AIM/AOL Programs in 90's & early 2000's

Ghost

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Apr 19, 2019
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Hey all, I was just wondering if any of you were part of the AIM/AOL scene in the 1990's and early 2000's.
The scene was filled with everyone from chatters (in public chatrooms like chat1, chat2, or more specific chatroom topics) to hackers. There were "scriptkiddies" who used hacking tools & programs to mess around, beginner programmers who modified existing AIM/AOL related software & tools, and even advanced hackers / coders who made some very awesome websites, software, etc.

I first started becoming interested in AIM/AOL right before Y2K. I met a lot of people online because I was fascinated by the internet and ability to meet people all over the world. I soon got in touch with some programmers and hackers, which is how I really developed an interest in creating websites, software, and apps. The AOL/AIM scene obviously died out gradually, and then disappeared because AOL discontinued their messaging service, but I still feel a lot of nostalgia. I did not get too deep into the hacking, or break the law, but it definitely opened my eyes to both the dangers and the wonders of the internet. AOL was an established company and in use on countless home computers as a service and software. The fact that their service was so vulnerable surprised me, and the hackers responsible were almost godlike because of it.

Hacking/management software for AIM/AOL included....
  • Chatroom management tools (ban / suspend user, kick user out of chatroom, auto-kick or warn user for using certain words) ~ All you had to do was be the first user in ANY chatroom available. This wasn't known by all, but if you sat in a chatroom until everyone else logged off & became the user in that chatroom for the longest, you got a secret 'owner' permission. You could then use any of the available AIM chat management tools to essentially run the room for as long as you were online. You could ban as many people as you wanted, which prevented them from entering that chatroom for as long as you were the owner. You could kick people out, forcing them to re-enter, and even do cool things like run chatroom games!
  • Chatroom games & bots - You could load up a software to act as a bot. There were hundreds of them and they did things such as trivia, word unscramble games, /roll (0-11), or even more advanced "AI" bots similar to the official AOL bots
  • Chat idling - If you wanted to gain ownership of a chatroom, you could use a chat idler to make sure you stayed online & active. You could run this for as long as your computer & internet stayed online, which eventually meant you could "steal" ownership of a chatroom just by waiting for people to log off and grant you the secret chatroom owner permissions from AIM servers.
  • Multi-botting - You could have a group of anywhere from 30-100 AIM bots logged in & entering chatrooms, messaging people, etc. As soon as a chatroom slot became available one of your bots would enter. This effectively prevented real users from entering a chat room and was a common method for stealing a room from an owner when the bots were combined with idler software.
  • IM Bombers/Booters - these programs sent messages rapidly. They made use of the many vulnerabilities of the AIM software, but mainly by sending code that was transformed into emojis & styled text. The sheer amount of messages being formatted with colors, bold, size, etc was too much for most users, so they would be kicked offline by the booter. There were also other forms of booters that used other exploits to kick people offline
  • Opssec accounts / Merlin hacks - these were far more advanced and were highly illegal. In fact, many hackers did face jail time because of this specifically. Opssec accounts were able to permanently ban/suspend/modify AOL accounts - not just in chatrooms. They were used by legitimate employees, but over the course of AIM's life there were plenty of times where an Opssec account was compromised and used by hackers. There were also exploits that allowed hackers to create their own Opssec accounts. Merlin hacks were targeted attacks on AOL's central system and database. Those exploits were used to modify accounts, view customer information, etc. This could then be used for social engineering, data ransoms, and more.
Of course, there were other programs that were not as malicious. You could connect to AIM with third-party clients (not created by AOL), receive notifications to your email and/or phone, and generally enjoy the creativity of the world's AIM enthusiasts.

Anyways, I am just wondering if anyone else here was part of the AIM/AOL "community" of programmers & hackers. It might be a bit too old for some of you - I was in Elementary/Middle school when most of these hacks, chatroom management tools, and programs were created. It's how I got started online. The first forum I joined was dedicated to creating software (both safe & unsafe) for AIM. From there I joined other tech forums, learned about coding, and eventually created my own tech community and website.

I would love to hear anyone else's experience with this interesting time period.
For those of you who never used AIM/AOL, you *can* check it out still, but it's no longer supported by AOL. There is a project called AIM Phoenix that has created their own servers for running AIM & has clients you can download to connect. You won't be able to "search for friends" like you can these days, but you can add people from their official forums to talk to!

 
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