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AbleNET Renews its Website

“We recently released our brand new network website, AbleNET’s Anthony said to IRC-Junkie. “It mixes social networking with IRC to merge the two ideas together.”

Other changes include a new blog section (“we were the first network to institute one 4 years ago”), image galleries, community groups, forums, games, a quote database, friends tracking and IRC integration with the website.

“We’re really proud of it and it is very advanced and unique when compared to other IRC network websites,” Anthony continues. “This is part of our bounceback from the ISP problems were were having a couple months ago and is a result of almost a year’s worth of labor.”

AbleNET was one of the IRC networks which DNS got hijacked by major US ISP’s in an attempt to stop botnets from functioning. The move, of which the effectiveness is highly debatable, sparked a major discussion. IRC-Junkie reported about it in July 2007.

“IRC always has a dark connotation to some people,” Anthony continues. “We want to give the perception that IRC, in general, is just as relevant as the AOLs, Facebooks, MySpaces and MSNs of the world and not some ‘scary’ place that the dregs of the Internet hang out on.  IRC, with AbleNET, is something you can tie into your Internet habits and use communicate with all of your friends and now we believe it has become much easier.”

Hallelujah for that.

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.