Adventures in Coding, 1 . 0!

net_noob_kid

I admit this up front – I’m not a hacker.  That said, I never claimed to be one…the people that get all the flack are the ones who call themselves “hackers” and don’t know shit.

Some would probably say, “Then what the hell are you doing on the dark web?”  I think of that as part of my education (negative experiences included).

Notwithstanding, it may or may not surprise you that I’m in the process of learning to code (or as I called it when I was a kid, “programming”).  At that time (around age 12) I was learning BASIC, which seems outdated now, but was a great introduction to the concept of coding.  As a matter of fact, in some ways, it was more difficult than the coding I’m learning at the moment.

qbasic_program

 

Back then, there weren’t any little “error notifications” telling you that you had written invalid code until you actually ran the program.  And sometimes, even then, the error messages weren’t all that helpful. This is one of the games that was included with the QBASIC, called Gorillas. Real Xbox One stuff, huh?

qbasic_gorillas.png

OK, it may not look that impressive, but now that I’m working with code again, those early lessons are coming back to me.  Despite the fact that all coding languages have differences, they do have some things in common.  I have fond memories of a text-based RPG game I created back then, in which you would fight against different opponents using a list of spells, like “fire,” “ice,” and “earth.”  The outcome was decided by some kind of random number generator.

When the fight actually took place, two stick figures would shoot the “spells” at each other (which were basically just colored circles).  It looked a lot like this:

jkfight2_small

Hey, if we had never had ATARI or Odyssey, we wouldn’t have Xbox and PS4 now, right?  As I’m sure my hacker and coder friends know, you do have to start somewhere; you weren’t born knowing how to code.

Coding Once More!!

Currently, I’m using several self-directed learning platforms, including freeCodeCampCodePen, and Codewars.  Through freeCodeCamp, in particular, I’ve learned a lot more HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, Bootstrap, and Javascript than I had ever known before.

freeCodeCamp makes the process of learning fun and informative, and while I occasionally get stuck (as most coders do at some point), it’s those moments that make it all the more satisfying when you figure them out.

One of the Javascript lessons, for example, had you create a simple “mad libs” type game called Word Blanks:

freecodecamp_wordB.png

As simple as it may look, it took a while to get the code exactly right, so it was extremely satisfying when it worked properly (which is like a small orgasm for a coder).

I’ve only just begun on some of these other learning platforms, but CodePen is more like a coding portfolio site.  When you create an original program of some sort, you can save the code on there.

Codewars, on the other hand, is a collective coding platform where the authors learn various techniques from each other.  That one I’ve literally just started using, and I haven’t advanced all that far yet.

Given that I not only like coding, but also cheesy martial arts movies from the ’70s and martial arts in general, it’s the perfect crossover of the two!!

20150702_codewars

 For the people who are accustomed to sites like freeCodeCamp, however, Codewars may seem a bit more advanced.  On the former, especially on the earlier challenges, some of the code is done for you.

This is sometimes the case on Codewars, but other times you’ll have to do the entire function from scratch.  There’s a lot of variation.

Anyhow, all this is to say that while it has its frustrations, the process of learning to code is very amazing, and overall, it’s a great method of learning to think in a more abstract way.

As for how this relates to the dark web, I’ll say this: it’s much less intimidating if you know your coding, although people there tend to be on the much more advanced side.

So…watch your back, readers.

 

 

 

Who Would Hack WritersCafe.org?

This may sound a bit random, but besides working on this blog, I’m an avid writer of poetry (and sometimes prose).

One of the sites I was writing on with regularity for a while was WritersCafe.org, which is known for poetry, stories, and occasionally articles and blog posts.  Nonetheless, I hadn’t used it for some time, and decided to log into it yesterday.

Immediately, I noticed something was off. The site has a news feed (much like Facebook or other social media sites), on which people post new poems, etc.  Often, when I tried to click on one of the new poems, I would be redirected to another site with intrusive ads on it (or worse).

Beyond that, however, I noticed other strange things.  The news feed usually announces new poems and stories that people have posted, or new members that have joined.  While looking through the feed, there appeared to be a number of fake “people” that had “joined” the site (kind of like spam profiles on Facebook or Tinder).  Some of them even featured partial nudity in the profile photos (which is uncommon):

 

WC_spam_profile2

I would not suggest clicking the “Download” button.

 

WC_spam_profile1

I must be your friend?  I think I’ll pass.

Also, some of these so-called “profiles” were posting fake “poems” that were also spam ads:

WC_spam_poem

According to my research, these ads were served by Revdepo.com, which is used by the RevenueHits ad network.  Specifically, the malicious site was cdn1.srv.revdepo.com (please don’t click that link; it’s a pain in the ass.)  If you accidentally (or purposely) clicked the links on some of these pages, you would be redirected to a site connected with that ad network in some way.

It seems to be a form of adware which, while annoying, isn’t going to be stealing my bank credentials or sending SWAT teams to my house (in theory).

Another oddity: WritersCafe.org does normally have banner ads, but generally they use something like Google AdSense.  Be that as it may, even the normal Google Ads appeared to have been hijacked.

 

google_ad_hijacked

Overall, it wasn’t a big deal, and I was actually able to block most of the adware with some of the plugins I’ve reviewed in previous posts (like Privacy Badger and Adblock Fast)!

It does, however, make me wonder what other sites have been hijacked by this particular form of adware.  And it also makes me wary, because I know that there are much worse forms of malware out there.

I’ll say this – if you’re a webmaster of any sort, keep an eye out for this adware (and other, more malicious types).  It’s not the most harmful one by any means, but it’s a real pain in the ass for your visitors!!

Hey, at least this wasn’t CSI: Cyber; then there might be two codes on top of each other!

 

 

 

 

AdvOR: If the Tor Browser Gets Too Easy!

Boy, and you thought the dark web was complicated!  I mean, just look at it:

Hack-attacks

Note: This is not the dark web.

I’ve said in earlier posts that it seems the standard Tor browser is designed for general use (by the average internet user).  Other networks, like Freenet and I2P, may require slightly more knowledge of networking (depending on how deep you want to dig).

So, along comes AdvOR (Advanced Onion Router), a free portable Tor proxy server for those who essentially got bored with the Tor Browser and wanted a bit more configuration ability.  It was actually released in 2014, so I confess I’m a little late to the game; nevertheless, I’m getting caught up.

(I bet ya boi Takedownman couldn’t figure out how to use this one, though.  Har har har!)

advor_screen_7

The interface is exactly like that; it looks pretty, doesn’t it?  (Well, maybe if you’re really fond of gray.)  In essence, it’s a portable client for the Tor network, and is intended to be a replacement for the Tor+Vidalia+Privoxy bundle (Vidalia is no longer available).  AdvOR can be downloaded at this link: https://sourceforge.net/projects/advtor/

To connect to the OR network, just click the “Connect” button there.  As on the standard Tor browser, you can select a new identity (a three-hop circuit over which your traffic travels through the network).  Click the “New identity” button at the bottom to accomplish this.

A window will pop up that says “Select an Exit Node,” through which you can either pick a specific exit node or have the program randomly select one for you:

advor_exit_nodelist

Don’t you wish it were that easy to create a new identity in the real world?

 

new_identity

But I digress.  Essentially, the “identity” that’s showing is that of another relay in the network.

This works very similarly to the same function on the standard Tor browser (look familiar?)

torbrowser-osx-en-v01-401-new-identity

AdvOR also gives you the ability to set up your proxy port or proxy address, and even run intercept programs.  Plus, you can create a custom list of banned IP addresses, HTTP headers, bandwidth limitations, and other options (that aren’t easily available on the Tor browser).

Another cool feature is the ability to bypass ISP filtering.  In other words, if you think that your ISP is blocking access to Tor, then you can use bridge relays.  If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of bridge relays (a.k.a. “bridges”), they’re Tor relays that aren’t listed in the main directory.  For more information, see Tor Project: Bridges.

This, too, can be done on the basic Tor browser, but AdvOR makes it much simpler; all of the options are in one place.

advor_screen_6

As you can see above, you also have the option of using an NTLM proxy for network requests, as well as the other options above.  For example, if you select “Use encrypted directory connections,”  you’re metaphorically opening a “hole” in your firewall so that incoming connections can reach the ports you’ve configured.

You also have the option of specifying a proxy for TLS (SSL) (i.e. Transport Layer Security/Secure Socket Layer) connections – oh wait, does that say “connectinos”?  OK, I’ve managed to get this far in the post with only one joke, but:

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Can I have some of that beer, Most Interesting Man in the World?  I think I need it to finish this post.

advor_screen_7

AdvOR also gives you a number of options when it comes to building circuits in the Tor network (which can also be accomplished through the browser, but you have less control over it).

Through the “circuit build” menu, you can “teach” AdvOR to learn timeouts in the circuit building process, or specify when to time out the circuit building operation (an option which, as far I know, you can’t configure on the standard Tor browser.)  You can also specify how long the network should consider building a new circuit.

Beyond that, you have the option of indicating routers or nodes in the network (listed by nicknames or hashes) that, for whatever reason, you think may have malicious intent, or other sorts of problems, and banning them:

advor_screen_4

There are other aspects of the program I haven’t really explored yet, but on the whole, it seems great!  Essentially, I love the amount of options AdvOR gives you, particularly if you’re even further concerned about privacy, or if the network itself seems to be having problems.  (I think of it like the stick shift version of Tor…)

 

Granted, no piece of software is perfect, and like any other “anonymity network,” this can still be cracked.  But it has its advantages, including stronger security and the ability to manually change parts of the routing process.

Plus, it even seems to “learn” over time what circuits and nodes to use (although this may be somewhat of an illusion – it’s not a Terminator, after all).

 

Well, OK – maybe it will be one day.  Scary thought!

The So-Called *Shadow Web* is Fake!

shadowweb_3

Yeah…this is probably another one of those “I told you so” moments, but according to one of my favorite YouTubers, namely SomeOrdinaryGamers, all the sites that call themselves “The Shadow Web” are fake: BEST CUSTOM POKEMON!! – Deep Web Browsing 45  (It’s the first site he reviews in the video.)

He backs up his claim by saying that people had specifically messaged him and told him that they had been ripped off by this specific site!

I really am not that surprised by this, because in my earlier post Dark Web Sites That *Claim* To Be Red Rooms, I corresponded with whomever the webmaster of this site was, and he refused to even show samples of his content unless you paid all the bitcoin up front.  (Geez, even legal porn sites usually show you a few pictures first.)

And I’ve come across several other sites that have also claimed to be red rooms (which I think I mentioned in some of my first few posts). Now that I have a bit more experience on the dark web, I’m guessing that those sites were fake too.

On the Other Hand…

Nevertheless (and you may find this surprising), it’s still my opinion that red rooms may exist.  (What???)

Yes, you heard that right. Despite the fact that many people make claims to the contrary, I still think that they could exist. Now, I don’t have definitive proof of this, but let me explain.

Given that there are already incredibly sick things on the dark web (and I don’t just mean Tor!), it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that there could be snuff films. One of the main arguments that red rooms couldn’t exist on the “dark web” is that its routing tends to be so slow that it would be impossible to live-stream something.

While murder is obviously illegal (in most countries, to my knowledge), people have made videos of torture and murder before, and there’s also a market for it.  It must be the human fascination with death or something.

In the video Do Red Rooms Exist? 3 Deep Web Clues That Hint At the Existence of Red Rooms, YouTuber Be.Busta gives compelling evidence for their existence.  One of the cases he refers to is that of Peter Scully, the man behind the notorious Daisy’s Destruction and other child abuse films (made by his production company, No Limits Fun).

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Scully apparently did stream videos of torture online through the dark web (although not necessarily over Tor).  This is one of the major misconceptions about the dark web: it’s comprised of many networks – Tor is just the most popular.  If you had the knowledge to create your own darknet, you probably could figure out how to stream video over it.

Is anyone familiar with the HORNET (high-speed onion-routing network) project?  I’m still working on understanding it, but it aims to create the same privacy as Tor, but at a much faster speed.  If you could have both the anonymity and the ability to stream video, I think it’s even more likely that red rooms could exist.

My feeling is that if you really wanted to find a genuine red room, you would probably have to talk to some people in IRC chat rooms who were into that sort of thing, and find someone who was willing to share it with you (provided that they knew you weren’t a cop).

 

It definitely wouldn’t be advertised so blatantly.  Once you knew how to access it, you would probably also have to pay a fortune in bitcoin.  An operation like that would not be offered cheaply, and if it’s something that people have a genuine desire to see, I’m sure it would be lucrative.

Interestingly, I came across this article today while researching: Random Interviews: The Red Room Human Trafficker.  Now, before you jump all over me and say that it’s fake, I never claimed that I could verify it – but, at the very least, it’s convincing.

