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Posted Jan 25, 2000
Authored by napalm | Site napalm.firest0rm.org

Napalm Magazine issue #1 - Onion Routing, gh0st.net, Introduction (Sep 29, 1999).

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Issue 1 (Sep. 29, 1999)
The gh0st.net project: http://www.gh0st.net/index.html
URL of the day: (Computer geek cartoons) http://www.userfriendly.org
All content copyright © 1999 by the individual authors, All Rights Reserved

- Editor's Comments
- URLs
- News
- My Life As A Happy Hacker
- Onion Routing
- The gh0st.net Project
- Violence, Censorship, & Our Rights
- Future Issues
- Credits

*** Editor's Comments : Kynik

For now, I'm just going to borrow the layout I used while I was HH editor.
(Which I am no more.) I'll try to make it a little bit more freeform than
this first issue, but we'll have to see. I'd like to see this zine
diverge a little from the standard 'security info' theme and get into
music, news and whatever tickles everyone's fancy. Email me at
kynik@gh0st.net for damn near anything. Oh, and send me good links, too.

NOTE: Due to the gh0st.net webserver and mailserver's owner moving very
far away soon, the website may be inaccessible for quite some time. You
can contact us at napalmzine@hotmail.com until we get everything back up
again. Thanks to TF for actually hosting all the web pages and mail

*** Random good URLs : Kynik

The Roskilde music festival in Copenhagen, Denmark

The OSKit - build your own OS


Good source code for neural networks

Irish pop-punk

*** My Life As A Happy Hacker : Kynik

A long time ago (probably 3-4 years) on a computer lab workstation far,
far away (ok, it was the Midwest) I discovered the Happy Hacker in my
quest for knowledge of the computer sort. I found it after sifting
through search engine results of the keyword 'hacker'. I had been
inspired by such movies as "Wargames" and "Sneakers" and realized that
there was a lot more to this computer thing than Doom and Microsoft Word.
Having realized this, I dove headfirst into the web, trying to find a
place that suited my wants and actually had an air of intelligence.

Many of the sites I found were crude and obviously created by
middle-school-aged kids looking to mess with their friends on AOL. Two
things I found caught my attention immediately: Silicon Toad and The Happy
Hacker mailing list. I proceeded to download a whole pile of programs
from Silicon Toad's site, and played with them on my computer at home, but
beyond that, didn't do too much. I checked in on it every once in awhile,
until the site disappeared. I kept on getting the happy hacker
newsletter, and found out how to do some neat, trivial things such as
changing my Windows 95 splash screen for startup and shutdown.

Then I began to read about some of the things that people had done with
their computers, and against the list founder, Carolyn Meinel. I didn't
think too much about this at the time, but kept my interested fascination
with the whole 'hacker culture' as I progressed with my Computer Science
degree. I continued to receive the digest, and towards the end of 1998, I
got a Happy Hacker digest with a request for a new UNIX editor. Having
read most of the info out there about Carolyn Meinel and the general
consensus about her, I thought about it carefully before I sent in an
application. I realized the stigma that currently goes along with CPM and
the Happy Hacker name, but after consideration, I thought I'd try to keep
alive the idea that got me into the Happy Hacker in the first place:
Knowledge and Ethics. Granted, CPM is currently more interested in money
and promoting herself than educating and instilling ethics, from what I've

I emailed her, and asked if the position was still available. She asked
me to write a Guide to (Mostly) Harmless Hacking (GTMHH) on any topic I
chose. I chose to write a beginner's guide to C++, since there already
was one for C. Well, I sent her a small piece of what I had written, and
she advised me that Guide submissions are generally much longer. So I set
off to flesh it out and expand on the parts she said were somewhat
lacking. I got about 2/3 of the way through it, and grad school and work
took precedence. A few weeks later, totally to my surprise, I got an
email from Carolyn asking me if I wanted the position. I said yes, we
exchanged our PGP keys, I got the passwords to the unixeditor POP account,
and I started reading submissions and putting them together to form the
Happy Hacker UNIX digest. To see the digests, as they were submitted to
Carolyn, go to the following URL:


