Cloudflare, Inc. is an American content delivery network and DDoS mitigation company,[2] founded in 2010. It primarily acts as a reverse proxy between a website's visitor and the Cloudflare customer's hosting provider.[3][4] Its headquarters are in San Francisco, California.[2]

Cloudflare, Inc
Typeenterprise, technology company, public company, online service, Delaware corporation
Industryinformation and communications technology
Founded2009 Edit this on Wikidata
FounderLee Holloway
Matthew Prince
Michelle Zatlyn Edit this on Wikidata
Headquarters
Key people
Servicesreverse proxy, edge computing, streaming media, identity management, virtual private network
RevenueIncrease US$656.4 million[1] (2021)
Decrease US$−127.7 million[1] (2021)
Decrease US$−260.3 million[1] (2021)
Total assetsIncrease US$2.4 billion[1] (2021)
Total equityDecrease US$811.4 million[1] (2021)
Number of employees
2,440 (2021) Edit this on Wikidata
Websitewww.cloudflare.com

HistoryEdit

Cloudflare was founded in September 2010 by Matthew Prince, Lee Holloway, and Michelle Zatlyn.[5][6][7] Prince and Holloway had previously collaborated on Project Honey Pot, a product of Unspam Technologies. From 2009, the company was venture-capital funded.[8] On August 15, 2019, Cloudflare submitted its S-1 filing for IPO on the New York Stock Exchange under the stock ticker NET.[9] It opened for public trading on September 13, 2019 at $15 per share.[10]

In 2020, Cloudflare co-founder and COO Michelle Zatlyn was named president, making her one of the few woman presidents of a publicly traded technology company in the U.S.[11]

Cloudflare has acquired web-services and security companies, including StopTheHacker (Feb 2014),[12] CryptoSeal (June 2014),[13] Eager Platform Co. (December 2016),[14] Neumob (November 2017),[15] S2 Systems (January 2020),[16] Linc (December 2020),[17] Zaraz (December 2021),[18] Vectrix (February 2022),[19] and Area 1 Security (February 2022).[20]

 
Lava lamp wall in Cloudflare's San Francisco offices (2021)

Since at least 2017, Cloudflare has been using a wall of lava lamps in their San Francisco headquarters as a source of randomness for encryption keys, alongside double pendulums in its London offices and a geiger counter in its Singapore offices.[21] The lava lamp installation implements the Lavarand method, where a camera transforms the unpredictable shapes of the "lava" blobs into a digital image.[22][21]

Claims regarding DDoS mitigationEdit

Cloudflare received media attention in June 2011 for providing DDoS mitigation for the website of LulzSec, a black hat hacking group.[23]

In March 2013, The Spamhaus Project was targeted by a DDoS attack that Cloudflare reported exceeded 300 Gbit/s.[24][25] Patrick Gilmore, of Akamai, stated that at the time it was "the largest publicly announced DDoS attack in the history of the Internet." While trying to defend Spamhaus against the DDoS attacks, Cloudflare ended up being attacked as well; Google and other companies eventually came to Spamhaus' defense and helped it to absorb the unprecedented amount of attack traffic.[26]

In February 2014, Cloudflare claimed to have mitigated an NTP reflection attack against an unnamed European customer, which they stated peaked at 400 gigabits per second.[27][28] In November 2014, it reported a 500Gbps DDoS attack in Hong Kong.[29] In June 2020, it mitigated a DDoS attack that peaked at 250Gbps.[30] In July 2021 the company claimed to have absorbed a DDoS attack three times larger than any they'd previously recorded, which their corporate blog implied was over 1.2Tbps in total.[31]

ProductsEdit

 
An example of public key certificate issued by Cloudflare

Cloudflare acts as a reverse proxy for web traffic. It supports web protocols including SPDY and HTTP/2, QUIC, and support for HTTP/2 Server Push.[32]

Cloudflare provides DDoS mitigation services that protect customers from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

