Most of China's Web Traffic Wound Up at a Tiny Wyoming House YesterdayS

Yesterday, many of China's 500 million internet users were mysteriously rerouted to a bunch of web addresses registered to this unassuming house in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The New York Times says a fluke in China's internet censoring system was to blame. But why, of all the places in the world, did the traffic come here? And how?

From the looks of things, Chinese internet censors attempted to block access to websites owned by Sophidea Incorporated, which appears to be a re-routing service designed to evade national firewalls. But instead of blocking those sites, they mistakenly ended up blasting them with tons of traffic, and leaving the majority of Chinese internet users unable to access .com, .org, or .net addresses for up to eight hours. Sophidea, it turns out, has its global headquarters in Cheyenne, in the tiny house pictured above.

It's not the only questionable company operating out of that cute little home. While the house at 2710 Thomes Avenue looks like any other in the suburban neighborhood, on paper it's headquarters to some 2,000 various companies. And most of them are, predictably, kind of shady. In 2011, Reuters found among its residents: a shell company controlled by an imprisoned former Ukraine prime minister, a company that helps online poker sites sneak around gambling bans, and, puzzlingly, a company banned from bidding on government contracts after it sold counterfeit truck equipment to the Pentagon.

The company that owns the internet addresses all that misdirected traffic was shunted to, Sophidea Incorporated, doesn't provide a lot of info about itself, and NYT couldn't find anyone at the company to answer questions.

Maybe they were busy taking the kids to soccer or going to PTA meetings. You know, typical suburban Wyoming stuff.

Update: The NY Times points out that Sophidea, the Wyoming company that owns the domains where traffic from China was inadvertently sent, has recently moved to a different location in Cheyenne. We originally featured an image of Sophidea's former location, a small house on Thomes Avenue, which we have since updated.

[The New York Times]