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


Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

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.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

Most Popular ArticlesSmartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
UN Meeting to Tackle Antimicrobial Resistance
September 21, 2016, 9:52 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM
5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Update: Problem-Free Galaxy Note7s CPSC Approved
September 22, 2016, 5:30 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki