Florian’s guide to IRC: Register your nickname

This article shows how you can register your IRC nickname to protect it, and gives an overview on the most important commands

IRC, the Internet Relay Chat, is a key component for many people working in free software projects. While these days a chunk of – especially mobile – messengers promote their services, IRC is known as a proven, reliable and recognized way of communication amongst open source people.

Many rely on the generous services of Freenode to power their chatrooms. While IRC per se is not complicated to setup, what often is a miracle to newbies is how to claim and register your IRC nickname, which I’ll show in the following guide.

An IRC nickname is the name people can use to contact you at a specific IRC network – similar to your mobile number for the messenger, or your e-mail address. In IRC, your nickname can serve several purposes, from a regular chat participant to the operator of multiple channels, and so it can have privileges assigned.

Many IRC operators, including Freenode, allow registration and thus protection of your nickname through a service called NickServ. It keeps track of registered nicknames and ask those using it for a password, to avoid abuse and identity theft.

An IRC login sequence
An IRC login sequence

Initial registration

Here’s how it works:

  1. To register your IRC nickname, connect to Freenode (or any other network supporting NickServ) first – either with your preferred client, or directly via their Web IRC feature, in both cases using your desired nickname already, and ideally with a TLS-encrypted connection. Should the nickname have been reserved by someone else, you need to decide for another one and try again.
  2. As soon as you’re successfully logged in, you can associate the nickname with an e-mail address and protect it with a password by typing
    /msg nickserv register YourPassword YourEmailAddress

    and replace YourPassword and YourEmailAddress with the respective data.

  3. If all went well, NickServ will confirm your request, repeating the registered nickname, the password, and the e-mail address.
  4. Check your e-mail (and look for the spam folder if you don’t see the confirmation message). Freenode will send you a notice with a command you need to enter within one day to confirm the existance of your e-mail address and your nickname registration.
  5. Enter this command at Freenode. It looks similar to this:
    /msg nickserv verify register YourNickname YourToken

    Replace YourNickname and YourToken with the respective data shown in the e-mail.

  6. If you were successfull, Freenode confirms this with a message – congratulations, your Nickname is now protected.

Logging in with your IRC nickname

In the future, when logging on to IRC, you need to authenticate your nickname, for which there are several options:

  1. Some clients allow to enter authentication data directly into your confguration profile.
  2. Some also support the SASL authentication mechanism which you should enable, as this speeds things up a bit and allows you to join protected channels during the login sequence (more on that topic in a later posting).
  3. Failing that, you can manually authenticate to your account everytime you login, and possibly use a login sequence script in your client software. To do so, after initial login, Freenode will present you with a notice that the nickname is registered. Then – you usually have to do this within a timeframe of 30 seconds – authenticate by typing
    /msg nickserv identify YourPassword

    and replace YourPassword by – your password, obviously.

Configuring your account

Besides helping you protect your account, NickServ also provides some configuration directives you can see by typing

/msg nickserv help

for general overview and

/msg nickserv help command

for help on a specific command, like set. A couple of specific settings come in quite handy, so here’s a few samples on what you might want to configure:

  1. /msg nickserv set hidemail on

    hides your e-mail address from other IRC users

  2. /msg nickserv set private on

    goes a step further and hides further details, including your e-mail address

  3. /msg nickserv set enforce on

    will add further protection to your account when someone tries to use it without verification, but comes at the price of some unlocking process (see the release command for details) in case you type wrong credentials

  4. /msg nickserv set quietchg off

    disabled some notifications that might distract you over time

  5. /msg nickserv info

    gives you an overview on your account settings

  6. /msg nickserv listchans

    lists all associated channels you own (more on that in a later blogposting)

  7. /msg nickserv listownmail

    lists all the nicknames associated with your e-mail address

  8. /msg nickserv vacation

    tells NickServ you’re away for a while, and raises the limits on account use. In case you have not been logged in frequently, your account registration might get removed, so it’s advisable to read through the requirements.

Using multiple nicknames (aliases)

Sometimes it’s desirable to use multiple nicknames, or aliases to your nickname. This comes in especially handy when you use a different name for being away, like YourNickname_away or YourNickName_. To apply the same protection and settings for aliases, log in and authenticate with your main nickname and then

/nick YourSecondNickName
/msg nickserv group

Getting a cloak

Even with enabling the above privacy settings, your IP address might get disclosed to other IRC participants. To prevent that, Freenode offers a so-called cloak that hides your address. If your account has been existing for a while, follow the instructions at their FAQ for further details.

Autor: Florian Effenberger

Florian engagiert sich seit über 18 Jahren für freie Software und ist einer der Gründer der The Document Foundation, der Stiftung hinter LibreOffice

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