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Cloudflare, Inc. is a U.S. web infrastructure and website security company, providing content delivery network services, DDoS mitigation, Internet security and distributed domain name server services.[2] Cloudflare's services sit between a website's visitor and the Cloudflare user's hosting provider, acting as a reverse proxy for websites. Cloudflare's headquarters are in San Francisco, California, with additional offices in Lisbon,[3] London, Singapore, Munich, San Jose, Champaign, Illinois, Austin, New York City and Washington, D.C.[4][5]

Cloudflare, Inc.
Cloudflare logo.svg
FoundedJuly 2009; 10 years ago (2009-07)
Headquarters,
Founder(s)
  • Matthew Prince
  • Lee Holloway
  • Michelle Zatlyn
Key people
  • Matthew Prince (CEO)
  • Lee Holloway
  • Michelle Zatlyn
IndustryInternet
ProductsCloudflare
Services
Websitewww.cloudflare.com
Alexa rankPositive decrease 1056 (February 2019)[1]

Cloudflare has faced controversy a number of times over its stance providing technical support to online hate groups[6][7][8] and terrorists,[9][7] citing free speech concerns.[10] Cloudflare ensured it will "continue to abide by the law" and "serve all customers", further explaining "our proper role is not that of Internet censor".[11] For example, at one time Cloudflare provided technical services to 8chan,[12] an image board which has been linked to multiple mass shootings in the United States and the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.[13][14] However, in 2017 Cloudflare succumbed to pressure to no longer provide their services the neo-nazi website The Daily Stormer.[15] Similarly, in August 2019 Cloudflare stopped services for 8chan following a mass shooting in El Paso.[16]

In 2014, Cloudflare introduced Project Galileo in response to cyber attacks launched against important, yet vulnerable targets, such as artistic groups, humanitarian organizations, and the voices of political dissent. In 2019 Cloudflare celebrated the five-year anniversary of Project Galileo and announced that 600 users and organisations are currently participating.[17]

Contents

HistoryEdit

Cloudflare was created in 2009 by Matthew Prince, Lee Holloway, and Michelle Zatlyn,[18][19] who had previously worked on Project Honey Pot.[19][20] Cloudflare was launched at the September 2010 TechCrunch Disrupt conference.[18][19] It received media attention in June 2011, after providing security to LulzSec's website.[18][21]

In June 2012, Cloudflare partnered with various web hosts, including HostPapa, to implement its "Railgun" technology.[22][23]

In February 2014, Cloudflare mitigated the largest-ever recorded DDoS attack at that time, which peaked at 400 Gbit/s against an undisclosed customer.[24] In November 2014, Cloudflare reported another massive DDoS attack with independent media sites being targeted at 500 Gbit/s.[25]

Funding roundsEdit

In November 2009, Cloudflare raised $2.1 million in a Series A round from Pelion Venture Partners and Venrock.[26]

In July 2011, Cloudflare raised $20 million in a Series B round from New Enterprise Associates, Pelion Venture Partners, Venrock.[26][27][28]

In December 2012, Cloudflare raised $50 million in a Series C round from New Enterprise Associates, Pelion Venture Partners, Venrock, Union Square Ventures, and Greenspring Associates.[29][30][31]

In December 2014, Cloudflare raised $110 million in a Series D round led by Fidelity Investments, with participation from Google Capital, Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Baidu.[32]

In March 2019, Cloudflare raised $150 million in a Series E round led by Franklin Templeton Investments, with participation from New Enterprise Associates, Union Square Ventures, Venrock, Pelion Venture Partners, Greenspring Associates, CapitalG, Microsoft, Baidu, Qualcomm and Fidelity.[33]

AcquisitionsEdit

In February 2014, it acquired StopTheHacker, which offers malware detection, automatic malware removal, and reputation and blacklist monitoring.[34][35] In December 2016, Cloudflare acquired Eager, with the view of upgrading Cloudflare's Apps platform to allow for drag-and-drop of installation of third-party apps onto Cloudflare-enabled sites.[36] In late 2017, Cloudflare acquired Neumob, a mobile VPN startup.[37]

