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Usenet sock-puppetry on

Crossposting with one clarification per the comments below, my posting to the nytimes chess blog, Gambit:

Regarding this blog item and the article, Chess Group Officials Accused of Using Internet to Hurt Rivals, in Oct 8 2007’s New York Times:

Reading the thread from archived on Google, the evidence as presented suggests this is another case of sock-puppetry which has become such a bane on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

Usenet is not sponsored by Google! This is an inaccurate statement which should not have appeared in the Times. Usenet started in 1979! Google was founded around 1996 as a project by a 23 and 24 year old graduate student. The founders of Google were only about 7 years old when Usenet started. Very precocious of them to have sponsored Usenet! :)

The quote attributed to “David Ulevitch, founder and chief executive of OpenDNS” is misleading as it refers to internet NAMES, which are resolved to numbers through Domain Name Service (DNS). Not the same thing at all as internet NUMBERS which are at issue here. Those are controlled locally through policies on routers and globally through BGP broadcasts.

Contrary to what is stated above, it is NOT trivial to forge numeric ip addresses… one would have to have control of an intermediate router between sender and receiver and pretty specific technical knowledge to accomplish this sort of man-in-the-middle attack. There are probably much easier and more convincing-to-the-layman methods of framing someone. Easier, for instance, would be to fake the logs, but again, to what purpose?

If the log excerpts are genuine, there is an ethical question as to whether the “volunteer system administrator” acted rightly in posting selected information from the logs back onto Usenet. He is doing the right thing now in trying to get permission from the Federation to release them. I would have probably advocated going to the Board, or their legal counsel with this. But I don’t know the entire history.

I don’t know the individuals involved in this dispute as far as I know and have no more than a passing interest in the affair. I just wanted to give some perspective on the technical arguments being raised.

Ann Arbor, MI

Interview With the U.S.C.F. President; a Chess Sponsor Says He’s Had Enough

Copyright © 2007 Henry Edward Hardy

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9 October, 2007 - Posted by | allegations, chess, DNS, Domain Name Service, gambit, games, Google, impersonation, New York Times, politics,,, scandal, scanlyze, sock-puppet, sockpuppet, United States Chess Federation, USCF, Usenet


  1. OpenDNS was’t cited as being involved in any way. The author just referenced that as my job, and a place people can go to decide if I’m expert enough to talk about the Internet.

    Also, the author doesn’t say that Google invented Usenet, just that postings came via google groups, which for most people these days, is the only way they know of usenet.

    Anyways, I should have remembered that this is called sock-puppetry. I had heard that term before, but forgot. :-)


    Comment by davidu | 10 October, 2007 | Reply

  2. David,

    The Times article said regarding Usenet,

    The existence of fake postings on the two public bulletin boards, and, in the name of Mr. Sloan and others had been suspected for some time. But the identity of the impersonator or impersonators has not been revealed. Both bulletin boards are sponsored by Google. and are not “bulletin boards”; they are Usenet newsgroups. They are not sponsored by Google. Would you agree that this part of the Times article was imprecise and inaccurate?

    The article on the Times said regarding you,

    David Ulevitch, founder and chief executive of OpenDNS, which provides Internet domain name services, said that impersonating someone on the Internet “happens a lot.”

    Asked about Mr. Truong’s contention that he could have been framed, Mr. Ulevitch said, “It has been known to happen that someone has impersonated someone else impersonating someone else.”

    I will update my blog post above to make it clear that it was you who was referenced by the Times as “founder and chief executive of OpenDNS”.

    When you were interviewed for the article, did that interviewer specify that the issue was based on numeric IP addresses and User Agent strings allegedly appearing in the server logs and not upon domain names? Would you agree that spoofing a numeric address is different from spoofing a domain name? Particularly when it comes to > 2400 allegedly fake posts over 18 months apparently from multiple IP addresses?


    Comment by scanlyze | 10 October, 2007 | Reply

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