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How a 2011 Hack You’ve Never Heard of Changed the Internet’s Infrastructure

Josephine Wolffwrote for the Slate about the 2011 DigiNotar hack and its implications for internet security infrastructure:

On Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, an Iranian man who went by the online alias alibo tried to check his email—only to find he couldn’t connect to Gmail. Yet the problem disappeared when he connected to a virtual private network that disguised his location. Whatever was going on, it seemed to only affect computer users in Iran.
His first hunch was that the problem might be somehow tied to the Iranian government—which was known for interfering with online activity—or a problem with his local internet service provider. So alibo posted a question about the issue on the Gmail Help Forum. Two days later, Google responded to this apparently small problem in a big way: It issued a publicstatement about the incident, attributing the problem to security issues at a Dutch company called DigiNotar. Within a month, DigiNotar had been taken over by the Dutch government. Not long after that, it declared bankruptcy and dissolved.