Whats up with the Spam bots?

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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:37 pm

It should be possible to be anonymous on the internet (eliminating anonymity is what enables regimes to track down and punish their critics, for example),


perhaps we might consider John Hancock and the other signers of the US Declaration of Independence in regards to appropriate ways to address grievances against governments.

IMHO, much of the problem with spam, trolls, and other I'net nuisances is that of avoiding accountability for one's actions.

I also don't think 'regimes tracking down critics' is as much of a problem as, for example, those folks like Salman Rushdie. Governments have a lot more difficulty being anonymous than some religious nut.

We need better social solutions to abuse on either side than separating people from the consequences of their behavior. That starts with connecting the identity of a person with his behavior.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Tue Feb 14, 2012 12:44 pm

And we're verging into R&P. Please don't.

Thanks for listening.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:42 pm

What about this rule: a new member can't start more than 2 threads their first 48 hours. The 48-hour clock doesn't start when they register their name, but it starts with their first post (regardless if it's in a new or old thread).

Is that rule/logic easy to implement with phpBB? Does this restriction negatively affect legitimate new members?

It directly addresses the spammers that start four threads on a weekend afternoon (like some guy did today). As a reaction, they might start adding their crap to existing threads. Would this be harder or easier for moderators to deal with? Does adding stuff to existing threads (instead of new threads) reduce the effectiveness of their SEO goals?
UberGerbil wrote:
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.
Does the proposed new rule affect the strategy of the sleeper sig spammers?

bthylafh wrote: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.
I like it.
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Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:33 am

So... just curious, why the sudden influx of spammers? Is there some new vulnerability in PHPbb2 (or 3) forums to compromise the sign up process or what? Gets quite annoying to see threads you posted in as far back as 2007 getting resurrected lol. I figured you guys may be working on a fix, but any info for us about it?
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:43 am

I often wondered about the Pentium 4 AMD Logitech Controller PSU GTX 460 XFX derp.

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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:53 am

LOL.... Case in point ahaha.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:33 am

Some seem to suggest that this new wave of spam is committed not by spam-bots, but by actual human beings employed for pennies in places like China and India. I'm guessing there's not much TR can do about that besides killing them one by one.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:48 am

The people or the accounts. :D
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 7:51 am

sircharles32 wrote:The people or the accounts. :D

Both.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:45 am

Captain Ned wrote:
sircharles32 wrote:The people or the accounts. :D

Both.


Hi5!
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:49 am

Palek wrote:Some seem to suggest that this new wave of spam is committed not by spam-bots, but by actual human beings employed for pennies in places like China and India. I'm guessing there's not much TR can do about that besides killing them one by one.


Is there a way to moderate the first few posts when someone signs up? Time consuming for the mods and inconvenient but at least the spam would never make it onto the boards.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 8:56 am

One large forum I'm on does manual approval of all new accounts - you need to have sensical values in your profile fields, you need to not be in certain countries when you register, and you need to have a sensical username and e-mail address, or your account gets deleted.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:16 am

We had this discussion exactly 2 months back with a lot of interesting ideas suggested.
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Re: Spammers in TR

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:22 am

integer wrote:We had this discussion exactly 2 months back with a lot of interesting ideas suggested.

Merged into quoted thread.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:22 pm

Problem is, TR would be shooting themselves in the foot if they made it difficult for new users to post. Over the years I've seen guys posting on here SIMPLY to help out with a single problem, or with ask a question. That high traffic generally seems to come when there are new hardware releases on the horizon (Ivybridge, Kepler, ect). I've noticed a decent amount of new comers asking questions about new builds or waiting for Ivy bridge, same for the video cards recently. Heck a lot of the active people on the forums now are under 200 posts. Imagine if you had to jump through 1000 hoops just to post a legitimate question, you'd probably never had joined or stayed.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:26 pm

Welch wrote:Problem is, TR would be shooting themselves in the foot if they made it difficult for new users to post. Over the years I've seen guys posting on here SIMPLY to help out with a single problem, or with ask a question. That high traffic generally seems to come when there are new hardware releases on the horizon (Ivybridge, Kepler, ect). I've noticed a decent amount of new comers asking questions about new builds or waiting for Ivy bridge, same for the video cards recently. Heck a lot of the active people on the forums now are under 200 posts. Imagine if you had to jump through 1000 hoops just to post a legitimate question, you'd probably never had joined or stayed.

