially in regards to Obama since I'm not American.

There is a less political example of this type of situation involving Steve Wozniak being mis-quoted by a Dutch tabloid newspaper.

I disagree that Politics is the news leader, but it is the drama that is created to make it a news leader that the mindless are drawn to. My comment was about research and merit that lacks in modern, mainstream journalism. Politicians making extremes back and forth is only a part of the problem.


Re:Only more Evidence (1)

lobotomir (882610) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284312)

I guess this is the right time to forecast that, once again, quality information is going to cost money?

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287630)

The problem is with the traditional media like newspapers... you pay money but a long time ago, they realized that it's less expensive to produce lower quality info, so you pay and still get low quality info; they earn their costs from the advertising, and the reduction in costs due to lower quality info (few quality controls) is pure profit.

"High quality info" is such a niche market nowadays, that you would have to pay a lot just for the privilege of something that apparently very few people demand and can recognize when they don't get it.

Re:Only more Evidence (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#34286296)

What would make you think it's any worse now? Yellow journalism [spanamwar.com] has a long glorious history. It has propped up the drug war for 80 years. By shaping a complacent, submissive public's opinion, it serves the government agenda quite well. Sorry, nothing new to see here. It's the same as it ever was.

Re:Only more Evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34288490)

Lol this guy thinks the internet was different at some point in time.

It's not the 15% that mattered (3, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282222)

THe 15% number was just an eye grabber. The point is if a foreign government can redirect even a few messages that it chooses it is not good. Simply doing traffic analysis on the state department will alert people to crises. (they already do that with pizza deliveries to the whitehouse). I'd like to hear more abouthow it's done. is it some sort of DNS poisoning or publishing misleading ford-bellman shortest path info or rARP spoofing?

Re:It's not the 15% that mattered (4, Informative)

FliesLikeABrick (943848) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282298)

BGP prefix hijacking

the 15% number came from the number of prefixes hijacked, not the actual amount of data (as TFA says here)

Re:It's not the 15% that mattered (0, Redundant)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282400)

THe 15% number was just an eye grabber.

Right. And now the eye grabber is they lied about the 15% number (intentionally or not), and not much traffic was successfully captured at all.

While us geeks might be concerned about a few hijacked messages, the public at large will see it as a small isolated event, that was successfully contained by officials.

The average naive person probably thinks all the network security people are government, and the Chinese have little chance at beating them.

Re:It's not the 15% that mattered (3, Insightful)

gsslay (807818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282594)

The point is if a foreign government can redirect even a few messages that it chooses it is not good.

So if it wasn't a foreign government it would be ok? Remember, all governments are foreign to some of us.

Inconceivable!!! (1, Troll)

unjedai (966274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282224)

What?!!! A Slashdot summary was wrong? A sensationalist headline was wrong? No one did any fact checking?!!!! Inconceivable!

This is why Slashdot (News for Nerds) is "news" like Fox News is "news" - it's not. There's no journalistic ethics applied. It's entertainment and maybe occasionally informational.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (3, Insightful)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282368)

This is why Slashdot (News for Nerds) is "news" like Fox News is "news" - it's not.

Maybe. But you'll never see a correction to an overblown sensationalist headline that Fox News put out hit the front page of foxnews.com. That's the difference.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282414)

Cowboy Neal also cries fewer Crisco tears into his Golden Grams in public than Glen Beck does. That's another (pretty big) difference.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283064)

Crisco tears into his Golden Grams

I failed to make sense of this even with an internet search, can you translate for me?

Re:Inconceivable!!! (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284298)

Fat people would cry/sweat Crisco which is a common shortning agent used in making high-fat content foods such as some cakes and cookies. It's a fat joke.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 3 years ago | (#34284580)

That's comforting, I thought it might be a reference to Glenn Beck's sexual practices involving his puppets.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34283094)

This is why Slashdot (News for Nerds) is "news" like Fox News is "news" - it's not.

Maybe. But you'll never see a correction to an overblown sensationalist headline that Fox News put out hit the front page of foxnews.com. That's the difference.

Nor ABC.

