Print 27 comment(s) - last by Oralen.. on Aug 10 at 9:09 AM

Why should we feel sorry for 4chan?

Mass media and blogosphere hysteria ensued after several ISPs (including AT&T) responded to customer complaints and blocked an IP address that was transmitting massive amounts of Denial of Service (DoS) traffic.  For something as routine and essential as blocking a malicious attack from a computer on the Internet, all hell broke loose late Sunday evening and early Monday morning because the IP address belonged to a popular image sharing site called 4chan whose members are infamous for perpetrating porn flooding pranks on YouTube as well as organizing DoS attacks against other websites.

WARNING: For those of you unfamiliar with 4chan and may be curious, 4chan is NOT SAFE FOR WORK (NSFW) due to the XXX images they host there so I would advise against looking them up on your work computer.

As a result of the defensive measures taken by the ISPs to protect their network and their customers, 4chan members cried foul and pumped up the story on digg.  Dailykos and even mainstream technology site PC World cried Net Neutrality foul all the while rejecting plausible explanations.  Ian Paul of PC World argued that “Even if it turns out AT&T’s decisions were legitimate, the appearance of censorship raises the contentious issue of Network Neutrality.”  Others even questioned why AT&T even has the power to block websites in the first place but this attitude stems from a lack of understanding of how networks and DoS attacks work.

When a DoS attack occurs, the victim being attacked can block the attack traffic but not before the attack has already jammed up and killed their Internet connection.  Only the network operator can block the attack far enough upstream that the network isn’t flooded.  This not only preserves the network for the direct victims of the DoS attack, it also keeps the network unclogged for everyone else.

It was clear early on from the North American Network Operators Group (NANOG) message boards that many ISPs were blocking 4chan IP addresses due to the massive amounts of DoS attack traffic coming from 4chan.  We’re talking about enough traffic that could fill up gigabit Ethernet links which is the equivalent of hundreds of broadband connections.  It turned that 4chan was being DoS attacked by others using spoofed (forged) addresses and 4chan in turn reflected the attack traffic onto other forced IP addresses of other victims many of whom were on AT&T’s network.

Note: 4chan and its members are infamous for openly organizing and launching many DoS attack campaigns against other websites so it should be no surprise to see so many reprisal attacks against 4chan.  Their members even went as far as pushing false stories up on that AT&T’s CEO was found dead outside of his home from cocaine overdose to deliberately drive AT&T’s stock down.

The owner of 4chan who goes by the handle “moot” (real identity Christopher Poole) even admits that their own equipment was harming AT&T customers with “errant traffic”.  As a former network engineer, I can explain that this only happens if you fail to lock down your own equipment.  Had 4chan configured their own equipment properly or resolved the issue sooner rather than blame others, this would have never happened.  But despite the admittance of fault, Poole claims that this “disproportionate response” from AT&T highlights the dangers of censorship and raises the need for Net Neutrality (which never had anything to do with censorship in the first place).

Christopher Poole is in effect no different from the long list of people who falsely claim to be victims of censorship and demand the passage of unrelated legislation.  In light of the 4chan’s active campaigning for DoS attacks against other websites, any “disproportionate” response against 4chan is that the response wasn’t heavy handed enough.  This particular story has an uncanny resemblance to the Craigslist versus Cox fiasco which was similarly misreported with fabricated news stories.  Craigslist could have fixed their own problem all along but they wanted to milk their victim status for all it was worth in the debate on Net Neutrality and eventually fixed the problem silently on their own end after the story died down.

Internet network operators routinely thwart thousands of these attacks every day by blocking IP addresses and no one ever cries foul.  Yet when one of the biggest prankster websites in the world gets blocked for spewing attack traffic; the blogosphere and even mainstream technology press slams AT&T even after it was clear that they were merely doing their job to protect their customers.  The only bright side of this fiasco is that it will hopefully serve as a real life lesson on how the Internet really works and that it really can't just be a "dumb pipe".

-- George Ou


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"Dump pipe"
By HaZaRd2K6 on 7/31/2009 10:08:17 PM , Rating: 5
how the Internet really works and that it really can't just be a "dumb pipe".

Of course not. It's more like a series of tubes.

RE: "Dump pipe"
By GeorgeOu on 8/1/09, Rating: -1
RE: "Dump pipe"
By HaZaRd2K6 on 8/1/2009 8:22:23 PM , Rating: 3
Sorry to burst your bubble, but I wasn't trolling. I was simply having a bit of fun at the expense of Paul Mah and Senator Ted Stevens.

And yes, I know I misspelled "dumb pipe" in the subject of my original post.

RE: "Dump pipe"
By GeorgeOu on 8/1/2009 10:46:15 PM , Rating: 1
Paul Mah is not the author, the editor made a mistake. I am the author of this article and here's an earlier version of it.