This exact issue receives lots of debate and attention among those of us spam-killers.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:40 pm

New business card?
Captain Ned, SPAM-slayer.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:55 pm

JustAnEngineer wrote:New business card?
Captain Ned, SPAM-slayer.

Yeah, this morning's lot was WAY over the top. Had to have been a bot to plonk 93 copies of the same message.

I've jokingly asked Kevin, on and off, to change my forum title to "Gerbil Herder". Never could get him to agree.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 12:57 pm

Welch wrote:Problem is, TR would be shooting themselves in the foot if they made it difficult for new users to post. Over the years I've seen guys posting on here SIMPLY to help out with a single problem, or with ask a question. That high traffic generally seems to come when there are new hardware releases on the horizon (Ivybridge, Kepler, ect). I've noticed a decent amount of new comers asking questions about new builds or waiting for Ivy bridge, same for the video cards recently. Heck a lot of the active people on the forums now are under 200 posts. Imagine if you had to jump through 1000 hoops just to post a legitimate question, you'd probably never had joined or stayed.


Well an additional problem is that comments to articles on the front page are not tracked against your post count. So post count only shows those people that post in threads i.e. it just means you spend more time on TR in the forums rather than on the articles or whatever.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:24 pm

I can sort of agree with you Yoggi. My biggest grip with the fact that the forums and comments aren't linked isn't so much the post count, but the fact that I can't "View Your Posts" to see if someone responded to a post I made as a comment.

How about Gerbil Commander! Oh wait, that sounds like a bad reference to a Jay and Silent Bob film :|
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:26 pm

Now that the threads have been merged...

I actually didn't post on the forums for over a year after I registered - to the point that when I DID want to post, I had to e-mail Kevin to get my account reactivated on the forum side.

In any case, does phpBB not have a mod or something that can nuke a user from orbit? Delete all their posts (or maybe all but one), and ban the user?
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:50 pm

bhtooefr wrote:In any case, does phpBB not have a mod or something that can nuke a user from orbit? Delete all their posts (or maybe all but one), and ban the user?
Yeah, they do this all the time (just about every night, from the looks of it).
Captain Ned wrote:Yeah, this morning's lot was WAY over the top. Had to have been a bot to plonk 93 copies of the same message.
There were 101 when I looked last night (based on the post count of the offending account).
Welch wrote:Problem is, TR would be shooting themselves in the foot if they made it difficult for new users to post. Over the years I've seen guys posting on here SIMPLY to help out with a single problem, or with ask a question. That high traffic generally seems to come when there are new hardware releases on the horizon (Ivybridge, Kepler, ect). I've noticed a decent amount of new comers asking questions about new builds or waiting for Ivy bridge, same for the video cards recently. Heck a lot of the active people on the forums now are under 200 posts. Imagine if you had to jump through 1000 hoops just to post a legitimate question, you'd probably never had joined or stayed.
This is why I've suggested there be no barriers to signing up and posting, but that posts from new accounts are stripped of the {url} tag (or, better, the post fails to go up until the links are removed). And that restriction persists not for some amount of time or number of posts but until the poster requests and is granted permission to post links. This doesn't create any barrier to entry for new users of the site, and mostly doesn't impair their ability to get a question answered or a problem solved (most new users aren't posting links right away), but it removes the one thing the spammers are trying to obtain. It does create some work for the mods in granting these permissions, but that's infrequent compared to fighting spam and if it reduces the spam by any significant degree it sounds like a win. It won't stop spamming, of course, since the automated scripts will probably plow ahead and we'll get garbage posts without links instead of garbage posts with them, but it may have an effect over time if TR stops offering any SEO benefit to them. This is also why I like causing the post to fail back to the "preview" screen with an error message if a link is included (and the poster doesn't have "post links" permission) rather than just stripping the URL, since that would throw another wrench into the spammer's scripts, while also providing new users a hint that their account is actually limited in this way until they get linking permission. Of course there will be devious spammers who go to the trouble of looking legit long enough to get link permission, but we already have the problem of stealth accounts and whatnot, and not all of them are that clever or non-lazy so getting rid of the dumb/lazy ones is still a win. Fighting this scourge needs to involve creating barriers that are asymmetric with respect to the amount of effort it creates for the spammers vs the work it requires of the mods and users (new or not). It's never going to end, but making it more difficult may cause the bad guys to go elsewhere where the pickings are easier, at least temporarily.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 1:56 pm

