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January 18, 2005

Posted by Teresa at 10:42 PM * 48 comments

The headline says it all: Lapse at Melbourne IT Enabled Hijacking.

Comments on Aha!:
#1 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 12:09 AM: has an article Hijacking Causes Panic that includes some additional details. It appears that while there was indeed a failure at Melburne IT, Panix may well be not entirely blameless.

According to a couple of articles, including the Netcraft article, Panix officials insist that the domain had been registrar locked at the time of the hijack. However, George DeCarlo, vice president of marketing at Dotster (Panix's registrar), is reported in the article as saying that Panix did not sign onto Dotster's domain-locking service. According to at least one knowledgeable poster on NANOG, the domain, as of a month ago, was not locked. The fact that the domain wasn't locked doesn't absolve Melburne IT of failing to adequately authenticate a transfer request, but it does indicate that Panix may not have been as careful as they should have been.

#2 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 02:38 AM:

Nice piece at EWeek (successor to PC Week,1759,1751981,00.asp )
.....Have the new rules already failed, or have the registrars failed their customers?....

Reports are several domains were redirected. One source says "Almost 500,000 unique visitors were diverted yesterday to spyware"

Any thoughts from the international crowd about title and registry as systems for confirming ownership of intangibles cf. systems for land title?

A public audit trail for ownership and hosting transfers sounds nice. The registries auctioning expired and soon to expire domains just might put a registry in some conflict with its clients?

I expect spam offering domain title insurance real soon now.

#3 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 03:16 AM:

"the transfer of the domain from Dotster to Melbourne IT was initiated through an account at a Melbourne IT reseller, which was set up using stolen credit cards."

Whoa! For-real criminals did this one. I wonder why.

#4 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 04:14 AM:

I thought so. That's a corporate branch of my university. *is embarassed*

#5 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 04:14 AM:

Without disputing their designation as "for-real criminals," it would be quite foolish to pay for such an operation using your own credit line, and computer crackers have at least as much access to card numbers as people who are used to stealing actual physical money.

It wasn't that Dortmunder didn't like computers. You could fence them at the same discount as fur coats or DVD recorders, and a considerably better rate than large pieces of jewelry with names. What he found troubling was the unreality of computer money. Once upon a time, you robbed a store, or if you were large-minded, a bank, and you had a bag with paper in it. Everybody liked the paper, and took it happily. (One of Dortmunder's girlfriends called it "fungibility." The relationship didn't last long after that.) But the important thing was, you knew when you had the paper, you could put it in a box and open up the box to make sure it was still there. Somebody might steal the box -- it happened all the time -- but there were things to do about that, not all of them involving blunt instruments. The computer was a box, but you not only couldn't look inside it to see if the money was there, if the money wasn't there, nobody could tell Dortmunder exactly where it might have gone, or if it even still existed. The U.S. Government had a pretty good set of rules for replacing money that had unfortunately gotten a little burned or had to have unpleasant substances scrubbed off it. They were pretty nice about doing that, for the government. That didn't seem to be true with computer money. It was kind of like knocking over a jewelry store to steal the pretty reflections.

#6 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 08:43 AM:

Mike, you are amazing. Not that this is news to you, or even to me, but you really are. That's perfect.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 11:11 AM:

If I were Dotster, I'd hope to be able to claim that it was the customer's fault. I'll wait to see what Panix says about it.

The Dortmunder quote is indeed perfect. Thank you, Mike.

#8 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 11:30 AM:

I am now torn with doubt as to whether that is quote or pastiche.

#9 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Dotster isn't claiming that it's all Panix's fault. The procedure for
transferring *unlocked* domains involves notifying the customer and
the original registrar. That didn't happen. (The procedure for
transferring locked domains is "unlock it first", which also involves

(My understanding is second hand, culled from a weekend of reading
panix.questions. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

#10 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 12:22 PM:

Totally off topic, but I just followed some of your sidebar links and feel some warnings should be posted alongside them:

RE: One does not simply walk into mortor.

I had one guy come over into my cubicle wondering what the hell I was laughing at that was so funny. Several other nearby cube-mates were doing the "gopher-dance". good stuff that.

Re: basic flying rules for helicopters.

They forgot "rule number 1: never let go of the stick", but I suppose "avoid the edges" sort of trumps that.

Many thanks! I needed the laugh.

#11 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 12:36 PM:

Giant bears that shoot laser beams from their eyes were a uhm-er distinctive element of a particular indie RPG, still well remembered among those of us who were there at the time for its awesome awesomelessness. Could be pure coincidence, of course.

