Connecting via The Internet's Telnet & SSH Protocols

BBS Software can only go so far; a programmer isn't a genie, having others contribute to the code base of the bulletin board system software is better for all involved. If there's a feature or function that isn't there, why not just code it yourself and release it as a complimentary software expansion for all to enjoy?

There are many ways to Connect to BBSes 🙂

Three Ways to Logon to BBSes Right Now This Very Day

The most popular connection type is called Telnet, which is a clear-text (non-encrypted) connection protocol.  It is very fast as there is no overhead data to transmit, however your logon name and password can be sniffed by Internet-enabled machines between you and your destination computer.  To solve this problem, SSH (or Secure SHell) is an available option that handles traffic rather well.  It is slightly slower than Telnet but not by much.  SSH can also auto-logon for you, so if you remember your logon credentials you can enter them into the SSH client and you won't need to type in your connection details each time, but rather it will be done automatically, which is rather nice.  RLOGON is the third option, which is nice to have, but personally I only use Telnet or SSH.  The use case for RLOGON isn't that evident as to why someone would want to use it over the other two options, however its there as an option if you want to change things up.  If you are logging into Telnet with your sysop account or any account with the highest of privileges then you're making a mistake, as if someone sniff's the admin's password they can wreck havoc on your system after gaining full control of your system

Connection by Proxy

Sometimes your connection to the Internet can be slowed by the data path of your connection.  When this happens it is very useful to connect to BBSes through a proxy service, whether that be an open proxy or a VPN (virtual private network), back in the early days of my Internet experience I could only get 28.8 kbps over a 56k connection, but found that when I modified the data path to go over a proxy in the middle of my traffic that I could once again get 56k.  The reason for this isn't entirely evident as to why this is the case, but it is the case with some connections.  The proxy takes your input and output and carries your traffic through a re-direction.  My using another path to your destination, for whatever reason, you can get much faster speeds.  Why this is the case is anyone's guess, but it does in fact work.  If you're looking to do this thing but have privacy on your connection then you should buy VPN service from a commercial VPN company.  There are about two dozen of these services that are worth looking into, however I have found that IPVANISH works the best for me, and that company has deals on for their services on a regular basis, so keep going back to them until you find that they have a sale on.  You can select what country you would like your connection to appear from.  So lets say you live in Canada and want to appear as if you're from The USA, it can do that for you.  This helps bypass region-locking or region-blocking, where you can only receive the Internet services you're seeking from a certain origin country.  VPNs can appear to be from anywhere, so for example, you could use NetFlix from the American provider rather than a Canadian provider, which is useful to retrieve the larger movie selection that the Americans have available for them, rather than the Canadian selection.

Connection Through The Darknet

If you don't mind relatively slow connection speeds and you need a secure connection to the BBS of your choosing (if they're on The Darknet) then both TOR and I2P are options for you.  The most popular Darknet protocol by far is TOR, but the more customisable and probably more stable Darknet is I2P.  TOR stands for “The Onion Router” and I2P stands for “The Invisible Internet Project.”  I prefer the I2P service, but I have to admit that TOR is the easier service to setup; though that shouldn't stop you from trying out I2P.  There are several Darknet-hosted BBSes out there, but admittedly they are few and far between.  You can expect to get around 20-100 kilobytes per second through Darknet systems; with greater or lesser speeds being achievable depending on particularly good or bad data traffic routes.  For instant access to moderate speeds on Darknet services you have your best bet using TOR, while for systems that stay in place for several days I2P is the better bet.  But, as mentioned, I2P is more stable and faster over long-term connections.


On BBS File Servers such as Anonymous Archivers File Distro Network we use Telnet as the connection protocol because there is no way to logon to Mystic using that service, so speed is what is optimised in the use of Telnet.  For just about anything else SSH is recommended.  AAFDN gets its speed from not having the security functions overhead, and achieves its security needs by whitelisting IPs rather than enforcing the use of a secure protocol.  So if you're using a BBS Client such as mTelnet (which only has Telnet connectivity) then you're rather stuck with poor security functioning, though if you're using Netrunner or SyncTerm then SSH is available and recommended.  Secure communications is an important thing to consider as if someone compromises your account they could spam echomail networks or chat services resulting in your being banned from using those services.  A security compromise could easily result in you getting kicked off your favourite BBSes permanently.  But let's not leave this article on a bad note, rather play it safe and use SSH and everything will go well for you in your BBSing adventures, in terms of your connection details and integrity of your credentials.  Furthermore, it is highly recommended that you use different passwords on different BBS systems, as some BBSes store your logon and password in a simple non-encrypted text file.  Without the file being “hashed” or having received a digital signature all of your passwords could be used by an evil sysop (system operator) to access your accounts on other BBS systems.  Play it safe and keep your personal information, including your logon credentials, remaining private.  It should be noted that such a compromise is very rare as most of the people in the BBS Scene are gentlefolks and not inclined to being evil — there are that dedicated few however that are creepers.  You can tell them by their fruits.  If they are hating on a particular people group or if they continually use foul language then your best bet is to stay well away from them.  Have fun as overall the BBS Scene is a safe place with lots of positive things going on.