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Free IRC bouncer provider test

So you want to have a bouncer to stay connected on your favourite IRC network, hide your IP from hackers and the likes and all that without paying a single cent? Look no further, below we have gathered a few providers of such free BNCs and put them to a test – of course without them knowing :)

Note that we’ve only tested providers that require no sign-up for dubious services and provide bouncers which are free to use on any network and not only on the one where they have their support-channel – some however ask you to idle there and might cancel your BNC if they find you to not comply with this.

The providers tested (in no special order) are:

BNC4Free

Signup: on IRC

Time to setup: 9h

VHosts: none

Other: Webpanel

LobbyZNC Doesn’t exist any longer

Signup: on Website

Time to setup: 15m

vHosts: none

Other: Webpanel

NinjaBounce No longer appears to be free

Signup: per eMail

Time to setup: 1h

vHosts: 20+

During the test period all bouncers have been incredibly stable and didn’t drop the connection a single time – there was just one planned maintenance downtime from BNC4Free which has been announced beforehand via eMail – that’s more than you can expect from a service you didn’t have to pay anything for.

All of the tested bouncer providers use ZNC as their software backend which is flexible, easy to use and stable and some of them even allow you to use a web frontend to configure your BNC.

Even though they provide you the service for free, most providers are happy to accept a donation if you appreciate their service so don’t just be a leech ;)

In conclusion i have to say that the results have been far better than expected and all services are worth what you paid for worth recommending if you ever need a bouncer but don’t have the resources to run one yourself.

So, what is your experience with free bouncers? Did they hold up to your expectations and demands?

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IRSeeK: Bless or Curse?

An Israelian startup company named IRSeeK has started a debate in the IRC community. The company started to log IRC chats and make them available through a search engine on their website.

In the past the logging of IRC channels without the consent or approval of the channel owners and visitors caused great discussion several times. Most often the motives behind these logging bots were to monitor the channels for illegal filetrading, carding and similar criminal offenses.

IRSeeK about its service: “IRSeek utilizies the power of the people on IRC and brings it to the rest of the community to enjoy and learn from.” According to the company IRC remains an important way to transfer knowledge between its users. “www.IRSeek.com (still in Beta) strives to make this hidden gem available to the entire Internet community. By constantly archiving thousands of active, highly-focused, public chat-rooms in a wide variety of topics (e.g. Linux, soccer, Christianity, poker, business and others) then indexing, processing and publishing the content on the web using advanced Web 2.0 technologies while maintaining the privacy of the users, we are creating a knowledge base different from any other.”

Nonetheless the operation started quietly and many channels were being monitored and logged without the knowledge of its operators. The bots were unrecognizable as such and they gave a mIRC client CTCP version response.

A group of worried IRC users have opened a wiki about IRSeeK.

According to the company itself over 300 million conversations have been logged on multiple IRC networks including EFnet, DALnet, Freenode, QuakeNet and Undernet. A total of 2000 channels are currently being monitored.

Network admin Christel of Freenode: “We are, to say the least appalled and shocked to learn about the site. We’ve been in contact with them and requested that they stop logging on freenode asap and requested removal of all logs.” Additionally Christel explained Freenode will contact its lawyer to see if additional steps will be taken against the company.

Since the discussion started IRSeeK decided to take down the search interface on its website. In their blog they respond to the uproar: “Due to the concerns of our users, we’ve decided that for the time being, until we figure out a satisfactory solution(s) to the users concerns, we have disabled the site.”

Reading the blog one is wondering whether the people behind the company have been IRC users themselves for an considerable amount of time. One can read the same replies as with previous similar projects, such as the chats being public and being logged by private users as well.

The company is currently looking if it can solve the concerns raised by anonymizing the nicks, an op-out system, making the bots recognizable with a link and explaining the policies on their website.

Major US ISPs Hijack IRC Server DNS

“I am writing to this list because I no longer know where to turn” admin Anthony from Ablenet started his email to the full-disclosure list. “Over the course of the past 2 to three weeks I have watched my services on the Internet become systematically blocked and redirected by no less than 3 major isps in their efforts to stop botnets from connecting to IRC.”

