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Louis Kessler's Behold Blog » Blog Entry           prev Prev   Next next

Time To Shore Up The Spam Defences - Wed, 22 Aug 2012

I don’t know what they’re trying to prove, but for the last month or so, the Behold User Forum has been getting a spam attack. It started with a message every few days, slowly growing in number and frequency. Today I found six spam messages posted.

I’ve been manually deleting the messages one by one, and manually deleting the users who’ve been sending them. But I’m finally fed up, and decided I needed to do something.

First, it’s not just a simple bot posting the messages there. My forum requires you be logged in to post. That means you have to register. To do that, you have to enter a valid email address, get the email, and then click on the link in the email to activate. Over the last month, I’ve been getting new users named: iszfozbov, xsaaozboi, sdbns82001, etc. Most have hotmail addresses. All seem to have different IP addresses. But I know whatever does the register must be automated, because they fill in “Location”, “Occupation” and “Interests” fields that aren’t even in the signup form. Funny that most of the locations entered are: “ShenZhen”. So it must be some bot that is looking for some submit button on a form that says “Register” and posts all sorts of values for variables: Name, FirstName, LastName, Email, maybe hundreds of combinations, to every website it finds until one sends an email back. They may manually or automatically “press” the link in the email and they’re in. Then it can start automatically posting spam with its now validated registration, and so it does. Once they’re in, it now knows it’s a site it can start to use more and more – hoping that they can keep their spams unnoticed by the administrator for long enough that some idiot comes by and clicks on the links in them, or maybe Googlebot will come by and notice that a reputable site has links to them, so as to add to their reputation (Google PageRank) thus enabling them to move them up in the search result. I really don’t know all the reasons why they do it, but they do.

I’ve already eliminated most of the spam from comments on the Behold blog and user reviews on GenSoftReviews. Both are WordPress blog sites, and several WordPress techniques (I don’t want to divulge here in case the spammers are reading) have worked to make those fairly clean. Unfortunately at GenSoftReviews, since that site does not require a user to login, I also had to hold reviews containing a website address in it for moderation before it gets posted. Almost all spam contains an address – otherwise what is the use?

At the Behold forum, it’s a different situation. I have an older version of bbPress implemented that I heavily customized and integrated with my WordPress site and overall site design. That was a lot of work, and I’m not planning on redoing that any time soon, so upgrading to a newer version of bbPress is not currently a feasible option.

But I found a few old bbPress plugins to help me. One will allow me, like at GenSoftReviews, to hold the posts with website addresses in them for moderation. It’ll also email me to let me know, so that I can quickly approve the valid posts. A couple of other plugins allow me to mass edit posts and mass edit users, which makes cleanup much easier. In fact, it took me only about 20 seconds to clean up the forum after I implemented these.

Hopefully these measures will alleviate the flood of spam – or at least hide it from any visitors to the Behold forum.

So much to do. So much gets in the way of doing it.

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