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Interview With Jarkko Oikarinen – The Inventor Of IRC

Today we’ve got something very special:

An Interview with the creator of IRC himself, Mr. Jarkko Oikarinen.

We’ve asked Mr. Oikarinen a few questions about his invention as well as himself – without much further ado lets get straight to the interview.

 

First, please introduce yourself to our readers (even though you really shouldn’t have to ;) )

My name is Jarkko Oikarinen. I am the developer of original IRC server and client and was actively developing IRC from it’s inception in summer 1988 until somewhere around 1992.

Since then I’ve been working in many areas in software industry, including multiuser games, software for advanced neurosurgery, medical imaging software, 3D computer graphics (which was my PhD research area), mobile applications and operating systems.

Most recently I have sort of went back to my roots and become involved in the development of a different kind of multiuser “chat”, Google Hangouts.

 

Out of what necessity did you invent IRC?

In 1988 I was working as a summer intern in University of Oulu (in Finland), and I was the sysop on a BBS (bulletin board system) called OuluBox. That was one of the few BBS systems where one could connect to over both phone lines (using modem) and Internet.

I decided to improve the multiuser chat system for OuluBox and IRC was the result of that effort.

The name ‘Internet Relay Chat’ was definitely more ambitious than the original intention.

 

How much time did it take to come up with the first versions of the protocol, daemon and client?

The first versions took maybe 1-2 months, depending on how you count. At that time I was doing all kinds of small networked programs, games etc, parts of which was easily reusable here.

 

Do you still use IRC? If so, for what and if not, why?

I use IRC very rarely nowadays.

Main reason for not using it is simply lack of time. Also in the early times I was in fact spending more time developing IRC than using it… it’s like many other things for me, I am more interested in developing new solutions than actually using them myself for very long.

 

Did you ever imagine IRC would be as popular as it is now (or was)?

Definitely not.. there were several other chat programs also at that time, but IRC’s distributed design made it different from others.

The timing for IRC was perfect in that it was introduced when Internet was just about to link together all continents.

 

What’s your view on the development of your invention, be it technical or its use?

It actually looks like there has not been that radical development on the chat systems during the last decade. I find that surprising given all the areas where improvements could be made.

 

If you had to write the protocol today, would you do it differently now?

Yes, of course… obvious examples are usage of proper cryptography and making of the IRC spanning tree more fault tolerant.

I would also think of scaling, so that the size of an individual IRC network could be larger than what it can be now in practise.

 

IRC in the early days must’ve been like the Wild Wild West – how did you experience it?

It was very exciting and unique; it felt like much smaller world, almost everyone knew everyone else, there were many happenings where IRC users met each other in real life.

I presume much of the similar atmosphere exists even now within individual IRC networks, but I have only later really understood how unique the early days of IRC were. I also had the opportunity of getting many IRC friends around the world, many of which I still keep some contact with.

 

The Great Split – What role and position did you have?

I assume you refer to the eris split. I was of the opinion that anonymous servers should not be allowed in the irc network. That opinion was based on the IRC protocol limitations; it allows anonymously attacking the irc in such a way that the discussions could be eavesdropped.

The IRC security model depended on the server administrators being reliable, and anonymous access would allow anyone to have the same access rights than the administrators.

On the other hand, I support the concept of having multiple smaller independent irc networks, there is no need to have just one big network.

 

If you had to modernize IRC for it to be able to compete with all the social networks, what would you do?

I think the key words are security (the servers should not rely on each other so much), privacy (cryptographic guarantee for conversation privacy) and multimedia (audio, video).

But I’m not sure if IRC would be the same thing after these changes… :-)

 

If you wanted to see one thing implemented in IRC, what would that be?

It’s hard to pick just one thing, but the area which I worked as one last thing (but never got to finish it) was the network of networks concept.

It would link the independent networks together but allow individual networks keep their identity and control, while simultaneously allowing users to easily browse all channels in all networks.

 

What kind of influence do you still have on IRC?

I have not been actively participating in IRC development for a long time, and am not planning to do that either; I just don’t have the time.

