@ptoal you totally rock, well done. Two things I was wondering though...
you reference "The "color-key" for this puzzle is in the 3D maze."
Not sure what you mean by this.
and reverse-DNS???!?!?! what, how, eh? if you have something to work on i.e. an ip, then why not just use the ip, instead of finding the URL, if you have no ip to go from, how do you work out thereis something to find (if that makes any sense?)
The colour key maps the DNA colours to their nucleotide letters. Eg: Red = A, Blue = T, etc.
The IP address thing is more complicated. The guys that "hacked" this heist used DomainTools.com Reverse-IP search. How you "hack" the heist is simple... Go to DomainTools Reverse IP lookup tool, and type in the ms-randd.com host name. DomainTools will give you this:
There are 6 domains hosted on this IP address.
Here are a few of them:
If you have an account with them, or pay the fee, they will show you the other 3 domains that also have "A" records that point to the same server. I presume that the other web sites for this heist showed up, and this is how the DNA puzzle was cheated.
The other part of your question was: Why can't you just connect to the IP? The answer is that by using name-based VirtualHosts, you can host the web site for multiple domains on a single IP address. (eg: ms-randd.com, purinesandpyrimidines.com, racksandballs.com, etc are all on the same IP). The way the server knows which one to serve to you is by the URL that your browser sends with it's HTTP GET request. Thus, if you request http://ms-randd.com, you get site A, and if you request http://purinesandpyrimidines.com, you get site B, etc. There's _no_ way to ask the server for a "list" of all the domains it hosts. Normally, you can't tell what web sites are hosted on a single server. (In fact, hosting providers typically put dozens of customers on one IP address, and use name-based VirtualHosts to serve each one.). Thus, a tool like the Reverse IP tool was needed.
I'm sure this wasn't something the directorate knew about in advance. I certainly had no idea there was a company out there walking the entire distributed DNS database, from TLD on down, and caching it for this purpose. I presume this is what they do, since it seems to be the only way to do it that I can think of. It must be a massive database. Regardless, it's one more thing that the Directorate will have learned to take into consideration for future heists. :-)
In theory, theory and practice are the same, in practice, they are not.