Re:Inconceivable!!! (1)

Aighearach (97333) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283638)

Impossible, there has to be some way to reconsider what was said to create some light in which it is true. This is slashdot, it can't contain incorrect information. Never has, never will.

Not to mention TCP connections would break (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34282228)

Open TCP connections would die when the prefixes were blackholed anyway, and new ones wouldn't establish. It is likely that very little data would actually be exposed, and would mostly come from push-type feeds which use UDP or some other type of data that never needs to be acknowledged. I agree this sounds extremely overblown. This just sounds like another unintentional BGP hijack, not some well-orchestrated event where data was captured. Not to mention that the barriers to using BGP to proxy traffic are much higher than simply blackholing with BGP

http://mailman.nanog.org/pipermail/nanog/2010-November/027839.html describes it

Re:Not to mention TCP connections would break (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282968)

You'd think if they wanted to capture some sensitive data they could employ some of the normal methods like trying to gain access to a specific system - or at least planting some form of promiscuous reciever/interceptor so they wouldn't get caught within a few minutes.

Re:Not to mention TCP connections would break (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287672)

Open TCP connections would die when the prefixes were blackholed anyway, and new ones wouldn't establish

Perhaps you are assuming they wouldn't have done one of two things.... (1) maintain the TCP connection by forging acknowledgements. Or (2) drop captured packets off somewhere else on the internet, via tunnels placed strategically to ensure the packet reached its ultimate destination. If they did this, the TCP connections would just experience higher latency, the programs at the endpoints would have no way of knowing the connection was being tapped.

As with most (1, Interesting)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282242)

As with most reports, there's often more to it than is reported and often less. I don't think this gets China "off the hook," though. I'm not a fan of our open relations with China going back years. It's one of the inconsistencies in U.S. foreign policy that irks me. OTOH, I'm not one who thinks "live and let live" extends to governments who have serious human rights concerns. But I digress.

I would be surprised that the government was letting sensitive data from military branches route out unencrypted. Let me quantify. Do I think that it's incompetent enough to let data get rerouted? Yes. But the report cites the major military branches. This makes me wonder if there isn't some propaganda at work. It could have been information but it could have been misinformation. Lay the dollar on the table and you find out how honest your friends are while you're in the bathroom.

Live and let live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34283316)

off topic, but I'm surprised most of Europe isn't reconsidering there open relationships with the US due to serious human right concerns...

Re:Live and let live? (1)

jav1231 (539129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34318134)

Bathe, shave, and get a job. Or, with props to Animal House, "Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, Son."

Re:As with most (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 3 years ago | (#34287076)

"I'm not a fan of our open relations with China going back years."

Hold it! Are you trying to suggest there's something wrong with sending a Chinese female citizen to the labor camp for re-tweeting a joke?

Or that using the dead bodies of enslaved political dissidents, after their murders, as a money-making scheme called "The Bodies Exhibit" which the running dogs of capitalism will pay to eat up, is somehow amoral?

We are brothers.....

Looks like a job for DHS... (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282258)

Maybe one of the new regulations that they mandate should be BGP route origin validation and proper response (filtering the announcement of the specific route in preference of a route with a valid origin bit)?

Not surprising at all (3, Insightful)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282274)

You don't know how many times I have read that all spams are coming from China when they in fact come from USA. I've heard countless times French right wingers saying that France cannot compete with China because of their small work taxes, when in fact taxes in China are sometimes higher than in France. This is just an example. Here, we have more than 30% of the WORLD TRAFFIC that is hijacked by USA absolutely 100% of the time, and with NSA doing deep packet inspection (and not even hiding to do so). Medias in USA should look at their own gov. with suspicion rather than saying bullshit about others without checking!

Re:Not surprising at all (1, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282574)

You don't know how many times I have read that all spams are coming from China when they in fact come from USA.

This (in my experience) is true. I haven't quantified this figure very recently (I have more useful ways to spend my time, since my anecdotal impression is unchanged), but last time I checked the proportion was over 98%.