Non-paid projects such as IRC have more people who like to tell how features should be done instead of actually completing the features themselves. It’s so much more fun to design software than actually go through all implementation necessary.

Therefore the direction is truly influenced by people who actively develop the software who actually make the decisions on what they choose to implement. That is also how it should be, as far as I am concerned.

 

What’s your take on projects that try to unify IRC networks once again, such as the Janus interlinking service?

I have not studied that very much, but by initial look it looks like something similar to the network of networks concept. There probably are a few different approaches, but I would try to keep the network linking loose so that the individual networks can develop their servers and add new features independently, without necessarily requiring those features to be added to all other networks.

My ideology would concentrate on providing value to users and allow them to explore the whole IRC metanetwork from their clients.

 

Is the original source of the IRCd still around somewhere for folks to look at?

I don’t think the very original source is available anymore. I tried to search it a few years back, but was not able to find it anywhere on my local backup disks.

 

Is RFC1459 supposed to be all inclusive or, as per your intentions, is it allowed to be extended as long as it is fully supported?

RFC1459 was written to document the existing protocol at that time. Progress needs new features and extensions.

If some server implementations would no longer be compliant with RFC1459, I would prefer those servers to not be called IRC, unless those changes are very widely accepted in IRC community.

Progress needs to happen, so we shouldn’t stick with the old designs, but fragmentation should also be avoided.

 

In closing, what would you like to tell our readers?

One thing that I would like to remind that even though social chatting over computer is much fun, don’t take it too seriously so that it would jeopardise your studies, work, and/or real life social interaction.

 

A big thank you goes to Jarkko Oikarinen for taking the time to answer the questions so thoroughly!

Interview with QuakeNet staff

Today, we’re proud to present you an interview conducted with QuakeNets Head of Public Relations Joe “meeb” Harris.

QuakeNet is the worlds largest IRC network and caters mostly – but not exclusively – to gamers.

Without further ado, below are the questions and answers:

First, please introduce yourselves to our readers!

Hi! I’m Joe “meeb” Harris. I’m currently the head of public relations for QuakeNet, which is largest IRC network in the world and has been since around about the end of 2003. I’ve been an avid IRC user for nearly 10 years, and joined the QuakeNet staff around 8 years ago as a member of the network support team, moving on to joining the public relations and development teams later. I replaced Ferg when he found his time limited as head of the public relations team about 4 years ago, since then I’ve overseen the interaction of QuakeNet with external organisations such as game studios who run regular popular events including developer chats and assisting gaming groups.

QuakeNet, where did it all begin?

QuakeNet was formed 13 years ago by Oli and Garfield (both of which can still be found occasionally lurking in the dark recesses of the network!) who wanted to help organise games of QuakeWorld online. It quickly grew with the initial surge of online Quakers and became a central part of the deathmatch-organising scene.

Later on it developed into a more general network, but it still retains a massively strong gaming core.

How did it grow to where it is today, still being the worlds largest IRC network after 13 years in existence?

Entirely by word of mouth and third party advertising, as a completely non-profit organisation we have no resources to promote ourselves really other than to offer services that we think people will want to use! We must have done something right, given we’re still pretty popular.

What are your duties as staffers and how do they compare to those on smaller networks?

The staff on QuakeNet is divided up into multiple workgroups, each tasked with oversight of a particular area and given the authority to autonomously cover one aspect of the network operation. The larger groups cover network support, development, public relations, security, operations and human resources. There are multiple sub-groups under these such as the tutorial group, web development, script support and so on. Each group has a group leader, and the group leaders form another group. All groups work under the oversight of the operations team which consists of the administrators of the physical servers and oversee the core network decisions.

Most users would only interact with the user-facing groups, such as our excellent network support team headed up by the veteran “beard” Bazerka, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what happens behind the scenes. Members of staff are welcome to apply and join multiple groups (for example I’m an active member of three groups, and a somewhat idle member of another two); we have excellent volunteers actively working on all aspects of developing QuakeNet.

How can one support the network?