ServicesEdit

DDoS protectionEdit

For all customers Cloudflare offers an "I'm Under Attack" mode. Cloudflare claims this can mitigate advanced Layer 7 attacks by presenting a JavaScript computational challenge which must be completed by a user's browser before the user can access a website.[38]

In March 2013, Cloudflare defended SpamHaus from a DDoS attack that exceeded 300 Gbit/s. Akamai's chief architect stated that at the time it was "the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet".[39][40] Cloudflare has also reportedly absorbed attacks that have peaked over 400Gbit/s from an NTP Reflection attack.[41]

Web application firewallEdit

Cloudflare allows customers on paid plans to utilize a web application firewall service, by default; the firewall has the OWASP ModSecurity Core Rule Set alongside Cloudflare's own ruleset and rulesets for popular web applications.[42]

Authoritative DNSEdit

Cloudflare offers free authoritative Domain Name System (DNS) service for all clients which are powered by an anycast network.[43] SolveDNS have found Cloudflare to consistently have one of the fastest DNS lookup speeds worldwide, with a reported lookup speed of 5.6ms in July 2019.[44]

Public DNS resolverEdit

On April 1, 2018, Cloudflare announced a 'privacy-first' consumer DNS service, hosted at IP addresses 1.1.1.1 and 1.0.0.1. Alternatively, the service can be accessed via IPv6 at 2606:4700:4700::1111 and 2606:4700:4700::1001.[45][46]

On November 11, 2018, Cloudflare announced a mobile version of their 1.1.1.1 service for iOS and Android.[47]

Reverse proxyEdit

A key functionality of Cloudflare is that they act as a reverse proxy for web traffic.

Cloudflare supports new web protocols, including SPDY and HTTP/2. In addition to this, Cloudflare offers support for HTTP/2 Server Push.[48] Cloudflare also supports proxying WebSockets.

Content delivery networkEdit

Cloudflare's network has the highest number of connections to Internet exchange points of any network worldwide.[49] Cloudflare caches content to its edge locations to act as a content delivery network (CDN), all requests are then reverse proxied through Cloudflare with cached content served directly from Cloudflare.

Project GalileoEdit

In 2014, Cloudflare introduced Project Galileo in response to cyber attacks launched against important, yet vulnerable targets, such as artistic groups, humanitarian organizations, and the voices of political dissent. Working with free speech, public interest, and civil society organizations.[50] Cloudflare then extended its Enterprise-class DDoS protection and business-level performance benefits to ensure these websites stay online, without being violated.

Project Galileo has been compared to Alphabet's Project Shield, a different service providing protection to vulnerable humanitarian and free-speech groups. In contrast to Project Shield, Project Galileo does not create its own guidelines for eligible users. Rather, it outsourced the selection to 28 (non-profit) organisations and any one of those can accept users into the program. Cloudflare's CEO, Matthew Prince, hopes that other companies will follow suit and start similar projects. According to some Project Galileo users, organisations benefit from being able to choose whom to work with, a notion that has been echoed by Cloudflare's CEO.[50]

Since the project started in 2014, Cloudflare has remained fairly secretive about the project, in part to avoid drawing further attention to organisations that might be targeted.[51] For the five-year anniversary of the project a blogpost was created sharing some detail about the service, revealing that 600 organisations are currently participating and announcing number of new additions.[52]

Project AthenianEdit

Cloudflare created Project Athenian to ensure that state and local government election websites have the highest level of protection (Enterprise grade) and reliability for free, so that their constituents always have access to election information and voter registration.[53]

Domain RegistrarEdit

In 2019, Cloudflare announced a new domain registrar service that promised to offer low-cost wholesale pricing and easy ways to enable DNSSEC.

