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Date: Thu, 17 May 2012 23:10:13 +0400
From: Aleksey Cherepanov <>
Subject: UI for MJohn

I'd like to talk about users's interactions during collaborative
cracking and respective user interface.

During the contest we used mailing list and irc channel for
everything: to talk about attacks, to track attacks in run, to

Also there were some team members that was able to talk directly being
at defcon. They did meetings and talks out of the list and channel. I
think that does not need any special user interface: like with mailing
list and private talks one should write down conclusions with reasons
possibly and make them public (available to other members).

It seems that there are two kinds of talks: general coordination and
talks related to certain attack. The latter could be grouped to or
even fill attack's description. I think there should be a separate
place for each attack and related talks. Also attack status should be
shown there. In case of rare status changes they could be posted as
messages but when they are frequent it would be more appropriate to
show only last status, only current state without history.

So my view of this is to have web based ui similar to weblog or forum
with updates in head: separate page for each attack with head message
for updates and with comments for discussion. Also there could be a
global chat for general talks.

While web uis are common and there is an ability to take premade
solution for this there are also drawbacks.

First problem with that solution is that not all deployment
environments will be satisfied with only chat and forum (even
threaded, like modern blogs have) for talks, they could prefer
video/audio conferencing. All users could not be satisfied and it
could be better to think how to make it easy to integrate things with
system and not how to pull them inside.

At this time I think that built-in chat is not needed. External
program without any integration could be suitable because chatting is
not persistent. The same applies to video/audio conferencing and to
direct conversations (that would be hard to integrate with any

Other problem is that web uis are not perfect in general. For instance
some (at least me) members of john-users team could prefer mailing
list over forum and irc over web-based chat. So it could be useful to
think about ability to have different full front ends. I think it is
possible to do but I doubt it would be enough easy for that summer.
But we could start with ui specific for john-users and then add other
uis (after summer). Is it needed? Would not it be too selfish for

Alexander mentioned ircII-like ui for distribution system. Maybe
something similar could be used to manage attacks while for talks
could be called preferred mailer.

Or even there could be ui that uses only emails: user sends mails with
commands or with text to server, depending on commands or their lack
these messages are public (just messages, attack descriptions) or
private (attack progress requests). Other option is to have separate
address for personal commands and for public commands or to have an
interface like ezmlm have for archive requests.

Further more user could have a local mail-server that talks with
master server though other protocol. That makes it possible to
implement different front ends. For instance there could be simple web
ui with html suitable for machine parsing (maybe using microformats)
that provides web ui that could be controlled through both browser and
mail-server that converts mails into http requests.

Aleksey Cherepanov

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