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posted by janrinok on Monday March 12 2018, @03:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the full-of-300bps-goodness dept.

Professor Steve Bellovin at the computer science department at Columbia University in New York City writes in his blog about early design decisions for Usenet. In particular he addresses authentication and the factors taken into consideration given the technology available at the time. After considering the infeasiblity of many options at the time, they ultimately threw up their hands.

That left us with no good choices. The infrastructure for a cryptographic solution was lacking. The uux command rendered illusory any attempts at security via the Usenet programs themselves. We chose to do nothing. That is, we did not implement fake security that would give people the illusion of protection but not the reality.

For those unfamiliar with it, Usenet is a text-based, worldwide, decentralized, distributed discussion system. Basically it can be likened to a bulletin board system of sorts. Servers operate peer to peer while users connect to their preferred server using a regular client-server model. It was a key source of work-related discussion, as well as entertainment and regular news. Being uncensorable, it was a key source of news during several major political crises around the world during the 1980s and early 1990s. Being uncensorable, it has gained the ire of both large businesses and powerful politicians. It used to be an integral part of any ISP's offerings even 15 years ago. Lack of authentication has been both a strength and a weakness. Professor Bellovin sheds some light on how it came to be like that.

Despite weaknesses, Usenet gave rise to among many other things the now defunct Clarinet news, which is regarded to be the first exclusively online business.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by janrinok on Tuesday March 13 2018, @07:55AM (2 children)

    by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 13 2018, @07:55AM (#651720) Journal

    If you don't agree with how your ISP got its was your local government who granted the monopoly.

    While I am sure that your problems are very real - they are, to a great extent, limited to North America and, perhaps, Australia. Huge areas of the world can choose from several ISPs (I can have accounts with at least 6 ISPs and probably more if I want to go searching for something special), which keeps the prices relatively in check and maintains market competition. As for getting on to Usenet, it couldn't for me be any easier. For the price of a cup of coffee I can buy a month's access, unfiltered, unregulated and accessible from any computer, using HTTPS and SSL links at least to the gateway.

    But perhaps the 'computer' is the problem - I need to be able to run a short script to set up the IP, ports, username and password into my access program, although I could do it manually if I wished. Not being a 'smart phone' user I'm not sure how easy that would be for many people to do. And then smart phone users seem to prefer bling and pretty colours - neither of which are of any importance to me when I am having a conversation or discussion.

    You know, we haven't done too badly here at SN, We have a simple - even retro! - UI. You can start any topic that you wish to discuss in your journal. We protect as much as we can your identity - although members of our community can sometimes compromise their own identities by not thinking. And if you want to put something encrypted on your journal - well, go ahead.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:02PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13 2018, @12:02PM (#651783)

    Hey, can SN be bridged to Usenet?

    • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Tuesday March 13 2018, @03:01PM

      by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday March 13 2018, @03:01PM (#651833) Journal

      I don't know - we will have to wait until someone with more technical knowledge lets us know, and then decide if it is in our interests to do so.