WarpEdit

On April 1, 2019 Cloudflare announced a new freemium Virtual Private Network service named Warp. The service would initially be available through the 1.1.1.1 mobile apps with a desktop app available later.[54]

Network Time ServicesEdit

On June 21, 2019 Cloudflare announced that users would be able to sync their computers time securely with Cloudflare's NTP service. Cloudflare’s time service will allow users to connect to their Network Time Protocol (NTP) server that supports Network Time Security (NTS), enabling users to obtain time in an authenticated manner.[55]

CustomersEdit

As of 2017, Cloudflare provides DNS services to 12 million websites,[56] adding approximately 20,000 new customers every day.[57] 

Cloudflare provided support services for 8chan until August 2019. 8chan has since moved to BitMitigate.[58][59] In an August 3 interview immediately post the 2019 El Paso shooting with The Guardian, Matthew Prince defended Cloudflare's support of 8chan saying: "What happened in El Paso today is abhorrent in every possible way, and it’s ugly, and I hate that there’s any association between us and that … For us the question is which is the worse evil?".[59]

ControversyEdit

Cloudflare has come under pressure on multiple occasions due to its ironclad policy on free speech, refusing to cease technical support (DNS routing, DDoS mitigation etc) of websites such as LulzSec, The Daily Stormer, and 8chan.[6][7][8][10] Activists argue Cloudflare's services allow access to content which spreads hate and has led to harm[60][61] and deaths.[13][14][62] Cloudflare consider all the content which passes through their infrastructure as protected by the First Amendment, no matter its content or consequences.[63][64]Cloudflare has broad legal immunity from the content produced by its users.[63]

Cloudflare provided DoS protection for the hacker group LulzSec through its services. This garnered significant positive media attention at the time, as Cloudflare was a young and relatively unknown company.[18][21]

Cloudflare provided DNS routing and DoS protection for the white supremacist and neo-nazi website, The Daily Stormer. In 2017 Cloudflare stopped providing their services to the The Daily Stormer[15] after an announcement on the controversial website asserted that the "upper-echelons" of Cloudflare were "secretly supporters of their ideology".[65] Previously Cloudflare had refused to take any action regarding The Daily Stormer, despite widespread public pressure.[63][15] The removal was addressed in a blogpost in which Cloudflare emphasized their dedication towards freedom of speech. As a 'free speech absolutist' Cloudflare's CEO Matthew Prince vowed never to succumb to external pressure again and sought to create a 'political umbrella' for the future.[63] Matthew Prince further addressed the dangers of large companies deciding what is allowed to stay online, a concern that is shared by a number of civil liberties groups and privacy experts.[66][67][68] The Electronic Frontier Foundation said that services such as Cloudflare "should not be adjudicating what speech is acceptable" adding "when illegal activity, like inciting violence or defamation, occurs, the proper channel to deal with it is the legal system."[69]

According to The Huffington Post, Cloudflare provides services to "at least 7 terrorist groups", as designated by the United States Department of State.[9][7] According to the article Cloudflare provides services to the Taliban, Hamas and al-Quds Brigades among others, and have been aware since at least 2012 and have taken no action. The US Justice Department has not asked the company to discontinue the services.[70]

Cloudflare came under pressure due to the technical support provided for the discussion board 8chan, which allows users to post and discuss any content free from interference from a site administrator. The message board has been linked to mass shootings in the United States and the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.[13][14][62] In addition, a number of news organizations including The Washington Post and The Daily Dot have reported child pornography and child rape discussion boards.[60][61] In the wake of the 2019 El Paso shooting, Cloudflare announced that they will be terminating support for 8chan due to the consistent use of the site for terror purposes.[71] In the announcement, CEO Matthew Prince warned this was not the end for 8chan and described the previous events of The Daily Stormer;

"Unfortunately, we have seen this situation before and so we have a good sense of what will play out. Almost exactly two years ago we made the determination to kick another disgusting site off Cloudflare's network: the Daily Stormer. That caused a brief interruption in the site's operations but they quickly came back online using a Cloudflare competitor. That competitor at the time promoted as a feature the fact that they didn't respond to legal process. Today, the Daily Stormer is still available and still disgusting. They have bragged that they have more readers than ever. They are no longer Cloudflare's problem, but they remain the Internet's problem."[71]