In 2010, Cloudflare launched a Content Distribution Network (CDN) service. TechCrunch wrote that its goal was to be "a CDN for the masses".[33]

In 2017 Cloudflare launched Cloudflare Workers, a serverless computing platform for creating new applications, augmenting existing ones, without configuring or maintaining infrastructure. It has expanded to include Workers KV, a low-latency key-value data store; Cron Triggers, for scheduling Cron jobs; and additional tooling for developers to deploy and scale their code across the globe.[34]

On September 25, 2019, Cloudflare released a freemium VPN service for mobile devices called WARP.[35][36] A year later, beta support for macOS and Windows was released.[37]

As of 2020, Cloudflare was providing DNS services to over 100,000 customers.[38]

In November, 2020, Cloudflare announced Cloudflare for Teams, consisting of a DNS resolver and web gateway called "Gateway," and a zero-trust authentication service called "Access."[39]

On May 11, 2022, Cloudflare announced its first SQL database, D1, which is built on SQLite.[40]

Free servicesEdit

In 2014, Cloudflare began providing free DDoS mitigation for artists, activists, journalists, and human rights groups under the name "Project Galileo."[41] More than 1,000 users and organizations were participating in Project Galileo as of 2020.[42] In 2017, they extended the service to electoral infrastructure and political campaigns under the name "Athenian Project."[43][44][45] In December 2020, Cloudflare released a beta Jamstack platform for front-end developers to deploy websites on Cloudflare's infrastructure, under the name "Pages."[46] In January 2021, the company began providing a digital queue for COVID-19 vaccinations under the name "the Project Fair Shot initiative."[47]

Security and privacy issuesEdit

IntrusionsEdit

The hacker group UGNazi attacked Cloudflare in June 2012 by gaining control over Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince's voicemail and email accounts, which were hosted on Google. From there, they gained administrative control over Cloudflare's customers and used that to deface 4chan. Prince later acknowledged, "The attack was the result of a compromise that allowed the hacker to eventually access my Cloudflare.com email addresses" and as the media pointed out at the time, "the keys to his business were available to anyone with access to his voicemail."[48][49]

In March 2021, Tillie Kottmann from the hacking collective "Advanced Persistent Threat 69420" demonstrated that the group had gained root shell access to security cameras in Cloudflare offices managed by cloud-based physical security company Verkada after obtaining the credentials of a Verkada superuser account that had been leaked on the Internet.[50][51][52][53][54] Cloudflare stated that the compromised cameras were in offices that had been officially closed for several months,[50] though the hacking collective also obtained access to Verkada-operated cameras in Cloudflare's offices in New York City, London, Austin and San Francisco.[50][54] The hacking group told Bloomberg News that it had video archives from all Verkada customers;[50] it accessed footage from Cloudflare's cameras and posted a screenshot of security footage which they said was taken by a Verkada camera in a Cloudflare office.[53][55]

Data leaksEdit

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.[56] The leaks resulted from a buffer overflow which occurred, according to numbers provided by Cloudflare at the time, more than 18,000,000 times before the problem was corrected.[57][58]

In May 2017, ProPublica reported that Cloudflare routinely discloses the names and email addresses of persons complaining about hate sites to the operators of those sites, 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", and noted that there had been a disclaimer on Cloudflare's complaint form since 2015 stating that they "would notify the site owner."[59] Cloudflare's CEO later suggested that, had people not wanted their names shared, they should have provided a false name on the reporting form.[60]

Service outagesEdit

Cloudflare outages can bring down large chunks of the web.[61] There was major outage, lasting about 30 minutes, on July 2, 2019 attributed to bad software deployment.[62][63] In 2020, a misconfiguration of a router caused a data pileup and outage in major European cities.[64]

ControversiesEdit

Cloudflare has been criticized for not banning websites with hate speech content. The company has said it has a content neutrality policy and that it opposes the policing of its customers on free speech grounds, except in cases where the customers break the law.[65][66][67] The company has also faced criticism for not banning websites allegedly connected to terrorism groups,[68] but Cloudflare has maintained that no law enforcement agency has asked the company to discontinue these services and it closely monitors its obligations under U.S. laws.[66]

