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Beginners' Series Number 8

Telnet: the Number One Hacker Tool

by Carolyn Meinel

In this Guide you will learn:

"Where do I type that command?" People ask that all the time when they read my early Guides to (mostly) Harmless Hacking. I wrote those guides back when the Internet was in its infancy and almost everyone in cyberspace used telnet. However, nowadays you might never even hear about telnet, much less use it, unless you are a hacker. So if you are still wondering about telnet, today is your lucky day.

What Is Telnet?

Telnet is a protocol that is most commonly used to log into a remote computer. It also is the single most powerful hacking tool on the planet. With just a telnet client program, you can:

  • send email
  • download source code from web sites
  • send unexpected input to webservers that can give you amazing and sometimes illegal results
  • give arbitrary input to many other services on Internet host computers
  • probe the services offered by servers, routers and even people's home computers.

How to Telnet

Don't know how to telnet? Click the easy telnet links at http://happyhacker.org/wargame/ and land in the middle of a real hacker wargame! This should work regardless of your computer operating system -- if you have an up to date browser, if your online service provider gives you a true Internet connection, and if your computer is able to telnet at all.

Did those links get you into a telnet session? Were you able to login to a remote computer? If yes, congratulations.

If not, how can you fix the problem? If no telnet program appeared on your monitor when you clicked these links, perhaps your browser is too ancient to allow telnet. Try installing the latest Netscape browser (http://www.netscape.com). Or, perhaps your operating system does not include a telnet program. In that case, install or reinstall Windows 95 or 98. If you own a Mac, get the superb Mac OS X or Linux PPC (http://www.linuxppc.com).

If a telnet program came up and failed to connect, possibly the computer you were trying to telnet into was down or just plain no longer in existence. Or, you may be using America Online (or a similar extremely poor online service). If so, your simplest solution may be to get a better online service provider. Determined to hack using AOL? See http://happyhacker.org/aol.shtml for some ways to make AOL give you a true Internet connection.

OK, so you've managed to telnet for the first time. Presumably you don't want to limit yourself to telnet links on web sites. How do you telnet anywhere you want to go?

If you have Linux or any other type of Unix (BSD, SCO, Solaris, Sun OS, Irix, Ultrix, etc.) telneting is easy. Just bring up "console" or "shell" (or whatever your GUI calls the command line interface). At the prompt type:

telnet <hostname or IP address>

More --->>

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