Bossy Lobster

A blog by Danny Hermes; musing on tech, mathematics, etc.

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Silly Pranks on your Friends

Disclaimer: These are silly little pranks, but I don't encourage messing with someone's computing environment without letting them know you have done so.

First Prank:

I have a friend who really likes to read, so I figured I would "enrich" her life a bit with another source of daily news :)

I decided to play around with her hosts file, so that when she visited, she really got the New York Times (the realest news I could think of at that time, though there are plenty of fine candidates).

To quote the Wikipedia article on hosts files:

The hosts file...assists in addressing network nodes in a computer network. It is a common part of an operating system's Internet Protocol (IP) implementation, and serves the function of translating human-friendly hostnames into numeric protocol addresses, called IP addresses, that identify and locate a host in an IP network.

More importantly:

the /etc/hosts file...allows you to add entries that traditionally your computer will look up first before trying your server DNS.

This means that even though the DNS Lookup provided by her ISP could resolve, her browser would get an IP address from the hosts file first and hence will render the New York Times page for

The first step to do this was to find the IP address for the replacement site:

$ ping
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=64 time=0.062 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=64 time=0.054 ms

For the second (and final) step, I just needed to add an entry to the hosts file. After locating the file on her Macbook in /etc/hosts, I updated the contents:

# Host Database
# localhost is used to configure the loopback interface
# when the system is booting.  Do not change this entry.
##       localhost broadcasthost
::1             localhost
fe80::1%lo0     localhost  # New entry

Voilà! With that, the prank was complete and the next time she visited, the got the contents of in her browser.

Second Prank coming soon.