Free Speech DebateEdit

 
Co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare Matthew Prince

Cloudflare has come under pressure on multiple occasions due to its services being utilized to serve controversial content.[69][70][71] As Cloudflare is considered an infrastructure provider, rather than a hosting provider, they are able to maintain broad legal immunity for the content served from their customers.[72]

Cloudflare provided DNS routing and DoS protection for the white supremacist and neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. In 2017 Cloudflare stopped providing its services to The Daily Stormer after an announcement on the controversial website asserted that the "upper echelons" of Cloudflare were "secretly supporters of their ideology".[73][74] Previously Cloudflare had refused to take any action regarding The Daily Stormer.[72] As a self-described "free speech absolutist", Cloudflare's CEO Matthew Prince, in a blog post, vowed never to succumb to external pressure again and sought to create a "political umbrella" for the future.[72] 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.[75][76][77] The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a US digital rights group, said that services such as Cloudflare "should not be adjudicating what speech is acceptable", adding that "when illegal activity, like inciting violence or defamation, occurs, the proper channel to deal with it is the legal system."[73]

TerrorismEdit

The Huffington Post has documented Cloudflare's services to "at least 7 terrorist groups", as designated by the United States Department of State[78][79] including the Taliban, Al-Shabaab, the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas, Myanmar's military junta,[80] and the al-Quds Brigades. Cloudflare has been aware since at least 2012, and has taken no action. However, according to Cloudflare's CEO, no law enforcement agency has asked the company to discontinue these services.[81] Two of the top three online chat forums and nearly forty other web sites belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are guarded by Cloudflare.[81] According to Prince, U.S. law enforcement has not asked Cloudflare to discontinue the service, and it has not chosen to do so itself.[81] In November 2015, hacktivist group Anonymous discouraged the use of Cloudflare's services following the ISIL attacks in Paris and additional revelations that Cloudflare aids terrorists.[82] Cloudflare responded by calling the group "15-year-old kids in Guy Fawkes masks", and saying that whenever such concerns are raised it consults anti-terrorism experts and abides by the law.[83]

Mass Shootings and 8chanEdit

In 2019, Cloudflare was criticized for providing services to the discussion and imageboard 8chan, which allows users to post and discuss any content with minimal interference from site administrators. The message board has been linked to mass shootings in the United States and the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand.[84][85][86] In addition, a number of news organizations including The Washington Post and The Daily Dot have reported the existence of child pornography and child sexual abuse discussion boards.[87][88][89]

A Cloudflare representative stated that the platform "does not host the referenced websites, cannot block websites, and is not in the business of hiding companies that host illegal content".[90] Cloudflare did not terminate service to 8chan until public and legal pressure in the wake of a copycat shooting of Christchurch mosque shootings in the United States, which used 8chan to publish the associated manifesto.[91][92][93] In an interview with The Guardian, immediately following the 2019 El Paso shooting, CEO Matthew Prince defended Cloudflare's support of 8chan, stating that he had a "moral obligation" to keep the site online.[94]

A few days later Cloudflare terminated their service to 8chan and as a result the website was taken off the clearnet.[95][96]

CrimeEdit

Cloudflare services have been used by Rescator, a carding website that sells stolen payment card data.[97][98][99]

In 2018, Cloudflare was identified by the European Union's Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List as a "notorious market" which engages in, facilitates, or benefits from counterfeiting and piracy. The report noted that Cloudflare hides and anonymizes the operators of 40% of the world's pirate sites, and 62% of the 500 largest such sites, and "does not follow due diligence when opening accounts for websites to prevent illegal sites from using its services."[100][101] Italian courts have enjoined Cloudflare to cease hosting pirate television service "IPTV THE BEST" after it was found to be infringing the intellectual property of Sky Italy and the Italian football league,[102] and German courts have similarly found that "Cloudflare and its anonymization services attract structurally copyright infringing websites."[103]