However, the Chinese take the prize in the number of scam sites. I apologise in advance if the following comes across as racist, but sometimes it seems almost as if there is some wide and deep-seated national streak of dishonesty that they have to feed in order to validate their existence. I never cease to find it scary that our governments and larger corporations all fall over themselves scrambling to do business with the Chinese when they keep showing us, time and again, that they are not to be trusted.

Re:Not surprising at all (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283000)

Really 30%? Wow, that's more than I thought... Do you have a source for that traffic statistic? Not that I don't believe it, I just want to repeat bullshit without checking facts like you illustrated. :)

Re:Not surprising at all (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283276)

Tsss... I'll take that as humor. But just in case anyone think you are serious, let me show my reasoning.

I can't remember exactly where I could read it, but I did read that there was 30% of all Internet traffic going by California alone. I wonder how that was in fact checked, but had all the reasons in the world to believe it. Now, I wrote "USA" because I thought it was very difficult to check for geographic locations of routes. But that's not it: I do check for it very often myself. I in fact believe that 30% is very under-estimated, not only because of that thing that I read online, but simply because I very often use traceroute (in fact, I use mtr) to check for my servers (my company has many points of presence all around the world). And to date, I can't remember a single time where traffic from Asia-Pacific isn't going through USA to reach Europe !!!

So, I'm not even using a 3rd party, I know because I use Internet! Unless all these reverse DNS entries are fake (which would be strange: what network provider isn't willing to advertise about himself?), all traffic really IS going by USA. Now, consider this: there's a lot of Internet users in Asia, which very often are reaching sites in America (the continent...), Europe and other places. That alone is a reassurance that 30% isn't at all unbelievable. Then compare this to how much traffic is actually going BY China (in order to reach another destination), see the difference, and understand how much this buzz was silly. Of course, so much traffic from China is going to USA all the time, and never ever, the opposite thing happens.

As for ChinaNet (one of the 2 gov. controlled Internet access provider in China), I can tell (by my own experience, not by any reading from others...) that their link to USA is often saturated to the point it becomes very difficult to browse any site that isn't in Asia if you don't bounce. I wouldn't be surprised if they were trying to save on the huge cost that this traffic must be generating.

Do you have any reasoning that would help thinking otherwise? I don't think so...

Re:Not surprising at all (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34291114)

Thanks for explaining. The question remains how much of the traffic is also routed trough ECHELON...
When you mention California I suspect that the 30% number may have been from an article about the infamous Room 641A.

Re:Not surprising at all (1)

GPLHost-Thomas (1330431) | more than 3 years ago | (#34291408)

If I'm not mistaking, Echelon is a pretty old technology that does voice recognition on the phone lines, and that works with an agreement with Australia, USA and UK. I don't think Echelon has anything to do with the Internet traffic man in the middle, which might be designated otherwise. Am I wrong here?

Re:Not surprising at all (1)

thijsh (910751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34291626)

It started as a cold-war system that did what you describe along with some other sigint. But it has since evolved into a worldwide sigint system used by several allies.

The system known as ECHELON is an interception system which differs from other intelligence systems in that it possesses two features which make it quite unusual:

The first such feature attributed to it is the capacity to carry out quasi-total surveillance. Satellite receiver stations and spy satellites in particular are alleged to give it the ability to intercept any telephone, fax, Internet or e-mail message sent by any individual and thus to inspect its contents.

The second unusual feature of ECHELON is said to be that the system operates worldwide on the basis of cooperation proportionate to their capabilities among several states (the UK, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), giving it an added value in comparison to national systems: the states participating in ECHELON (UKUSA states) can place their interception systems at each otherís disposal, share the cost and make joint use of the resulting information.

This quote is from this publicly available EU report from 2001 [europa.eu] . The document further explains how sigint has become easier since the internet age, since all information passes trough a small amount of central nodes. They also recommend encrypting all sensitive information (especially data that can be abused in industrial espionage, because apparently that has become the #1 use of the system since the cold war was over). Cited examples include the 6 billion deal with Saudi Arabia (that went to McDonnel-Douglas instead of Airbus after the NSA released intercepted communications indicating bribes) and the Wobben wind wheel design that the NSA stole and Enercon patented before the inventor could.

