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NET: Spam Archives

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Startup Helps MSM Sites Become Search Engine Spammers

By Tim Oren at 04:21

How often do you find a cross-over story about three notable Left Coast industries: venture capital, media, and -- err -- sex?

It seems that noted San Francisco sex writer Violet Blue did some checking on what the SF Chron and were doing with her content (NSFW WARNING) and didn't like what she found. Her past columns had been copied to another domain, all outbound links (and some punctuation) stripped, the articles split into multiple pages, the pages stuffed with keywords - some inappropriate, and festooned with pay-per-click ads. And it emerged that multiple domains had also been aliased to these dead-end copies. Now where have we seen that kind of behavior before?

Here I should mention that is apparently - by admission of the author - within the letter of her contract by making this use of her work. That relationship, now terminated, was based on a level of trust that she feels has been abused, and made no explicit stipulations on how the content can be reused. The interest here is what this occurrence may say about the ongoing behavior of the MSM online, and its implications for the industry's business model.

This incident is not a one-off.

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  • Joe Katzman: It sure does feel like desperation... read more

MT-Trackback: He's Dead, Jim

By Joe Katzman at 19:33

Some of you may have noticed that Winds went down entirely for about an hour yesterday. We made major modifications to our infrastructure recently, in order to run Winds on a series of base platforms that were more CPU-friendly (Ubuntu/LightTPD not Red Hat/Apache, no more Virtuozzo or CPx control panel, which forced a hosting switch from the excellent folks at ServInt to our new friends at Pixelgate). That worked, and performance improved significantly. But yesterday... over to Ev:

"They called back and let me know what happened. It was a trackback spam attack so large, it drove the load average on the server so high that they couldn't even log in themselves without forcibly rebooting the box first. The spam attack resumed while I was on the phone with him, so I've disabled trackback. It's simply untenable to keep on, when it can disable the machine so badly that not only can't I log in, they can't log in when they're physically in front of the server."

We've killed trackbacks now, and they'll stay dead. Movable Type's approach to dealing with trackback & comment spam is fundamentally non-scalable, which means it's fundamentally broken in an age of cheap CPUs and no consequences for spammers. Worse, their security flaws forced us to migrate to MT 3.3 (and the only CAPTCHA system that works with it, plus the unfixable author link limit annoyances, etc.) and made our lives here worse, not better. We're as frustrated as some of you are.

Which is why Winds of Change.NET will be moving to Wordpress once some test migrations of other blogs are finished and confirmed to be trouble-free. Wordpress is inherently more CPU-friendly (PHP not Perl), has a wider variety of features & plug-ins, and a community that is way, way ahead in anti-spam measures. I'm hoping this can happen by mid-to late November. It would be a fine birthday present for me, and a present for many of you, too.

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  • plavix: I really don't know what does the trackball is udes read more
  • Annoying Old Guy: Not to be too annoying, but if you've really permanently read more
  • James Joyner: What Dave said. And, yes, WordPress is the way to read more

Spam-Blogs + Ill-Prepared Hosts = Gated Future

By Joe Katzman at 01:04

Plagiarism Today has an excellent article about spamblogs, the problems faced by Google/Blogspot, its spread to MSN Spaces, and why this is likely to be a trend:

"The bitter truth is that the Web is more vulnerable than ever to splogging, not because of clever spammers but because of ill-prepared hosts. While Google responded to pressure from the blogging world to do a better job policing its service (though the effectiveness of its response is up for debate), other hosts have not taken any clear steps and many are completely unable to handle the problems that they face now."

Yes. This has been a discussion topic on Winds following our (continuing) ban on in comments or trackbacks. Personally, I believe we're headed for a blog future in which owning your own domain will be the only viable option to avoid fairly widespread blacklisting. As the PT article notes:

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  • M. Simon: Jeff, Neat trick. Now what if the capchas are changed read more
  • Jeff Medcalf: I should not post this, but then the odds of read more
  • Annoying Old Guy: knox; One doesn't need to have any posts on blogspot read more

THE BLOGS! ("Aaaaah! It's Growing!")

By Joe Katzman at 05:54
blog growth to Q1-06

So, how's the blogosphere doing? MarketingVOX notes:

"The blogosphere is doubling in size every six months and is now 60 times larger than it was three years ago, according to the latest quarterly installment of David Sifry's "State of the Blogosphere" report. He writes that Technorati now tracks over 35.3 Million blogs."

More data, links, and related articles over at MarketingVoX. The good news is, the survey believes that most of the growth is real, not 'splogs' (spammer blogs).

On which topic, owner Google is trying some CAPTCHA techniques to throttle down on the auto-generated blogspot splogs that have led to their domain's blacklisting at sites like Winds of Change.NET et. al. Based on our MT-Blacklist logs (total spams blocked since inception: over 290,000) Google is improving, but isn't quite at the required seriousness level yet.

The Pentagon, on the other hand, is. As is the CIA.

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Blogspot Ban Reinstated

By Joe Katzman at 15:46

Regrettably, Winds of Change.NET has been forced to reinstate the ban on URLs for comments and trackbacks. The amount of spam coming from that domain remains excessive, and Google seems unable to get a handle on the problem.

The bottom line is that if you host there, you live in a bad neighbourhood - and others will seek to protect themselves. If you're serious about blogging, there is no substitute for your own domain.

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SPAM Defenses: Blogspot Blocked, Comments Fixed

By Joe Katzman at 00:09

(Updated post; originally posted March 2, 2006.)

