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NYT Discovers Internet's Wild Side: IRC 627

Posted by michael
from the ok-corral dept.
maztec writes "The New York Times (free soul-sucking registration required) published an article today entitled The Internet's Wilder Side. Apparently, according to the article, 'the Internet has come to resemble a pleasant, well-policed suburb , [but] a little-known neighborhood known as Internet Relay Chat remains the Wild West.' In essence the article concerns itself with how IRC is the breeding ground of all the Internet's Evils, from animal pornography and illegal file sharing to virus making and computer cracking, it all starts here. I'd continue pointing out interesting quotes, but that'd be a waste. Go read it yourself. And if you're on IRC, remember, you're evil. Even if you're one of those do-gooders who uses Mozilla, LFS, or FreeNode servers for software development."
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NYT Discovers Internet's Wild Side: IRC

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  • Re:Such a discovery! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by beh (4759) * on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:29AM (#9073803)
    It's kind of interesting that the NYT would engage in what I would
    consider sensationalist press. I remember that in the late 1990s a
    German TV report came out with a sensationalist article about the
    fact that there was a "secret document" on the Internet which would
    describe how to build bombs - and that this would be totally
    scandalous.

    This "*secret* document" was the FAQ rec.pyrotechnics...

  • seems odd (Score:5, Interesting)

    by theMerovingian (722983) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:30AM (#9073836) Journal

    I think its funny that file sharing is now on a par with animal pornography...

    The vilification plan is almost complete.

  • by genner (694963) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:33AM (#9073887)
    The internet is nothing remotley like a suburb, it's the wild west all over again complete with brothels and shoot outs. IRC and USENET where the orginal storehouses of sub-legal activities before P2P came along.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:40AM (#9073984) Homepage Journal

    The WEB is mainstream. Most people just can't tell the difference between the www, ftp, e-mail, irc, and usenet. I get the strangest looks when I tell some people to type "eff tee pee colon slash slash" sometimes...

  • Re:Of course (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Black Rabbit (236299) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:40AM (#9074000)
    This century, it's the Internet. 200 (or so) years ago, it was coffeehouses. No matter what the forum, it will always be used to discuss dissention.
  • by JavaLord (680960) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:45AM (#9074048) Journal
    Hah, you guys are talking about how usenet will make their heads explode? Image if they found freenet? I don't know if a high percentage cryptomanics/cypher punks are sexual deviants or if the deviants are just attracted to freenet somehow, but that place is will make your stomach turn if you get offended by anything questionable.
  • Re:God forbid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@@@gmail...com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @11:48AM (#9074103)
    I can't wait to see what happens when they discover newsgroups.

    This has already happened to one of the Philadelphia news channels, although I must say that they have no clue what newsgroups really are. They ran a special feature about Voicenet, accusing them of supporting child pornography and all kinds of things. They showed the police going into the office and seizing Voicenet assets. I was shocked when it first came on. About twenty minutes into it, I became surpised at just how idiotic the whole thing was. It was all about the "Quickvue" search tool that can basically thumbnail internet content, in particular Usenet newsgroups. Apparently, a number of people were using the tool to thumbnail some of the alt.binaries.*.erotica.* newsgroups with child pornography. The news made it sound like all of this was the fault of Voicenet, and that they were doing something sinister. When Voicenet responded that they were not really able to police the content of the newsgroups, the TV station asserted that this was ridiculous, making it sound like an easy task to monitor every single post that comes into every single of the 120,000+ newsgroups out there for banned content. Just for the record, the servers were seized in January and no charges have yet been filed against Voicenet. I think the authorities are looking for subscriber lists to go directly after people viewing the content. I'm not sure if the seizure was really legal, though.

