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Theft Quadrants
TinyURL was the most popular link shortener for long enough that it made it into a lot of printed publications. I wonder what year the domain will finally lapse and get picked up by a porn site.
Title text: TinyURL was the most popular link shortener for long enough that it made it into a lot of printed publications. I wonder what year the domain will finally lapse and get picked up by a porn site.

Explanation

Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: How difficult would it be to steal TinyURL, really? Is it a real problem?

This is a "Eisenhower box" comparing how difficult it is to steal a specified thing with the severity of the theft.

It is very hard to steal nuclear launch codes. They are protected by many layers of federal security. That's a good thing, too, since if they were stolen, they could be used to start a nuclear war which would be bad[citation needed].

It is also hard to steal the Crown Jewels, since they are protected by a complex security system. But if they were stolen, it wouldn't be so bad for most people.

It wouldn't be too hard to steal the Wienermobile (a car shaped like a hot-dog, advertising the Oscar Mayer brand). Randall erroneously assumes that there would be little consequence at all if it were stolen, because he is considering only the financial value. He neglects to consider that stolen vehicles often crash, either because the thieves drive recklessly or because the police chase them, so theft of any vehicle can lead to fatalities, although not as many as a nuclear war.

However, it wouldn't be hard (or at least, not as hard as stealing nuclear launch codes or the Crown Jewels) to steal the tinyurl.com domain name, but the consequences of that could be significant (not as significant as nuclear war, but it could swiftly result in damage to a lot of important computers).

TinyURL offers a URL shortening service. They provide short URLs that redirect to long ones. This is useful if you want to write down a very long URL as it saves typing and is more accurate. Other companies, including bit.ly,Google and Twitter offer a similar service. TinyURL was, for a while, the most popular of these URL shortening services. If their domain name were stolen, all the redirects from short URLs could be changed to forward traffic to sites hosting, for example, malware. This would have significant effects on a large number of people, because TinyURL is used in many places both online and (as the title text notes) even sometimes offline.

Domain hijacking is relatively common. If a cracker can obtain personal information about the domain owner, they can impersonate them to the domain registrar, and obtain control of the domain, and with that control defraud a large number of people.

As the title text notes, sites can be particularly vulnerable if they do not maintain their web site, as the registrar is free then to sell the same domain to any third party. A whois search as of June 2016 finds that the tinyurl.com domain is next due for renewal in June 2018.

Randall has written about stealing the Wienermobile before in 935: Missed Connections.

Transcript

How hard
thing would
be to steal

Hard

The Crown
Jewels

The nuclear
launch codes

Easy

The Oscar Mayer
Weinermobile

The tinyurl.com
domain name

Not that bad Very bad
How bad it would be
if someone stole it



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