What happened was that three major ISPs (TimeWarner/AOL, Verizon and Cox) had set the DNS of the servers from Ablenet to resolve to their alternative IRCd instead of the actual IP, resulting in the users being redirected to the ISPs IRCd. Once connected to this IRCd they were being directed into a channel, where they would be presented by a list of commands intended to remove zombie software. For many years IRC was a popular place for dronerunners to control and command their dronenet from.

“Because we were hit by 3 major ISPs at the same time,” Anthony starts explaining to IRC-Junkie in a reaction, “… for a period of approximately one month, we have seemingly lost approximately 75% of our user base, who were either directly affected or peripherally affected and followed their communities to an unaffected network.

The action did not remained restricted to this relatively small network however, also 5 servers from EFnet were caught. One of them is irc.vel.net, with Exstatica as its admin. He explained how he discovered his server was involved as well. “Yesterday July 22nd, The admin-body discovered that a handful of EFNet servers have been “juped”.  Not only have they taken the irc record, but they’ve also hijacked the SOA and NS records too.”

Anthony tried to contact the ISPs in question but got either no reply at all, or a standard message that resources were too limited to reply. Also Exstatica tried to contact the ISPs; “Yes I’ve tried, I’ve contacted the abuse team at cox, they’ve requested logs, which I provided in the first email, and then gave me a canned response that I need to check my computer for viruses.”

Anthony stressed the character of his network was far from being a rogue one that hosted drone networks. “Our network has always been one that relied on their communities, under the premise that people come to irc to share ideas, meet new people and to gather in their own communities.  We were never big on the notions of unnatural expansion, inflated, false communities or hierarchies. We’re tough on botnets and non-conducive to file sharing… We have (had?) literary communities, fan communities, hobbyists, gamers, etc; pretty much running the gamut of personalities.”

Both Anthony and Exstatica have considered legal actions. But as there is no monetary loss and it involves only a violation of the RFC specifications such an action will most likely not be very fruitful.

For Anthony and Exstatica there is one reason left to fight back however, stand for Net neutrality. Anthony: “I also hope that our representatives do something, regarding Net Neutrality, to prevent the monopolization of the Internet.  This could in some ways be compared to racketeering or a corporate equivalent of China’s restriction on the Internet.  I firmly believe this to be a constitutional violation to our right of free speech and if we do not act now, when do we act? When will it be too late?”

Reviewing the move from the ISPs, how many drones could have been caught is unknown, it can not be that much as most of the zombie software has since moved from IRC to use P2P and HTTP. Also the text commands can either be given in a private message, channel message or topic. Prefixes range from . to , to & and can be virtually anything, including the word of the command itself, remove, uninstall, etc.

Admins advice users to use alternative DNS servers if they experience these problems when connecting to their IRC network. Since the media attention on this issue started yesterday several DNS records have been restored, of course without an explanation why they have been hijacked in the first place.

Over the past few years this has happened a few times before, but never ona  scale as this move, and not involving networks as large as EFnet’s.

IRC-Junkie was unable to contact any ISPs named in this article.

Girls Receive Up To 25 Times More Malicious Chat

The University of Maryland conducted a survey with a result we probably all knew the outcome from in advance: woman and girls on IRC receive up to 25 times more sexually oriented chat requests then their male counterparts.

When using a nick that resembled a female name, the researchers received an average of 163 malicious requests per day, while chatting with a nick that did not show their gender only 4 to 25 times a day.

The females also received more files and links then their male counterparts in the research.

“Parents should consider alerting their children to these risks, and advising young people to create gender-free or ambiguous usernames,” said one of the researchers. “Kids can still exercise plenty of creativity and self-expression without divulging their gender.”

IRC Might See Flux of Former Yahoo Users

Yahoo announced that their chat rooms will be closed for people aged under eighteen. This was the result after an agreement between Yahoo and New York’s attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. “We need to be vigilant to protect our children,” said Spitzer, motivating his reasons for this agreement.

As part of the agreement Yahoo also closed chat rooms (yes, they are called rooms instead of channels there ;) ) with names like Teen Girls for Older Fat Men, as they would be promoting indecent behavior. According to Spitzer an investigator who entered a chat room as an 14 year old girl got 35 sexual proposals within 25 minutes.

It is believed that the people now cut off from Yahoo will either use false information while signing up, or move to those IRC networks where traditionally little or no moderation takes place at all.