  • Re:Of course (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dhalka226 (559740) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:00PM (#9074248)

    It's not entirely applicable, but your comment reminded me of a quote:

    "The only freedom which counts is the freedom to do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding freedom to do that which all will applaud. All the so-called liberties or rights are things which have to be asserted against others who claim that if such things are to be allowed their own rights are infringed or their own liberties threatened. This is always true, even when we speak of the freedom to worship, of the right of free speech or association, or of public assembly. If we are to allow freedoms at all there will constantly be complaints that either the liberty itself or the way in which it is exercised is being abused, and, if it is a genuine freedom, these complaints will often be justified. There is no way of having a free society in which there is not abuse. Abuse is the very hallmark of liberty."
    -- Lord Chief Justice Halisham

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:11PM (#9074389)
    case in point, the millions of websites (many of which are misspellings of popular legitimate sites) where if you don't have an ad blocker, you'll be closing shit for hours. Sure IRC has DoS attacks, but if you don't go out of your way to piss people off you're pretty much safe.
  • Re:Uh.... what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by torokun (148213) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:11PM (#9074401) Homepage
    one issue -- i would argue that irc _is_ obscure. i don't think the vast majority of people (over 90%) on the net now have ever even heard of irc.

    she said 500k were on irc, and there are, i'm sure now, more than 1000 times that on the net.
  • Re:Such a discovery! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nutshell42 (557890) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:19PM (#9074492) Journal
    The former is rather noticeable, while the later is the reason we put an embargo on computing technology to certain countries.

    Even worse, you need accurate data on previous explosions for valid simulations. The French ran a whole new series of tests to get it. Stealing the data from one of the existing nuclear powers should be as difficult as simply stealing a working nuke.

    On the other hand if you've got enough plutonium/u-235 it is possible to build a bomb which should be working even with slight deviations from the optimum

  • by Paulrothrock (685079) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:22PM (#9074528) Homepage Journal
    I think the luddite who wrote the article means "Amazon, Yahoo, MSN, AOL" instead of "the internet." The internet is a den of sin and debauchery. People are stealing things all the time; code, pictures, software. It can't be enforced because any action by the enforcers will be circumvented. This scares people, and so they stay in their little gated communities and talk about how wonderful life is. These are the same people who sued Hustler and put warning labels on CDs: They don't want to admit to there being A) People different from themselves and B) Sex, drugs, alcohol, or other naughty things.

    They are the thought police we've been warned about. (A few of them are in alt.sex.pictures.baaa and then condemn us for being in alt.sex.pictures.chicks)
  • Re:sensationalist ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vida (695022) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:30PM (#9074625)
    This makes it sound like all you have to do is plug a windows machine into the net and your in trouble. As much as I can't stand working with windows I find this to be over the top.

    It is kinda true. Plug in an unpatched win2k/xp and odds are, within hours, you'll get blaster, sasser and variations of one of these magnificent pieces of engineering. If you don't have at least a software based firewall, within maybe a couple days some script kiddy took advantage of an unpatched hole and your PC just joined the army of zombies of spammer X.

    I've done it. Put a PC on a diff subnet at home, don't allow traffic between subnets, and sniff what happens...

  • grrrrrrr! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheHawke (237817) <rchapin@peli[ ]coast.net ['can' in gap]> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:32PM (#9074650)
    *snarls and kicks maztec in the 'nads*

    In my 8+ years on IRC, I've helped countless users with PC problems, helped hunt down a script kiddie that was beating on a IRC network (that will go unnamed), founded a dozen or so channels that have gone and done quite well for themselves after naming a successor to (this is true!), I either single-handedly or helped saved 3 fellow users from killing themselves due to personal or financial problems.

    You go download a IRC client, sign onto ANY IRC network, hang around for a month on a channel, then you tell ME that IRC is evil.

    With groups or people, there will always be evil, but the balance of good always seems to outweigh evil in certain aspects.

    IRC has simply unleashed the power of international relations upon each other. So we are unwittlingly amabassadors for our own state or country.
    So make the best of it folks, the author and the poster needs to get on IRC and experience it first-hand for a year, THEN make his or her report.
  • by Erris (531066) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @12:43PM (#9074794) Homepage Journal
    You must have missed this passage:

    In some ways, the biggest problem is Microsoft Windows itself. Windows has holes that can allow a hacker to install almost anything on a computer that lacks a protective program or device called a firewall. Users' vulnerability can be compounded if they have not installed the latest patches from Microsoft.

    Cut SETH SCHIESEL some slack. The press is still groping with Internet issues. A few years back, a "computer expert" at most papers was someone who knew how to fix the boss's M$ desktop.

    Many things said were encouraging.

