Parler Is Coming Back—With Some Russian Help

Parler was kicked offline because of its role in the Capitol insurrection, but now it's back thanks to a Kremlin-linked company.
January 19, 2021, 1:31pm
Protesters seen all over Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters riot and breached the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)​
Protesters seen all over Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters riot and breached the Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)
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DDoS-Guard, a Russian company that offers websites protection and hosting services, has an interesting client list, including the Russian Ministry of Defense, the FSB (the Kremlin’s secret service), multiple cybercrime forums and phishing sites — and the official website of Hamas, the Palestinian group labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

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Now, it has a new client to add to its roster: Parler.

Just over a week ago, Parler, which pro-Trump insurrectionists used to orchestrate and document the attack on the Capitol, was taken offline because Amazon withdrew its hosting services. Now it’s reemerging online, thanks to DDoS-Guard.

Over the weekend, the parler.com web address began resolving to a new landing page, with a message from Parler CEO John Matze, which said: “Hello world, is this thing on?”

On Monday another series of messages was posted on the landing page, including one from right-wing personality and Parler investor Dan Bongino, which said: “We will NEVER stop fighting. NEVER.”

Parler

In an interview with Fox News on Sunday night, Matze said the site would be back up and running before the end of January. 

Every day it changes wildly, but I feel confident now,” Matze said. "We’re making significant progress. When you go into Parler.com it doesn’t go into the void now, it hits a server, and it returns just one piece of information."

In the interview, Matze didn’t give any details about who was providing the services to get Parler online again, but security researchers and network analysts quickly identified the companies helping Parler come back to life.

Online records show that Parler’s new domain registrar is Epik, a notorious cloud services company that also hosts the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. It’s unclear at this point if Epik is also providing hosting services for Parler as the identity of where Parler is being hosted is obscured by DDoS-Guard, a company that provides websites with protection from online attacks. 

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DDoS-Guard told VICE News in a statement that it is not providing Parler with hosting services, adding that Parler “does not violate either our Acceptable Use Policy or the current US law to the best of our knowledge.”

And Epik’s involvement also appears to have inadvertently dragged Amazon back into the mix, as AWS is currently providing some services to Parler via Epik’s infrastructure:

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Additionally, online records show that Parler is also using Microsoft’s Outlook for some email services. Microsoft declined to comment on the situation.

But even if Parler does reappear online, it will still be locked out of the major app stores after Apple and Google banned it earlier this month, citing its inability to effectively moderate extremist content.

As well as the Ministry of Defense and the FDB, DDoS-Guard has close ties to other parts of the Russian government, including Roskomnadzor (the Kremlin’s censor) and the ministry in charge of telecoms and mass communications.

Such close ties to Moscow have led some security experts to point out major concerns about Parler trusting their users’ data to DDoS-Guard.

“By moving to infrastructure controlled by Russia, Parler is actively helping improve Russian disinformation campaigns, and help Russia identify strategic targets,” Adam Sculthorpe, a cybersecurity expert, tweeted.

“Key strategic targets will be individuals with access to government, military, banking assets, and infrastructure.”