Cloudflare has been cited in reports by The Spamhaus Project, an international spam tracking organization, for the high numbers of cybercriminal botnet operations hosted by Cloudflare.[104][105][106] An October 2015 report found that Cloudflare provisioned 40% of the SSL certificates used by typosquatting phishing sites, which use deceptive domain names resembling those of banks and payment processors to compromise Internet users' banking and other transactions.[107]

Reaction to 2022 Russian invasion of UkraineEdit

During the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cloudflare refused to join the international community and withdraw from the Russian market. Research from Yale University updated on April 28, 2022 identifying how companies were reacting to Russia's invasion identified Cloudflare in the worst category of "Digging In", meaning Defying Demands for Exit: companies defying demands for exit/reduction of activities. [108]

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  70. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (August 28, 2017). "The far right is losing its ability to speak freely online. Should the left defend it?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 22, 2019. Matthew Prince had the power to kill the white supremacist hate site the Daily Stormer for years, but he didn't choose to.
  71. ^ Captain, Sean (February 27, 2019). "Is Cloudflare a privacy champion or hate speech enabler? Depends who you ask". Fast Company. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Cloudflare is regularly shamed for enabling repulsive groups by helping them provide a better internet experience to their followers. In October 2018, Cloudflare stood out by continuing to support the chat platform Gab–infamous for racist chatter, including a post by Robert Bowers, who was charged with murdering 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue on October 27. Infrastructure companies like Joyent and GoDaddy dropped the site. But Cloudflare held on and continues to support Gab.
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  73. ^ a b Johnson, Steven (January 16, 2018). "Inside Cloudflare's Decision to Let an Extremist Stronghold Burn". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Keegan Hankes, an analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, denounced Cloudflare for "optimizing the content of at least 48 hate websites." Those sites included Stormfront and the Daily Stormer. Hankes and the SPLC weren't accusing Cloudflare of spouting racist ideology itself, it was more that Cloudflare was acting like the muscle guarding the podium at a Nazi rally. Matthew Prince didn't bother responding to the SPLC's pointed accusation. In fact, he has only the haziest recollection of hearing about it. He might have seen a mention on Twitter. He's not sure. But for Prince the criticism was nothing new. At Cloudflare, he was in the business of protecting all kinds of clients, including some whose views vaulted way outside the boundaries of acceptable discourse. He’d already been accused of helping copyright violators, sex workers, ISIS, and a litany of other deplorables. It was hardly a surprise to him that neo-Nazis would be added to the list.
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  79. ^ Cook, Jesselyn (December 14, 2018). "U.S. Tech Giant Cloudflare Provides Cybersecurity For at Least 7 Terror Groups: Among its customers are the Taliban, al-Shabab and Hamas". HuffPost. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Among Cloudflare's customers are groups that are on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Shabab, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al-Quds Brigades, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Hamas – as well as the Taliban, which, like the other groups, is sanctioned by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). These organizations own and operate active websites that are protected by Cloudflare, according to four national security and counterextremism experts. In the United States, it's a crime to knowingly provide tangible or intangible "material support" to a designated foreign terrorist organization or to provide service to an OFAC-sanctioned entity without special permission. Cloudflare, which is not authorized by the OFAC to do business with such organizations, has been informed on multiple occasions, dating back to at least 2012, that it is shielding terrorist groups behind its network, and it continues to do so.
  80. ^ "Controversial US infosec firm Cloudflare is providing potentially sanctions-busting services to Myanmar's military junta". Bofa on Insecurity. March 11, 2021. Retrieved June 6, 2021. In what is a likely violation of current US Treasury sanctions, the Junta also appears to be using the services of controversial US security company Cloudflare to protect themselves from more leaks, with at least five government websites geo-blocked to make them inaccessible outside Myanmar.