Pretty simply, by becoming an active user on the network! IRC needs you! If you work for an ISP or other provider with a serious stack of spare hardware you can apply to assist QuakeNet with an extra server and join other excellent sponsors such as Id software, port80, Multiplay (and many others) in providing the stable platform our network is based on. If you have a lot of spare time, you can contribute by joining the ranks of our staff and helping the network grow even further. You don’t get paid, but there’s a lovely warm feeling from helping hundreds of thousands of users communicate better (and you get to stroke snailbot).

I’m sure many users, newbies and veterans alike, would love to become staff on QuakeNet – any word of advice how they could accomplish that?

I’m not ashamed to say that we’re extremely picky, we have what can only be described as triple-stage rigorous hiring procedure. Anyone can apply via a link on our website, and their application is processed by the HR team. If your application matches the base requirements and there’s an opening in the team you are applying for you’ll get a one-on-one interview followed by an extensive trial in the group you’re interested in joining. After that, there’s a full group vote to accept you as a member.

You shouldn’t be put off by this, if you are accepted into QuakeNet staff you become a member of a dynamic network of a hundred or so active people from all over the world and tasked with key responsibilities and representing QuakeNet. Once you’re in the staff you can also apply to join other groups that you think you can contribute to, further expanding your role in the organisation of you want to.

Late last year, you introduced a server sponsored by id Software – how did that collaboration get started?

Id Software developers have made fleeting appearances on QuakeNet for many years, and recently started making a more regular home. This culminated with the launch of QuakeLive which has a permanent channel on QuakeNet since the start of the beta, where the beta testers could directly relay feedback to the developers. We opened a dialogue with some of the developers as we do with most important organisations on QuakeNet to see if we could assist in any way. They generously offered to host a client server but were unable to provide the direct resources to oversee the new server (it can take quite a lot of time to learn everything from the ground up to run a popular client server on QuakeNet, as well as ongoing responsibilities to keep it maintained). We reached an agreement where some existing administrators on QuakeNet would take on some of the responsibility of maintaining the server and they would provide the physical hardware and connection, we also welcomed SyncError as the primary operator for the Id Software server onto the QuakeNet staff.

This has been working very well to date, and we are happy to have Id Software as one of our core US client server providers along with Gameservers and Velocity.

Most software you create for the network (qwebirc, snircd, operserv) is released as open-source – why not the rest of the services, like Q and S for example?

This isn’t anything nefarious at all, I’m sure most of the staff on the QuakeNet development team would agree that we would happily release almost everything if not all our code as open source projects. As you can imagine the non-linear structure of a purely volunteer organisation such as QuakeNet can make some projects a bit complex to keep track of. With the open source examples you list, qwebirc is primarily developed by probably our most active developer, slug, and it’s entirely up to him how it’s licensed. Snircd is a fork based on the excellent Undernet IRC daemon (IRCd) and we are more than happy to provide the source.

The repositories not yet public are currently closed for a very simple reason, they’re not stand-alone services but modular services for our outstanding service platform / framework “newserv”, you can forgive the less than vibrant name given it’s happily hosting almost all of our current services! Newserv is primarily developed by one of our other lead developers, splidge, with contributions from other staff members. We of course need the complete sign off from all the developers involved to release a project, some have since resigned their positions on QuakeNet (and hard to track down), some are still deciding. This makes it pointless to release (for example) the sourcecode for the Spamscan module given it serves no use what so ever to anyone without the base to run it off.

Personally I am confident that eventually the remainder of our currently private code will be publicly available at some point, although don’t assume anything as opinions can change over time!

Recently, a large open-source focused network introduced the ability to have user-connections encrypted with SSL – are there any plans to do so on QuakeNet?

It is currently under discussion, but there hasn’t been a great deal of movement in the SSL area if I’m honest. I would suspect that eventually we will introduce an SSL option, but it’s not likely in the short term. IRC is typically regarded as a public medium so SSL encrypted client connections have a limited use at best. This might be pushed up the task list depending on external circumstances such as regional governmental internet monitoring, but I wouldn’t expect it quickly on QuakeNet. Generally the other use for SSL (certifying the IRC server is who it says it is) is negated by most other networks not deploying certificates from commercial authorities (and understandably so) – this again makes IRC over SSL less useful in general.

