At the time the Internet was still under some semblance of
control by the National Science Foundation and was connected
to only a few thousand computers. The Net was shut down and all
viruses purged from its host computers, and then the Net was
put back into operation. Morris, meanwhile, was put in jail.
There is some concern that, despite improved security measures
(for example, "firewalls"), someone may find a new
way to launch a virus that could again shut down the Internet.
Given the loss of centralized control, restarting it could be
much more time-consuming if this were to happen again.
But reestablishing a centralized control today like what existed
at the time of the Morris Worm is likely to be impossible.
Even if it were possible, the original ARPANET architects were
probably correct in their assessment that the Net would become
more susceptible for massive failure rather than less if some
centralized control were in place.
Perhaps the single most significant feature of today's Internet
is this lack of centralized control. No person or organization
is now able to control the Internet. In fact, the difficulty
of control became an issue as early as its first year of operation
as ARPANET. In that year email was spontaneously invented by
its users. To the surprise of ARPANET's managers, by the second
year email accounted for the bulk of the communication over the
Because the Internet had grown to have a fully autonomous,
decentralized life of its own, in April 1995, the NSF quit funding NSFNET,
the fiber optics communications backbone which at one time had
given NSF the technology to control the system. The proliferation
of parallel communications links and hosts had by then completely
bypassed any possibility of centralized control.
There are several major features of the Internet:
* World Wide Web -- a hypertext publishing network and now
the fastest growing part of the Internet.
* email -- a way to send electronic messages
* Usenet -- forums in which people can post and view public messages
* telnet -- a way to login to remote Internet computers
* file transfer protocol -- a way to download files from remote
* Internet relay chat -- real-time text conversations -- used
primarily by hackers and other Internet old-timers
* gopher -- a way of cataloging and searching for information.
This is rapidly growing obsolete.
As you port surfers know, there are dozens of other interesting
but less well known services such as whois, finger, ping etc.
The World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is the newest major feature of the Internet,
dating from the spring of 1992. It consists of "Web
pages," which are like pages in a book, and links from specially
marked words, phrases or symbols on each page to other Web pages.
These pages and links together create what is known as "hypertext."
This technique makes it possible to tie together many different
documents which may be written by many people and stored on many
different computers around the world into one hypertext document.
This technique is based upon the Universal Resource Locator
(URL) standard, which specifies how to hook up with the computer
and access the files within it where the data of a Web page may
A URL is always of the form http://<rest of address>,
where <rest of address> includes a domain name which must
be registered with an organization called InterNIC in order to
make sure that two different Web pages (or email addresses, or
computer addresses) don't end up being identical. This registration
is one of the few centralized control features of the Internet.
Here's how the hypertext of the World Wide Web works. The
reader would come to a statement such as "our company offers
LTL truck service to all major US cities." If this statement
on the "Web page" is highlighted, that means that a
click of the reader's computer mouse will take him or her to
a new Web page with details. These may include complete schedules
and a form to fill out to order a pickup and delivery.
Some Web pages even offer ways to make electronic payments,
usually through credit cards.
However, the security of money transfers over the Internet
is still a major issue. Yet despite concerns with verifiability
of financial transactions, electronic commerce over the Web is
growing fast. In its second full year of existence, 1994, only
some $17.6 million in sales were conducted over the Web. But
in 1995, sales reached $400 million. Today, in 1996, the Web
is jammed with commercial sites begging for your credit card
In addition, the Web is being used as a tool in the distribution
of a new form of currency, known as electronic cash. It is conceivable
that, if the hurdle of verifiability may be overcome, that electronic
cash (often called ecash) may play a major role in the world
economy, simplifying international trade. It may also eventually
make national currencies and even taxation as we know it obsolete.
Examples of Web sites where one may obtain ecash include the
Mark Twain Bank of St. Louis, MO (http://www.marktwain.com) and
Digicash of Amsterdam, The Netherlands (http://www.digicash.com).