By "a mod", I don't mean a moderator, I mean a modification.

Make it easier on the moderators that are currently doing it manually.

Also, another thing is rel=nofollow - make all links rel=nofollow and then spammers won't get any SEO boost (although it's more subtle, but prevents the SEO boost from ANY user spamming, even long-time users).
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 2:45 pm

Ah, missed that. Your comment came in while I was editing mine; should have read closer.

Yes, there isn't going to be one silver bullet, but many small changes may make at least some of the bastards go elsewhere in search of lower-hanging fruit.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:21 pm

UberGerbil wrote:Yes, there isn't going to be one silver bullet, but many small changes may make at least some of the bastards go elsewhere in search of lower-hanging fruit.

What makes this forum prime bait for spammers is the sheer amount of traffic it receives. Smaller sites would not see so much attempts.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:28 pm

bhtooefr wrote:In any case, does phpBB not have a mod or something that can nuke a user from orbit? Delete all their posts (or maybe all but one), and ban the user?

Don't I wish.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:41 pm

Implementing a simple rule of "no links allowed for freshly registered users until "x" number of posts" would've decreased this spam by a huge degree... New posters who are asking for some help are highly unlikely to NEED to link anything in their posts (unless it's one of those retarded "let's link all the items that I want to buy from Newegg for my first build!" posts) and they can always type the hardware brand & model names instead of linking to them directly. The spammers can still theoretically put links in text form (non-clickable, with spaces between characters), but that will greatly reduce any chance that someone will actually follow those links and most likely decrease the willingness of spammers to use these particular forums. Also, the Captcha for new users should be more than "see those letters, now copy them into textbox below" - any illiterate person can learn to overcome this, so can some bot programs. Instead, it should be a simple question (which would randomly change) where someone has to type in a simple non-numerical answer in English, which should discourage the illiterate spammers from foreign countries. Those 2 simple things should do it... Unless, of course, the moderators still "enjoy" manually cleaning up dozens of spam posts in various threads :wink:
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:42 pm

JohnC wrote:Implementing a simple rule of "no links allowed for freshly registered users until "x" number of posts" would've decreased this spam by a huge degree

Unfortunately, not supported by a base phpBB install or any of the plug-ins.

If someone out there plays with phpBB and knows of a way to implement this without custom coding, contact forum member morphine soonest.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:55 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
JohnC wrote:Implementing a simple rule of "no links allowed for freshly registered users until "x" number of posts" would've decreased this spam by a huge degree

Unfortunately, not supported by a base phpBB install or any of the plug-ins.

If someone out there plays with phpBB and knows of a way to implement this without custom coding, contact forum member morphine soonest.

There's no way to do it without customizing code. Here's someone who has successfully accomplished just this:

http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopi ... 7&start=30

With his mod, downloaded at: http://www.skidvd.co.uk/files/disable_l ... _0.0.2.zip

I can look at his code (v0.0.2 being very alpha/beta/unstable) to see how it's done. But nonetheless, whomever comes up with a solution, it'll probably be real similar.
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Re: Whats up with the Spam bots?

Postposted on Fri Mar 09, 2012 6:19 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
bhtooefr wrote:In any case, does phpBB not have a mod or something that can nuke a user from orbit? Delete all their posts (or maybe all but one), and ban the user?

Don't I wish.


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