To sum it up: the author, Daclaud Lee, interviews a man who claims to be a “red room human trafficker.”  He describes how he got involved with a group who make “red room” videos, and that he’s one of the people who actually kidnaps the victims.  Again, I don’t have proof that it’s all truthful, but if it is, that’s quite a scary thought.

Snuff Films Are Real…

Well, OK – it depends on your definition of “snuff film,” but The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a movie in a purported genre of movies in which an actor is actually murdered or commits suicide.”  Some would include in this definition that they must be made for profit, which isn’t always the case, but videos of real murders and suicides exist.

It’s worth noting.  Consider the fact that some serial killers like David Parker Ray, Luka Magnotta, Tsutomu Miyazaki, and the Dnepropetrovsk maniacs, Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk (i.e. the creators of the video “3 Guys 1 Hammer”) have photographed and filmed the torture and murder of their victims.  Also, consider the fact that “3 Guys 1 Hammer” and “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick” have gone viral, and it doesn’t seem so strange to imagine that people would want to watch live murder.

Just to clarify: I’m not saying that I support such a thing, or that I’d want to watch it, but just the mere fact that so many people deny the existence (or even the possibility) of red rooms makes me consider the opposite.

And were I ever to come across a real one, well…I wouldn’t be able to unsee it.  I can say that with absolute certainty.

I think I’ll go watch cat videos now.

 

 

 

Cicada 3301 Clues or “False Paths”? (Debunked)

UPDATE: Apparently these messages are not “Cicada” clues.  So the question becomes: what do they mean, then?  Does anyone know for sure?

I received another message that may or may not relate to the current Cicada puzzle.  As I’d said in a previous post, I’m relatively new to all this, so I don’t have any insider information, and this may just be a red herring.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d share it anyway.  The link is here: 4048.

At that particular URL (the domain of which is hosted in the Pitcairn Islands) are a set of (presumably) latitude and longitude coordinates:

cicada_clue+maybe

I know the picture looks kind of small, so here they are in a slightly larger font:

63.445963, 10.899455

40.755219, -73.987406

40.349589, -79.995874

The first set of coordinates corresponds to a train station in Hell (Norway, that is).  It probably looks like this:

tumblr_lnvoh0KRid1qhnvqno1_500

The second set corresponds to a place at (or near) the corner of W 41st St. and 7th Ave. in Manhattan.

The third set corresponds t0 a place at (or near) the corner of Curry Rd. and Rosewood Dr. in Pittsburgh, PA.

So, if this set of clues is indeed genuine, then my best guess is that at each of these coordinates, you’ll find one of the next three clues.

Do any of my readers happen to live in Hell, Norway, Manhattan, or Pittsburgh?  If so, could you check out those locations and let me know what you find?

Since, apparently, these aren’t real Cicada clues, I would like to know what they mean, if anything.  I’m intrigued to know what you discover.  Thank you.

 

Adblocking Adventures: Adblock Fast vs. Everyone?

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Good day, readers!  I have to admit that I’m going through some stressful times at the moment, but what better way to deal with them than by writing?

That being said, in a couple of earlier posts, I reviewed such privacy tools as Adblock Plus, Ghostery, Redmorph Browser Controller, and uBlock Origin.

Recently on Twitter, Adblock Fast (@adblockfast), created by Rocketship, began following me, and I thought “Why not try this one out?”

Ad-archy in the U.K.

7KB44vGC

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, that’s  Adblock Fast’s logo.  Is it just me, or is that the anarchy symbol?  Yeah, it is (according to my sources).

Anyhow, though many of these ad-blocking extensions (Adblock, Adblock Plus, uBlock) and apps have similar names, they function in rather different ways.  Some use heuristic blocking (like Privacy Badger), while many others use filter lists, like EasyList, to forbid trackers.

Adblock Fast (“ABF”) is in the latter category, like some of its contemporaries.  According to their FAQ, ABF’s ruleset is derived from EasyList and that of Bluhell Firewall.  They also say that they’re in the process of testing a new alternative ruleset to improve the app’s blocking capabilities.

I have to give credit to ABF, though – it really is one of the simplest ad blockers I’ve ever used.  (Plus it’s free and open source; you can’t really fault them for that.)

According to their official site, many of the more popular ad-blocking plugins use an excessive number of filtering rules to prevent trackers, whereas ABF only uses seven.  What??  Seven???

