Saturday, September 30, 2006

ShoeMoney's Blog Spam Stopping Primer

The day after my battle cry to Rally the Anti-Spammers here comes ShoeMoney with some great suggestions for stopping blog spam. Everything ShoeMoney posted is very solid advice but some spammers have already been evolving past some of those patches which is why I use my draconian anti-spam methods. Basically, ShoeMoney's advice will stop the majority of your garden variety spammers, but not all as they are constantly adapting, so as you improve your defenses they improve their ability to bypass those defenses.

Remember, security is built in layers and the more layers you pile on, the more the spammers will chip away at your security so building the better spamtrap just results in smarter spammers and they're already here which I'll address with examples below.

Let's examine ShoeMoney's anti-spam advice, see what some state of the art spammers are already doing, and add a few more tricks here and there for even better security.

Starting with the first item he listed:
5) Deny Access to No Referrer Requests

The approach does work on most spammers but I had about 10 requests today where it would've failed. Not that you shouldn't implement this, it's a good trick to stop a lot of spam, just be aware it won't stop everything.


My bounced spam log shows the following:

User Agent: "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"
Subject: "Viagra"
Take a look at what's in my server log: - "POST /formsubmit.html HTTP/1.0" 200 11918 "" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"
Yup, that's right, a referrer, and I had about 10 of those and they were all from spambots.

Stopping the poorly coded spambots is easy, but they won't be vulnerable for long as the patch to add the domain name being spammed into the referrer is trivial so I expect this anti-spam advantage to be short-lived but I use it too, you should still do this.

Now, let's tackle the next item, which is VERY good advice:
4) Kill tor anonymous proxies

I block many proxies on my servers, which does stop a lot of spam, but don't think that all spammers use known proxies. This is the reason I also block dedicated server hosting facilities because a series of $2 webhosting accounts can be used to effectively spam and bypass the proxy lists.

Example of 4 sample spams (out of many) today that all had referrers mentioned above and came from some ISP/Host called



Use this with caution:
2) Blacklist Repeat Offenders:

First off, blacklist on the FIRST offense so there is no second time. However, you really need to know what you're doing and lookup who the IP address belongs to so you aren't blocking IP addresses from places like the AOL IP pool (reused every 15 minutes or so) or any other shared proxy dial-up IP pools as those IP assignments are very temporary and the next access is probably a different visitor, not a spammer, so be very careful with this.

This is a gem and we can make it better:
1) Rename your comment file

Excellent advice as I've done that on some websites but don't be shocked when it's short-lived as spammers also have crawlers looking for these comment pages and the fact that you're still linking it under the keyword "comments" is a dead giveaway.

If you're going to change the file name, also change the word that links to the file name to "discussion", "verbal intercourse", or "rants", anything but "comments" to throw them off.

Additionally, move the actual FORM into obfuscated javascript document writes. How this works is the spambot scanning your website can't even find the webform to submit comments as most bots don't use javascript, so only an actual visitor would see an actual webform written into the web page via javascript.

Don't forget the CAPTCHA!

Now, the one thing ShoeMoney didn't mention which works wonders is a simple CAPTCHA and it's keeping a few of my sites spam free without ANY other work involved. Yes, there are ways to bypass a captcha but it's not easy for the spammer. So far most captcha protected sites are safe with such simple protection, but I expect that situation to escalate soon.

Kudos to ShoeMoney for spreading the word, we need more anti-spam information spreading and more people jumping on the anti-spam bandwagon so we can rid the 'net of this scourge as soon as possible and move on to more productive activity.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Virginia Tech's Computer Science: Wiki Spam 101

My website stops spam posts cold, and logs them, so that eventually I can glance over the list of bounced spams now and then just to see what was caught and this one was priceless:

"Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)"
Subject: "Viagra"

I looked and thought, "Viagra spam linking to VT.EDU? Could their server be hacked like SpamHuntress is posting about?" So I click the link and of course it uses VT.EDU's server to redirect me to some viagra sales site just like the URL would make you think it would, no surpise there.

So I trimmed the URL to see what in the heck this site was and it's ADVANCE, FOR THE ADANCEMENT OF WOMEN IN ACADEMIC SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING CAREERS and it's full of advances for MEN such as viagra, cialis and levitra spam plus a whole bunch more.

Well, the IT dept. and professors in charge of the VT computer science program should probably start quaking in their boots as I would be VERY UNHAPPY if I was the Dean.

This is completely unacceptable when the IT guys and CS Profs aren't using even rudimentary anti-spam technology like, oh, maybe a simple CAPTCHA to stop this shit.

I want my tuition refunded.

BTW, whoever these spammers are, they've been VERY BUSY little beavers.

Time to Rally the Anti-Spammers

After the demise of Blue Security and this recent meaningless default judgement against SpamHaus, the spammers are getting braver and bolder by the day. Now, one of the most vocal anti-spammers around, SpamHuntress, has recently come under attack after exposing a few people that really didn't want to be exposed.

Even one self-professed blackhat SEO web spammer has the audacity to tell SpamHuntress to "get a life" because she must be cutting into his livelihood. Maybe I'm just too lazy, but who would've ever thought of registering for a bunch of forums and never posting as an SEO tactic? Using his DISY registration spamming script probably sped it up and he's busy making friends [scroll to bottom] as well.