Many IRCds cloak userhosts (or parts of them) even without registering – why isn’t this done on QuakeNet?

We take user privacy seriously on Quakenet, and we provide excellent and easy to use functionality to mask your host if you choose to. We also allow full access from TOR exit nodes if you wish to chat truly anonymously, but we believe that this is a choice. You can easily configure your IRC client to mask your host as soon as you connect if you wish which provides the same functionality as other networks, we just don’t force the decision on you.

This allows our users some freedom to use custom vanity hosts for bouncers and bots as well as channel administrators to more accurately keep their channels in order by banning troublesome ISPs.

Q and its help is only available in english – do you have plans to change that?

Q actually supports many languages! This was a core feature of the “new” Q, codenamed Q9, that was deployed some two years ago (again mostly by splidge). We had some issues sourcing high quality translations for some of the Q messages, and it was decided to not delay the launch just to wait for the extra languages. I’m sure they’ll arrive at some point.

IRC can be a scary and to some extent dangerous place for unsuspecting users – what safety tips can you give them?

Much the same as most semi-anonymous online forums, don’t give away any personal information (at all!), don’t provoke confrontation, keep online and offline communication separate. If you do encounter any serious abusive behaviour you can contact the network support team in #help who will assist you with any problems, we have even filed regional police reports in extreme cases to help protect our users and QuakeNet.

If you could change one thing in the way IRC works – what would that be?

I would probably build in redundant links for clients and servers, resulting in a dramatically less violent ‘netsplit’. If I was designing the protocol now I’d include more common features expected in 2010 such as a standard for transmitting general media (avatars? streaming video? who knows). And snails, everything needs more snails.

There have been many polls and forum topics about a decline of IRC – what is your opinion on that and where do you think is IRC heading in the long term?

It’s natural that certain mediums become more popular while others decline. Given that IRC is a pure text group chat (as the popular bash quote says, it’s basically just multiplayer notepad) I think it’s a testament to the big IRC networks that they’ve been around for many years and still with active user bases. We tend not to worry about the physical number of users dropping off a bit from their peak in the early 2000′s, the users who do remain are extremely numerous and dedicated.

In the future, I think IRC still holds a unique place. No-where else provides the ease of collaborative communication online in an effortless medium with very well established clients and user management systems. The novice user might have replaced their IRC usage with newer web-based services or flashier methods of realtime messaging, but there still remains very few places on the internet where you can jump straight into such a massive and active community of people. You don’t really see many 50-person MSN chats.

We’ve recently had a substantial growth in one area of QuakeNet thanks to our simple yet powerful qwebirc web-based IRC client which seems to have introduced a new group of users to IRC, as well as provide a popular client being utilised by many other networks including a couple of the other “big four” IRC networks. (you can check pop directly onto QuakeNet with just a JavaScript-enabled browser at http://webchat.quakenet.org/ and if you run your own IRC network you can get the source code for the client at http://www.qwebirc.org/). In summary, we’re pretty positive about the future.

What do you use IRC for when you’re not actively “on duty”?

Mostly chatting with friends, ex-collegues and sharing the latest memes (how do you think they spread so fast, it’s not because of ‘microblogging’!). It’s only really the user-facing staff members that have to take shifts and be on-duty as such, the rest of the staff are usually available for network based discussion whenever they are online in a relaxed manner.

What can users expect feature-wise in the future on QuakeNet? What plans do you have for the network?

We have some light hearted fun planned for the near future, and we’re actively in discussion with several organisations to bring more developer-orientated live events to QuakeNet. We’re constantly rolling out improved versions of existing services as well as introducing brand new features, admittedly largely behind the scenes to the average user. If you notice a dramatic decline in irritating spam on the network, then it’s us doing something new!