The first few digests were pretty weak, as most of the questions I got
were rather bland, and I was still getting the feel of the position. I
got very few flames, and a lot of praise. I realized that I might
actually be making a difference to some people, trying to help them
understand the basics (and some details) of UNIX and computer security.
When I heard that Carolyn had moved the HH mailserver over to an
AntiOnline computer, I wasn't thrilled, but I really didn't care all that
much at the moment. Keydet89, the windows editor, apparently left because
of this, which was rather sad, because he always had good perl snippets in
his digests. (Send me an email keydet, if you wanna tell about your
experience, or write some articles :)

Then I thought about it. I looked back at AntiOnline's features section,
and I thought about JP's article on "Hacker Profiling". Pieces started to
fit together. I thought about the possibility that JP was making copies
of any mails that I received as a submission and adding them to his pile
of material to be filtered and info to be added to the 'hacker database'.
See, a lot of times I'll be sent an email claiming to have broken into a
site and wanting to know what to do from there. (Or, someone requests me
to break into a site for them -- which I'd consider doing, provided you're
paying me and the site is yours.) In the second-last HH digest, I
included a link to my PGP key, and an alternate email address that people
could write to. I'd say about half of the respondents used the other
email address... and 2 or 3 used the PGP key. I realized that I needed a
bit more creative freedom, without eyes peeking over my shoulders.

So, I teamed up with some people I had met online, and had been working
with for a little while, and offered to create a new zine, with an
emphasis on computers, security, and music. I wanted to give the people
that needed a certain amount of mentoring a chance to get some people to
talk to if they needed help. I found out that there was a similar group
of people working on a project similar to the Happy Hacker wargames, but
cooler, and I started hanging out with them as well. So, here ends my
Happy Hacker story. I know I've left out some minor details, but don't
worry, they weren't that important. Let's have a big round of applause
for the gh0st.net and FireStorm guys! Hopefully the projects will pick up
soon, and there will be more to see on both the fire.gh0st.net and
www.gh0st.net sites.


*** Onion Routing : Kynik

While it seems that the term "Onion Routing" may be copyrighted, I feel
that it is a good description of the technology. Onion Routing is an
Internet-based system to prevent eavesdropping and traffic analysis. The
name "Onion Routing" is appropriate, since it is based upon adding several
layers of encryption to a message (and removing them) as it is passed
along the network, as one might remove the layers of an onion. (I suppose
one could also call it 'artichoke routing' too ;) This is essential to a
network where privacy and anonymity is important.

"Well, so what about privacy, everything I'm sending to that site is
encrypted with SSL, anyways", you may say. That's all fine and dandy, but
chances are, anybody monitoring you knows at least that you've been there,
since the destination address is plainly readable in the IP header.
That's where the anonymity portion comes in. Someone between you and the
website you're visiting is _not_ able to tell (easily) where you're going,
or even where you're coming from. There are two notable systems in
use/development today (at least what I've initially found). They are:

Freedom - "Internet Identity Management System"

The Onion Router Project (US Naval Research Lab)

There are some differences between the two, but I'm not going to analyze
them. Now, how does this all work, you ask? The scheme is built upon
public-key encryption (of varying strengths) and a 'private' network of
routers. Basically, your packet doesn't take the direct route across the
net like you'd expect it to. Instead, it is sent to a specialized
computer which runs the 'onion routing software'. That 'onion router'
(OR) hands the packet off to the next designated OR, which continues to
forward it on, until the last OR designated finally delivers it to the
true destination. I don't want to get into the mechanics for establishing
routes and vendor-specific details like Freedom's Anonymous Mail Proxy,
but instead I will explain the generic mechanism that allows you to send
anonymous, private traffic across the internet via onion routing.