Echelon exists today, but it's role changed a lot since the cold war. It's good indicator of govenment priorities.

Sounded alarmist (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34282294)

The post that was referred to sounded alarmist in the first place so I doubt most people gave it too much thought.

Re:Sounded alarmist (2, Informative)

hackingbear (988354) | more than 3 years ago | (#34283300)

A report to US Congress is not for reporting balanced facts. It is a clever piece of political marketing material to fool you. Especially if the "report" is about China nowaday.

Media abuses this formula too much these days... (2, Insightful)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282300)

1. China
2. FUD
3. ???
4. Profit!

PS: Media includes sites such as /.

Gawker Effect (-1, Offtopic)

retech (1228598) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282562)

When you put sophomoric children in charge of "spreading information" you get exactly this type of knee jerk blogging (I'd never call it journalism).

Re:Gawker Effect (0, Offtopic)

thewils (463314) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282658)

It sells newspapers though - and let's face it, journalists are in the business of 'selling newspapers' of some kind or another. If they are blatantly wrong then they can print another sensationalist story later on about how they were hoodwinked in an effort to get mileage out of the same story and...sell more newspapers.

Comments (1)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282726)

Republicans use Fox.
Democrats use the Daily Show.
I use Slashdot comments.

Everyone has their news sources of choice. I'm fairly certain there is no sure source of information: even your own memory goofs up (see that game "Telephone" from elementary school). We do the best we can. The problem, these days, is that the "trusted" sources of information are going for the excitement factor rather than the truthiness factor. So "Aliens land in LA!" takes precedence over "Mexican immigrants take boat to San Diego".

I'm not sure who is to blame here, but I think it's desire for money. Whatever sells goes on the front page.

Volume doesn't matter (2, Insightful)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34282908)

The volume of traffic captured isn't as important as the actual traffic received.

According to the low volume making it ok, if someone could steal 100 bytes off your 600gb hard drive, you'd be ok with that because it is such a small percentage. If that 100 bytes contained everything needed to use your credit card, would you still feel the same? It's the data that is important, not the volume.

My God... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34282990)

Now they've hijacked Slashdot!

Scare mongering at its best. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34283502)

If you look at page 244 of the government report in TFA it does make the 15% claim.

I've always loved when someone talking about cyber security during a congressional hearing would step into the room and talk about the **millions** of attacks lodged against their systems every year. These figures are useless because they include random crap that goes on everywhere not actual directed attacks yet they are endlessly paraded around for political effect.

See page 237 for a sample of how useless official reports propogated by people with an agenda can be. Nice graph...why is 2010 LOWER?

"The Defense Department explained the lower figures as resulting from measures taken to mitigate threats before they reach the threshold that merits an incident log entry"

Translation: We fixed our counter to include less useless noise contributed by automated worm propogation, botnets and random nmap scans..etc. One could argue due to not having any real information that their approach they applied more active filters to ignore the traffic but the end result (filtering of traffic that was never really a credible threat) is the same in either case.

At the same time they seem to have the guts to show figures from all previous years anyway without any attempt to adjust them retroactivly given their increased knowledge/admission the previous metrics are inaccurate when more information from improved threat detection techniques are applied.

%FAILZOaRS (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34284418)

and the bottom sse. Thte number

Worried where you internet data goes? (1)

cenobyte40k (831687) | more than 3 years ago | (#34285398)

Then you should not be using the internet. Honestly if you think your data is so important that even after encrypting you are worried someone might get a hold of it, then you should be using a private network or good old sneaker net.

hijacking by any amount is okay then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34285846)

why, I guess it is okay then to say that they HIJACKED any traffic at all. Trust China, they are our friends. It is Fox news that is the terror. What a bunch of buffoons.

private lines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34286090)

anyone who has actually worked in IT containing real TS or SCI data knows it's all on private lines. Do a traceroute from a TS or higher computer to another TS or higher computer and you'll never see a router or node NOT in the .mil domain. sorry folks, they don't use cogent bandwidth and TS servers aren't housed in the same datacenter as your pr0n.

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