    • He understands that users can run "servers"
    • He understands Winblows has serious problems.
    • He understands that IRC has legitimate uses.

    Give him some time and the scales will fall off his eyes and his attitude will change. He's already noticed that it's hard for to exchange files with his friends, even though he pays big bucks for "broadband". Sooner or later, he will discover that http is also a text based protocal that takes little horsepower to run and is easy to set up in the home. When he realizes this he will start to question why he can't run his own and everything will fall into place.

    Seth, you should try a copy of Mepis [mepis.org] sometime. It has all of the software that the big boys use to run websites, Apache, mySQL and PHP. It also has excellent and easy to use html editors such as Mozilla's composer and Bluefish. If all you want is static image galaries, just use the KDE file browser's one click generator. Mepis configures itself from a CD on boot and has a GUI installer that works. Mepis is easy and will hasten your enlightenment.

    The world of ends is waiting for you. It needs you. You can be part of the solution, not the problem. THE INTERNET IS THE NEW PRESS. IF IT IS NOT FREE THERE IS NO FREE PRESS. Kiddie porn is best fought by busting kiddie porn makers, not by regulating presses. It would be a shame if only a few "respectable" well regulated companies were alowed to publish on the web as the New York Times does.

  • Re:sensationalist ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavon (30274) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:11PM (#9075084)
    No, he's right. I was putting together a new computers for brother just before christmas. Here is what I did:
    1) Installed windows 2000 from the CD, not connected to the internet.
    2) Powered down the computer and plugged into cable modem, via ethernet.
    3) Powered on computer and immediately ran Windows Update.

    Before I could even select which updates to install, I had a windows messaging box (the Windows functionality, not MSN messager) pop up. Anyway, I finished installing all the updates, and then proceded to install a virus checker and spyware removal programs, and the virus checker indeed did find stuff (I forget what).

    So within 30 seconds of connecting the computer to the internet, a virus had already exploited a flaw in Windows, and probably had already infected the system. But I had definately been infected within 30 minutes of connecting to the internet, because it took less time than that to install the updates and virus checker.
  • Use an EU Server (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shoemakc (448730) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:17PM (#9075146) Homepage
    So how exactly does the FBI police a foreign server? On the other hand, the US hasn't had a great track record lately about honoring the autonomy of other countries....maybe it's all part of the plan.

    -Chris
  • by Myself (57572) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:41PM (#9075384) Journal
    A few issues ago, the letters section in 2600 included a peculiar missive from some schoolchildren, attacking 2600 for running an IRC server. They apparently learned in that class that IRC is the tool that perverts use to meet young girls. (Please mod down the idiot who'll take this opportunity to make allegations about Emmanuel.)

    Anyway, the editorial response was fairly dry, but the reader reactions in the next issue pretty much said what's being said here on /. today. There's no excuse for this kind of "journalism" and worse yet, it's being taught in schools as well. What can we do to fight back?
  • Re:They don't (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:45PM (#9075415) Homepage Journal
    "I do believe usenet is about to "grow up" the way the web did."

    Yup...and I must say, it is kinda sad. Saw and read the wildest stuff on USENET and IRC...its too bad, was nice to have totally unbridled 'free speach' and 'free expression' there for awhile...

    Wonder why someone hasn't come up with a totally anonymouse IRC application/protocol?

  • Re:/list (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chutzpah (6677) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:46PM (#9075427)
    That's pretty interesting, especially considering I did a /list on EFnet about 20 minutes ago. I got 24366 channels and didn't get disconnected while it was listing (although xchat locked up for a bit, probably while it was sorting the list).
  • Re:God forbid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Torne (78524) <torne@wolfpuppy.org.uk> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:47PM (#9075437)
    Police, FBI and other law enforcement agencies seize computer equipment *all the time*. Then if what you're being accused of is pretty unimportant, it'll sit on a shelf in an evidence locker someplace for three months before any forensics guys even take a look at it. This happened to a friend of mine. The police who arrive at the office/your house/whatever know what computers look like, and might have one 'expert' with them, but they will never just take copies of your data, they will take whole machines, even whole networks.

