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Mail Loop From Hell


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written on Sunday, July 29, 2012 by Danilo Bargen

Found in #django on freenode, Jul 12, 2012. All names are edited.

11:16 < abrt> since it's quiet in here I'll tell you a story.
11:16 < abrt> back in 1992, I had just graduated university and was interning at a government facility in
              newport news
11:16 < abrt> along with some friends from college. We made $7.25/hr and were living large.
11:16 < qns> hahahaha
11:17 < qns> You sound like Kevin Mitinick.
11:17 < abrt> we used to play practical jokes on each other all the time.
11:17 < abrt> mitnick was a pussy compared to us
11:17 < qns> :O
11:17 < abrt> anyway, I managed to break into my friend's university UNIX account. guessed his password. easy.
11:17 < abrt> how well do you know UNIX?
11:18 < qns> not well yet
11:18 < abrt> well, back in the day, they didn't have postfix or qmail any of these fancy mailservers
11:18 < abrt> they ran sendmail
11:18 < abrt> and they allowed individual .forward files
11:19 < abrt> the purpose of the .forward file was to forward your email that came to your account to the
              address in the .forward file.
11:19 < abrt> anyway, after I broke into my friend Matt's account, I set up his .forward file to be
              "everyone@***.edu" which I knew was an alias for the entire college.
11:19 < abrt> I had just learned how to forge sendmail headers and was going to send him a very embarrassing
              email "from his girlfriend"
11:20 < abrt> fortunately for me, I decided to do a test run at 1730 on a Friday. Assuming the test run went
              well, the embarrassing forged email would go out the following Monday.
11:20 < abrt> so I sent a "this is a test" to Matt.
11:21 < abrt> and went home, drank some beers with Matt and Steve, and had a great weekend
11:21 < abrt> Monday morning I get into the lab and everyone's quiet, sort of whispering, and looking at me
11:21 < abrt> fuck me, right?
11:21 < abrt> I log into the gov UNIX system - and I have 13000 emails
11:22 < abrt> what I had forgotten was that "everyone@***.edu" included Matt.
11:22 < abrt> so the email would get sent to everyone, including him, then he would add 10 lines of header,
              forward it to everyone, including him, ....
11:22 < abrt> mail loop from hell.
11:22 < qns> Did you get in trouble?
11:22 < abrt> well, here's the thing
11:22 < abrt> this was summer '92
11:22 < abrt> nobody at school, right?
11:23 < abrt> everyone had their email forwarded elsewhere
11:23 < abrt> and the professors got jobs at places like Camp Peary, and FBI, and other research
              organizations, ....
11:23 < qns> So you help them?
11:23 < abrt> and those systems couldn't handle the volume of mail, and they never thought to put the mail
              spool on its on separate partition
11:23 < abrt> so their systems crashed.
11:24 < qns> haha
11:24 < qns> So you triggered chaos all over.
11:24 < abrt> I managed to bring down 13 CIA offices, all FBI offices east of the Mississippi, and the entire
              Southeastern university Research Network.
11:24 < etgr> You can claim to have hacked the FBI
11:24 < qns> using e-mail.
11:24 < abrt> along with various other systems, but those were the biggies
11:24 < qns> I'd have shat myself
11:24 < abrt> I pretty much did.
11:25 < abrt> But back then, like possession of a fake ID, nobody really knew what to do to you for this sort
              of thing
11:25 < abrt> so I got a slap on the wrist, almost fired, and had to write a letter of apology to the head of
              the computer lab at university
11:25 < abrt> and I lost my university email account. :(
11:26 < qns> hahahahaha
11:26 < abrt> today I'd probably be sent to Guantanamo
11:26 < qns> Or you'd mysteriously disappear.  :P
11:26 < abrt> anyway, that's my story for the evening.
11:26 < qns>  I need a story like that on my resume.
11:26 < abrt> nah
11:26 < abrt> here's the thing
11:26 < abrt> that story doesn't go on a resume
11:27 < abrt> but - fast forward 10 years later.
11:27 < qns> Ahh
11:27 < abrt> I'm getting my clearance
11:27 < abrt> being interviewed by the suits from OPM
11:27 < abrt> and they leave the room, come back with a folder, and say, "Tell us about SURANet and the CIA
              in 1992"
11:27 < abrt> THAT's when I shat myself.
11:28 < abrt> BUT - good news - I got my clearance despite my history :)
11:28 < qns> Were they impressed?
11:28 < abrt> nah, they were laughing

After reading this story, I started a new bookmark list: Stories from the Internet. Feel free to follow it, and also send me new candidates if you know of any :)


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