[ISN] Crypto utopia Sealand ravaged by fire

InfoSec News isn at c4i.org
Tue Jun 27 01:27:34 EDT 2006


By Andrew Orlowski
26th June 2006 

Fire has damaged a World War II gun emplacement seven miles off the
English coast. Better known as "Sealand", the fort was acquired in the
1960s by Roy Bates, who declared it an independent principality.

One man was airlifted from the platform after fire broke out in the
generator room on Friday. Eyewitnesses [1] reported heavy damage, and
the blaze was left to burn itself out.

A public statement from the Sealand government said [2]: "Due to a
fire in the generation facility of the Fortress structure it has been
necessary temporarily to evacuate all civilian residents to
alternative accommodation as a matter of safety. This situation is
expected to continue for the next 96 hours, and an update will be
issued within this time."

When Bates purchased the fort, UK sovereignty extended to structures
only three miles from the shoreline. This has since changed, bringing
Sealand within UK jurisdiction, and the principality remains
unrecognised by any other state or international treaty organisation.

But in recent years the ambiguity of Sealand's status prompted one of
the more fascinating experiments in technological utopias.

Bates' son Michael - Prince Michael of Sealand - blessed an experiment
to create a crypto data haven on the fort, and became head of the
operating company HavenCo [3] in June 2000 [4].

To the dismay of investors and cypherpunks, the venture wasn't a
success. Ryan Lackey had moved to the fort in 1999, hoping to
establish a safe location for privacy services such as anonymous
remailers, and experiments such as anonymous digital cash. [July 2000
Slashdot Q&A [5]]

In a presentation to the 2003 DefCon convention, a former employee
described how internal politics and a lack of investment backing had
thwarted the experiment. Contracts were broken, the bandwidth never
materialised, and the location was vulnerable to DOS attacks. At the
time [6] of his 2003 presentation, HavenCo had no new customers, and
had seen several of its existing customers leave.

"Sovereignty alone has little value without commercial support from
banks, etc," concluded Ryan. Inviting us draw our own conclusions as
to where the real sovereign power lies. Banks don't like cash they
can't count or control. ®

[1] http://www.eadt.co.uk/content/eadt/news/story.aspx?brand=EADOnline&category=News&tBrand=EADOnline&tCategory=zNews&itemid=IPED24%20Jun%202006%2009%3A12%3A24%3A070
[2] http://www.sealandgov.org/notices/pn02706.html
[3] http://www.havenco.com/
[4] http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/06/07/exarmy_major_offers_dotcom_sanctuary/
[5] http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=00/07/02/160253&mode=nested
[6] http://www.metacolo.com/papers/dc11-havenco/

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