Whats up with the Spam bots?

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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:47 pm

UberGerbil wrote:It's hard to say how much of a workload increase it would be for the mods if every new forum member is required to ping them to get linking approval, and ultimately that's the key determinant of how viable this would be, but I don't think it would be the end of the world if new users had to wait a day or two to get that approval either -- and, like I said, it could be that new users would go on for quite a while before even realizing they're "limited" in this way.

Given the mouse-clicks and typing required to junk a post and ban the poster, a mod queue of new users seeking link authority with a single click from me would save me time every AM. The "grant link authority" cookie would have to be assigned to every mod though, so as to broaden the load (spending 30 minutes every morning approving new linkers vs. 30 minutes junking/banning is not a net gain IMO).
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 6:50 pm

BuntyMiff wrote:3. No free email accounts


I really don't think you should have to pay to use a forum. The whole hardforum/neogaf approach is seriously flawed.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:12 pm

UberGerbil wrote:I actually thought about this before making my suggestion above, and decided it was a bad idea. It really doesn't make things any easier (in fact, it may make the forum coding task harder), and all it will really do is encourage spammers to make five quick garbage posts and then start throwing up link posts. In other words, it very well might increase the number of unwanted posts. And the reality is that it's quite possible to be an active member of the community without ever posting a link. In particular, the first-time users we're worried about not turning away (or creating a barrier for) generally don't need to post links; the people helping them often do, but for the most part they're already site veterans. It's hard to say how much of a workload increase it would be for the mods if every new forum member is required to ping them to get linking approval, and ultimately that's the key determinant of how viable this would be, but I don't think it would be the end of the world if new users had to wait a day or two to get that approval either -- and, like I said, it could be that new users would go on for quite a while before even realizing they're "limited" in this way.

That's why I added the "day after" part- they could make their 5 trash posts, but they'd get banned before the requisite 24 hours had passed to grant them linking privileges. I think our ideas aren't actually that far apart. :)
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:42 pm

Geistbar wrote:That's why I added the "day after" part- they could make their 5 trash posts, but they'd get banned before the requisite 24 hours had passed to grant them linking privileges. I think our ideas aren't actually that far apart. :)
Yeah, we are. Maybe it would be enough to just put new users on a "clock" and not allow them to post a link for 24 or 48 hours, and then grant it automatically. If they need to post a link sooner than that, they can request it. No post count limits at all. Unless the spammers start registering without posting one day and then coming back and link spamming on that account later.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:50 pm

UberGerbil wrote:
Geistbar wrote:That's why I added the "day after" part- they could make their 5 trash posts, but they'd get banned before the requisite 24 hours had passed to grant them linking privileges. I think our ideas aren't actually that far apart. :)

Yeah, we are. Maybe it would be enough to just put new users on a "clock" and not allow them to post a link for 24 or 48 hours, and then grant it automatically. If they need to post a link sooner than that, they can request it. No post count limits at all. Unless the spammers start registering without posting one day and then coming back and link spamming on that account later.

Actually... a fairly common modus operandi is for a spammer to register, post seemingly innocuous replies to a few random threads (often with text scraped from similar topics on other forums), then come back a day or two later and add a sig containing spam links to the existing posts.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:51 pm

kvndoom wrote:I'd be curious to see how many spam posts Something Awful gets, with their $10 registration fee. I bet I could count it on zero fingers.


Every once in a while SA gets a social media promoter hoping for a little exposure. His $10 is considered a non tax-deductible contribution to the Lauren Kyanka college fund.

Using a IP/username/email blacklist to stop spammers at registration would be a better solution as it stops spammers from posting, affects a much smaller proportion of legitimate users, and actually exists: http://www.stopforumspam.com/
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:43 am

just brew it! wrote:Actually... a fairly common modus operandi is for a spammer to register, post seemingly innocuous replies to a few random threads (often with text scraped from similar topics on other forums), then come back a day or two later and add a sig containing spam links to the existing posts.

At the Rock, Paper, Shotgun comments I've noticed they now have spambots that copy the text from someone else's comment and then add a link to the end of it- very insidious. Quite effective, at least for the first time, as well.

