the mysterious Ashley

Case number:699969-2007830
Topic:General
Opened by:LociOiling
Status:Open
Type:Question
Opened on:Friday, June 14, 2019 - 18:32
Last modified:Friday, November 8, 2019 - 18:51

The user Ashley was sighted on 13 June 2019 in both #global and #veteran. (All times are US Central Daylight Time, CDT).

Purely by accident, clicking on Ashley's name revealed a "started folding" date of 05/09/08, 9 May 2008, the game's official birthdate.

Ashley's user profile

Despite having started folding 11 years ago, Ashley has never opened a single puzzle or contest, and has no achievements.

Given this lack of any activity, Ashley's appearance in the somewhat exclusive #veteran chat was even more mysterious.

Ashley's puzzling apparition persisted for almost 34 hours, as seen in my IceChat logs:

13 June 2019 (US CDT):
[00:28]* Ashley (Ashley@net-pol.92h.8l7epv.IP) has joined channel #global
[00:28]* Ashley (Ashley@net-pol.92h.8l7epv.IP) has joined channel #veteran

14 June 2019 (US CDT):
[10:06]* Ashley (Ashley@net-pol.92h.8l7epv.IP) Quit (Ping timeout: 181 seconds)

Thanks to Mike Cassidy for pointing out the paradox of Ashley's entry into #veteran.

Making this one a question: what's going on here?

(Fri, 06/14/2019 - 18:32  |  29 comments)


LociOiling's picture
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OK, I guess Ashley has a sibling Alissa, who appears in both veteran and global at the moment.

Alissa has a low user number, 56117. Alissa's profile gives "you are not authorized to access this page".

I vote for Audrey as the next access-denied type of mystery chat invader.

LociOiling's picture
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Our latest lurker at the threshold is Bill or bill, started on 9 May 2008, present in #veteran, but has no visible accomplishments.

Hope I didn't miss Audrey.

LociOiling's picture
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Bill is gone, but now we have Courtney, one of those "access denied/you are not authorized" types. No doubt just another sign of the coming robot apocalypso.

LociOiling's picture
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Now Courtney in turn has departed, but we have the somewhat anomalous Barbara, whose profile is actually accessible. Barbara started folding in 2008, but last played puzzle 337 in 2010. As in previous rounds, an attempt at a seance in veteran chat has been made, but the spirits are silent.

LociOiling's picture
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Barbara has vanished without saying goodbye, but now Victor has beamed into the chat rooms. Victor has been playing for over 11 years, but has still not managed to open a single puzzle. Perhaps he's just shy, and only plays in offline mode.

LociOiling's picture
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I decided to try talking to Victor, using the oddly-named IRC "query" command in my external IRC client (IceChat).

Somewhat to my surprise, Victor responded. An actual transcript follows.

[14:55]<LociOilingIRC> hey Victor
[14:55]<Victor> Hey
[14:55]<LociOilingIRC> how are things today?
[14:55]<Victor> Hey
[14:55]<LociOilingIRC> I'm thinking you're a bot of some kind.
[14:55]<Victor> Hey

(Edit: escaped the brackets for the sake of HTML.)

alcor29's picture
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Joined: 11/16/2012

Hilarious!

LociOiling's picture
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It continues. Victor has left the chat room, but Joseph has moved in.

georg137's picture
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Foldit is open to all, but the intended thrust of creating a user account is to actually use a client machine for folding. So, any ideas about the implications of serial account creation? Weird but harmless or somehow intrusive?

LociOiling's picture
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I suspect the Foldit team is behind these dormant users appearing in chat. A year or so ago, we had FolditIRCBot in chat, but not for very long. Perhaps someone is working on a better bot, but FolditIRCBot had way more things to say than my pal Victor.

I'd agree with "weird but harmless". Not very intrusive, since these are public channels, as our friends from SuperNets used to demonstrate once in a while.

LociOiling's picture
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The gyre continues to widen. Joseph has departed into the aether, but Anna has manifested theirself, passing through a mystical portal from a distant time known as 2008.

LociOiling's picture
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Anna has left us, along with the old chat server. Now David (or david) has joined us on the new server.

David started Foldit early on, 29 November 2007. Unlike recent chat manifestations, David appears to have played a puzzle, coming in 1159th on Puzzle 59 in May, 2008. (Oddly, David's efforts don't show up on the puzzle page, which ends with LMfan in 1293rd place.)

