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Annotations Some Days in the Life - Daily
Crackers
April 10, 2000


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I have a friend whose machine was cracked late last week. His machine. Not his school computer. Not his work computer. His desktop unit, running Linux. His desktop machine, running Linux, that he dials up via a modem to use. Which doesn't have a dedicated IP number to my knowledge.

Cracked. Honestly cracked. Broken into by an evil little dog for illicit intent. Abused in the way major magazines like Time and Newsweek have had tensely worried cover stories about since Wargames came out back in the Information Stone Age. Apparently, a scriptbunny did port scans until his automatic crackers found a connected Linux Box, exploited a hole that's in the standard unmodified build of Red Hat Linux, got in and started seeing what he could do. Probably while my friend was actively using it.

Why was my friend's machine hacked? That's almost impossible to say. Let's face it, it sounds purely random. Someone might have been looking for any Linux box he could get into any way he could. Someone might have wanted to launch a nasty DoS attack from a site that couldn't be traced back to him. Someone could have been really bored. It seems unlikely that it was a targeted attack on my friend, but not impossible.

It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder, though. Like, about the security I have on Annotations.

Right now, the one thing Annotations has going for it is that it's Mac OS X Server, which no one on Earth considers important enough to build automated tools and scripts for cracking it. That we've heard of. There might be a thousand such tools out there but you need to go to the right Warez site to get them. That, and the fact that no one on Earth will likely care to attack my piddling site.

Except, of course, that they cracked my friend's desktop Linux box, and they'd have less reason.

And the oldest self-justifying argument in the book -- that could never happen here -- no longer applies! This is the Internet, Bay-bee! If the cracker who attacked my friend did it out of malice, not for random giggles, then he might go for my friend's friends. He has just as much access to Annotations as he does to my friend's machine -- as far as his keyboard's concerned this is all one happy WAN.

It's a sobering thought. We're putting more and more of ourselves onto the Internet every week. Not just personal accounts, like this Journal. Professional businesses that have no non-Internet presence or business spring up more and more. Dot com stocks still have a mystique even after last week's crash. Search engines get commercial time on TV. Search freakin' engines.

With the rise of the Internet community, we must see a rise in Internet community vandalism. As we build an electronic society, there must also come the forces of electronic anarchy. Bullies, thieves and the mindlessly destructive are going to exist electronically just as they do in real life. The difference?

We're all in the same community here. There's been airplay about that -- the child molesters who make contacts in AOL chatrooms and cross state lines to prey. But even that's still a connection to the real world from the electronic one. The pedophile still has to enter our tangible world to wreak his horror.

More and more, the Virtual World has its own angry young men. Some of whom are trying to make a point. Some of whom are trying to make a buck. Some of whom are trying to make us angry. Some of whom are trying to torch things. Some of them have good motives, and some of them are just mindlessly destructive, and some of them are evil.

Just like in real life.

"Coolio," who claimed to have been involved in the DoS attacks against Yahoo, et al, and who allegedly did bad things, was from Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Yup. Just down the road. When I heard that, I panicked. I thought it might have been someone from the school. But it wasn't. It was a high school dropout from the public school, just screwing around and having a good time. Not an evil man.

Physically, he lived near Brewster Academy. If he was half the cracker he claimed to be, he'd have plowed the Academy in seconds. He could easily have trashed Annotations, I'm sure.

But if he did what he's accused of (and which he claimed to have, then retracted), he wasn't interested in the local Academy. He was after the giants of the Internet. The skyscrapers in our Virtual world. And they were just as accessible to him as the Academy might be.

And a kid who lives within the line of sight of Amazon.com's famous dilapidated building (it looks like the cheap housing it is) could decide he doesn't like the look of my face on my bio page and take me out from across the continent.

Or, for that matter, take you out. Even if you have a dialup account. Even if you aren't running Linux.

Sleep tight.


A few notes, before moving on...

  • Spring seems poised to happen, here on the shores of Lake Winnapausakee. The trees are beginning to bud, the air is getting fresh, and we've had a lot of sunshine and rain. Compare that back to the last couple of weeks of April/first couple of weeks of May from last year's journal. Which itself reminds me of something -- this thing's almost a year old. Can you imagine it?
  • Sara's journal entry for 3/30 mentions Elizabeth Daly -- an actress from movies like Valley Girl and others. She has various things she talks about and you should read it to see them. Totally separate from what Sara talks about is that Elizabeth (E.G.) Daly is also the voice of Buttercup on The Powerpuff Girls. Buttercup is the favorite of (roughly) 49% of those who watch the Powerpuff Girls, with 49% of the rest liking Bubbles, 1% liking Blossom and 1% not understanding the question. Note this does not have Mojo Jojo on the list anywhere, lest he take the lead. Not that any of this has a thing to do with what Sara was talking about, but hey.
  • The poetry is going very well. Surprisingly so, actually. To the point that I might need to pause and actually submit some of it to magazines. I like to read it out loud to my empty apartment. Oh, I'd read it out loud to my full apartment, but the mere threat to do so is enough to drive Mason out so fast there are flame trails on his shoes.
  • A major revision to my In Nomine pages is nearly finished. Which is nice, because they're currently kind of ugly. When I finish doing them, I'll put up a new "front page" to tie together with the visual look of the rest of the web site and eliminate the Gradient Copper Bar of Doom forever from this machine. Well, except for the very old entries on the journal. I am not, however, considering a major revision to the Journal itself. Which makes me the only one, as near as I can tell from my fellows.
  • Chai is a majorly good thing.
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