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ICG Risk Blog - [ "Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down": just the tip of a new breed of hostile Navaho Talkers ]

"Two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down": just the tip of a new breed of hostile Navaho Talkers


Instant Messaging (IM) was not the first instant digital communication. Whereas Substitute terrorist, even criminal, for file-sharing pirate dealt with the leading edge of hostile COTS communication, we should not overlook the low end long used by innocents, criminals, and terrorists alike, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), wrapped in jackets of languages which we have difficulty in translating in any volume, e.g., Arabic, that employ cultural and religious alliterations to further obscure the writer's intentions.

Some history: Chat systems began to rise in 1984, on the Internet's predecessor, ARPANET, quickly coming to the attention of administrators concerned that the original intent of file transfers was being overwhelmed:

Around February of 1985, Henry Nussbacher sent a lengthy letter to every node administrator and technical contact in Bitnet which said "chats represent the most serious threat ever to the future of Bitnet" and that sites should hunt down and destroy any they found in existance.

Surviving, four chat Relays had been linked by June 1985, and matured into BITnet Relay Chat. Inspired by BITNet and early UNIX tools, Jarkko "WiZ" Oikarinen wrote the first IRC client and server at the University of Oulu, Finland in 1988. A Finish network arose, Funet, and was soon connected to the Scandinavian Nordunet. MIT was the first US user and, along with two other schools, launched a transatlantic link. By mid-1990, IRC averaged at 12 users on 38 servers.

IRC was designed from the onset as a means of instant communication via the net (not to be confused with the World Wide Web which also sits on the net), for group (one-to-many) communication in discussion forums called channels, but it also permits one-to-one communication.

A channel is a named group of one or more clients which will all receive messages addressed to that channel. The channel is created implicitly when the first client joins it, and the channel ceases to exist when the last client leaves it. While channel exists, any client can reference the channel using the name of the channel.

The result is a very flexible comm link that can be used on PCs and PDAs alike, the latter allows it to join cellphones in forming a redundant mobile command and control system. (Iraqi cell traffic rises whenever US convoys leave the Green Zone.) PC users generally use mIRC software while Mac users use Ircle. Mobile users have PalmIRC for Palm Pilots and SmartSoft for PocketPCs among others.

Part 2

U.S. Funds Chat-Room Surveillance Study
Associated Press
Posted on Mon, Oct. 11, 2004

CIA pumps capital into linguistics software
By Wilson P. Dizard III
April 9, 2004

Taming the Task of Checking for Terrorists' Names
New York Times
December 30, 2002
Original has scrolled to archive

Al-Jazeera offers accounts of 9/11 planning
September 12, 2002

Gordon Housworth

Cybersecurity Public  InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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