    If a computer has had kiddy porn on it, they typically destroy the computer. The whole thing. Maybe the monitor too for good measure. They're not polite about this kind of thing.
  • How to do it, dammit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by abb3w (696381) on Thursday May 06, 2004 @01:54PM (#9075501) Journal
    There's a fairly good piece on it in John McPhee's "The Curve of Binding Energy" [amazon.com], which gives some information on the topic; I believe that's where I first saw the salad bowl reference.

    Most of the ideas behind how to build a bomb are fairly simple. Critical mass and how to calculate it, implosion versus gun type bombs, the effects of reflectors, and so forth. I learned most of the basic math before I dropped my Nuclear Engineering major. Of course, there's no practical way for anything but a large government to make a fusion bomb; ignition temps usually need a fission primer charge. However, it's easy to get something that will cause fission and make a big boom, if you have the fissiles and use some simple approximations ("assume a spherical cow").

    Without the detailed computer modeling, you don't anywhere near as big a boom for your kilo of fissile U-235, Pu-240, or U233 (if you're getting exotic). What you get instead is a less efficient reaction, and more of your fissile material goes into the fallout directly rather than fission. Where 40 kilos or so could be optimized to probably around 100 kilotons, a quick-and-sloppy back of the envelope approach would give probably only 1 kiloton. So, yeah, a couple of aluminum salad bowls could be turned into a quick-and-cheap reflector for your bomb, but you would get as big a bang as if you used well machined berylium hemispheres.

    The hard part is getting the right material. Stealing fissile material is the easiest for anything besides a government-- isotope separation isn't trivial. And even in the Soviet dis-Union, bomb grade stuff is somewhat guarded. Much better would be some of the FRIGGIN HUGE non-fissile radioisotopes that are essentially just plain missing over there, and could provide a weapon nearly as effective. Stealing one of them, powdering the source (sometimes already done), mixing the powder with a standard fertilizer truck bomb, and blowing it up in a major city would be almost as effective as blowing up a nuke. True, there wouldn't be the lasting sheer "duck and cover" level of hysteria of "someone else has the bomb!", but it would be fairly high. The blast wouldn't level the city, but it could render the bulk of it unusable for a century or so.

    While terrorists of Bin Laden's ilk wouldn't hesitate to use a nuke that fell into their hands, they won't concentrate their construction efforts on fission or fusion weapons. Radiological weapons are a much more practical ambition for them to be seeking.
  • Re:God forbid (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aka-ed (459608) <robt.public@gmai l . com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @02:12PM (#9075682) Homepage Journal
    Examine the thread you are posting in, this subdiscussion concerns a TV news channel, not the NYT. The ISP is suing the prosecuter, check it out [phillyburbs.com].
  • Evil (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:03PM (#9076202)
    IRC is great.
    digital darwinism, survival of the fittest.
    The way life is supposed to be.
    screw the self-richeous do-good-ers.
    More chaos is whats needed not less.
  • by Eric(b0mb)Dennis (629047) * on Thursday May 06, 2004 @03:05PM (#9076220)
    I've heard this before on the John Walsh show i was supposed to be a part of... ended up not accepting the offer to go to NY and over-slept my live chat with john walsh for the show.. besides the point, some lady on said show called IRC the "Dark Underbelly of the Internet"...."It's where pedophiles give lessons to luer children" And those are real quotes! Real Stream of said show Here [brandonvedas.com] I'm the "Oea" mentioned in the show... long story, but weird indeed.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:11PM (#9076947)
    Umm, what's censored currently? Nobody reviews my webpages before I put them up. There are plenty of porn and even illegal porn sites out there that you can get onto if you want to spend the time.

    Working for a porn company, I can say that there is a lot of "hidden" and "undirect" censorship. We use to have paypal as a payment option on our site, and we had a good relationship with Paypal. (We had their VP's over for lunch one day). Now, Paypal wanted to become FDIC insured as a real bank. One of the Gov'T requirments before this could happen? They had to stop accepting payment for adult websites. While this certainly isn't "cenorship" in the strict sense, it is Gov'T control over what is or is not permissible. SO yes, there certainly is censorship just because YOU haven't been censored doesn't mean that the rest of us aren't. You just don't hear about it, which is, of course, the point of censorship.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 06, 2004 @04:50PM (#9077364)
    IRC is just a tool for communication. Just like every other communication tool it could be used for both good and bad things.