A fairly good paper, by Goldschlag, Reed and Syverson, entitled, "Onion
Routing for Anonymous and Private Internet Connections," does a thorough
job of explaining this technology:


From the paper:

Onion Routing operates by dynamically building anonymous connections
within a network of real-time Chaum Mixes. A Mix is a store and forward
device that accepts a number of fixed-length messages from numerous
sources, performs cryptographic transformations on the messages, and
then forwards the messages to the next destination in a random order.
A single Mix makes tracking of a particular message either by specific
bit-pattern, size, or ordering with respect to other messages difficult.
By routing through numerous Mixes in the network, determining who is
talking to whom becomes even more difficult. Onion Routing's network of
core onion-routers (Mixes) is distributed, fault-tolerant, and under
the control of multiple administrative domains, so no single onion-
router can bring down the network or compromise a user's privacy, and
cooperation between compromised onion-routers is thereby confounded.

Freedom's system might be slightly different in implementation, but again,
I'm ignoring details, and loving every minute of it! When a specific
message needs to be sent through the onion-routed network, several layers
of encryption are placed on the message, along with sufficient information
to describe the path on a step-by-step basis. This way, each onion router
along the way uses its own public key to decrypt the whole 'onion', at
which point it recognizes the next onion router in the route, and forwards
the partially-decrypted message to it. When the enveloped message
eventually reaches the final onion router, it is decrypted to cleartext,
and the message is passed to the destination, not too differently from if
the source host had simply connected in the clear over the Internet,
except for the fact that it was made virtually untraceable for the
duration of its trip from end to end.

Feel free to send me questions and commentary on anything I may have
screwed up (or done well).


*** The gh0st.net Project (Part 1 of 2): Phatal

Gh0stnet in its simplest and most basic form is a security model. As a
security model, gh0stnet's integrity is maintained by the fact that it
protects access, whether this be access to data or some other resource
makes no difference. Complication occurs when we examine gh0stnet's

The theme is not necessarily to provide an ultra-secure network... it's
simply to provide security. Whether the provision of security is done
well or even in a rational manner is up to us as developers. Further
complicating this matter is the concept of providing a security challenge
or novelty to the public. Are we targeting a specific group of people to
benefit from gh0stnet? As far as I'm concerned, no. While we are all
obviously aware that gh0stnet's existence specifically caters to a certain
type of computer user, there's been no real intention to do so. By virtue
of not being funded by a corporation or the government and also by the
virtue of being conceptualized by someone who spends the better part of
his day immersed in computer security, the compsec underground will
inevitably be an integral part of gh0stnet. Hopefully this will be one of
its greatest assets.

Although the physical establishment of gh0stnet is still in the works, I
have a feeling that's going to be the easy part. I'm putting energy into
gh0stnet with the intention that it will long surpass my interest. As a
field of study and a science, computer security is an evolving subject.
If gh0stnet is to ever provide anything substantial to its public, it will
have to reflect this.

This is the area that gh0stnet should be the most active in. If there's
one thing I hate it's purposeless work. What I hate more than purposeless
work is being bored. From my perspective, I would prefer to do more than
set up a number of boxes to let people hammer into the ground. It would
be fun to look at the logs for a while, but ultimately it would become

I'm interested in using gh0stnet as a testbed for alternative,
ingenuitive, and challenging security concepts. This would provide tons
of fun for us, something interesting to give to the users besides boxen to
break into, and more than likely create some very interesting offspring.
Software or hardware, it's all a matter of what contributions we as
individual developers have to offer.

This is an area that I tend to give a lot of thought to. As "developers"
we really do more than just develop. We maintain and administer gh0stnet.
This is not a job. Participation is totally interest-based. I'm not one
to force people into doing something that they don't want to. If it
appears that the role you're taking in this project is not quite what you
want or what you expect, it's important that you speak up. I sacrifice a
lot of my free time for this but I don't neccessarily expect others to.
The project does have a well-defined vision/goal that I may be relatively
inflexible about, but not unapproachable. What I will be very wary of is
the inclusion of other individuals outside of my sphere of influence.
This is a delicate project from my standpoint, so I'm a little touchy as
to who deals with it. To have one person on board who doesn't quite see
the goal or has some other motives besides the prosperity of gh0stnet
would have a negative impact on the project. Stating this here serves no
other purpose than for you folks to be aware that I want a shiny, happy,
rosey environment in which I deal with people who I know and trust. Not
that I don't like contributions, but network management and planning
should pretty much be kept between us developers.

