Nyx spider (hacker) attack 4/97

[Text of message displayed to all web page hits on any www.nyx.net web page during the attack.]


To all Nyx users and spider, from Andrew Burt (Nyx admin):

Nyx is currently under attack from a spider (hacker). I don't know when I'll be able to get Nyx back up. Here are the facts:

1. The first sign of trouble was on Monday, 14-Apr-97, about 1:00 PM MDT, when I noticed a command removing all files on Nox. I killed off that command (knowing it was a spider (hacker), but figuring it was perhaps accidental). I was wrong. It was malicious: Moments later, the same command was restarted, but after the system was crippled so I'd be unable to stop it. The same commands were started on all four Nyx machines. Certainly not an accident. Key files were targeted with the specific intent of crippling all the machines while the files were removed. Before I got the machines shut down, huge numbers of files were removed all four systems; none would boot, etc. This was pre-meditated and savage. "Cybercide" is a word that comes to mind.

2. I have no idea who did this and no idea why. None whatsoever. To spider: If you're trying to make a point, whoever you are, I have no idea what it is, since I haven't a clue what your beef against Nyx is. I can only assume you're a very lonely individual who's been roughed up by life and your only way to feel good is to destroy a system that helps a heck of a lot of people, stands for the Hacker Ethic, free speech, and most of the same ideals that hackers say they stand for. Nyx is open to everyone, for free, with very little restraint placed on what users can do -- the only restraints being those that permit the system to continue to run for everyone's benefit. Nyx is about as hard to crack into as stealing candy from a baby, so there's no challenge here. Or perhaps I angered you, but I have no idea what I did, so if this is in protest/revenge, it's not meeting that goal, since I have no idea what the problem is. (Spider: I mean, consider the character of Paul Lazzaro in Slaughterhouse Five. He wants revenge on everyone, but he wants them to know it's _his_ revenge. "That's _me_ in there with those knives," he says.)

3. Nyx's return to life is complicated by our backup situation: Nyx has a lot of disk space, and no tape drive of its own. We borrow one from the university, so our backups are on as-time-permits basis; many disks are not backed up at all. Thus many of the backups were months old or nonexistent. After we move and are 100% on our own, this will change, and we will set up regular backups. But this is the situation right now: old, incomplete backups.

4. I began the restoration process. I spent most of the rest of Monday, all day Tuesday, and Wednesday morning on this. I had most of the files restored/recreated (barring what was just plain lost forever). During this process, Nyx was broken into again (enough of the system was up so I could log in and do work) and it all started again.

5. I don't have time for this. I operate Nyx as a hobby, and have, grand total, no more than five hours a week to spend on Nyx (in a good week). Most of that recently has been spent working on getting Nyx on her own feet -- looking at office space, forming a non-profit corporation, arranging phone lines, raising funds, and a myriad other tasks that are extraordinarily time consuming. In a good week I wouldn't have time to play with a spider. I know some spiders think I'm some well known computer security guy and wouldn't it be fun to play. If I had nothing else to do, maybe it would be -- but while you might have all day with nothing else to do, I work. I do several very time-consuming things, and Nyx can never have more than a few hours a week, in the best of times. Right now, I don't even have that time at all. For the near future, I have about one hour a week of "Nyx time", and I have to spend that on paperwork/etc. stuff for the move. I have absolutely NO TIME to do anything with Nyx vis-a-vis system administration. Period. None. Nada. Zero. Tearing a system down takes so much less time than building/fixing one -- on the order of 100 or 1000 times less (e.g., for one minute damaging Nyx, I might have to spend hours or days fixing it). It's an unfair fight and I can't compete, it's that simple. What do you want me to say, "you win"? Sure. It's not a fair contest, so you win.

6. Nyx will stay down for a while. I first figured, ok, spider, you've had your fun. But kicking a system while it's still down clearly implies that I'm not going to be able to get Nyx back up until you've decided this baby has had its brains bashed in enough. (Yes, Nyx is defenseless just like an infant, and your actions are as impressive as taking a hammer to a baby's head.) I will continue to work on the incorporation issues and all that other time consuming stuff. This means that Nyx will stay down until (a) you [spider] magnanimously inform me that you're allowing Nyx to operate and (b) I get the time to rebuild the systems again. This may be a week, a month, six months, I don't know.

7. We will be back. Eventually we'll be in our own office space where people other than me can gain physical access, so more folks than just me can work on restoration, but that's months off. If we have to wait that long, we will, but I hope we won't.) Anyway, WE WILL BE BACK, don't anyone worry about that. WE WILL BE BACK. I won't let some sorry spider kill Nyx because he can't hack real systems. (I mean, if he could hack the NSA, he would, right?) But it may take a while before we're back. Keep checking this spot for updates (and alt.online-service.nyx for those who can).

8. We'll be even better. Being free of DU will enable us to do lots of things we couldn't before, so we'll be better than before when we're back. And we're attracting some high-profile users, too. For example, some of you know I'm a science fiction writer. One project will have us as the home of an on-line, professional science fiction e-zine. (Not meant as a commercial venture, but to bring famous SF writers to the net.) Right now, they're suffering along with everyone else.

9. Nyx still needs your donations -- in fact, we need them more than ever, since, not being up, I can't keep communicating with you all to tell how things are going with the move, etc. [To spider: Perhaps you feel Nyx is selling out or something. But look up the words "non profit". We will continue to be a donation funded, nobody-makes-any-money outfit. We will continue to stand for the ideals of free speech and free access that makes Nyx unique on the net. (Yes, spider, unique. Don't figure anyone else will pour as much time into something like Nyx purely because he believes in it. Nyx has been around for ten years, and what other system is as free as Nyx? Hell, I don't know, maybe this is being done by some ISP who's afraid of Nyx and what it stands for.) So, we need your donations. Send checks, payable to "Nyx Net", with your Nyx usercode in the "memo" field, to:

                Nyx Net
                c/o Prof. Andrew Burt
                Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
                University of Denver
                Denver, CO 80208

This attack is *seriously* hurting our fund raising (we have $5,000 out of $20,000 needed by May 31st) so please send your contributions.

10. Bottom line: To Nyx users: We'll be back, please give us time, and be generous with donations if you can be. As for a place to discuss what's happening, we can use alt.online-service.nyx (assuming you have other net access; I'm sorry for the those who don't).

To the spider: Get in touch with me, by mail to aburt@du.edu [proving you're you, of course] so we can iron this out.

As Billy Pilgrim says in the aforementioned Slaughterhouse Five, "So it goes."