    Newspapers are for some reason considered inherently good, TV stations too... although I could post quite oposite example.

    In Serbia, under Milosevic regime *all* classic media (TV, radio, press) were actually his main tools for spreading nationalistic (fascistic) euphoria. Naturaly, there were some independent media, but they were always under heavy preasure.

    Maybe such misuse of classic media is always the case when some country goes to war without proper reason?

    In 1996, eight months after Serbia was connected again to Internet, mass scale protest against rose in Belgrade and other cities due to obvious electoral fraud. Web, email and IRC were main tools for us to stay informed and to spread the correct information. IRC was remedy for many of us to remain normal in such desperate situation (regime's represion was very tough in that particular period).

    Two years later, during NATO bombing, while wondering wether to hate more those who bombed me or those who had caused the bombing, IRC was tool for expressing thoughts and spreading hope. And for those who like emotional scenes, I will never forget one situation when I was online in the moment when air strike alert started. One by one, people reported that. Really scary, when you see list of towns and cities reporting, just like a flood. There is no other medium that in real time could represent some situation happening to so dispersed persons.

    Or just in one sentence: there is no inherently 'good' or 'bad' media, they are all good but easily misused.

    Sig for today: "Don't blame me for posting as AC."

  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatmanNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday May 06, 2004 @05:54PM (#9078019) Homepage Journal
    Cesium-137 has a half life about 30 years; long enough to last, short enought for relatively small volumes to be quite hellishly radioactive-- about 80 curies per gram, if I recall.

    It's also primarily a Beta emitter. Quantities scattered in an explosion would tend to have a difficult time penetrating clothing and skin.

    I've seen a ditz go into hysterics on learning her skeleton was mildly radioactive from the natural potassium.

    Ok, now THAT is funny. I wish I'd been there to see it! =)

    Have you even taken a radiation health physics class?

    Yes, and no. Most of the knowledge I've obtained has been because I'm insanely curious. However, I did once work for a medical company that required me to take a class on radiation safety. They just used an electron beam, however, so it was a bit dull.

    pha emitters are quite dangerous under the right conditions-- as you yourself noted, the real danger is in inhaling or ingesting radioisotopes.

    Indeed. If inhaled Plutonium can be quite dangerous. Ingestion doesn't seem to cause too much trouble as your body just passes it through.

    As I noted, this is why you powderize the radioisope beforehand for this sort of weapon: to increase the chance of dust particles being inhaled.

    A few points:

    1. AFAIK, Plutonium is EXTREMELY hard to machine. That means that just about anything short of a nuke would not be able to powerize the material.

    2. Plutonium is very heavy. If dispersed into the air, it will come back to the ground very quickly. This minimizes the amount of time that people outdoors would be in danger.

    3. I'd almost welcome Bin Laden attempting to machine Pu-238 into a fine power. He and his men would probably inhale enough of the stuff in the process that we wouldn't have to worry about them for much longer. (Ok, so I'm a bit morbid. I'm feeling punchy today.)

    The threat from a radiologic dust bomb isn't the initial short term exposure; it's the long term threat.

    Let's consider for a moment what might happen to the radiological materials if they were dispersed in a city:

    1. We deploy our Evil Radioisotopes Weapon (TM)
    2. The blast carries the materials to within a 1 mile radius.
    3. The isotopes come raining down from above. Anyone who was near the blast is probably already injured, but has also inhaled radioisotopes. Sadly, these people will most likely die. :-(
    4. The radioisotopes hit the ground. Given that the bomb couldn't have dispersed more than a dozen or so pounds of material (and that is probably high) radiation levels are most likely not lethal. Given that concrete is an excellent shield, buildings absorb a lot of the radiation.
    5. Street sweepers and rain wash away the majority of the isotopes. They end up traveling through the sewers.
    6. Treatment plants remove many of the isotopes. Some make it into the rivers and settle to the bottom. Since water is a very good shield, the radiation levels are not detectably higher than normal.

    Now I'm not saying that someone detonating a dirty bomb is a good thing. In fact I hope it never happens. But it simply wouldn't be that effective of a weapon.

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