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Ask Slashdot: Using a Sandbox To Deal With Spambots?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the go-to-your-room dept.

Spam 167

shellster_dude writes "Slashdot is certainly no stranger to the problem of spam bots. While blocking a spam bot may seem like the best solution, it is likely that the spammer will simply re-register with a different name. While trying to solve this dilemma on my own forums, I had an epiphany. What if, instead of blocking a spam bot, I could mark a spammer, and then hide all their comments from everyone else? The spammer could continue to go their merry way, spamming to their heart's content. When they visit the forum, they see their spam comments correctly placed in the threads, but their comments would only be visible to them. Thus, an effective sandbox which would prevent them from registering a new user once they had been 'blocked.' Are any other Slashdotters familiar with this technique? Does any software currently use this technique?"

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I will sell you this solution already debugged! (5, Funny)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058429)

Why is nobody responding?

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058469)

I saw the implementation floated about years back. I don't know if it was implemented or not. It may be why we're the only two people talking to each other though.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (5, Informative)

Frnknstn (663642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059487)

This technique is widely used against trolls on various Internet forums. It is often called 'Hellbanning' [lmgtfy.com]

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (5, Insightful)

Ziggitz (2637281) | more than 2 years ago | (#41060087)

Congratulations are the most inappropriate use of lmgtfy ever. It was neither an easily derivable search term the article poster could have used themselves without prior knowledge nor was it in fact, the use case that the poster was talking about.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (5, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058471)

Because it will be trivial for a spammer to check his posts from another account?

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058881)

Easy solution. Make it so that spammers can see posts by everyone, including other spammers. That way spammers will think they are being successful, especially if you do an IP block on them.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

KhabaLox (1906148) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059413)

Easy solution. Make it so that spammers can see posts by everyone, including other spammers. That way spammers will think they are being successful, especially if you do an IP block on them.

Until the 2nd, 3rd, 4th account is identified and marked as a spam account, it won't be able to see the posts of the 1st account.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059537)

Make new accounts able to see spam posts until x-number of successful posts. By that time, you'll have been able to identify the spammer, at which point they will continue to see their spam.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059017)

AND... how does this stop the endless circle-jerk of account creation we are plauged with today?

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059745)

By reducing the probability of the spammers finding out and, in consequence, of creating more accounts. Should this technique be successful.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (4, Interesting)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059037)

Because it will be trivial for a spammer to check his posts from another account?

I remember reading an article on Joel on Software some time ago that talks about this kind of approach. The difference was that instead of only showing those posts to the spammer/troll's account, they were also shown to that poster's /8 or /16 subnet (or something like that). This goes far in solving the problem for multiple accounts (but still fails for proxy servers).

The downside is that the troll's "local Internet" sees the spam/troll, but the greater Internet doesn't. It always seemed like a good tradeoff to me.

Wish I could find the article now, but not having any luck.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059505)

If we used addresses assigned by region it would be a great way to advertise locally. ;)

Seriously though, that (subnet sand-boxing) would be a great method. Especially considering you could then just block whoever it was locally spamming you instead of having to globally filter every spammer.

Make sure Google etc can't see it. (4, Informative)

billstewart (78916) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059397)

The really important thing is to make sure Google (and the other search engines and ad services, if you care about them) can't see the spam. That's the real objective of the spammers, and those that bother checking may find that spamming you is less effective in fixing their page ranks.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058473)

There are already 1000 comments. Go watch a Monty Python Vid - you've been marked as SPAM. Comment to yourself all you'd like. :)

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058723)

This would require them to do so. It's a running battle but spam can be caught and flagged easily enough.

Re:I will sell you this solution already debugged! (1)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059321)

Either way, whether you shadow ban them, or ban hem outright, the problem is still the same after that.

You'll still need to keep track of their ip address and other meta-data information to minimize the number of accounts they can create under different names. Also, I think you're overestimating the number of spammers who spam and then who check their spam results after that.

On my site, I strip out html and even urls, and yet, I still get plenty of spammers wasting cpu cycles trying to insert urls automatically.

Old Idea (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058443)

Old idea that doesn't fix much because spammers change accounts after 1-20 posts anyway.