In the timetabled future we have a new release of our IRCd in the works which merges in many of the changes released by the IRCu team over at Undernet as well as adding some more QuakeNet-specific features, and upgrades to some of our channel services. The new IRCd will contain some new features to help combat some current annoyances on QuakeNet, such as unsolicited private queries.

Thank you for the interview, do you have any parting words for our readers?

No problem! As some parting words I’d probably suggest you try embedding a qwebirc chat frame into your clan site or blog, it’s awesome. Oh, and remember to send some love to molluscs. Pop onto QuakeNet and say hello! You can find the PR team in #QuakeNet.

Thanks for reading,

//meeb

Thanks go to meeb for the awesome interview & QuakeNet for generally being great :) Live long & prosper!

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Interview with Anope project leader chaz

IRC services are a software that enables IRC networks to provide channel and nickname registration, or, as Wikipedia puts it: “Services are automated bots with special status which are generally used to provide users with access with certain privileges and protection”.

One of the more well-known packages you can use for such a task is called Anope which i’m sure you’ve already heard about and today i’ve interviewed the leader of the project, Charles “chaz” Kingsley.

Hello :) Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hi there,

My name is Charles Kingsley and I’m the project lead for Anope IRC Services and also a contributing Network Administrator on the Teranova IRC Network and IRC Operator on Chatspike.

In *real* life, I work as an IT Consultant designing and building systems for businesses and educational institutions centric to the safe and secure ‘always’ available system model.

When did you begin using IRC and what was your “path” on it?

Phew, this was a long time ago now..

I started on a java chat site running “Chatspace” software some time back in the late 90′s where dialup was the way of life and soon developed an interest in hacking mIRC to pieces and making it do things it didn’t want to. (This of course required an offline IRC Server to play with as dialup back then was quota’d per month!)

I then found myself on Dalnet helping out in various channels before discovering that there was more to IRC than a single network. I can’t quite recall how but I ended up on Dragonlynk / IRCXP and was given my first oline around 1998/2000-ish and ‘taught’ how life was on a modified Bahamut.

As time went on, some of us from Dragonlynk/IRCXP spurred off and created our own little network of ‘home’ boxes connected together using free DynDNS.org services fondly referred to as “no-ip” net. – This the very foundations of what Teranova is today.

During this time, I also flirted with positions on other networks; often working with the people there to strengthen their position, improve security and try and impart a professional style of working, something I found at the time IRC lacked.

I found myself on the Anope IRC Network some time later having taken it upon myself to be ‘responsible’ for services on our network and a while after helping some folks out on there I was approached to join the then QA Team. Some time went past and as I found my feet I started picking away at things happening within the Team and increased my responsibilities until things went a little off the radar and the then original project lead left to progress his real life professional career and left someone else in charge. At this time I stepped up and took over running the ‘QA Team’ within Anope.

Some time later, leading up to our 1.8.0 stable release it was decided I would takeover the management of the team as our project lead had become engrossed in his studies at University and as I had (have) no life I was in a position to steer things forward.

That was almost 18 months ago and since then we’ve continued to go from strength to strength improving and refining our stable branch whilst rocketing ahead pioneering the roadmap for our development branch.

It’s been an exciting ride and continues to provide enough work for a team twice the size of the one we have so times are often tough but we’ll plod on and get on as well as we can. (*Hint, if you have skills or time (or both) please get in touch if you want to help).

How many people are working on Anope?

I am not someone who judges “work” based on code contribution so I will tell you that our team consists of 8 people, each with their own specialities, and each bringing their own contribution to the project.

Why did you feel the need to fork from Epona back then?

This was before my time but I can comment that based on my history lessons with Father Rob of the project him and dengel were maintaining a patchset for Epona (for Hostserv amongst other things) but that Lara (Epona Developer) vanished off of the face of the earth taking the coding repositories (with the most up to date patches), web presence etc with her which left a bit of a hole in the market.

Dengel and Rob at the time decided to start up Anope (epona backwards for those who hadn’t noticed) with their patch sets against the latest available release with the intention of checking this all back into Epona once Lara returned.

As time went on though, the amount of changes introduced made the application become less of a patch set and more of an overhaul so even once Lara returned to Epona so the project continued….