Well, yes, if this chart isn’t one of those deceptive graphs:

adblock_fast_chart

I can’t resist; may I just take a moment and insert an original George Carlin image macro in here?

12zcy7

If you install ABF on Chrome or Opera, you should see a little button on the toolbar with the company logo on it.  If the “A” on the button has a circle around it, like in the picture above, ads are being blocked on the site.  If not, ads are allowed.  All you need to do to block or unblock ads is to click on the A button again.

I will say that for the techie crowd, ABF may seem a bit too simple (especially compared to more advanced blockers such as µMatrix). It’s not nearly as customizable (at least to my knowledge).

On the other hand, Adblock Plus, as I mentioned in a previous post, allows you to add custom filters and whitelisted domains, as well as to add filter subscriptions from the lists I mentioned before.  And blockers like uBlock Origin allow you to select specific elements within a page and disallow them.

Thus far, on alternativeTo – Crowdsourced software recommendations, Adblock Fast has only received three “likes,” but this may be because Google had temporarily banned ad blockers from the Play Store, and recently reversed the ban. Plus, it’s relatively new to the ad-blocking competition.  So they may need a little time to get their bearings.

The Androids are Coming

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I had hoped to include the Android version of Adblock Fast in this review, but apparently that requires that I download Samsung Internet for Android, and I’m almost at my data limit for the month.

Currently, ABF is also available for Opera, iOS 9 (on 64-bit devices, iPhone 5s and up, and iPad Mini 2 and up).

Perhaps this post will need sequel…hmm?  In any case, my final word is – Adblock Fast is a good blocker overall.  It does its job quickly and efficiently, and is easy to learn.  On the other hand, I don’t necessarily recommend it for people who like “manual transmission”-style privacy tools.  For those folks, I think apps like uMatrix and uBlock Origin are more appropriate!

P.S. For those of you who might ask why I haven’t reviewed any iPhone apps yet, I don’t own one…but my wife does.  Maybe she’ll let me borrow hers for one of these posts, if I bake her breakfast or something.

 

 

 

 

Beware: “Facebook” Phishing Sites on Tor!

fakebook1

I know, I know! I said I was leaving the dark web, but there was a subject I’d been meaning to talk about and never did.  Specifically, there are a ridiculous number of phishing sites on Tor (and on the web in general).

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, they look almost exactly like a site you would normally use, but are designed to steal your login credentials and such.  Most dark web users seem to be aware of this, but newcomers often fall for the fake sites.

Since Facebook announced its Tor-friendly URL (https://facebookcorewwwi.onion) at the end of 2014, many users likely flocked to the Tor network to try and use it with some degree of anonymity.

During my research on the Tor network, I was using a search engine called VisiTOR, and came across this link: Facebook phishing link.

At least I’m 99.9% sure that’s what it is – please don’t enter any personal information into that page!!!  As I said before, it looks almost exactly like the real one (with some minor differences), but as far as I know, there are no other official Facebook .onion URLs, so I wouldn’t trust it!  (Heck, some people don’t even trust the real one!)  

It’s not uncommon to come across clone sites of many other pages on Tor – the same thing happens with many of the marketplaces, social sites, forums, etc.  This is why so many of them have a message that says: “Make sure you’re using the real [insert site name here].”   Believe it or not, this is why I’ve attempted to memorize the URLs of some of the Tor sites (and succeeded, on occasion).  They sure don’t make it easy, though.  Could you memorize a URL like “mhpcpptjshjgdierfio.onion”?  I understand that this is because onion addresses are usually made of a base32 string of the first 80 bits of the SHA1 hash of the server’s private key, but it’s still tough on us humans. (Yes, that was English.)

I almost fell victim to something like this back in the good ol’ days of AOL (around 1993).  Someone had sent me a fake “AOL InstaKiss” email, which claimed that you had to enter your screen name and password:

INSTAKISS2.png

Being that this was the 90’s, I fell for it and actually did so (because I was a net n00b) but realized my mistake soon after, and immediately changed my login info – so nothing happened.

Anyhow, I basically just wanted to warn Tor users who weren’t aware of this problem.  On the plus side, the real Facebook onion URL is pretty easy to memorize, unlike many of the other Tor sites.  So, in theory, it would be less likely to fall for a phishing attack.

Be careful, and use common sense.  Always verify that a site you’re using is the real one (whether on the clearnet or the dark web), particularly if it’s one that requires login credentials.  And if anything looks suspicious, it probably is!!