  81. ^ a b c Kohlmann, Evan F. (January 27, 2015). "Charlie Hebdo and the Jihadi Online Network: Assessing the Role of American Commercial Social Media Platforms" (PDF). United States House of Representatives. Retrieved August 22, 2019. How does ISIS manage to reliably operate its own official proprietary dot-com social media platform on the Internet in order to disseminate videos such as the beheading of James Foley and the "martyrdom" will of Amedy Coulibaly? The answer is San Francisco-based American tech company Cloudflare. Two of ISIS’ top three online chat forums—including the notorious Alplatformmedia.com—are currently guarded by Cloudflare. It is extremely difficult to reconcile the paradox that it is illegal to give pro-bono assistance to a terrorist group, but it is perfectly legal for Cloudflare to commercially profit from a terrorist group by assisting them to communicate securely with recruits and to publicly disseminate recordings of mass murder.
  82. ^ Hern, Alex (November 19, 2015). "Web services firm Cloudflare accused by Anonymous of helping Isis". The Guardian. London. Retrieved November 19, 2015. The week before the Paris attacks, Ghost Security counted almost 40 ISIS websites that use Cloudflare's services. According to GhostSec, 34 were propaganda websites, four were discussion forums, and two offered technical services.
  83. ^ Hackett, Robert (November 18, 2015). "Anonymous' Gripes About ISIS Are 'Absurd,' CEO says". Fortune. Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  84. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (August 4, 2019). "8chan: the far-right website linked to the rise in hate crimes". The Guardian. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Protection from Cloudflare: 8chan would have difficultly operating if it didn’t receive protection from Cloudflare, a US-based company that provides internet infrastructure services to websites. Cloudflare faced renewed public pressure over its protection of 8chan in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. And in a phone interview with the Guardian on Saturday night, Prince reiterated his belief that Cloudflare should not cease to provide services to sites such as 8chan based on their content.
  85. ^ Mezzofiore, Gianluca; O'Sullivan, Donie (August 5, 2019). "El Paso shooting is at least the third atrocity linked to 8chan this year". CNN. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  86. ^ Roose, Kevin (August 4, 2019). "8chan Is a Megaphone for Gunmen. 'Shut the Site Down,' Says Its Creator". The New York Times. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  87. ^ O'Neill, Patrick Howell (November 17, 2014). "8chan, the central hive of Gamergate, is also an active pedophile network". The Daily Dot. Retrieved August 5, 2019. On numerous public forums, 8chan users share graphic images of children, plus links to hardcore child pornography.
  88. ^ Machkovech, Sam (August 17, 2015). "8chan-hosted content disappears from Google searches: Domain-specific searches contain warning about "suspected child abuse content."". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 5, 2019.
  89. ^ Dewey, Caitlin (January 13, 2015). "This is what happens when you create an online community without any rules". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 22, 2019. When a number of people reported 8chan's active pedophilia boards to Cloudflare, the company that protects the site from malicious traffic, Brennan took screenshots of their names and e-mail addresses and tweeted them publicly.
  90. ^ "Cloudflare embroiled in child abuse row". BBC News. October 22, 2019. Retrieved November 15, 2019. Cloudflare helps websites host illegal content. The company insists it is powerless because it does not actually host the offending sites. Campaigners say Cloudflare's services make it easier for clients to avoid detection by "hiding" their locations.
  91. ^ Kelly, Makena (August 4, 2019). "Cloudflare to revoke 8chan's service, opening the fringe website up for DDoS attacks". The Verge. Archived from the original on August 5, 2019. Retrieved August 5, 2019. Saturday's shooting in El Paso, where at least 20 people were killed and two dozen injured, is the third mass shooting linked to both 8chan and white nationalist ideology this year. The first, in Christchurch, New Zealand, brought the fringe website into the mainstream discussion back in April, but Cloudflare declined to revoke its service.
  92. ^ Uebele, Hannah (August 6, 2019). "El Paso: When Freedom Of Speech Turns Violent". WGBH. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