How much of the original codebase is still in Anope?

Phew, I have no idea, that’s a tough one.

It’s fair to say a large proportion has been altered over the years.

How much time did you put into the project and the support of it yet?

Now? I spend some hours each day I suppose reading #anope and answering if there are no nice support people around to answer the questions. I frequent the forums daily incase I’ve missed something not reported in #anope from the RSS feed and generally keep communications flowing between the team to see how we all are.

An important mention is that we are all volunteers with jobs and lives outside of Anope which is seldom understood when we tell people we simply do not have time to do x, y or z at this time.

Even though you probably heard this question over and over – when will Anope come with live SQL support?

Live SQL, yes, this is of course the big question coming from many people and for the sake of not wishing to commit to anything I can tell you it is roadmapped for 1.9.2 but this may slip as we’ve introduced a completely new database format already and in the interests of sharing the features and gaining feedback this may slip however we have taken some positive steps and have a working solution based on the stable (1.8) branch of Anope in LiveSQL mode in a large network at this time.

One of our team members has managed to build in LiveSQL into 1.9 for testing and review but at this time there is no agreed solution but we are looking at various methods of providing the flexibility without incurring too much of a CPU overhead.

More to come on this soon.

In the future, what can we expect from Anope?

Whatever people want to see.

We mostly are going off of our own steam creating features we *think* people want and fixing bugs etc but really the future is what everyone makes of it, the road map is deliberately short so we can include requests and ideas at every step.

Compared to other IRC services, Anope is…?

a solution for those who want to use it. I’m not someone who wishes to bad mouth or criticise other systems but we are simply responding to community requests for features and integrating our own experience and knowledge into providing a solution people want.

We’re fairly popular so we’re doing something right I reckon.

How can the community around Anope get involved and help you to evolve the services?

Well ……

We need translators for when we burn the existing language files carried forward into 1.9 from 1.8 as at the moment they are a limiting factor and can cause some stress if edited incorrectly.

We need multilingual supporters who wish to provide support on our forum (we will introduce international forums if these are necessary), and in specific geographical #anope.xx channels.

We need people to get stuck in and offer to test the software and contribute back their views and suggestions as well as providing information on bugs and glitches. We simply cannot test every single feature you may use on your network and in community spirit we could do with everyone helping everyone else.

Peer support is very important to a project like us; we’ve all asked questions someone else has thought was stupid at some point in our lives. We’re all human and working together is crucial.

If you could improve one thing in the IRC protocol, what would that be?

I don’t really have any improvements I can think off as we are able to do most of the things we want within Anope.

I am interested in meshing though, I can see that being particularly useful for geographically interlinked networks over different providers. This is something I do hope to see in the future.

Development aside, what do you use IRC for in your leisure time and which networks do you frequent?

Before, during, & I’m sure after Anope I’ll continue helping people with their computer problems and otherwise assisting them with their use of IRC whilst being able to relax and chill out with my friends.

I frequent Teranova.net (home of Anope Support, and a network I have been with since day 1), and Chatspike.net where I was today funnily enough asked to become an IRC Operator.

Two networks with very different atmosphere’s and I wouldn’t change either of them for the world.

I’ve also started to idle in the support channel on Geekshed.net to see whether I can help out there but the folks over there have it pretty well wrapped up so I can just sit back and giggle at Phil and his abuse of global!

There are numerous topics, polls and postings about a possible decline of IRC – what do you think about that and where do you think is IRC heading in the long term?

Statistics are just numbers, people have this way of going completely against statistics and doing things we’d never expect so I do believe that taking these polls and postings with a grain of salt.

We’re seeing downloads increase, from my idling in InspIRCd’s support channel I also see the number of people being supported increasing so I don’t really see a decline in the uptake of new systems.

Thank you for the interview – do you have any last words to our readers?

Thanks for the opportunity as always, a pleasure assisting someone who actively contributes on our network.

