random thoughts to oil the mind

Tag: Akismet

The Spam Strikes Back

Extravagant spam

A topic I’ve previously written about has lately become something of a pain, to such an extent that I’ve actually decided to change my way of dealing with it. Whilst I could certainly complain that the number of spam messages on this blog far exceeded those few genuine comments (by a factor of several hundred), glancing over the list of catches once a week, it didn’t take all that long to weedle out the very occasional piece of ham incorrectly identified by Akismet as ‘spiced’.

Unfortunately, in recent months the deluge seems to have increased. This blog has seen almost as much spam in the last three months as in the whole of 2010. Even a cursory scan over the pages of detritus has become chore enough that I’m no longer willing to bother. ((What made the situation worse is that I installed the IntenseDebate plugin, which at the moment doesn’t seem to handle Akismet spam in any intelligent way, instead leaving the comments hidden and requiring the user to disable the plugin to clean out the spam each time.)) Added to which, rumours are abound of Akismet changing its free nature, only fair given how much traffic they must receive, and the search for an adequate free replacement could take some time.

So instead and at least in the short term, I’m just going to go about disabling comments on those posts which accrue the most unwanted attention. There are currently just a few posts which seem to be targeted heavily by the spambots, so I’ll soon see if this makes an impact on the figures. Otherwise I might simply switch to a general policy of switching off comments on all posts of a certain age, as many other blogs do. For the occasional interesting slices of ham this blog gets, closing the window after a certain period really won’t make much of a difference.

And on a slightly related side-note, here’s proof that spammers will find and target anything. Spammers are just like young boys with their genders: if there’s a box, they’ll put their details into it.

[Photo courtesy of The Other Dan]

Dealing with Spam

If there’s one jargon term that every user new to the Internet soon becomes acquainted with, spam must near the top of the list. Its prevalence and virtual ubiquity through many forms of online communication have generated miniature industries devoted to dealing with it, and the science of spam detection, prevention and treatment almost resembles the tactical skirmishes of biological immune systems.

Spam exists in many forms, from bogus guestbook entries to elaborate instant messaging robots, but the variety which prompted this post was that classic form – unsolicited email. The level of penetration of spam illustrates itself in the number of systems put in place to combat it as standard on the vast majority of websites, including of course authentication emails and the ever evolving captcha. I use a small combination of plugins on this blog to block out most of the spam, and given the extreme sparcity of genuine comments, the potential for inconvenient ‘false positives’ is rather slim. Nevertheless, even the cursory inspection I tend to make over Akismet’s latest haul becomes tiresome for all the size of this blog – spam comments to date outnumber genuine ones by a factor of almost 500 (and that only counts those caught and tallied by Akismet). Quite how larger, more popular blogs deal with searching for false positives, I don’t know, but the task must be fairly time-consuming.

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