_______________________________________________________ GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING Vol.

1 Number 3 Hacking tip of the day: how finger can be used as one of the most common ways to crack into non-public parts of an Internet host. _______________________________________________________ Before you get too excited over learning how finger can be used to crack an Internet host, will all you law enforcement folks out there please relax. I'm not giving step-by-step instructions. I'm certainly not handing out code from those publicly available canned cracking tools that any newbie could use to gain illegal access to some hosts. What you are about to read are some basic principles and techniques behind cracking with finger. In fact, some of these techniques are fun and legal as long as they aren't taken too far. And they might tell you a thing or two about how to make your Internet hosts more secure. You could also use this information to become a cracker. Your choice. Just keep in mind what it would be like to be the "girlfriend" of a cell mate named "Spike." ********************************* Newbie note #1: Many people assume "hacking" and "cracking" are synonymous. But "cracking" is gaining illegal entry into a computer. "Hacking" is the entire universe of kewl stuff one can do with computers, often without breaking the law or causing harm. ********************************* What is finger? It is a program which runs on port 79 of many Internet host computers. It is normally used to provide information on people who are users of a given computer. For review, let's consider the virtuous but boring way to give your host computer the finger command: finger Joe_Blow@boring.ISP.net This causes your computer to telnet to port 79 on the host boring.ISP.net. It gets whatever is in the .plan and .project files for Joe Blow and displays them on your computer screen. But the Happy Hacker way is to first telnet to boring.ISP.net port 79, from which we can then run its finger program: telnet boring.ISP.net 79 If you are a good Internet citizen you would then give the command: Joe_Blow or maybe the command: finger Joe_Blow

This should give you the same results as just staying on your own computer and giving the command "finger Joe_Blow@boring.ISP.net." But for a cracker, there are lots and lots of other things to try after gaining control of the finger program of boring.ISP.net by telnetting to port 79. Ah, but I don't teach how to do felonies. So we will just cover general principles of how finger is commonly used to crack into boring.ISP.net. You will also learn some perfectly legal things you can try to get finger to do. For example, some finger programs will respond to the command: finger @boring.ISP.net If you should happen to find a finger program old enough or trusting enough to accept this command, you might get something back like: [boring.ISP.net] Login Name happy Prof. Foobar TTY co Idle When 1d Wed 08:00 Where boring.ISP.net

This tells you that only one guy is logged on, and he's doing nothing. This means that if someone should manage to break in, no one is likely to notice -- at least not right away. Another command to which a finger port might respond is simply: finger If this command works, it will give you a complete list of the users of this host. These user names then can be used to crack a password or two. Sometimes a system will have no restrictions on how lame a password can be. Common lame password habits are to use no password at all, the same password as user name, the user's first or last name, and "guest." If these don't work for the cracker, there are widely circulated programs which try out every word of the dictionary and every name in the typical phone book. ******************************** Newbie Note #2: Is your password easy to crack? If you have a shell account, you may change it with the command: passwd Choose a password that isn't in the dictionary or phone book, is at least 6 characters long, and includes some characters that are not letters of the alphabet. A password that is found in the dictionary but has one extra character is *not* a good password. ******************************** Other commands which may sometimes get a response out of finger include: finger @ finger 0 finger root

finger finger finger finger finger finger

bin ftp system guest demo manager

Or, even just hitting <enter> once you are into port 79 may give you something interesting. There are plenty of other commands that may or may not work. But most commands on most finger programs will give you nothing, because most system administrators don't want to ladle out lots of information to the casual visitor. In fact, a really cautious sysadmin will disable finger entirely. So you'll never even manage to get into port 79 of some computers However, none of these commands I have shown you will give you root access. They provide information only. ************************ Newbie note #3: Root! It is the Valhalla of the hard-core cracker. "Root" is the account on a multi-user computer which allows you to play god. It is the account from which you can enter and use any other account, read and modify any file, run any program. With root access, you can completely destroy all data on boring.ISP.net. (I am *not* suggesting that you do so!) ************************* It is legal to ask the finger program of boring.ISP.net just about anything you want. The worst that can happen is that the program will crash. Crash...what happens if finger crashes? Let's think about what finger actually does. It's the first program you meet when you telnet to boring.ISP.net's port 79. And once there, you can give it a command that directs it to read files from any user's account you may choose. That means finger can look in any account. That means if it crashes, you may end up in root. Please, if you should happen to gain root access to someone else's host, leave that computer immediately! You'd better also have a good excuse for your systems administrator and the cops if you should get caught! If you were to make finger crash by giving it some command like ///*^S, you might have a hard time claiming that you were innocently seeking publicly available information. ***************** YOU CAN GO TO JAIL TIP #1: Getting into a part of a computer that is not open to the public is illegal. In addition, if you use the phone lines or Internet across a US state line to break into a non-public part of a computer, you have committed a Federal felony. You don't have to cause any harm at all -- it's still illegal. Even if you just gain root access and immediately break off your connection -- it's still illegal. *************** Truly elite types will crack into a root account from finger and just leave

immediately. They say the real rush of cracking comes from being *able* to do anything to boring.ISP.net -- but refusing the temptation. The elite of the elite do more than just refrain from taking advantage of the systems they penetrate. They inform the systems administrator that they have cracked his or her computer, and leave an explanation of how to fix the security hole. ************************************ YOU CAN GO TO JAIL TIP #2: When you break into a computer, the headers on the packets that carry your commands tell the sysadmin of your target who you are. If you are reading this column you don't know enough to cover your tracks. Tell temptation to take a hike! ************************************ Ah, but what are your chances of gaining root through finger? Haven't zillions of hackers found all the crashable stuph? Doesn't that suggest that finger programs running on the Internet today are all fixed so you can't get root access through them any more? No. The bottom line is that any systems adminstrator that leaves the finger service running on his/her system is taking a major risk. If you are the user of an ISP that allows finger, ask yourself this question: is using it to advertise your existence across the Internet worth the risk? OK, I'm signing off for this column. I look forward to your contributions to this list. Happy hacking -- and don't get busted! __________________________________________________________________ Want to share some kewl stuph? Tell me I'm terrific? Flame me? For the first two, I'm at cmeinel@techbroker.com. Please direct flames to dev/null@techbroker.com. Happy hacking! _______________________________________________________ Copyright 1996 Carolyn P. Meinel. You may forward the GUIDE TO (mostly) HARMLESS HACKING as long as you leave this notice at the end. To subscribe, email cmeinel@techbroker.com with message "subscribe hacker <joe.blow@boring.ISP.net>" substituting your real email address for Joe Blow's. ___________________________________________________________________

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