I would like to thank our sponsors ( www.anope.org/sponsors.php ) for their continued support with our project and also every single person who has ever helped Anope be it by downloading it, reporting/fixing a bug or just by taking part in our support system and we would welcome more of you :)

Hope you all have a nice week ahead.

Many thanks go to chaz for taking the time for this interview!

psyb0t – A stealthy router-based botnet discovered [Updated]

The folks at DroneBL discovered and analyzed a router-based botnet that is suspected to have DDoS’ed them for about 2 weeks.

The bot software, named “psyb0t”, is the “first known botnet based on exploiting consumer network devices, such as home routers and cable/dsl modems”.

Exploiting routers is in some cases more “useful” than infecting PC’s – because “most people will keep the router on 24/7″ as opposed to their computers which “most people shut down [...] in the evening before they go to bed, or when they leave the office” nenolod writes.
In his paper (which was written back in 2006 and at that time he’s been “called looney for”) he also mentions another reason why targeting SOHO routers is a good idea:

Attacking the router will enable you to monitor network activity with a much higher level of stealth. As most people think the router is a dumb device which simply does NAT translation, it will not be considered a device with a high security risk. Most intrusion analysts at this time will not even consider the router as the place where the malware is hiding.

nenolod, amongst others, disassembled and analyzed the botnet binary, coming to the conclusion that the current incarnation we’re seeing now “was mostly a test botnet”. “Terry Baume discovered the first generation, which only targeted a handful of specific models. The current generation, would be the second generation, which targets a much wider range of devices”.

Version 17 of the malware contains “shellcode for 30 different linksys models, and 10 netgear models, as well as several kinds of cable and dsl modems (15 different shellcodes)” as well as a list of “6000 usernames and 13000 passwords” which is used for bruteforcing Telnet and SSH logins that are open to the LAN and sometimes even on the WAN side of those routers.

His efforts to shutdown the Command&Control channel the bot uses have been successful and the DNS, which has been hosted with afraid.org, has been nullrouted. In a conversation held on IRC he also mentions that the “current version is version 18, but he [the author - ed.] has changed the way he obfuscates the executable” which formerly was packed using the UPX packer.

The now defunct C&C  was suspected to control “100,000 hosts at the moment, but the ircd does not give us any information”. The bot in its current incarnation does “hijack DNS for rapidshare” and “phishes login info” which leads nenolod to believe it is more of a proof-of-concept right now and is going to grow more sophisticated in the future. Asked about the origin of the worm he says that several traces point to Australia being the country of origin and given some reports of increased telnet activity there he could be right.

The bot is able to scan for vulnerable PHPMyAdmin and MySQL installations, contains an update function and the usual flooding functionality. It also disables access to the routers control interfaces using iptables rules, denying access to the ports 22, 23 and 80. Also, he notes that the bot is “not linux-specific, a couple of the routers we have seen in the botnet are running VxWorks.

Detecting the bot isn’t easy since you’d need to capture and analyze the traffic it sends and receives to find out if you are infected – which is impossible if the infected device does not have dedicated USB/Ethernet ports to configure them and it then “would require monitoring at the CMTS or DSLAM” level.

In his posting on the DroneBL blog nenolod writes that they “are looking into finding out more information about this botnet, and its controller. If you have any information, we would like to know.”

Update and patch your routers so they don’t swallow a blue pill :)

Update:

The botnet apparently has been shutdown by it’s owner:

* Now talking on #mipsel
* Topic for #mipsel is: .silent on .killall .exit ._exit_ .Research is over:
 for those interested i reached 80K. That was fun :) , time to get back to the real life... (To the DroneBL guys:
 I never DDOSed/Phished anybody or peeked on anybody's private data for that matter)
* Topic for #mipsel set by DRS at Sun Mar 22 17:02:15 2009

nenolod writes in their blog:

While this information may or may not be true, we have received HTTP-based floods from IPs participating in this botnet.

We are still interested in this DRS person. If you have any information, please provide it to DroneBL. We will not disclose our sources.

Further reading:

http://www.dronebl.org/blog/8

DALnet releases Bahamut IRCd 1.8.6

After more than 2 years of silence the DALnet Coding Team released a new version of Bahamut, an IRCd mainly used on DAL.net.