#12 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 01:15 PM:

_Metamorphosis Alpha_ had bipedal wolves that shot radiation from their eyes, which would really suck if your were a hard-working elk just out to earn an honest day's fodder and make it through the day without hair loss or skin tumors.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 01:26 PM:

Ah, I fondly remember the silly monsters our local DMs came up with: the Fire-Breathing Hobbit, the Molotov Cocktroll (a troll that explodes when you kill it)...I'm not sure if the Finger-Joint Shooting Skeletons were original, but I'm pretty sure the Toe-Joint version was; they were called MissleToes.

Then there was the Wing, which was nothing but a great big...wing. It wasn't particularly dangerous, but it was completely indestructible, so there was no way to kill it for Experience Points. An example of a TWP, or Time Wasting Pimp.

They were always creating some silly variation that wasn't as dangerous or valuable, so that the players would waste time being careful and trying to kill the thing, instead of ignoring it. One more example: there was a standard critter called an Umber Hulk, which had some kind of mindcontrol spell, I don't remember what. My local DMs invented the Lumber Hulk, which had Control Plants.

OK, time to stop. Fond memories triggered, that's all.

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 01:58 PM:

Whoops. This all should be under Open Thread 35.

#15 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2005, 09:58 PM:

Vassilissa wrote:

>I thought so. That's a corporate branch of my university. *is embarassed*

I think the link to Melbourne Uni is long gone, so you're off the hook.

As someone who's contracted there twice now, I guess I should be embarassed. But I think I'll just put it all out of my mind.

#16 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 12:40 AM:

Theft of intangibles is not new--look at the amount of fighting and delays in publishing in the scientific world occurs over whose name goes first on a paper/book/study! There were some important ones held up for -years- over such disputes!

That's a subset of what might be called "fame-stealing" or "fame assigning" or other such things.

Another related example--I heard an NPR interview with a woman whose job is getting permission from people for them to appear identifiable on e.g. American's Dumbest Criminals. The reasons the people agree range from plain old financial remuneration, to their time unit of fame, to the comments made by a DUI offender who tried to bribe the arresting police officer with sex, she wanted the video public and a copy of it for herself as a tangible reminder she could playback anytime she was tempted to touch alcohol again, to show herself just how utterly depraved and disgusting she got when drinking, so she would NOT do so again.

But anyway, the lure of being of focused on and getting that -fame- and exposure, acted as a powerful incentive.

#17 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 12:58 AM:

MelbourneIT was not as merely clueless as the article makes out. When Alexis finally did reach the president's cell phone, all he got was a return call from the corporate attorney saying that they weren't going to do anything about it.

Likewise, Verislime was notified unforgeably (personal contact by personally-known people to their NOC), and they also refused to return the domain.

#18 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 02:10 PM:

Seth -- is the president of Melbourne IT clueful? (He should be, but is he?) That sounds like standard behavior of a non-geek CEO bothered about geek matters on a weekend (at least if the botherer isn't someone who can drop a hammer on the CEO's company). If MeIT was spun off from a university, who knows what kind of management it was left with?

#19 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 04:03 PM:

Chip: From reports on NANOG, MIT's CTO, at least, appears to be a stand-up guy. The CEO...well, what do you think?

(Yes, I know that I am not the Seth from whom you expected a response, I just couldn't resist. Mr. Breidbart has gotten mail intended for me on at least one occasion, and vice versa. The first time we met in person, I was disappointed to find that we did not mutually annihilate in a shower of gamma rays.)

#20 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 05:39 PM:

Metal Fatigue: I think you support my point. Seth was damning the company for the actions of clueless top management. (Yes, it's nice when the CEO is responsible -- consider the round of idiot-CEO trials coming up -- but if the CTO is a standup guy it seems unlikely to me that the company as such could have committed a geek crime.)

#21 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 05:44 PM:

> Seth -- is the president of Melbourne IT clueful?

I'm not Seth either, but my impression was always that there was a disconnect between techies and management there. The tech people I worked with were serious and straightforward, while the management layer were the sort of people who went on about "Corporate Excellence" and "World Class Services" and so on.

#22 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 05:45 PM:

I can't be objective on this. I bought the domain name:

in late January 1996, from Verisign. I planned to use it for my business, and for my Mystery Writers part of my web domain. Then I had to shut down my 3-room office from which I ran Sherlock Holmes Resume Service (partner bailed on me, who'd split the rent).

So I changed the snailmail address on my domain registration to my home address, and Verisign agreed. End of the year, they snailmailed to my old office, and I never got that. Next thing I know, the domain name's scopped up by some obsessed fan who'd legally changed his name to Sherlock Holmes (you know, like that guy who comes to cons and shows you that his driver's license in in his legal name: James T. Kirk).

