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August 27, 2012

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Here's the The Lowdown from DN Journal,
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The Lowdown is compiled by DN Journal Editor & Publisher Ron Jackson.

Chef Patrick's WhoIs Privacy Breach Ignites Blogging Brouhaha But What Happens Next?  

On Tuesday Rick Schwartz published an item on his blog naming Chef Patrick (Patrick Ruddell) as the Moniker employee who was behind a widely publicized WhoIs privacy breach that came to light in December (the employee's name was not released until Schwartz did it this 

week). The news triggered a firestorm of commentary on both men's blogs that is still going on (much of it unfortunately tainted by an indiscriminate mudslinging frenzy propagated in part by anonymous posters who don't know either man personally). 

Ruddell admitted he was responsible but wrote about what he considered to be extenuating circumstances that led him to make what he agreed was a major mistake. Some have sympathized with him, while others remain unsatisfied with how he has handled the situation, further fueling the ongoing debate. Still, the bottom line is that, despite the ancillary allegations, the crucial mistake was his and he has to deal with the repercussions now. 

I don't think a lot has been left unsaid at this point and with most of what I know about this incident  having been told to me off the record by the parties directly involved, I am not at liberty to add more to what is already online.

Patrick Ruddell (Chef Patrick)

The basic details are all out there now though, so the question becomes, when people get tired of talking about it, what happens next?

Ruddell has left Moniker and this week started promoting his second DNCruise conference scheduled for September. He is also involved in the ownership and development of ScienceFiction.com and said he hopes to continue brokering domains, which had been his primary job at Moniker. How much will his business interests be affected by the controversy now swirling around him? 

For the foreseeable future, Ruddell will be a controversial figure but he has built up a lot of good will among fans and friends who will continue to support him with the belief that everyone deserves a second chance. However he will also have to deal with a chorus of detractors who will continually throw this incident in his face at the slightest provocation. Everything he does will be under a microscope for some time.

I personally hope that he is up to the challenge, learns from this bad experience and wins his critics back over with his actions going forward. I do know that he is a good family man (I've seen it first hand - it's not a charade aimed at attracting sympathy during his current travails as some have charged) and I hope things work out for the best for him and his family as time goes on. We are all human and subject to making rash decisions and stupid mistakes and I think most people understand that. So, as bad as the heat in his kitchen is now, Ruddell's story could still have a happy ending. 

For the industry at large, some good could still come out of this affair. As I wrote when talking about this incident in December, it exposed a big weakness in WhoIs Privacy security at the registrars (Moniker in this case, but I suspect the same issue exist at most other registrars too). Too many employees have access to what should be confidential information. I have personally never used WhoIs privacy on a domain and doubt that I ever will, but for those who pay for it - as long as you are paying for privacy (I don't care how large or small the fee is) you should be able to expect privacy

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

from the registrar selling the product. Some of the more compelling posts in the blog wars gave examples of how the ease of access to this information makes it possible for an  employee to cause all manner of harm to a company's clients.

While common corporate human resources policy prevented Moniker from talking publicly about who was responsible for the breach there and how the employee was dealt with, they could talk about what they plan to do to shore up their WhoIs Privacy service. I think there is an opportunity for them here. Moniker has always been a favorite among domain investors, in no small part because their reputation for rock solid security was golden. I think that makes them the logical registrar to lead with a promise of providing the industry's most stringent security for those buying their WhoIs protection service. This experience shows them and others what needs to be done and looks to me like a rare chance to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear and regain a lot of trust in the process.

(Posted March 17, 2011)  


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