First being released as version 1.8.5 there was a bugfix-release shortly thereafter as a bug has been found in channelmode +c which sometimes not only prevented control-characters as bold and underlined being sent but also stripped legitimate messages that contained certain arabic and hebrew characters.

We took the time to ask Epiphani – the Coding Teams Team-Leader – a few question about his IRCd and the history of it:

- The last release, 1.8.4, was over 2 years ago – why did it take so long for 1.8.5 (and now 1.8.6) to be released?

It’s mostly been two reasons:

1. We didn’t really have a lot of minor things we wanted to work on.

Bahamut has been stable and effective for several years, and while there is enhancements that we’d like to implement, those enhancements are more major changes than they are small updates.

We did have a few fixes come through the pipe, such as security fixes and minor other fixes (such as updated x64 support), and we decided to roll them into a patch release.

2. Life gets in the way of open source development sometimes.

At present, the team is mostly idle as life has started eating most of their time. I’ve had a few changes in my life recently that have allowed me to put more time into Bahamut once again, so I’m hoping we can revive some development.

We’ve also changed some of our processes (including a move from subversion to git) so we’re hoping to get more involvement from the community in the future.

- The list of changes introduced with this release does look small compared to the ones introduced with 1.8.4 – what, in your opinion, are the most important ones?

Mostly the security updates.

For example, we removed zlib from the distribution and made it an external dependency, due to security updates from the zlib people – we didn’t want to have to release every time zlib has an issue.

There were also a few fixes for “IP leaks” where hub IPs could be shown to normal users in certain edge cases.

- Are there any changes that are noticeable on the user side of things?

Nope, not in this release.

- When did the development on Bahamut start and why?

I believe the project kicked off sometime in late 1998, with the first public release in 1999. I can’t really remember, that was a good while ago.  :)

The Bahamut project came about due to some of the performance concerns around the former DALnet ircd, Dreamforge.

Back in 1999 DALnet was growing very fast, and the hardware we were running on wasn’t terribly fast.

We needed to be able to support over 6000 clients on a 250Mhz machine, and Dreamforge simply didn’t perform to those levels. Once we rolled out Bahamut, we started seeing much better performance.

I believe somewhere in 2001 we hit our record with around 45,000 clients on a single 900Mhz AMD Duron machine with 512 megs of ram.

- Is there anything you’d like to mention?

We’re always looking for contributors to Bahamut.

We have a wishlist of features, including ipv6 and other such things, that anyone is welcome to code up and provide patches for to the dalnet-src [at] dal.net mailing list.

We are mostly interested in people with the initiative to bounce ideas around on the mailing lists and go off and code!

The complete list of changes between 1.8.4 and 1.8.6 is below:

- Fixes for x64 – this is a combination of Kobi’s work and my own.
- Fixed m_part() and m_quit() to ignore part/quit reasons from squelched users.
- Fixed compiler errors with gcc4.
- Changed a debug message that could leak servers’ IPs to ADMIN_LEV. Thanks key!
- Fix configure tests for zlib removal.
- This patch is intended to mark SVSHOLDs as SBAN_SVSHOLD to stop them from being removed by a kill -HUP
- Fix several small issues where IPs would be displayed when they shouldnt be, from Kobi (kobi [at] dal.net)
- Do not display uplink of ulined servers, from Kobi (kobi [at] dal.net)
- Fix slight errors in m_who argument parsing, from kobi (kobi [at] dal.net)
- Do not display warnings about juped servers attempting to commit, from Kobi (kobi [at] dal.net).
- Fixed m_invite to honor umode +R and silence restrictions.
- Two small rwho fixes to option parsing, from Kobi (kobi [at] dal.net)
- Add hooks for several events
- Remove zlib from the distribution – rely on the library provided by the system.
- Fix msg_has_ctrls() so it doesn’t block non-control characters.

Bahamut IRCd can be downloaded from here.

Thanks go to Epiphani for the short interview and the wants-to-stay-anonymous tipster for the tip! :)