I could never get it back. So I have to use:

which just doesn't have the name-recognition and marketing pizazz. Not domainjacking. Just that Verisign never cared then, and doesn't care now.

#23 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2005, 06:59 PM:

JVP wrote:
So I changed the snailmail address on my domain registration to my home address, and Verisign agreed. End of the year, they snailmailed to my old office, and I never got that. Next thing I know, the domain name's scopped up

Changing the address on your domain registration does NOT automatically mean your billing address is updated accordingly. This sort of thing was unfortunately all too common with verisign at the time...

This is either a bug, or a feature, depending on how you look at the situation.

#24 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2005, 07:43 PM:

Failure to give a rat's ass is a geek crime, that is to say, a behavior that geeks hold to be criminal.

#25 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2005, 11:44 PM:

another version or perhaps location for "One Does Not Simply Walk....

One Does Not Simply Walk Into Mordor

Bonus points for one of the better views of what my daughter & her girlfriends call "Oh look, it's Elijah Wood being asked a really hard math question". (Their casting question: why is Frodo so pretty when the other hobbits are so normal looking?)

#26 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2005, 12:55 AM:

Liz --

There were three original tribes, or peoples, or whichever, of hobbits; Stoors, Harfoots, and Fallowhides.

After they stopped wandering around Wilderland, got over the Misty Mountains, and settled down in the Shire, these tribal distinctions mostly went away, but some of the older prominent families retained some of the characteristics thereof.

The important one for this purpose is that the Tooks retain a strong Fallowhide strain -- meaning that they tend to be thin (for Hobbits), 'bookish', 'pro-elvish interests' like book-learning and the lore of strangers, and pretty, rather than being robust or handsome -- and that Frodo has a lot of Took in him that, well, took.

So they cast Frodo to look outright Elvish, to go with the way he's described at various points.

Alternatively, most of the production was in the hands of rabid fangirls and they wanted Frodo to be really cute.

In the end, I think the second supposition has the better support on the basis of available evidence.

#27 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2005, 05:52 PM:

There is a Seth Breidbart Ph.D Yale, BA and MA Harvard aka "Seth of the Lunarians" in Fallen Angels aka Seth of "Kill Seth! Kill Seth! Kill Seth!" I know, is that the fellow being referred to as "Mr Breidbart"???

Mutually annihilate in gamma rays? Naw, much too mundane and no abstruse math involved.... [Seth is a Math Geek, but doesn't show it generally as publically as some people do....]

#28 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2005, 07:17 PM:

Graydon: given that Pippin is also a Took, I, too, am inclined to follow your second hypothesis.

Paula: yes. The math is not abstruse, however: simply add our masses and multiply by the square of the speed of light in a vacuum.

#29 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Oh, and my apologies for the solecism, Dr. Breidbart.

#30 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2005, 07:19 PM:

Paula: Yes.

#32 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2005, 01:46 AM:

A fairly lightweight local newspaper story on your recent ISP transfer troubles. (No, they couldn't resist the panix pun either. Did the name come from something like Public Access Network ... ix? ... er Number Nine??)

Merry chase but no need to Panix
The hijacking of a domain name led to some swift phone calls across the world, writes Sam Varghese.

#33 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2005, 11:14 AM:

Metal Fatigue: you are the anti-Seth? (I will leave aside a theological discussion about whether that necessarily makes you Osiris.) Perhaps you could supply antisethtics for the raffle at Lunacon. (No, seriously, Seth buys a lot of tickets and thus contributes lots of money to the cause. Whatever it is.)

At any rate, I think you actually agree with Paula, who was saying that mutual annihilation would be too mundane, and not involve sufficient abstruse math, to be the end of the Seth and the Anti-Seth.

I suggest that what actually happened when you met in the flesh is that each of you generated a virtual self, which changed places with the corresponding self of the other, and that the originals were, in fact, annihilated and replaced with the virtuals, not that it matters (npi), since they are identical in every respect. To a casual observer it would appear that you passed close to each other (or perhaps through each other, but no such observation has been reported in the Journal of Sethology) with no ill effects, whereas actually mutual annihilation was, in fact, achieved, but the matter generated was exactly equal to the energy released (minus a bit for entropy; I assume you felt somewhat tired after this event).

The abstruse math is left to the reader. If Catherine Asaro is out there, no doubt she can correct my physics (which is a little rusty, since I haven't studied it since about 1972).

