[alt.censorship] CWRU student prevented from teaching how to send ethernet packets

cjs@po.CWRU.Edu (Christopher J. Seline) (02/27/91)

Well...I tried to post the source code to a program I'd written
to a local USENET board here at CWRU...the program demonstrated how to put 
packets onto and take packets off of our campus wide ethernet.

The program was summarily deleted from the board and I was..well...looks
like they threatened me.....anyway....the message follows....please feel
free to write to the the fellow who deleted the program "jag@po.cwru.edu",
and his boss "rkn@po.cwru.edu".

[start included material]

Article #1210 (1213 is last):                                                  
>Newsgroups: cwru.ins.general                                                   
From: jag@po.CWRU.Edu (Jeff Gumpf)                                             
Subject: Interfering with Network Operation                                    
Reply-To: jag@po.CWRU.Edu (Jeff Gumpf)                                         
Date: Tue Feb 26 16:12:28 1991                                                 
We have removed a posting by "cjs" of a program that allows one to send raw    
Ethernet packets.  We suggest that users NOT attempt to use this or any        
similar program to send raw packets on the network.  We remind users that      
any disruption of the network through the use of such programs, intentional    
or not, is considered a violation of the University's ethics policy.           
Anyone found violating that policy will be brought up on charges to the        
appropriate University office.  Such activity will result in disciplinary      
action up to and including dismissal from the institution.                     


[end included material]

knauer@cs.uiuc.edu (Rob Knauerhase) (02/27/91)

In <1991Feb26.233447.9017@usenet.ins.cwru.edu> cjs@po.CWRU.Edu (Christopher J. Seline) writes:
>Well...I tried to post the source code to a program I'd written
>to a local USENET board here at CWRU...the program demonstrated how to put 
>packets onto and take packets off of our campus wide ethernet.

First, this is a completely non-technical issue so I'm directing followups to
alt.censorship alone.  The character above has apparenly graduated from
firestarting in cwru.ins.general and has discovered the Usenet at large.


Chris, there is nothing wrong with the free flow of information.  However, I
think you and I (as well as the cwru.ins.general readership) know that you
didn't post that innocently.  Your post was (my opinion) calculated not to
educate, but to infuriate the Information Network Services people at Case.

>The program was summarily deleted from the board and I was..well...looks
>like they threatened me.....anyway....the message follows....please feel
>free to write to the the fellow who deleted the program "jag@po.cwru.edu",
>and his boss "rkn@po.cwru.edu".

To the readers of comp.protocols.* and others:
    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and in that respect this fellow
is dangerous.  His pranks have included instigating personal attacks and
playing with reply-to fields and so forth to harass the staff and directorship
of Information Network Services.  I urge you to ignore his request to further
annoy these people.
    Perhaps alt.censorship is an appropriate place to get into the philosophy
of Computing Ethics policies.  Chris, if you must invent dirty laundry to
hang out, please take it there or keep it in cwru.ins.general...

[I hate disclaimers, but here goes:]  I have no current affiliation with
Case Western Reserve University except as a recent alumnus who keeps current.
Lucky for the human race, few people are spoiled enough to have a fiber
ethernet port in their dorm rooms and not appreciate it; unfortunately, Mr.
Seline doesn't realize that there are responsibilities therewith.

Rob Knauerhase, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
                Department of Computer Science, Gigabit Study Group
knauer@cs.uiuc.edu, rck@ces.cwru.edu, knauer@scivax.lerc.nasa.gov

roy@phri.nyu.edu (Roy Smith) (03/01/91)

[Note: of all the groups the original posting was send to, alt.censorship
is the only really relevant one and I've sent directed all followups there.
It's clearly not a protocol issue.]

cjs@po.CWRU.Edu (Christopher J. Seline) writes:
> Well...I tried to post the source code to a program I'd written to a
> local USENET board here at CWRU...the program demonstrated how to put 
> packets onto and take packets off of our campus wide ethernet.  The
> program was summarily deleted from the board [...]

	I hesitate to get involved in what is obviously an internal policy
decision, but I would tend to agree that the administrators who removed your
posting were perfectly withing their rights to do so.  There is a serious
constitutional issue at stake here, that of free speech.  However, I think
Christopher has slightly misunderstood the issue.  My reasoning goes
something along these lines:

	First, the campus wide ethernet is a shared resource.  Proper
operation of it depends to a large degree on the cooperation of everybody
who uses it.  It is fairly trivial for anybody with the proper knowledge and
a PC (or a Sun workstation running NIT that they have root permission on, or
lots of other things) directly connected to the ethernet to totally disrupt
the entire network.  This is clearly A Bad Thing.  If the university decides
to expell somebody who deliberately puts hand-crafted packets on the network
and messes things up, that sounds fine to me.  It is also besides the point.
The university administration is also exercising head-in-the-sand security
practices if they think removing the article with the "evil" source code
will keep such ethernet tapping/spoofing from happening, but that, too, is
rather besides the point.