OK, so now the phpBB people will need to be alerted to add NOFOLLOW to all those links in the registration page to stop this SEO vulnerability, but I digress, will rant about that later.

Unlike email spam, which is a real pain in the ass to stop, there is absolutely no reason we have blog, forum or guestbook spam whatsoever except for shitty programmers writing the stuff and people using it that either:

  • have abandoned their websites or forgotten that old guestbook or blog now littered with junk
  • aren't aware there is a problem as many spambots post on older threads
  • don't know there are solutions to these problems
  • aren't capable of installing the patches even if they are aware of the solutions
I've posted before how I stop spam on all my pages that have forms for submitting a variety of things, WITHOUT the use of captcha's, and although it's a pretty draconian approach to the problem it's also highly effective. My solution was to simply reject any posts with embedded HTML and URLs, just bounce them with an error about the content, and it works 100% against real spam. Maybe it's a tad extreme but when this type of spam is dead maybe I'll open up my sites again to more robust content posts, you never know.

However, for those that like to continue to do things the hard way, here's a list of software you can install to stop the spammers:
I'm going to ask that people reading here help the cause and start educating everyone you run across with a blog or forum being overrun by spam.

Please point them to a resource to solve the problem or offer to help them add the plug-ins pro-bono or for a nominal fee if they don't understand how, or if all else fails alert the host to help sites overflowing with spam and see if they'll be of any assistance.

Don't forget, the purpose of these spammers is to drive direct traffic and also get results in Google so when you stumble upon these sites in Google, make sure you file a Google Spam Report while you're there to get them whacked from the search results.

We can stop this in the next year or two, as long as people quit being complacent and just install the upgrades, patches, captchas and other anti-spam tools.

Spread the word, let's just get this done so we can stop talking about it already!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

MySpace: Porn Networking Spam Machine?

The other day I signed up for MySpace while researching the members with "Click The Ads" on their pages encouraging others to commit click fraud to fund their various lame causes.

Unfortunately, signing up for MySpace immediately resulted in a couple of porn spams sent to my Inbox which really pissed me off.

So I get some shit that looks like this:

FROM: MySpace Events
SUBJECT: .. has invited you to: I seen you online

Hi ,

.. has invited you to an event on MySpace:

Click the link below to view the event details:

Now below this, there is some bullshit message from MySpace:
At MySpace we care about your privacy. We have sent you this notification to facilitate your use as a member of the service. If you don't want to receive emails like this to your external email account in the future, change your Account Settings to "Do not send me notification emails."
Really, you care so much about my privacy you let goddamn porn spammers send me fucking email?

I'm touched, a tear comes to my eye ...

... yes a tear, because I realize can't reach out and smack whoever let this shit happen upside the head!

Anyway, here's the website on MySpace linked from the spam:

Here's the first site's link to a girl with a webcam:

And here's the second spam site's girl with a webcam:

I'm wondering if people under 18 get these spams too?

I think I'll just cancel the account because MySpace is no place I was to be associated with.

Monday, September 25, 2006

MySpace: A Click Fraud Social Network?

Maybe it's just Web 2.0, or Web Welfare 2.0, but it appears that stealing from advertisers is now something that is accepted in social networks. Let's look at what we find on sites like MySpace and others which are a good place to build up a nice list of friends to click your ads, especially the Google ads, because we all know that friends click friends ads, especially if you want your friends banned from AdSense.

Even on YouTube where people can't put up their own ads they beg people to come to their website and click the ads to support them putting up more videos!

The most shocking is Blogger, which is owned by Google, the creator of AdWords and AdSense, which hosts sites that encourage people to "Click the Ads" to defraud the very advertisers they rely on for their massive income.

How difficult would it be to have a single employee out of the entire Googleplex devoted just to keeping click fraud off their own property?

You know the answer, I know the answer, yet a simple search reveals that it's not being done, or not done adequately at any rate or there would be no sites returning results from Blogger on this topic if they were on top of the problem.

The technology for these sites to deploy an automated process to locate pages within their sites that contain calls to "click the ads" or "click Google ads" or any combination and eliminate this fraud on a daily basis is so trivial and rudimentary that beginning programmers could do it.

Bottom line is there's absolutely no excuse for this type of call for advertiser click fraud to be allowed unchecked on these sites, not in MySpace, YouTube, Blogger, Google, Yahoo, MSN or anywhere else and why Click Fraud 2.0 continues to perpetuate on the web when it's so easy to thwart frankly boggles the mind.

Flickr Member Requests Click Frauding Advertisers for the Children

Well, I've seen all sorts of excuses to advocate click fraud but the plea on Flickr to commit a crime for the children is a new one and more despicable than any I've seen before. Think about the precedent that this sets in impressionable young minds that it's "OK TO STEAL FOR A CAUSE" when crime is never OK. Sadly, all of the good this person has possibly done for these children was wiped away with one call to arms to defraud people for a cause.

If you want to save the children, set up a Paypal account and teach the children than they can be helped by the generosity of others, not by others commiting FRAUD!

Here's the screen shot from Flicker:

And the site it lands on in Blogger:

Come on buddy, just ask for donations and keep it legal as we all love the children but this is over the top.