#34 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2005, 01:30 PM:

Xopher and Metal Fatigue:

re: "The abstruse math is left to the reader. If Catherine Asaro is out there, no doubt she can correct my physics (which is a little rusty, since I haven't studied it since about 1972)."

I will avoid abusing readers with Math and Physics, except to point out the current controversy about information being lost or not lost in Black Holes (Stephen Hawking admitting he was wrong, etc.). For our purposes, if Seth fell into a black hole, and Metal Fatigue did not, but Seth & anti-Seth are quantum entangled, then what happens to their blog postings? This being the Einstein Wonderyear Centenary, the International Year of Physics, and all that, there's a Nobel Prize in Blogology waiting for the right person here...

#35 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 12:19 AM:

Epacris: panix I think came from "public access network *ix", inasmuch as most Unix variants of the time were called something ending in -ix (Ultrix, AIX, etc) and were generically called *ix.

#36 ::: Scott Spiegelberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 03:41 PM:

I heard a story on NPR that the US government was upset with Panix for refusing to turn over customer lists, or something like that. Is anyone here familiar with that story? I hate to feel paranoid.

#37 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 05:46 PM:

All together now: Why can we be sure that the US Gummint wasn't behind the Panix hijacking?

The Netland a Capella Chorus: It happened, didn't it?

#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 06:15 PM:

John M. Ford:

"How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?"
-- Sherlock Holmes

#39 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 06:42 PM:

There is no cabal.

#40 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 07:01 PM:

A memory just surfaced from long ago, wherein at the end of a party at a convention, Mr Ford made a reference to the poem about Dr Edward Anti-Teller, that failed to elicit comprehension/recognition on the part of both TNH and PNH.

#41 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2005, 08:22 PM:

Paula Lieberman:

Of course, that was a boom-time for poetry...

#42 ::: Bruce Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2005, 07:21 PM:

Yes, Dr. Edward Anti-Teller, "sitting, knitting macassars for his chairs." Can't remember the name of the poem but it's reprinted by Martin Gardner in one of the Annotated Alice books...

#43 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2005, 11:53 AM:

See also recent discussions on phishing morphs to pharming - The Register and all the usual suspects

Gerhard Eschelbeck, CTO of Qualys, cited the recent hijack of New York ISP Panix as typical of the type of threat that might emerge. Eschelbeck reckons the use of redirection attacks remains largely the domain of mischief makers. Other security commentators ascribe darker motives. "Pharming is a next-generation phishing attack," Scott Chasin, CTO of MX Logic, told Government Computer News.

#44 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2005, 09:00 AM:

The -ix name in the earlier waves of ISPs often stands for 'Internet Exchange'. I know this is true of 'CIX' (Commercial Internet Exchange) and 'LINX' (London INternet Exchange), at least. May or may not hold in the panix case, though.

#45 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 01:57 AM:

Sorry I was away for a while.

As mentioned, it appears that the CEO of MelbourneIT is clueless, the CTO clueful. The company deserves damnation for the actions of its top manglement; they're the ones responsible for (in any number of cases) driving it into the ground.

Metal Fatigue, I seldom use the title in polite conversation, at least in the US. When I do use it here, it's either in a (very) professional situation, or insulting. I like the (implied) attitude of the Yale faculty on the topic: "Of course I have a doctorate. Doesn't everybody?"

Paula, I don't have an MA from Harvard, my first degree there is an SM. (Advanced degrees there are in Latin.)

Xopher, the Lunacon book raffle money goes to Clarion scholarships.

"Panix" originally stood for "Public Access Unix".

#46 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2005, 09:42 PM:

Seth: Paula, I don't have an MA from Harvard, my first degree there is an SM. (Advanced degrees there are in Latin.)

When we were there, all the degrees were \named/ in Latin. (Don't ask me what the diploma said; I have no idea where mine is.) People are occasionally amused that I have an AB in Chemistry (because SB was awarded only for extra-heavy concentration in ]sciences[).

I may have been too drowned to remember (it rained buckets on my commencement), but IIRC Yale (alma mater of my sister the traditionalist) outclassed Harvard in two particulars, neither of them involving large friendly letters: one set of degrees (business? law?) were conferred in the future tense (indicative, not subjunctive) due to a calendar glitch, and the PhDs were conferred in Latin.

And if you want to start a fight, try contradicting a woman of about our classes about which college her degree is from....

#47 ::: Metal Fatigue ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2005, 02:56 AM:

My degree from Columbia is technically an MES: Magistri in Explanationibus Stultis. I usually anglicize it to MSE, though.

#48 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2005, 01:29 AM:

I just checked my diplomas. I have a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and a Magistri in Scientia from Universitas Harvardiana (not in that order).

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