DigiNotar Compromise: PostScript

[Update 2011-09-05: To be clear, I posted this because it was funny, not because I have anything against Wikipedians, or the Dutch Wikipedia community. Also, I was asking for Dutch-speaking people to help with the program we had for warning webmasters; I was not asking for them to put anything on or make changes to the Dutch Wikipedia.]

Once we decided to remove DigiNotar’s root certificate from our trusted store, I started a crowdsourced effort to warn webmasters who were using certificates which chained to this root. This required Dutch-speaking people to read Dutch websites and work out how to contact the webmaster. This is a partial and slightly tweaked transcript of some of my attempt to persuade the occupants of the wikipedia-nl channel on FreeNode to help:

(21:31:51) gerv: This organization has issued an unknown number of bad certificates to evil people,
(21:31:56) gerv: perhaps like the government of Iran.
(21:32:07) gerv: That government is now using those certificates to spy on Iranians.
(21:32:47) Brimz: gerv: do write the article first and than we act
(21:32:54) gerv: Er, what?
(21:32:56) Brimz: this is wikipedia you know
(21:33:02) Brimz: it's all about articles here
(21:33:05) gerv: Let me put it another way.
(21:33:11) gerv: If you guys don’t help me,
(21:33:14) Brimz: let me put it in another way
(21:33:17) gerv: tomorrow morning the Dutch people will wake up
(21:33:21) gerv: and 700 of their websites,
(21:33:25) gerv: including a lot of Government websites,
(21:33:25) Brimz: this channel is only about wikipedia
(21:33:27) gerv: won’t work any more,
(21:33:35) Brimz: we don't care
(21:33:39) gerv: and I’m hoping you care enough about your countrymen
(21:33:40) gerv: to help.
(21:33:48) Brimz: we only care about the encyclopedia
(21:33:59) Brimz: sorry
(21:34:00) gerv: Really?
(21:34:05) Brimz: yes
(21:34:06) gerv: No friends, family, tulips, canals, love, sunsets?
(21:34:12) Brimz: we are very narrow minded people

21 thoughts on “DigiNotar Compromise: PostScript

  1. We Dutchies don’t like people who are calling other people evil, nor blaming a government for that matter, without any proof. I know that’s common practice in the United States (e.g. Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Iran etc), but here it’s more about facts rather than causing panic. Now the government has to take steps to protect its own website(s), _which it did last night_, not wikipedia or another encyclopedia or anything else.

  2. Not particularly surprising. It’s a channel for Wikipedia, not a channel for random other stuff. I’m also curious how you asked the question in the first place, which seems missing from your transcript.

  3. Wikipedians are very, ah, single-minded about what they’re there for.

    That said, there’s usually a “current events”/”in the news” page which may be of use. But that, like everything on the larger WIkipedias, requires citable press.

  4. Sounds exactly like every Wikipedia editor I’ve ever encountered. Unless there’s a Wikipedia Policy or guideline telling them exactly what to do, they won’t.

    Welcome to the worst hive-mind on the Internet.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but won’t the web masters of these sites notice when their users start calling them en masse?

    Also, it is very unlikely that any of these places with have anyone on call with the authority/ability to order/install a new certificate. With regards to the government sites, I think we can assume that the central government will inform them.

  6. Uh… the purpose of Wikipedia is most definitely NOT to be a public alert system. It is an encyclopaedia. But like David says, there is normally a current events page. A hint – issuing ultimatums is not going to work with Wikipedians. They are meant to be neutral in their editing, not crusaders for even very worthy causes!

  7. Yyyyesss. If you want Wikipedia to do something, remember that it’s a bunch of people – thousands of them – rather than any even slightly centralised entity. There is literally no-one in charge. (No, the Wikimedia Foundation is not in charge. No, Jimmy Wales really, really isn’t in charge.)

    You know how large parts of the essential infrastructure of the world are actually run by one or two unknown volunteers and held together with gaffer tape and string? Wikipedia is one of those bits of infrastructure, but less organised than that.

  8. Mad Maks: I did try mozilla.nl, and got some help from Jan and mzz. But we needed more people than that :-)

    Chris: I wasn’t asking the Wikipedians to be a public alert system, I was asking them, as a collection of Dutch people, to help out other Dutch people. The fact that they were Wikipedians wasn’t relevant (or so I thought).

  9. Hi Gerv,

    thanks for all this effort.
    I hope and believe this cannot be generalised to neither the whole nl-wikipedia nor whole wikipedia community.
    I participate in many free software and free culture communities, among them, Wikipedia ones, and if ever I find someone that asks for something that maybe I’m not fully able to understand, I always try to forward it to someone who may properly take care of it.

  10. It sounds like you talked to one guy. Don’t think you can generalize to all Wikipedians from one guy, and it’s probably all in how you phrased the initial question. “Hey I’m from Mozilla, and we have a short-term need for some Dutch speakers, anyone able to help?” probably would’ve drawn some volunteers, assuming anyone was paying attention in the channel other than Brimz.

  11. Just in case it’s not clear, I posted this because it’s amusing, not because I wanted to start some big criticism of Wikipedians, or even the guy himself.

  12. The correct channel to ask in would have been #wikinews , who would have been glad to interview you and post a story. It would have been nice of Brimz to direct you there.

    Wikipedia itself is not for announcements , and really can’t do much to help you. ^^;;

  13. Ah, if you were looking for dutch speakers. Heh, you could have said so, probably you’d have gotten some help. #Wiktionary and #omegawiki might have also netted you some people.

  14. I was present at the moment Gerv asked in the channel to help, the words of other users are skipped in the quote. The material it is about is for most users in the channel too complicated to understand, and even harder to help with the subject. In the chat two links were given to websites which were for me enough evidence of how seriously this problem was. I could understand, but still it is a bit difficult to explain it to others. I wished I could have helped more, but at that time I wasn’t capable to. I must say that I thought it was great and to be appreciated how dedicated Gerv is. So I can say that Gerv is welcome! Greetings

  15. Keep in mind that we get all kind of lunatics on our irc-channel. Someone coming suddenly out of the blue, telling that “the world will collaps tomorrow if we don’t act immediately on his commands” is a bit ridiculous.

    And all our websites still work, even on firefox.

    True, Diginotar has an issue, but to my idea the whole action of this gerv-guy was only lead by panic, and he was clearly in the wrong place. The wikipedia-irc-channel ain’t no speakers corner, you know!