What’s in a Domain Name?

The Internet’s domain name system (DNS) evolved in the early ’80s as new networking protocols developed, making it easy to find a particular site by using a structured system of elements. Those elements, also known as uniform resource locators (URLs), consist of a protocol, a host name, and a domain. For example, in http://www.dreamactivist.org/, http is the protocol (it stands for hypertext transfer protocol), www is the host name, and dreamactivist.org is the domain. (Domains always consist of at least two parts: the top-level domain–com, in this case–comes last, while one or more subdomains precede it.) The end result? Another acronym: you’ve got an FQDN (fully qualified domain name).

Find codes for top-level U.S. domains and subdomains as well as foreign country codes. There are seven top-level domains in the United States (each a two- or three-letter code), for everything from commercial entities to nonprofit organizations to government agencies. (The White House, for example, is a government agency, so its domain is whitehouse.gov.) Because the United States played such a strong role in developing the DNS, the system arrogantly assumes that the lack of a country code designates the United States. Every other country in the world uses a two-letter country code as the top-level domain name (such as uk for the United Kingdom). Although it’s not required, many entities in the United States do use us as a top-level domain, preceded by federal, state, or other codes. (For example, ci.boston.ma.us is Boston’s city government domain.) Click on the image at the left for lists of U.S. and foreign domain codes.

For a while InterNIC allowed individuals in the United States to register only under the com and us domains. You could try to get away with net or org (click on the DNS codes image above to see what they mean), but the burden of proof was upon you to prove your qualifying status. You could especially attract attention if you applied for, say, whatever.com, find that it’s taken, and then apply for whatever.net. It’s easier to stick with com or us.

The first step is making sure nobody else has snagged the name you want.

How to Get Your Own Domain Name?

What’s the difference between your Web site and a great big site run by, say, McDonald’s? Assuming your site has animation that features happy children waving from the window of a fast-food restaurant, there’s no difference–except that the golden arches are at http://www.mcdonalds.com/, while you may be at a Web address that looks something like http://www.isp.net/users/~yourname/index.html. How did Mickey D’s acquire such an easy-to-remember address? Simple: the company paid for it.

Over the past couple of years people and corporations have registered a flurry of domain names to carry over their name recognition to the Internet. Want to find a big corporation’s Web site? Chances are it’s at www.bigcorporation.com. But if you set up a site through your local Internet service provider, you get a big, unwieldy address. Still, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. It’s just a matter of choosing a unique name–and paying for it. So sit back and ponder what domain name you want to claim as we step you through the process of making your URL your own.

Installing Aide

AIDE stands for Advanced Intrusion Detection Environment (not System!) It collates information about files you specify, like checksums and permissions, into a database to be stored on external media. This can be especially useful in detecting files edited or placed on your system covertly by a cracker. For instance if your system is compromised “ls” could be replaced with a bash script that deletes all the files off the root tree.

Ideally you should run AIDE on a fresh system that has not been connected to a network, as if you have a malicious file already on your system then AIDE will just see it as any other file. You should also install AIDE on non-rewriteable media or storage, it depends how paranoid you are, personally I’m using it on a USB key. However if you are really security conscious you might consider using a multi-session CD-R to store the AIDE binary and database on. However the instructions are basically the same.

First download AIDE from the AIDE Sourceforge page move it into a directory and unpack it with:

tar xzf aide*

Go into the directory, making sure you have mounted whatever you are using (preferably a USB key) and configure it so that the binary will be installed on the removable storage and will look under the storage directories instead of looking at the default root tree.

./configure --prefix=/mnt/usbkey/aide --exec-prefix=/mnt/usbkey/aide

Next go into the directory that you installed it to (/mnt/usbkey/aide in my case) and make an etc directory to store the database and configuration files in:

mkdir etc
cd etc
touch aide.conf

Next you have to fill in the configuration that you require in the .conf file. The manual should be handy in finding out which options you need. Caveat: apparently the configuration options like to be all lined up, so make sure you have two distinguishable columns; on the left the directories and on the right the rules.

Now that you’ve got the configuration file sorted out, move into the bin directory and initialise the database:

./aide --init

This should create a aide.new.db file or similar underneath the /mnt/usbkey/aide/etc folder. Change this to aide.db:

mv aide.new.db aide.db

Now sit back and relax, check that all your files are in order every so often–how often? Depends on how paranoid you are. To check just plug in your USB key and execute:

./aide --check