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IRC establishes itself in a server/client configuration that requires a dedicated machine (or a Raspberry Pi) to act as the IRC server and allow connections from clients that can communicate with each other. IRC was created by Jarkko WiZ Oikarinen in the University of Oulu in Finland. Initially this was created as an evolution of the forum-based communication that was the basis of internet connections previously. IRC allowed for instantaneous chat between individuals on the same IRC server. From this point multiple IRC networks were created and spread across the globe, this was the start of a lot of underground file sharing platforms and IRC channels that exploded in popularity. Games had IRC channels dedicated to groups that would share information and energy about the game, QuakeNet is still one of the largest IRC networks with approx. 72000 users and 42000 channels. Within IRC it is possible to establish different types of users on the server, the standard user can only create a channel, nicknames, and type. But the Operator has similar privileges to Admin on the IRC server. Operators can create channels, ban users, remove text and work the same way as a system admin would on any other server.
The issue with IRC was that it didn’t have embedded security for a long time which made it vulnerable cyber-attacks. IRC servers are very susceptible to DoS and DDoS attacks because everyone is using very similar network protocols, so overloading the server with specific traffic that IRC servers rely on for communication would shut it down to legitimate users. There were issues in the early days of IRC where individuals using the same nickname would have traffic intended for other users of the same nickname redirected to them. This was rectified quickly by preventing the same nickname being replicated on the same channel, but other traffic hijacking attacks had also been developed. In early IRC there was also no encryption, so anyone set up as a man-in-the-middle would see the plaintext traffic being sent through the network, including the IRC channel passwords. This allowed illegitimate users access to the IRC server and content on it. Another major issue was IRC had to be set up as a standalone application and services like Facebook included instant chat services within their ecosystem and made it easier for more people to access it. There are other issues with IRC including the general support for these systems in the recent years as more systems become increasingly secure and move to specific platforms.
Suggested Year Group
The suggested age group is 15+, this project requires careful configuration and understanding of the networking protocols that younger students might not have previous exposure to.
Understand Internet Relay Chat (IRC);
Understand how different networking protocols allow for different types of communication;
Configure the Raspberry Pi to be an IRC server and connect your friends to it.
Component Number (Peli Case)
(Base) 4 + 5
(Level 1) 3
(Level 1) 3
(Level 1) 5
(Level 1) 1
Component Number (Box Case)
Raspberry Pi + Case
Raspbian SD Card
5 Inch LCD Screen
IRC is still a popular method of communication for many around the globe. There are many thriving online communities that still actively use IRC servers and are trying to develop more secure versions of IRC for future use. Invite the students to research IRC applications and how different protocols allow for instant chat in different services like Facebook, Steam, online websites etc and investigate the protocols they use to make this work.
Get the students to explore the ability of operator users on an IRC server and how to manage a simple server, this is the foundation of how more complicated servers work and understanding this will give valuable insight. Get the students to research how DoS and DDoS attacks can be mitigated and how they are created. The Low Orbit Ion Cannon is an interesting tool and case study to consider