Hi all. Unfortunately, our efforts to convince al-Qaeda that they should be murdering spammers around the world and beheading them on video (charge 25 cents per view on Internet video, it would even be a profit center) haven't borne fruit yet. Couple of quick bulletins, therefore:

Speaking of authors:

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December 31, 2005

Project Honey Pot: Doing Our Bit

By Joe Katzman at 23:46

We've talked a bit about Winds' multi-layered spam-defenses before. As a fine close-out to the New Year, I received an email from Project Honey Pot:

"Regardless of how the rest of your day goes, here's something to be happy about - today a honey pot you installed successfully identified a previously unknown email harvester (IP: You can find information about your newly identified harvester here. Info on all the harvesters that have been spotted by this honey pot is also available.

Don't forget to tell your friends you made the Internet a little better today. You can refer them to Project Honey Pot directly from our website.... Thanks from the entire Project Honey Pot team and, we're sure if they knew, from the Internet community as a whole."

Project Honey Pot is fairly easy to install, and I recommend it. Here's a fine New Years' resolution: let's make the Internet a more dangerous place for Spambots in 2006.

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  • lurker: If you can't do the time, then don't do the read more
  • Ross Judson: Just had an odd thought -- the spammers your honeypot read more
  • Daniel Markham: Joe. Thanks for the info. I spent all day deleting read more

June 7, 2005

You Can Trackback Us Again!

By Joe Katzman at 19:18

Seems our anti-spam plug-in SpamLookup has been blocking a lot of legitimate trackbacks lately (thanks to Security Watchtower for the alert) - including all blogspot trackbacks!

The situation is now fixed, and we encourage blogs to start sending us trackbacks again so our readers and authors can follow the links and see what you've written.

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  • Mixed Humor: Thanks to Bill for handling my concern and to the read more
  • Bill Roggio: Thanks for the quick follow up and the fix, evariste read more
  • evariste: A helpful hint to Haloscan trackback users on Blogspot, regarding read more

New Anti-Spam Measures: CAPTCHA

By Joe Katzman at 11:57

Hi all... You may have noticed that our comments form has changed slightly. We added James Seng's CAPTCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing test - to Tell Computer posters and Humans Apart) feature, so you'll have to look at the graphic and type the humbers/letters in order to comment here.

Note that the CAPTCHA number displayed changes when the screen changes - you don't need it for "Preview," so just enter it when you're ready to post. Sorry about this, but at 1,000 - 2,000 comment spam attacks per day, it has become necessary to go this route in addition to our other defenses.

See the Winds Guide to Fighting Comment Spam for more information and related links. Any serious problems, contact joe, right here

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  • Critical Hippo: How do you plan on getting this CAPTCHA to work read more
  • Platypus: It would be nice if something on the actual comment read more
  • Joe A: Comm check read more

IBM Unveils New Anti-Spam Tool

By Joe Katzman at 02:29

CNN Money is running a story about a new IBM service that "spams the spammers." The idea behind the technology is that when a spam email is received, it is immediately sent back to the originating computer - not an email account. Or so they say.

Interesting idea, and you can find more via Shlashdot... including an early commenter who points out that CNN's description of the system and what IBM's FairUCE actually does paint very different pictures. Nor is this the only the only thing the article gets blatantly wrong. Is it too much to ask that the media hire reporters who actually understand their subjects? (this Australian reporter, who writes about open-source software and Firefox browser adoption in businesses, clearly does).

BTW, note IBM's integration requirements description for FairUCE:

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  • Marcus Aurelius: What CNN describes is incorporated in the K-Mail e-mail client read more

Winds' Guide to Fighting Comment Spam

By Joe Katzman at 00:05

(posted Jan. 6, 2005; last updated June 12, 2005)

Six Apart, the folks behind the Movable Type software that runs this site, have just released a Guide for Fighting Comment spam on weblogs via comments, trackbacks, etc. As you might imagine, Jay Allen played a big role in compiling it. It's worth any blogger's time, especially those who run MT installations.

We use our own mix of techniques here at Winds of Change.NET. I'm going to go well beyond the Six Apart guide and give you some general principles for building your own blog's defenses, then move on to what we're up to so you can see some of these ideas in action. I'll conclude by talking about the source of this problem, and what can be done.

Further thoughts and suggestions will be welcome in the comments section, of course, and this post will probably evolve over time.

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  • Ravenwood: I had the same trouble with Spamlookup and MT-Moderate plugins. read more
  • Anthony Perez-Miller: My profound apologies for the duplicate trackbacks. Yet another MT read more
  • tom sherman: I installed the MTDisguiseTrackbackURL plugin. Very painless and I think read more

Comments: What's Up and What's Next

By Joe Katzman at 01:21

Hi folks. You may have noticed that comments have been disabled on the site. They are now re-enabled.

With the help of Evariste from the excellent teamblog Discarded Lies, we have taken other measures to combat the 20,000 comment spam attempts we've seen in the last 2 weeks. For reasons we're still trying to figure out, the spams are causing problems for our hosts at Total Choice Hosting due to server load. At present, we will NOT require TypeKey registration. We're hoping these moves, plus the possible addition of this "type in the numbers you see and prove you're human" system will provide adequate defenses, while still allowing our valued readers to comment.

If you're considering an upgrade to Movable Type 3.x and you use MT-Blacklist to protect your site, or you're wondering what forced our hand, read on...

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