The ARPANET changed computing forever by proving that computers of wildly different manufacture could be connected using standardized protocols. In my post on the historical significance of the ARPANET, I mentioned a few of those protocols, but didn't describe them in any detail. So I wanted to take a closer look at them. I also wanted to see how much of the design of those early protocols survives in the protocols we use today.
If you run an image search for the word “ARPANET,” you will find lots of maps showing how the government research network expanded steadily across the country throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s. I’m guessing that most people reading or hearing about the ARPANET for the first time encounter one of these maps.
Obviously, the maps are interesting—it’s hard to believe that there were once so few networked computers that their locations could all be conveyed with what is really pretty lo-fi cartography. (We’re talking 1960s overhead projector diagrams here. You know the vibe.) But the problem with the maps, drawn as they are with bold lines stretching across the continent, is that they reinforce the idea that the ARPANET’s paramount achievement was connecting computers across the vast distances of the United States for the first time.
By now, you have almost certainly heard of the dark web. On sites unlisted by any search engine, in forums that cannot be accessed without special passwords or protocols, criminals and terrorists meet to discuss conspiracy theories and trade child pornography.
We here at VICE headquarters have reported before on the dark web’s “hurtcore” communities, its human trafficking markets, its rent-a-hitman websites. We have explored the challenges the dark web presents to regulators, the rise of dark web revenge porn, and the frightening size of the dark web gun trade. We have kept you informed about that one dark web forum where you can make like Walter White and learn how to manufacture your own drugs, and also about—thanks to our foreign correspondent—the Chinese dark web. We have even attempted to catalog every single location on the dark web. Our coverage of the dark web has been nothing if not comprehensive.
But I wanted to go deeper.
If you fire up
digand run a DNS query for
google.com, you will get a response somewhat like the following:
$ dig google.com ; <<>> DiG 9.10.6 <<>> google.com ;; global options: +cmd ;; Got answer: ;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 27120 ;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1 ;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION: ; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 512 ;; QUESTION SECTION: ;google.com. IN A ;; ANSWER SECTION: google.com. 194 IN A 18.104.22.168 ;; Query time: 23 msec ;; SERVER: 22.214.171.124#53(126.96.36.199) ;; WHEN: Fri Sep 21 16:14:48 CDT 2018 ;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 55
The output contains both a section describing the “question” you asked (“What is the IP address of
google.com?”) and a section describing the answer you received. In the answer section, we see that
digfound a single record with what looks to be five fields. The record’s type is indicated by the
Ain the fourth field from the left—this is an “address” record. To the right of the
A, in the fifth field, we can see that the IP address for
194value in the second field specifies how long in seconds this particular record can be cached.