And Then Came HavenCo

Although fending off network-based intruders is a formidable task, you can achieve it. But how do you protect your data from physical system access? The obvious answer is by using adequate guards against physical premise access, which can be expensive. As a result, many companies co-locate data or servers at offsite locations.

For example, you might rent an entire cage or set of racks within a cage from a major ISP. The cage or racks come with high-speed bandwidth. Or you might simply rent a secure e-commerce site from a Web service provider and let the provider worry about premise-access concerns. The ultimate solution obviously depends on your needs. The more sensitive the data, the more sheltered the final solution needs to be.

Today, hundreds of companies around the world offer various secured co-location or data-hosting services. When it comes to security, there are all kinds of boasts and guarantees, but none can match the claim I heard about this week.

Companies come and companies go, but then came HavenCo. Located on a tiny man-made island 7 miles off the coast of Great Britain, HavenCo has a most unique claim to security fame: It not only operates a secure network co-location center, it operates an entire sovereign country! Let me explain.

During World War II, Britain built several gun platforms off its coast to help fend off Nazi warplanes. One of the platforms, named Roughs Tower, was only 10 by 25 yards and was built on two cement caissons off the coast of Britain in what was then international waters.

After the war, Britain dismantled all the platforms except Roughs Tower, which sat abandoned until 1967 when former English major Paddy Roy Bates and his family took up residence on the man-made island. Bates proclaimed the island his own state and bestowed upon himself the title of Prince—his wife took the title of Princess—to reign over their newly formed Principality of Sealand.

After several legal encounters over the island, the English court eventually ruled it had no jurisdiction over Sealand, and Sealand became formally recognized as its own country. Today, the Bates family has moved off the island and turned over operation of the property and the Sealand government to the newly formed HavenCo business.

In a nutshell, HavenCo offers Sealand as a country in which to operate a business. You can buy a server, bandwidth, and complete security solution direct from HavenCo and have that business totally based in Sealand, which provides protection from overly strict data traffic laws, foreign subpoenas, and other outside interference.

According to HavenCo, Sealand has no laws governing data traffic, and the terms of HavenCo's agreement with Sealand provide that no data traffic laws will ever be enacted. You might think HavenCo will soon become a haven for less-than-favorable network users, such as system crackers, porn peddlers, and spammers, but perhaps that won’t happen. The HavenCo acceptable use policy clearly states that it prohibits "the distribution of child pornography from its servers, and prohibits use of the network to send bulk unsolicited communications or launch digital attacks against other computers or networks." Only time will tell how well HavenCo enforces its guidelines. After all, Sealand has few laws, and probably none would force HavenCo to take any specific action other than to terminate a company's service.

I'm not sure what to think about HavenCo. The company professes to offer a pretty darn secure solution package, but I think it's too soon to form a solid opinion. Sealand, a country with almost no laws, lets anyone run a business. Even more interesting is Sealand's claim about protection from foreign subpoena. According to HavenCo, you can set up an email system or other service type on its network, and keep it safe from search and seizure. Microsoft could have used that service to help fend off the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

With its professed strong physical and network security and fat bandwidth, HavenCo offers an intriguing solution. It will be interesting to see who winds up using the services. But it will be even more interesting to see how world governments react to Sealand's new data haven. That reaction will depend on how HavenCo's customers use its multifaceted protected services.

Be sure to stop by the HavenCo Web site and read about its service offerings as well as the history of Sealand. I'm sure you'll find it as interesting as I did. Until next time, have a great week.

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