The most important part of getting this off the ground will be the
communication that goes on between all of us. Hopefully most of the
communication will be occurring on the gh0st.net box, courtesy of TF.
Toxy has also been threatening to start a mailing list and that sounds
kick ass to me. Natas, kp2, and I live in the same state and hopefully
we'll all be getting drunk together soon ; ).

<Next issue = Basic network structure && games>

*** Violence, Censorship, & Our Rights : Blakboot

[Editor's note: I've taken the liberty to publish this article by Fire
Storm's founding member in his absence. This article was (and still is)
available at <http://fire.gh0st.net/vcr.html>. It has not been edited from
its original form, except for formatting to fit the page, and minor
spelling corrections.]

To most of the people whom will read this, I have no credibility - why
should you listen to me? Well, because if you read any farther, I'm sure
you will find that I'm not writing about anything extreme; these are our

Recently, in retaliation to school violence, people are working to
suppress information pertaining to explosives; keep it out of the hands of
youngsters. Although, this movement is not focusing on just that, rather
make an exception to our rights, and quiet what we don't want people to
hear. You see, this country is based on tolerance. Some may be
prejudiced, but we as a whole, in this country, don't just go off destroy
the minority. We tolerate it, because if one day our rights are
threatened, we can count on other people to fight with us. It's about
power of people, and not everyone can get what they want - so we must be
tolerant, even if we don't totally agree with it.

The movement is contradicting itself. People want to educate the masses
into an objective whole, yet want to shut out information, and take the
philosophy, "Ignorance is bliss". We should work towards happiness,
because anyone can learn to KILL; bombs, guns, knives, etc. are beside
the point. People kill because of many reasons, and "now they can" isn't

The general public is quick to say that bombs, guns, and "outcasts" are
the reason for this school violence problem. Wrong. Students don't kill
just because they _can_, it's because, perhaps they're miserable? Perhaps
they're implementing the violence many students just think about? My
opinion is yes; I've even tempted to say majority by far think about
violence as an outlet.

"Wackos" just don't think about violence; everyone does and sometimes we
actually do what we plan. I'm not trying to justify what these people do,
but I'm saying this isn't just some isolated cases. Something is wrong.
I personally think it's new presures in society today and the school
enviroment. Keep in mind that the basic idea/concept of how school works
has never changed. This "concept" isn't education, it's the enviroment,
which is stressful and obviously causes violence. You may say something
to the effect, "Stress is a natural part of life". I agree with you, but
these are CHILDREN we're talking about, and they obviously can't cope.

Back on the subject of unalienable rights. If we make an exception,
we'll find ourselves taking away our own rights, _one_by_one_. There is
NO exception, these are our RIGHTS! There will always be someone you
disagree with, but you'd better respect THEIR freedom, if you want them to
respect YOUR freedom. Because one day, your thoughts may not fit in with
the majority.

End points:

People in the Untied States of America have the right of press; we can
write about anything and everything. If you dont like it, leave. See how
other goverments deal with these things, and tell me how much you hate

Leave and go to a country where you can't say jack, and tell me how much
you'd like to shut up those boisterous protestants. This issue isn't
something new. Censorship itself is an exception we've made, and it's

*** Future Issues

The gh0st.net Project (Part 2 of 2) : Phatal
Creating Restricted ("Sandboxed") User Accounts : Fict

*** Credits

Editor: Kynik <kynik@gh0st.net>
Co-editor: Ajax <ajax@gh0st.net>
Article Contributions: Phatal <phatal@gh0st.net>
Blakboot <blakboot@discussion.org>

*** Subscription

To subscribe to this 'zine:
email kynik@gh0st.net or napalmzine@hotmail.com with a subject of
To unsubscribe:
email kynik@gh0st.net or napalmzine@hotmail.com with a subject of

Submissions, questions, comments, and constructive chaos may also be
directed to kynik@gh0st.net, napalmzine@hotmail.com or any of
the contributors


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