In the wake of being pressured to censor The Daily Stormer, Cloudflare sought to create an alliance of free speech organizations so the company could stand up to pressure next time.[72] A number of organizations, including The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a U.S. digital rights charity, joined Project Galileo supporting Cloudflare's free speech stance.[73]

Content neutralityEdit

Cloudflare has been vocal of their values, with CEO Matthew Prince stating:

"One of the greatest strengths of the United States is a belief that speech, particularly political speech, is sacred. A website, of course, is nothing but speech ... A website is speech. It is not a bomb. There is no imminent danger it creates and no provider has an affirmative obligation to monitor and make determinations about the theoretically harmful nature of speech a site may contain."[74]

Cloudflare services have been used by Rescator, a website that sells payment card data.[75][76][77]

Two of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant's top three online chat forums are guarded by Cloudflare but U.S. law enforcement has not asked them to discontinue the service, and they have not chosen to do so themselves.[70]

In November 2015, Anonymous discouraged the use of Cloudflare's services, following the ISIL attacks in Paris and the renewed accusation that it provides help to terrorists.[78] Cloudflare responded by calling their accusers "15-year-old kids in Guy Fawkes masks" and saying that whenever such concerns are raised they consult actual anti-terrorism experts and abide by the law.[79]

Breaking with its long-standing policy of total content neutrality, Cloudflare withdrew access to its services by white supremacist web site The Daily Stormer on 16 August 2017, in the aftermath of the fatal vehicular attack at the Charlottesville rally four days earlier. This withdrew the website's protection against distributed denial of service attack, and soon thereafter attackers took down the website.[80] CEO Matthew Prince stated: "I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the internet",[81] the tipping point in the decision being that "the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology."[82][83] Andrew Anglin, editor for The Daily Stormer, denied that his team made such a claim, and the move to disconnect The Daily Stormer from Cloudflare services was criticised as 'dangerous' by Prince himself,[84][85] Anglin,[86] and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.[87]

In August 2019, Cloudflare terminated services to 8chan, an American image board.[58]

Awards and recognitionEdit

SecurityEdit

The hacker group UGNazi attacked Cloudflare partially via flaws in Google's authentication systems in June 2012, gaining administrative access to Cloudflare and using it to deface 4chan.[93][94] Cloudflare published in full the details of the hack. Following this, Google publicly announced they had patched the flaw in the Google Enterprise App account recovery process which allowed the hackers to bypass two-step verification.[95]

From September 2016 until February 2017, a major Cloudflare bug (nicknamed Cloudbleed) leaked sensitive data—including passwords and authentication tokens from customer websites, by sending extra data in response to web requests.[96] The leaks resulted from a buffer overflow, which occurred, according to analysis by Cloudflare, on approximately 1 in every 3,300,000 HTTP requests.[97][98]

PrivacyEdit

Cloudflare publishes a Transparency Report on a semi-annual basis to show how often law enforcement agencies request data about its clients.[99]

In May 2017, ProPublica reported that Cloudflare as a matter of policy relays the names and email addresses of persons complaining about hate sites to the sites in question, which has led to the complainants being harassed. Cloudflare's general counsel defended the company's policies by saying it is "base constitutional law that people can face their accusers".[100] In response Cloudflare updated their abuse reporting process to provide greater control of whom to notify for the complaining party.[101]

Spam and phishing supportEdit

Cloudflare is listed on Spamhaus for providing spam support services (pink contract). The current list of Spamhaus listings changes on a near daily basis as reported issues are addressed with the responsible website owner.[102][103]

An October 2015 report found that Cloudflare provisioned 40% of SSL certificates used by phishing sites with deceptive domain names resembling those of banks and payment processors.[104]

OutagesEdit

In July 2019 Cloudflare suffered a major outage, which rendered more than 12 million websites unreachable for 27 minutes (80% of all customers).[105][106] The affected websites responded with a blank 502 Error Page.[107] Cloudflare published internal investigation results,[105] in which the cause of the outage was pinpointed to a faulty regular expression.

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