	Second, even though you do have the right of free speech, that right
does not extend to using somebody else's communication media to spread your
message, at their expense.  The university paid for the computer on which
you posted your program, and clearly they have a right to decide what is a
valid use of it.  They don't want you to tell other people how to send
random packets onto the ethernet, and (regardless of whether or not they are
wise in wishing this knowledge kept secret) they certainly have the right to
prevent you from using university resources to spread your message.  It
doesn't matter that your tuition dollars may be going to help pay for the
machines; you still don't own them.

	However, let's say you took a slightly different tack.  What if you
printed up your source code and went to a local copy shop and xeroxed, at
your own expense, 1000 copies and handed them out to students?  Let's play
it safe and say you aren't even doing the handing out on university
property; instead you stand just outside of the campus front gate (not
obstructing traffic, etc) on public property.  It would probably be more
useful to make up 1000 floppy disks with your code on it and hand them out,
but that doesn't really change anything.  In that case, if the university
attempted to stop you, I think you would have an extremely strong case that
you are simply exercising your constitutional right to free speech and there
isn't anything they can do about it.  You could go a step further and find
operators of private BBS systems who would be willing to have your code
uploaded to their machines and distribute it that way.  Or, you could buy
your own machine and set up your own BBS.  Or you can stand on a street
corner with a megaphone and read your code to the masses (I'd really like to
see somebody standing on a street corner with a megaphone shouting "Yes,
people, I tell you, all you have to do is open a socket with address family
AF_NIT as root and bind it to /dev/le0 and do a few ioctl's ..."), or hire a
skywriter to draw it in the sky over the computer center.  As long as it
doesn't involve using university resources, they can't do anything to you to
keep you from spreading your message, at your own expense.

	A somewhat different case exists with public service announcements
on TV.  In that case, you need a license from the FCC to broadcast, and the
number of TV channels that can be allocated in a given area is limited; even
if you were willing and able to spend the considerable sum of money needed
to set up your own TV transmitter, it wouldn't do you any good.  Since that
is the case, as a condition of granting a license to a station, the FCC
requires that the station allow a certain amout of public service use.  You
could try to make a case, I suppose, that the campus-wide ethernet is a
monopoly similar to a TV channel allocation, and thus the university is
required to allow you to post your code as a "public service" but I think
the case would be extremely weak indeed and you wouldn't get very far with
it, especially considering how easy it is for you to find other distribution
methods that are essentially just as good and would cost you a relatively
modest sum of money.  You could set up a BBS in your dorm room (or, better
yet, your off-campus apartment) to distribute the code and I suspect that
anybody who could make use of it would have the equipment and know-how to
download it.  Total outlay to you for a cheap PC and a modem could easily be
under $1000; a lot of money for a college student, I guess, but lots of
undergraduates CS majors do seem to have their own PCs (many schools even
require it, CS major or not).

	Please note that I am *not* advocating that you send random packets
on the ethernet, or that you distribute your code to other people so they
can do so.  I think doing either would be an extremely irresponsible thing
to do.  However, there is an important constitutional issue here; namely
that you do have the right to distribute information which other people find
distasteful, as long as you do it at your own expense.  The fine line which
many people seem to misunderstand, however, is that you *don't* have the
right to force other people to distribute it for you.  Free speech doesn't
mean that the New York Times has to accept my full-page ad esposing my
personal opinion that Saddam Hussain is a nice guy if they don't want to, it
just means that I can, if I choose, buy my own printing press and paper and
ink and go into the newspaper business myself, if that's the only way I can
find to get my ad into print.

	In my college days, the big censorship deal was whether the ChemE
students who wanted to do free paraquat testing (as a public service) should
be allowed to advertise their services in the college newspaper.  Paraquat,
for those who havn't heard of it, was something (a herbicide?) that was once
sprayed on marijuana fields by the drug control folks; smoking paraquat
tainted pot was very bad for your health.  I don't think the idea ever got
off the ground, so the issue was a moot point.  Among other things, they
probably were planning on using the school chem labs to do the testing,
which, of course, the school was within their rights to disallow.
Roy Smith, Public Health Research Institute
455 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016
roy@alanine.phri.nyu.edu -OR- {att,cmcl2,rutgers,hombre}!phri!roy
"Arcane?  Did you say arcane?  It wouldn't be Unix if it wasn't arcane!"