Does anyone know a "David" who might be associated with Foldit?

Angus's picture
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David Baker ???

LociOiling's picture
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David has left the chat lab, but Andrea, another vet from '08, has popped in. Andrea has the "Baby Steps" achievement, who knows what they'll achieve in the next 11 years!

LociOiling's picture
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Andrea has left us to our own devices, but Carlos, another from the class of '08 has joined our sparkling conversations.

Joined: 09/24/2012
Groups: Go Science

Ha ha ha :D This is amazing.

bkoep's picture
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Just want to chime in that mysterious Ashley is not a part of the Foldit team, although we are enjoying the intrigue! It's possible that these are early Foldit players returning from hibernation, but most likely this is just a bot that logs into random IRC channels with a generic, unauthenticated nick (which happens to match a Foldit username) . . . or it could also be the Foldit elves that keep messing with the scoreboards.

These accounts appear to be harmless, so we see no reason to be concerned. Please keep in mind that the Foldit #veteran and #global channels are public IRC channels, and are not the place to share private or sensitive information.

LociOiling's picture
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Thanks, things just got a little weirder. The nicks don't seem randomly selected -- all have been a common first name, and all have a Foldit profile, although sometimes the profile page is locked.

There is a bot on the other end, which will always say "hey" in an IRC query.

We do see returning Foldit players on a regular basis, for example, there was a brief appearance by NewZealand (who has a different IRC name) a couple of days ago. NZ actually said something in chat, unlike the bots.

brow42's picture
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Anybody can come onto IRC with any nick they want. But this won't link to a foldit account. The problem is that they are creating accounts, and they don't seem to be foldit players, having never opened a single puzzle.

What you have is people connecting to your Foldit game server, which is apparently unencrypted, and doesn't authenticate against the PKI cert in the client (or they copied it), and they creating new accounts. What then? Probably they are throwing random garbage at the server to see if it breaks in an exploitable way, or they trying to find a way to have your server act as a proxy for spam or ddos packets. Whatever it is, it's almost certainly not benign.

bkoep's picture
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Hi brow42, how are you seeing the nick linked to a Foldit account?

Within the Foldit client, you can click on someone's IRC nick to visit their Foldit user page, but under the hood this is actually a query against the Foldit database for a username matching the IRC nick.

In this case, an arbitrary IRC nick will in fact link to a Foldit account if there is a matching username in the database. No need to register a Foldit account.

I think it's very unlikely our IRC guests are creating actual Foldit accounts (especially since most of these nicks "link" to accounts created back in 2008-09).

LociOiling's picture
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OK, I tested it out....

I just came into chat as Clay through mibbit. The nick "Clay" automatically links to the Foldit profile "clay", no need to authenticate. (Although Clay is not seeing messages in #global and #veteran, but that may be a mibbit issue.)

Meanwhile, Danny is still with us, but at the same time, SoFoolyCoolly also seems to fit the pattern. Although the name is not as simple as "David", the profile is similar to the others, started folding 5/9/08, but no accomplishments listed. (Edit: SoFoolyCoolly doesn't respond to IRC query messages, so it's not the same bot as the others.)

You're not going to find "SoFoolyCoolly" on a list of common names, but it's easy enough to pick a profile by flipping through user numbers at fold.it/portal/user. I started at user 5001, and quickly found "clay" at 5004.

So we kind of know how this is happening, but still no clue as to *why*.

bkoep's picture
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SoFoolyCoolly was me, sorry!

I randomly picked that username for a similar test, and forgot to leave the chatroom afterward. I cannot claim Danny, though...

Joined: 09/24/2012
Groups: Go Science

Ha ha ha ! Amazing story.

brow42's picture
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I guess this is the best explanation, if you have a bunch of old test accounts.

None of this makes sense, unless you've somehow restarted a 10 year old IRC testing program in a software move or restore. We can't see the ip of these connections but presumably jflat can.

LociOiling's picture
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Carlos has faded, looks like Danny has appeared.

frood66's picture
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I think LFB is testing the water :)

LociOiling's picture
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Danny is done, no direct replacement, but there is a Bernice in veteran. Unlike the other mystery guests, Bernice doesn't have a Foldit profile at all.

LociOiling's picture
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Bernice is no more, but Gary has stepped in to fill the underachiever achievement.

LociOiling's picture
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Gary has gone back to Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, but Maria has dropped into our little corner of the spacetime continuum.

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