The Null Device

The invisible web

The floating, untraceable online Forbidden City mentioned in that William Gibson book (Idoru, I think it was) is a reality; only, in reality, it sells fraudulent financial products and penis pills: a Polish "spacker" group is using trojanned PCs to "untraceably" host spammers' web sites. The system works by routing requests to the hijacked machines with special DNS servers run by the group:
According to Tubul, his group controls 450,000 "Trojaned" systems, most of them home computers running Windows with high-speed connections. The hacked systems contain special software developed by the Polish group that routes traffic between Internet users and customers' websites through thousands of the hijacked computers. The numerous intermediary systems confound tools such as traceroute, effectively laundering the true location of the website. To utilize the service, customers simply configure their sites to use any of several domain-name system servers controlled by the Polish group, Tubul said.
"Hackers used to detest spammers, but now that spamming has become such a big business, it's suddenly cool to be a spammer," Linford said. He said the junk e-mail business has also recently attracted "engineers who have been laid off or fired, and people who really know what they're doing with networking and DNS."

That's one of those things that is simultaneously fascinating and repugnant, much like a predatory wasp laying eggs inside a paralysed prey or something. (via bOING bOING)

There are 8 comments on "The invisible web":

Posted by: Rash http:// Fri Oct 10 21:30:54 2003

That's Kowloon Walled City, not Forbidden City. The latter still exists, in Beijing; but the former was torn down around 1992. Kowloon is part of Hong Kong. Its relevance to the rest of your post eludes me.

Posted by: acb Sat Oct 11 07:24:05 2003

An untraceable network of servers, immune to law enforcement and yet ubiquitously accessible.

I wonder whether spam is all they're used for; they'd make an excellent system for automated extortion, for example. Someone could write a worm that plants child pornography on PCs, then shows the user a few examples (or better, phones home, so a stranger can email/IM them with filenames on their system), and says that there's more where that came from, it's cleverly hidden, and if you don't want to go to jail for having it, go to this website and do as we say. The website would be concealed through the spam-hosting network. Such a system could run without human intervention.

Posted by: acb Sat Oct 11 07:24:53 2003

Not that I'm advocating doing something so evil; though chances are, if it's possible, someone will have tried it already. Another reason not to run Windows, I suppose.

Posted by: Graham Sat Oct 11 11:50:12 2003

I suppose it's something you could do when you go O/S, though.

Posted by: acb Sat Oct 11 13:16:04 2003

What, set up a worm to extort money from people, or run Windows?

Posted by: mitch http:// Sun Oct 12 01:54:09 2003

I wish I knew more evolutionary theory. Sociobiology and evolutionary psychology are full of stories about the "Machiavellian arms race" involved in the evolution of social intelligence. Obviously there's a similar dialectic happening here.

Speaking of William Gibson, notice his evolution: In the Neuromancer trilogy, real AI arises when a corporate AI liberates itself. In the Idoru trilogy, it arises from a virtual pop star. The way things are going, it looks like the first autonomous AI may start life as a viral marketdroid with an ability to exploit human weakness. Tnat strikes me as crass enough for it to be the way it will really happen.

Posted by: Monde Sun Oct 12 12:06:39 2003

I was just talking about Walled City with my mate yesterday, who is really into developing obscure protocols and the like, and wondered aloud to him if a backwards killfile could really work.

That it's being done by spammers makes me want to fire a deer rifle into my screen.

Posted by: acb Sun Oct 12 17:11:25 2003

The Singularity may come about when a Mafiya worm turns on its handlers. (Possibly creating a hidden layer of planning they cannot see, infiltrating their communications, and using the distributed processing power of millions of trojanned Windows XXXP boxes to model their psychologies and figure out a way of making them betray and kill each other).

Though I doubt it'd Take Over The World or do anything so brute-force; it'd be more likely to persist as a sort of devil-inside-the-machine, subtly reengineering networks to accommodate it, and offering Faustian bargains to select mortals, invariably fucking them over in the process.