When I replied to you, I did not realize this attribution error. I'm still waiting for DT to correct this error.

George Ou
Digital Society - Policy Director

RE: "Dump pipe"
By xsilver on 8/2/2009 3:06:15 AM , Rating: 3

this is what the OP was referring to.
You'll find that here at DT the users try to entertain each other.

Not exactly trolling and if you dont find that clip funny - something is wrong with you :)

RE: "Dump pipe"
By Danish1 on 8/2/2009 7:36:01 AM , Rating: 2
haha that is awesome and exactly what you'd expect from politicans.


RE: "Dump pipe"
By NullSubroutine on 8/2/2009 2:46:59 PM , Rating: 2
OMG, never seen that clip the end I was crying.

RE: "Dump pipe"
By GeorgeOu on 8/2/09, Rating: 0
RE: "Dump pipe"
By MrBlastman on 8/3/2009 12:08:03 PM , Rating: 3
Lighten up dude. Despite my wildly different political stance than that of John Stewart, even I managed to laugh at that clip.

It was hilarious.

RE: "Dump pipe"
By Oralen on 8/10/2009 9:09:50 AM , Rating: 2
Dear George,

I have been reading your work for quite a long time, and it is with pleasure that I saw that you were now writing for Dailytech.

Your expertise, objectivity and your writing skills will get you a lot of fans on this site, especially considering some of your co-workers, like Jason Mick, have none of the above.

However, if I could just make one small criticism, I would say there is one thing you should really purchase as soon as possible.

A sense of humor.

Answering all aggressively and seriously to someone who was just making a joke does make you sound like...

Well, it does not do you much good, that's all...

And... Well if someone one day comment one of your article by saying: "All your base are belong to us", I can assure you he is not making a harsh political critic about Guantanamo, ok?

English is not my first language, as you may have guessed reading this post. But even I understood that the pipe/tube thing was just a joke.

RE: "Dump pipe"
By invidious on 8/6/2009 10:15:39 AM , Rating: 1
lol rtard

RE: "Dump pipe"
By jadeskye on 8/2/2009 11:12:48 AM , Rating: 2

4chan, saddo's/
By dark matter on 8/3/2009 2:35:39 AM , Rating: 2
huh, they need to grow up.

Shit site, frequented by inadequates. Wouldn't miss it if it fell of the face of the Earth.

If you rounded up those who use that website and put them all in a shed, and then set fire to that shed, no-one would give a fuck.

RE: 4chan, saddo's/
By WeaselITB on 8/3/2009 11:16:53 AM , Rating: 4
I'm sure someone would ... you just destroyed a perfectly good shed.

RE: 4chan, saddo's/
By Lerianis on 8/3/09, Rating: 0
RE: 4chan, saddo's/
By dark matter on 8/4/2009 6:10:35 AM , Rating: 2
Way to read into things I didn't write!

I never mentioned it was a porn site! Is it? Mmmm, sure it has pictures on there. It certainly isn't a porn site though. It is a picture bulletin board.

What makes you a "lesser" person by going there is the banal, repetitive postings of teenage lads yet to get laid...

I guess I am just all grown up and get to go out and sleep with women. One day young padawin, one day your time will come. (or maybe not if all you do is sit there all weekend on a 'porn site' saying such classic lines as "tits out")


RE: 4chan, saddo's/
By Chocobollz on 8/4/2009 10:33:01 AM , Rating: 2
So, you think you've grown up huh? Sadly, I would say you haven't. If you're truly a "grown ups" man, you must have already knew that someone's maturity is judged by their attitude and I don't think your attitude shows that you're an adult. When you "judge" someone as a "lesser" person just because they read some websites, then I can say you're still childish. An adults always try to respect others and not to "judge a book by its cover".

I never mentioned it was a porn site! Is it? Mmmm, sure it has pictures on there. It certainly isn't a porn site though. It is a picture bulletin board.

Sure you're not explicitely say it but still, if you actually read the article, that shouldn't be a surprise.

What makes you a "lesser" person by going there is the banal, repetitive postings of teenage lads yet to get laid..

I want to ask you, do they bother you when they're doing that? For God's sake, they're just kids, that's what they do.

I guess I am just all grown up and get to go out and sleep with women.

So, just because you get to go out and sleep with a woman, that makes you an adult? Please don't make me laugh LOL.

RE: 4chan, saddo's/
By invidious on 8/6/09, Rating: 0
By TomCorelis on 8/2/2009 3:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree that AT&T was ultimately in the right with how it (routinely) handled the 4chan attack, I disagree with your characterization (and seeming demonization) of 4chan and its administrators.

My main disagreement is how you characterized 4chan's server response: true, it did 'reflect' traffic back at a third party but that's only because the DDoS attack was styled in a way that caused 4chan's servers to try and handshake with third-party machines as part of what looked like legitimate traffic. As discussed on the NANOG mailing list, this was not a normal DDoS attack and the people who should be getting the blame and hatred are the ones who set the fake IP in the attack's forged packet headers.

I think, until the truth came out, that it was entirely reasonable to assume that AT&T's block was an act of censorship. Everything from its initial coyness when asked about 4chan to recent events in the past few years (stuff I've even written about: et al) led one to reasonably conclude it was an act of censorship. Granted, 4chan's patrons did not help -- shoving the censorship story down everyone's throats and all -- but, honestly, what is one supposed to think when a site known to have problems policing its users' conduct (who post kiddie porn for shits and giggles, though the moderators try and clean that up) gets censored by an ISP already known for bending over backwards to help government agencies?

It's very easy for spectators to extrapolate a doomsday or censorship scenario out of this, and for good reason. When an ISP has shown that it is willing to accommodate government censorship requests and now shown (to the world) that it has the means to do so, then we have reason to be concerned.

Also, DDoS is a favorite weapon of the *chan communities and the little wars that they start with each other, and 4chan quite often finds itself on the business end. I'd like to think that moot & Co. have some sort of countermeasures in place.

RE: Hmm
By TomCorelis on 8/2/2009 3:37:45 PM , Rating: 2
Additionally, as discussed on NANOG, I fully support the idea that ISPs should be blocking traffic with forged headers that they can detect. That might have at least partially prevented this kind of thing from happening in the first place.

RE: Hmm
By GeorgeOu on 8/3/2009 2:37:40 AM , Rating: 1
How am I unfair to 4chan? The site routinely organizes DoS attacks and porn floods. I didn't make that part up and 4chan has brought on a lot of these attacks.

My problem with 4chan's response the media's response is that EVEN AFTER the truth was acknowledged that AT&T was really defending against a DoS attack from 4chan, the media still cried foul that AT&T shouldn't be playing private cop. Yet those who cried censorship never bothered to look up the facts which were evident on NANOG the day they first reported the story. I am pointing out that ISPs have to play this role thousands of times a day to keep the Internet operational, and I'm pointing out that the media did a poor job reporting this.

Furthermore, 4chan is still trying to scream censorship even after admitting that their equipment attacked other people's networks yet they're crying about heavy handed tactics and censorship. The fact that 4chan is at fault through a combination of negligence and their own malicious acts towards other websites in the past means that they have no right to complain, and the media was wrong.

RE: Hmm
By invidious on 8/6/2009 10:58:09 AM , Rating: 2
No one wants to hear about your problems with 4chan, news is about reporting facts. If anyone has legal issues with 4chan they can take them up in court. Or if you really want to write about it, people will be much more willing to listen to you if you aren't cramming your bias down their throat while they read your blog. Present the facts in such a way that anyone who reads them would come to the same conclusion as yourself.

This is basic persuasive writing skills.

RE: Hmm
By sieistganzfett on 8/6/2009 6:35:04 PM , Rating: 2
by invidious on August 6, 2009 at 10:58 AM No one wants to hear about your problems with 4chan, news is about reporting anything that sounds good regardless of how screwed up it is or how much bull it is. . If anyone has legal issues with at&t blocking 4chan since they were flooding at&t's equipment/property they will take them up in court after blasting the news with a distortion of what happened . Or if you really want to write about it, people will be much more willing to listen to you if you only write something they agree with. Present the lies in such a way that anyone who reads them would come to the same conclusion. This is basic propaganda writing skills, there are wars over these things, people die because of it, and the only way to combat an opponent using it is to write better FUD.

More proof Emotions => Logic
By TheEinstein on 8/1/2009 12:25:44 PM , Rating: 3
It does not take Einstein to see the dumbing down even affects the Internet.

Logic has no place in society, nor apologies, admitting wrong doing, it's now a society of the loudest crier gets to call foul and the more quiet gets pummeled by the mob.

And the bitter irony is this is called the "Information Age"

RE: More proof Emotions => Logic
By invidious on 8/6/2009 11:05:24 AM , Rating: 2
Your wording on the first two paragraphs is confusing. But I like your 3rd point about the irony, I think that you are spot on there. Unfortunately the people who talk the most rarely know what they are talking about. And for some reason the masses assume the opposite.

Ignorance is truth.

By sieistganzfett on 8/6/2009 6:38:06 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, something like that. :D

By phantom505 on 8/6/2009 11:38:39 AM , Rating: 3
Who let George Ou blog here? I thought we were gunning for something a bit smarter than a pet rock.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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