UberGerbil wrote:Yeah, we are. Maybe it would be enough to just put new users on a "clock" and not allow them to post a link for 24 or 48 hours, and then grant it automatically. If they need to post a link sooner than that, they can request it. No post count limits at all. Unless the spammers start registering without posting one day and then coming back and link spamming on that account later.

Yeah, actually- maybe the best way to fight this isn't to disable the ability to make links at all, but to only allow links through exact text. You couldn't do google, but you could do www.google.com. Most of the spam links I see are all using link shortening services. Presumably to hide the link end result- if you made that no longer possible until some long goal (manual moderator approval or been around for 3 months and made 100 posts, or something), that might kill their main obfuscation tactic well enough to make it not worth their time.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:04 pm

just brew it! wrote:Actually... a fairly common modus operandi is for a spammer to register, post seemingly innocuous replies to a few random threads (often with text scraped from similar topics on other forums), then come back a day or two later and add a sig containing spam links to the existing posts.
Well, I guess that takes me back to my "every new member has to petition to link" idea.
Contingency wrote:Using a IP/username/email blacklist to stop spammers at registration would be a better solution as it stops spammers from posting, affects a much smaller proportion of legitimate users, and actually exists: http://www.stopforumspam.com/
That certainly could help, though blacklists are by their nature retroactive so there are always some that sneak through.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 01, 2012 12:15 pm

The past week or so I've noticed a pattern on this site. I'm not going to say anything in detail until I can tell for sure if it is spammers or not, but I have that sneaky suspicion...
"No I don't want the Ask toolbar! No I don't want Bing as my default search! No I don't want to make Chrome my default browser!"
"Good grief, man! WHAT are you trying to install on that poor computer?"
"Antivirus."
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Feb 03, 2012 11:55 pm

UberGerbil wrote:I still wonder if there's a simple solution to this: just prevent (or strip) links from users until those users have been "approved" by a mod. When you create a new account at TR you can read everything, and you can post anywhere, but those posts can't include a {url} tag (or it gets filtered out). Links sometimes can be convenient for people asking for help, but they're not really necessary -- and most new users don't take advantage of any BBCode initially anyway. Some users might participate for quite a while before they even realize they need mod approval to make use of it. And meanwhile, the spammers lose the only reason for their posts. (Of course that's not going to stop spam right away, and the automated shotgun nature of comment spam means that they may not even notice for some time, but at least TR isn't contributing to the SEO wins they're trying to get)

^ this. seriously. why do NEW users have the NEED to post url/links for anyways? make them EARN it by posting legitimate posts.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:12 am

Another interesting/overlooked TR factoid:

Total registered users: 21,956

Total users with over 2 posts: 8,542 (the -real- TR user count)

Total users with -0- posts: 9,255 (unhatched spam accounts)

Total users with only -1- post: 4,159 (spam accounts, maybe less than 5% of these are legit)


Time for spring cleaning! Weed out ALL those 13,414 completely useless stagnant spammer accounts out of TR forever! 8)
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:22 am

I could be wrong, but I think front page posts don't get counted in those stats even though the user table is shared with the forum. And there are quite a few people who comment on front page stories but never post in the forums (or who possibly have only posted once or twice). So it may not be as simple (or the user base as suspect) as you think.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 5:14 am

UberGerbil wrote:I could be wrong, but I think front page posts don't get counted in those stats even though the user table is shared with the forum. And there are quite a few people who comment on front page stories but never post in the forums (or who possibly have only posted once or twice). So it may not be as simple (or the user base as suspect) as you think.


They certainly do not otherwise my post count would be over 9000.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:04 am

Yup, a lot of the "zero post" accounts are people who registered just to post in the front page comments.

When we get spam, we deactivate the account but keep it in the user database so we have a record of the user name, e-mail address and IP which were used to register the account. If the spammer made multiple posts, we typically delete all but one representative spam post, and move that to a hidden "Junk" forum; this is so we have a record of the IP the post was made from (if different from the one used to register), and any other relevant details which may have been in the post itself. This explains a large percentage of the "one post" accounts.

gleek is probably correct about a very small percentage of those 1-post accounts being legit. What he's missed (because he can't see it in the publicly viewable user list) is that most of them are already banned. :wink:

So there are good reasons for keeping many of those (seemingly) useless accounts on the books.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 9:03 am

just brew it! wrote:This explains a large percentage of the "one post" accounts.

gleek is probably correct about a very small percentage of those 1-post accounts being legit. What he's missed (because he can't see it in the publicly viewable user list) is that most of them are already banned. :wink:

So there are good reasons for keeping many of those (seemingly) useless accounts on the books.

