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   Chat network ban: lessons in defective communication

By Julian Matthews
September 24, 1999

On August 16, when Malaysian Internet users were conditionally banned from accessing the Undernet, a popular chat network, the news was greeted with little surprise.

Malaysians chatters were notorious for being regularly banned, or in chat parlance, k-lined, from other networks including DALnet and EFnet.

The bans were typically imposed for abuses to the acceptable use policies of these networks--usually for attempts to disrupt or eliminate conversation or to harass other chatters, or for deliberate attacks to bring down chat servers.

Last week, local Internet Service Provider Jaring claimed it had identified the source of the abuse as coming from a single group of users from a local university. The hackers apparently broke into and compromised 38 local servers and up to 30 foreign servers, and used these as launch pads for the chat abuses and network attacks.

Jaring has since informed the server owners to secure their networks and waved the big stick by suspending 14 subscribers' accounts and warning 160 others. But even as the perpetrators are being brought to book, the incident has pushed several issues to the fore.

Why was the abuse allowed to go on for so long with no action taken even though both local ISPs, Jaring and TMnet have indicated that they were aware of it? When the ban was first imposed, claimed it had attempted for over two years to negotiate in good faith with the two ISPs, with no positive results to curb the abuse.

In its defence, Jaring's owner Mimos Berhad maintained that it had not been contacted by prior to the ban. "Our investigation indicated that neither the Jaring Abuse Team nor MyCERT (the Internet security watchdog) ever received such complaints from Undernet administrators until August 16," said Mimos vice president Dr Mohamed Awang-Lah.

Dr Mohamed said that every complainant automatically receives a ticket number for tracking purposes, and Undernet was unable to furnish ticket numbers or copies of previous complaints as proof. "Irrespective of the past miscommunication, we took its recent complaint very seriously and opened direct communication channels between us and the Undernet administrators," he said.


Julian Matthews is the Malaysian correspondent for CNET Malaysia. Email us your comments.


Chat network ban

72-hour deadline

A unanimous vote

An ISP divided

Chronology Of Events

Aug 16
IRC network blocks all Malaysian users from accessing its 41-server global network after prior warning to administrators of TMnet and Jaring of 72-hour conditional ban. Jaring responds same day.

Aug 17
Jaring sends proposal to for abuse management.

Aug 19
TMnet issues notice to users that it is unable to resolve problem with Undernet chat access and suggests that users use alternative IRC networks.

Aug 20
Malaysian domain branded as "the most abusive" in the world by's North American abuse coordinator.

Aug 21
Ban on Jaring users lifted.

Aug 23 receives appeal from TMnet to lift ban and its offer to host local server. Earlier email from TMnet staff was misdirected and proof of senders was not properly ascertained.


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