  93. ^ Collins, Ben (August 4, 2019). "Investigators 'reasonably confident' Texas suspect left anti-immigrant screed". NBC News. Retrieved August 22, 2019. The screed posted to the anonymous extremist message board railed against immigrants in Texas and pushed talking points about preserving European identity in America. The attack left at least 20 dead and 26 injured.
  94. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (August 3, 2019). "8chan: the far-right website linked to the rise in hate crimes". The Guardian. London. Retrieved August 3, 2019. Three attackers in six months allegedly posted their plans on the site in advance. 8chan would have difficultly operating if it didn't receive protection from a company called Cloudflare. Cloudflare faced renewed public pressure over its protection of 8chan in the wake of the Christchurch massacre. CEO Matthew Prince explains his "moral obligation" to keep 8chan online and reiterated his belief that Cloudflare should not cease to provide services to sites such as 8chan based on their content.
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  96. ^ "8chan goes dark after hardware provider discontinues service". August 5, 2019.
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  98. ^ Kovacs, Eduard (March 17, 2014). "Underground Payment Card Store Rescator Hacked and Defaced". Softpedia News. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  99. ^ Krebs, Brian (January 15, 2015). "Spreading the Disease and Selling the Cure". Krebs on Security. Retrieved August 14, 2015. booter services are proliferating thanks mainly to services offered by Cloudflare, a CDN that protects virtually all of the booter services currently online. That includes the Lizardstresser, the attack service which took the Microsoft Xbox and Sony Playstation networks offline on Christmas Day 2014. Most booter services probably would not be able to remain in business without Cloudflare. The Web site crimeflare.com, which tracks abusive sites that hide behind Cloudflare, has cataloged more than 200 DDoS-for-hire sites using Cloudflare.
  100. ^ "Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List" (PDF). The European Commission. December 7, 2018. Retrieved July 16, 2021. CloudFlare is used by approximately 40% of the pirate websites in the world. It operates as a front host between the user and the website's back host, routing and filtering all content through its network of servers. Out of the top 500 infringing domains based on global Alexa rankings, 62% use CloudFlare.
  101. ^ Maxwell, Andy (December 10, 2018). "New EU Piracy Watchlist Targets Key Pirate Sites and Cloudflare". TorrentFreak. Retrieved July 16, 2021. The EU has published its debut 'Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List' based on consultations with stakeholders, decisions handed down against sites by national courts, the UK's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit's infringing website list, Google's Transparency Report, plus various Europol assessments. It lists sites, services, and other players who allegedly engage in, facilitate or benefit from counterfeiting and piracy. Cloudflare is accused of offering services to approximately 40% of the world's pirate sites, helping to anonymize their operators and hide sites’ true hosts.
  102. ^ Van der Sar, Ernesto (October 14, 2020). "Italian Court Orders Cloudflare to Block a Pirate IPTV Service". TorrentFreak. Retrieved July 16, 2021. Many copyright holders have complained that Cloudflare does little to nothing to stop pirate sites from using its services. The company receives numerous DMCA notices but aside from forwarding these to the affected customers, it takes no action.
  103. ^ Nordemann, Jan Bernd (July 12, 2021). "Duties of DNS resolvers and CDN providers – the CoA Cologne finds Cloudflare accountable". Wolters Kluwer. Retrieved July 16, 2021. According to a recent Cologne Court of Appeal ruling, providers may be held accountable to block websites which run an illegal business model dedicated to copyright infringements. Additionally, CDNs have a duty to stop the use of their services for such rogue websites. In this case, Cloudflare provided both DNS resolver and CDN services to the rogue website ddl.music.to. Cloudflare and its anonymization services attract structurally copyright infringing websites.
  104. ^ "Spamhaus Botnet Threat Report Q1-2020, ISPs hosting botnet C&Cs". The Spamhaus Project. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  105. ^ "Cloudflare and Spamhaus". Word to the Wise. July 16, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
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  108. ^ "Over 750 Companies Have Curtailed Operations in Russia—But Some Remain". Yale School of Management. Retrieved April 28, 2022.

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