Re:Old Idea (4, Interesting)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058935)

I wouldn't say it "doesn't work." I experienced this shadow banning after I mentioned I not only own a Hybrid electric car, but also a diesel car that gets similar mileage (49MPG). Well the environmentalists furiously attacked me for daring to use the word "diesel" in their forum, and the group owner (also anti-diesel) made my posts invisible.

It took me a few weeks to realize that none of my posts were being responded too. Rather than waste time with another account, I just left the place. So the shadow-ban worked.

Re:Old Idea (3, Insightful)

timothyf (615594) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059145)

Feels like apples to oranges a bit. You weren't a spammer, they just disagreed with you and provided a hostile environment for expressing your views, which would discourage any normal person from participating. A spammer probably wouldn't care about the shadow ban if they discovered it and would just create a new account if they felt that the target was valuable enough.

Re:Old Idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059633)

Well, he's an apples=oranges guy. Won't understand that diesel isn't the same subject as hybrid, won't understand trolling isn't spamming.

It took me a few weeks to realize,,,

yeah, nobody is really surprised by that.

Re:Old Idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059653)

I wouldn't say it "doesn't work." I experienced this shadow banning after I mentioned I not only own a Hybrid electric car, but also a diesel car that gets similar mileage (49MPG). Well the environmentalists furiously attacked me for daring to use the word "diesel" in their forum, and the group owner (also anti-diesel) made my posts invisible.

It took me a few weeks to realize that none of my posts were being responded too. Rather than waste time with another account, I just left the place. So the shadow-ban worked.

Ever consider you're just a whiny dick? Because I wanted to punch you in the face by the time I got through the whole comment, and that's just one post...

Re:Old Idea (1)

gman003 (1693318) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059317)

More precisely, most spammers use an account once. They may make several dozen posts at once (one phpbb bot I saw would post the same thing in every single subforum at once), or they may only make one, but they seem to assume that their account will be banned pretty much after the first infraction.

Assuming they're using bots, that makes sense. The exception would be human-generated spam, especially that which tries to camouflage as actual discussion, and double-especially if they use multiple accounts to hold a "discussion" with themselves. As this is a) very expensive, time-wise and b) barely distinguishable from unpaid fanboyism, it's not something I would worry about.

www.aftonbladet.se is using this, major media site (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058445)

This comment is used extensively at major media outlets such at Swedish' tabloid "www.aftonbladet.se." Facebook is used to register users.
When a user is perceived as spamming - or writing opinions that are unwelcome - the user is marked, and simply not displayed to other visitors. But the user himself does not know, and keeps spamming.
Evil. Pure evil.

hellbanning. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058455)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellbanning

Re:hellbanning. (1)

unrtst (777550) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058999)

Mod parent up... perfect answer to the question.

Re:hellbanning. (1)

Nitewing98 (308560) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059263)

So it works much like the Phantom Zone. Zod can see us, but can't interact with us. Brilliant!

Re:hellbanning. (1)

michelcolman (1208008) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059469)

Now, what would be even better would be fake answers from other users! If you're just trying to fool bots that might have an algorithm for detecting hellbanning, you could even just make random replies with random words. If you're trying to fool humans, you might try multiple variations and synonyms of "go stuff yourself", seemingly coming from other users.

Of course, all of this does not address the fact that you only need a single "normal" account that has never been used for spam and from a very different IP address (spoofed via vpn or whatever) to check up on all of your bots' posted messages.

Reddit (5, Informative)

cornface (900179) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058461)

Reddit does something like this.

Re:Reddit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059419)

reddit does exactly that. and I'm sure plenty of other sites do that too.

OP isn't as original as he thinks he is.

Shadow Ban (5, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058467)

The practice goes by several other names I can't recall, but I know it as a "shadow ban"
Basically, you tick a box and nobody but that poster can see their nonsense.

Some forum software already includes the feature, others require a plugin or a roll-your-own solution.

Re:Shadow Ban (5, Funny)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058535)

Yup, also known as "miserable users" on some forum software.

Hey, wacky idea, why not assign a "degree of spamminess" rating and let people decide on their own level of viewing? You could even do it for funny posts, informative posts, troll posts etc. Mind you, it could get out of hand and overly complicated.

