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Strange NTP Services

Here’s something strange and interesting to explore. time.nist.gov is a standard NTP server, used to synchronize the clock on your computer to the government’s atomic clock.

However, it also seems to have another strange service running on ports 78 and 79. Telnet in, and hit enter after connection is established, and you get this:

% telnet time.nist.gov 78 Trying 192.43.244.18... Connected to time.nist.gov. Escape character is '^]'.
P: P: My name is Patsy: and my husband's name is Paul: We come from Pittsburgh: and we sell Peaches:: 880-223-821-266-590-908-785 $ 0 875 3000 8 1 0 0 Connection closed by foreign host.

The names, city, and food change each time, but they always start with the same letter. The numbers on the bottom appear to be doing some incrementing based on time, but the pattern hasn’t been figured out yet.

Secret government broadcasts about the JFK conspiracy? The first step in SkyNET becoming self-aware? An equivalent to a numbers station? WHO KNOWS! Let’s get some smart minds working on deciphering this, or at least propose some wacky theories for fun.

Update: No, of course I don’t really think these are secret messages. (OMG CONSPIRACY!) It’s just more fun to posit that they might be. I’d still like to decipher the strange data format of the dump.

Update, again: If you coming in via a direct link to this post, be sure to check out the new post with the official explanation from a NIST employee.

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