The almost out-of-control nature of the Internet manifests
itself on the World Wide Web. The author of a Web page does not
need to get permission or make any arrangement with the authors
of other Web pages to which he or she wishes to establish links.
Links may be established automatically simply by programming
in the URLs of desired Web page links.
Conversely, the only way the author of a Web page can prevent
other people from reading it or establishing hypertext links
to it is to set up a password protection system (or by not having
communications links to the rest of the Internet).
A problem with the World Wide Web is how to find things on
it. Just as anyone may hook a new computer up to the Internet,
so also there is no central authority with control or even knowledge
of what is published where on the World Wide Web. No one needs
to ask permission of a central authority to put up a Web page.
Once a user knows the address (URL) of a Web page, or at least
the URL of a Web page that links eventually to the desired page,
then it is possible (so long as communications links are available)
to almost instantly hook up with this page.
Because of the value of knowing URLs, there now are many companies
and academic institutions that offer searchable indexes (located
on the Web) to the World Wide Web. Automated programs such as
Web crawlers search the Web and catalog the URLs they encounter
as they travel from hypertext link to hypertext link. But because
the Web is constantly growing and changing, there is no way to
create a comprehensive catalog of the entire Web.
Email is the second oldest use of the Internet, dating back
to the ARPAnet of 1972. (The first use was to allow people
to remotely log in to their choice of one of the four computers
on which ARPAnet was launched in 1971.)
There are two major uses of email: private communications,
and broadcasted email. When broadcasted, email serves to make
announcements (one-way broadcasting), and to carry on discussions
among groups of people such as our Happy Hacker list. In the
group discussion mode, every message sent by every member of
the list is broadcasted to all other members.
The two most popular program types used to broadcast to
email discussion groups are majordomo and listserv.
Usenet was a natural outgrowth of the broadcasted email group
discussion list. One problem with email lists is that there was
no easy way for people new to these groups to join them. Another
problem is that as the group grows, a member may be deluged with
dozens or hundreds of email messages each day.
In 1979 these problems were addressed by the launch of Usenet.
Usenet consists of news groups which carry on discussions in
the form of "posts." Unlike an email discussion group,
these posts are stored, typically for two weeks or so, awaiting
potential readers. As new posts are submitted to a news group,
they are broadcast to all Internet hosts that are subscribed
to carry the news groups to which these posts belong.
With many Internet connection programs you can see the similarities
between Usenet and email. Both have similar headers, which track
their movement across the Net. Some programs such as Pine are
sent up to send the same message simultaneously to both email
addresses and newsgroups. All Usenet news readers allow you to
email the authors of posts, and many also allow you to email
these posts themselves to yourself or other people.
Now, here is a quick overview of the Internet basics we plan
to cover in the next several issues of Guide to (mostly) Harmless
We discuss shells which allow one to write programs
(scripts) that automate complicated series of Unix
commands. The reader is introduced to the concept of scripts
which perform hacking functions. We introduce Perl, which is
a shell programming language used for the most elite of hacking
scripts such as SATAN.
3. TCP/IP and UUCP
This chapter covers the communications links that bind together
the Internet from a hackers' perspective. Extra attention is
given to UUCP since it is so hackable.
4. Internet Addresses, Domain Names and Routers
The reader learns how information is sent to the right places
on the Internet, and how hackers can make it go to the wrong
places! How to look up UUCP hosts (which are not under the domain
name system) is included.
5. Fundamentals of Elite Hacking: Ports, Packets and File
This section lets the genie of serious hacking out of the
bottle. It offers a series of exercises in which the reader can
enjoy gaining access to almost any randomly chosen Internet host.
In fact, by the end of the chapter the reader will have had the
chance to practice several dozen techniques for gaining entry
to other peoples' computers. Yet these hacks we teach are 100%
Want to share some kewl stuph with the Happy Hacker list? To
send me confidential email (please, no discussions of illegal
activities) use . Please direct flames to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy hacking!
© 1996 Carolyn P. Meinel. You may forward the GUIDE
TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING as long as you leave this notice
at the end..