Be Safe Out There

freenode is sometimes a target of spammers, bots, or attempts to trick users into taking action or giving up information they normally would not. One form of spam, popular recently, claims that freenode will require SASL to connect. Others attempt to lure users to a website that may generate revenue for the spammer, attempt to install malicious software, reveal information about the user (such as location, IP address, operating system, and so on), or lead to a shock site intended to offend or disgust. Other spam has no purpose except to cause disruption through channel noise, nick-highlights, and the ensuing complaints from those disrupted.

Don’t be a victim of these mischievous ploys. Don’t react when you see this sort of activity. Don’t click on unsolicited links. Don’t trust spam to be accurate or truthful. Instead, be a catalyst or just ignore the unwanted behavior. Most IRC clients offer a way to filter out messages from a person or containing certain text by using a command called /ignore. Even if your client doesn’t support /ignore, you can mentally ignore it just like you might ignore someone yelling on a street corner.

Bad behavior that is limited to one or two channels can be handled by the helpers and operators in the channel. If you feel compelled to report spam or abusive behavior, privately message one of the people on the channel’s access list, which may be seen using /msg chanserv access #channel list. To check how recently a person was active, use /whois nickname nickname. (Yes, put the nick twice). This will show whether they are away, and how long they have been idle. Some projects use a -ops channel (e.g. #ubuntu-ops) to make it easier to contact an operator.

If bad behavior is widespread, network staff may intervene. As always, staffers can be reached in #freenode. When reporting an issue, please do not (re-)paste spam or highlight many nicks. This only adds to the disruption and makes the reporter look like the spammer. When a staffer responds, you can privately message the content of the spam, if it is important to addressing the problem.

And one final word about announcements: any major change to the network’s operations (like, say, requiring SASL) would be announced properly through the website and/or blog. We might also announce it over IRC using a global notice or wallop. A wallop or global notice would come from a staffer — someone with a freenode/staff cloak in whois — and probably appear in your client’s server or status window. Spammers may choose nicks that look similar to those of staffers, but staffers will have a freenode/staff cloak and we will not spam channels as a way of making announcements. A bit of skepticism before trusting something seen on the internet can help keep you safe, and the network running smoothly.