The brain-dead Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) has backtracked on its nomination of Mozilla as an "internet villain" for 2019 after online outcry.
"In the 21 years the event has been running it is probably fair to say that no other nomination has generated such strong opinion," the bonkers UK-based lobbying organization said in a post on Tuesday announcing the decision to un-villainize the open-source outfit.
"The villain category is intended to draw attention to an important issue in a light-hearted manner," explained the hapless fools, "but this year has clearly sent the wrong message, one that doesn’t reflect ISPA's genuine desire to engage in a constructive dialogue. ISPA is therefore withdrawing the Mozilla nomination and Internet Villain category this year."
The association's staff of disappointment magnets (ha, just kidding, ISPA, just some light-hearted fun) decided that Mozilla's decision to improve the general security of the internet by adopting the DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) standard was worthy of scorn – albeit that good ol' light-hearted scorn – and used their "Internet Heroes and Villains" annual awards to highlight their wrongheaded opposition to the idea.
DoH works by running DNS lookups – which turn, say, human-friendly domain names like theregister.com into IP addresses your browser can use to reach our web servers – over encrypted HTTPS connections to DNS servers provided by the likes of Cloudflare and Google, bypassing ISPs.
By channeling these translations over secure connections, the lookups appear indecipherable to networks they pass through, such as your broadband provider's. These networks will therefore potentially struggle to monitor which sites you're surfing to, when using DNS-over-HTTPS, due to the encryption.
For example, if you configure your system to use Cloudflare's DoH service and visit a Cloudflare-hosted site over HTTPS, such as El Reg, your ISP will only see outbound connections to Cloudflare and have no idea what exactly you're leafing through: in this case, The Reg.
When it comes to DNS over HTTPS, it's privacy in excess, frets UK child exploitation watchdogREAD MORE
It should also be possible to ensure no one is tampering with your DoH queries due to the use of cryptography in HTTPS.
However, this privacy-protecting technology has turned out to be controversial, despite the clear need for a more secure protocol, largely because too many organizations are reliant on handling, eavesdropping on, or manipulating bog-standard insecure DNS, and netizens moving to DoH are proving disruptive.
The British intelligence services are particularly unhappy about DoH as it will, it is feared, make it harder for snoops to spy on people's internet traffic. And the police have complained about the "unintended consequences" that browsers that implement the new protocol could have on investigations.
Meanwhile, systems installed by ISPs to filter Brits' web traffic are, at least to some degree, still reliant on DNS lookups remaining unencrypted and observable. This is because DNS snooping and filtering is easy, whereas spying on DNS-over-HTTPS is most certainly not, and broadband providers would prefer the easy route.
This is the crux of the matter: ISPs, police, and GCHQ aren't happy they have to work harder to block or eavesdrop on connections because folks are using DNS-over-HTTPS.
"As technology evolves, including through new technical protocols such as DNS-over-HTTPS, the ability of ISPs to put in place technical measures could be substantially reduced," said ISPA chairman Andrew Glover earlier this year.
The nation's biggest internet providers were successfully pressured by the UK government to block connections to online porno unless subscribers opted out of the filtering. DoH would help punters evade such blockades, overblocking, and other censorship, though ISPs can try to use intensive techniques such as deep-packet inspection to keep an eye on some web activities. Again, they'd rather just monitor your insecure DNS traffic.
DNS-over-HTTPS will also allow people to dodge DNS-level blocks on illegal material, such as child sex abuse imagery and criminally obscene stuff.
Back to the light-hearted japes
As establishment lackeys, the ISPA took the side of government and spy agencies over broadband subscribers' safety and privacy, and attempted to bully Mozilla into keeping things insecure. Non-profit Moz wasn't even going to make DoH on-by-default in Firefox for Brits; just adding the mere option was enough to send ISPA's losers into a tizzy. (Hey, it's just a light-hearted joke, friends.)
It's a sign that, as ever, lobbyists quickly forget what they are supposed to do and become part of the apparatus of power, trading favors and pushing others' positions to get what they want. (We're just joshing with you, ISPA. It's light hearted.)
DoH! Secure DNS doesn't make us a villain, Mozilla tells UK broadband providersREAD MORE
From what we can tell, crybaby ISPA's ego is so fragile, it couldn't accept it had been stupid, withdraw the phony award, and apologize: no, like a petulant teenager that can't bring itself to admit it was wrong (just joking, again, light hearted and all that), it stuck its complaints about DNS-over-HTTPS into its "apology."
No one was willing to take responsibility for the decision either, not its chairman Andrew Glover, nor any of its buffoonish (just kidding, light hearted) council members from Sky, Virgin Media, BT or Verizon. The post was popped online anonymously by some coward (only joking).
It also hasn't added a new villain to its list to replace Mozilla. The only other two candidates are the Article 13 Copyright Directive, and that paragon of all things mature and reasoned, President Donald Trump.
We have a suggestion for the real internet villain: how about the ISPA? For being unable to resist using what used to be a fun and distracting award with a helpful purpose, and turning it into another tedious cynical exercise by organizations with too much money and power to push their agenda.
ISPA is another warm chunk of sloppy garbage floating in the toxic hell soup of the modern internet that's made the 2010s so joyless and tiresome at times. Ah, oops, there we go again, being all light-hearted and that. ®