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Fighting Spam

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Astonish Me!

Fighting Spam

June 20th, 2006  · stk

 

A Can of SPAM

SPAM comes in different flavors. As far as your blog goes, there's generally four different types: comment spam, trackback spam, pingback spam and referrer spam. This article deals primarily with comment spam. The solutions for the other three types of SPAM is straight forward.

Shut down those features so that the spammer is denied the opportunity to benefit.

 

Trackbacks and pingbacks

These are seldom-used features. Maybe I live a sheltered life, but I've not seen any b2evolution blogs sporting pingbacks. Our own blog was live for a year and only received two trackbacks. Both of these features are "courtesy" back-link features, but for us, the risk-to-benefit ratio isn't high enough to justify them. So, I've turned them off and recommend that you do too.

It's been my experience that (a) I never send pingbacks for articles I publish; (b) I never got them to work properly; (c) they're off by default in Phoenix; and (c) because trackbacks are more envolved than comments, I use comments. I'll miss out knowing when a person has linked to my site, but if I want that link information, I'll just type "link:randsco.com" into a Google to find out.

To turn off trackbacks and pingbacks for your blog, go to the "blog" tab, click a blog (you'll have to do the same for each blog you have), go to the "advanced" tab and make certain that the "allow trackbacks/pingbacks" boxes are unchecked.

Problem solved.

 

Referral SPAM

This type of SPAM is a bit different. It used to be that a lot of pre-Phoenix b2evolution skins had a "_stats.php" page that could be displayed. This provided some statistics about your blog. Interesting, for sure, but it didn't take long for the spammers to realize that by merely hitting your site, they'd get inbound links to their site. Worse, if they hit it often, they'd garner a persistent link in the "top referers"[sic] list. More inbound links for them!

For those earlier versions, stats are something that you can elect to show, in your main template. Spammers don't care if the page is shown or not, they only care that the '_stats.php' file existed, as it can be spidered by search engines and if it is, then they STILL benefit.

Keeping the spammer from benefitting from referral SPAM is easy. If you're on a pre-Phoenix b2evolution version (0.9.0 or lower), just (a) make sure you don't publicly display stats and (b) you delete the _stats.php files from any skin folders you have online.

Note: Starting with version 0.9.1 and higher, b2evolution no longer publicly displays stats and tries to limit referral spam clogging your back office stats by detecting it early and shoving a 403 (forbidden) server code at them. They also began using Google's "rel=nofollow" attribute, for comments and trackbacks, to further provide a disincentive for spammers. (learn more)

 

Comment SPAM

Comment SPAM is currently the bane of bloggers world-wide. Nobody enjoys seeing their blog post defaced with advertisements for a list of dubious drugs, pornography, gambling sites and the like. It's time consuming to remove, ugly to look at, and a frustrating exercise at the minimum. What can you do?

Well, just like most things, comment SPAM comes in a couple of flavors: manual and automated.

Manually deposited comment SPAM is left by someone who actually visitrs your site and leaves a comment in the same way as any other visitor might. It's tougher to defend against, but fortunately, is (from a time-point of view) expensive for the spammer to do, as it severely reduces the amount of SPAM they can effectively create.

The real pest is automated SPAM. This SPAM is deposited by the bucketful on your blog, on a number of posts, with different comments, links and IP numbers. It can be difficult to remove, with seemingly random URLs once an automated spammer find your blog, they seem to come like pigs to slop. It can quickly get out of hand. This type of SPAM is cheap for the spammer to make and it's where the real threat comes from. It's automatically deposited comment SPAM that you really want to protect your blog from.

So, what what techniques are out there? What actually works? That's next.

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