Aw man your system is just too awesome! Any cool insights on the future of spam-combat here at TR?
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 1:38 pm

thegleek wrote:Aw man your system is just too awesome! Any cool insights on the future of spam-combat here at TR?
To quote #2: "that would be telling"
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:02 pm

UberGerbil wrote:To quote #2: "that would be telling"

I MUST GET THAT! is that a movie? a tv series?! wow that's awesome!
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:14 pm

You've never seen The Prisoner?
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:23 pm

Are you honestly surprised?
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:36 pm

Would there be any benefit to having a forum section to "Introduce Yourself" as a prerequisite for further posting?
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:13 pm

UberGerbil wrote:I could be wrong, but I think front page posts don't get counted in those stats even though the user table is shared with the forum. And there are quite a few people who comment on front page stories but never post in the forums (or who possibly have only posted once or twice). So it may not be as simple (or the user base as suspect) as you think.


Yeah i just checked my post counts. Still at 0. No forum posts but maybe like a dozen front page posts. I can't believe i'm the only one.

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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:17 pm

Thatguy wrote:Yeah i just checked my post counts. Still at 0.

Not any more! :lol:
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 6:30 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Thatguy wrote:Yeah i just checked my post counts. Still at 0.

Not any more! :lol:


SO true :D
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 7:19 pm

Easy solutions:
1) Use more difficult Captcha (to prevent automatic bots from posting).
2) Don't allow links in posts for new users until they make a certain amount of posts (to prevent human "bots" from spamming). Yea, they can just make some "fluff" posts to get their post count up, but honestly, how many will bother doing that, especially if you also enable a timer for such new posters (like only allowing 1 post/hour for them)?
Further potential tweaks: IP range bans for obvious spam posters (some legit users can be caught too, but highly unlikely if the IP range is very narrow and is temporary). Something similar might also work. I definitely disagree with requiring people to pay ANY amount of $$$ to make posts or register on forums.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Wed Feb 08, 2012 10:53 pm

JohnC wrote:2) Don't allow links in posts for new users until they make a certain amount of posts (to prevent human "bots" from spamming). Yea, they can just make some "fluff" posts to get their post count up, but honestly, how many will bother doing that, especially if you also enable a timer for such new posters (like only allowing 1 post/hour for them)?
Further potential tweaks: IP range bans for obvious spam posters (some legit users can be caught too, but highly unlikely if the IP range is very narrow and is temporary). Something similar might also work. I definitely disagree with requiring people to pay ANY amount of $$$ to make posts or register on forums.

Yeah the going trend (lately) have been signatures with links.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Mon Feb 13, 2012 2:45 am

RickyTick wrote:Would there be any benefit to having a forum section to "Introduce Yourself" as a prerequisite for further posting?

Not quite. The user might post spam there first and continue elsewhere.

Didn't read the entire thread, but has someone suggested automatically banning a new user when 'x' users report a post as spam. Of course, should only consider the votes from regulars around here (say, 100 posts or active for 1 year).
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:42 am

integer wrote: has someone suggested automatically banning a new user when 'x' users report a post as spam.
I don't think that there's a need for that, as soon as anyone reports a post (the little "!" in an inverted triangle) the next mod along will deal with it - and they are along pretty quickly. It would help if people reported rather than replied to them - reports show up as soon as a mod hits that forum, replies require the mod to check the thread.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:45 am

Replies also bump the spam thread back to the top of the front page "Hot threads" list, which is exactly what we *don't* want.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Mon Feb 13, 2012 11:24 am

I think all the spammers should be treating as terrorists.. Internet terrorists! DAMN THEE! :evil:
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Mon Feb 13, 2012 9:52 pm

I think it might be neat to get "kills" optionally added to that infobox to the left of our comments, each kill denoting a spammer reported and dealt with.
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