Re:Shadow Ban (3, Interesting)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058675)

I believe miserable users is a different trick or at least it is on Vbulletin. Miserable users adds a lengthy delay to all of the user's actions, kicks them to error pages, etc.

Nice functionality, or it would be if it didn't do unfortunate things to server load on 3.x.

vBulletin (2)

phorm (591458) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058735)

You're correct.
The option he was thinking of does exist in VB, but it's called "Tachy goes to Coventry"

It's good for dealing with trolls

Re:vBulletin (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059291)

That it is. Especially combined with automatic multiple account detection. They can keep making more accounts and they just get detected and automatically added to the GI until they give up and go away.

Re:Shadow Ban (1)

fak3r (917687) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059533)

I see what you did there, nice!

Re:Shadow Ban (4, Informative)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058817)

Drupal has a module to do this to put trolls in their own "cave"

http://drupal.org/project/cave [drupal.org]

Reddit Does (5, Informative)

Stickybombs (1805046) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058477)

Steve Huffman, one of the creators of Reddit, talks about this exact solution during his Udacity class, Web Application Engineering. http://www.udacity.com/overview/Course/cs253/CourseRev/apr2012 [udacity.com] I think it was during week 4 "Whom to Trust," but I don't have links to the exact video. So in short, yes, it has been done effectively in the past, though I believe they wrote their own code to do it.

Wouldn't work (2)

Desler (1608317) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058483)

This wouldn't work because spambots don't keep using a single account. If it were that easy spambots would have already been long defeated.

Wouldnt they just (1)

brickmack (2537604) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058485)

Either change accounts often, which I think is common anyway, or have a second bot checking if the posts show up, and stopping the first when it stops seeing the posts?

Hell-banning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058487)

It's called hell-banning, and it's a blessing for bots, but unfair hell when applied unjustly to a non-spamming real user, as is often the case with automated solutions - I'm talking to you, Hacker News, you moronic cunts.

Two Bots (4, Insightful)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058489)

Seems like it would be easy enough to work around with a second bot that checks to make sure spam is getting through.

Easy to defeat the defeat (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058921)

Seems like it would be easy enough to work around with a second bot that checks to make sure spam is getting through.

So you make the troll visible to all for a few seconds after the troll has posted, or always visible if someone tries to go to the site directly...

And the troll is visible for longer to anyone visiting the site from the same IP address.

But most spammers would not really bother with a verification pass. They have new places to spam.

No. (5, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058491)

What makes you think that they will stop just because their account doesn't get closed?

They will not notice the efficacy of their spam, they will just keep signing up and spamming. And you'll play whack-a-mole trying to put all their accounts into sandboxes.

Just how often does a spammer go back to see if his comment posted or not, or if his email got through? Rarely. Spam works on the basis of mass volume. Put a billion adverts on a billion websites and your sales will increase somehow. And the price of those adverts is next to zero after the first few thousand.

It won't work, but it will make a lot of hassle for you, from storage to filtering to just plain bandwidth if you have a thousand spammers realising they can auto-sign-up and spam you endlessly.

It's like running a "honeypot". You'll gather lots of data at great expense and resources. But you won't stop the spam.

Re:No. (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058825)

But you won't stop the spam.

The idea (not that it's a particularly brilliant one) isn't to inconvenience spammers or to stop them spamming - it's designed to stop users being spammed. Think of it like putting all the mimes in the world on a remote island - they can carry on doing their thing but none of us have to put up with it.

Hmm. Excuse me, I have some extraordinarily silent renditions to arrange.

Re:No. (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059603)

But you won't stop the spam.

The idea (not that it's a particularly brilliant one) isn't to inconvenience spammers or to stop them spamming - it's designed to stop users being spammed. Think of it like putting all the mimes in the world on a remote island - they can carry on doing their thing but none of us have to put up with it.

Hmm. Excuse me, I have some extraordinarily silent renditions to arrange.

The idea presumes that the spammer does some sort of follow-up to see if his posts aren't just deleted immediately, who will then decide IF he should post more spam from a different account. The false premise here is that they somehow value checking for old spam more than they do the opportunity to just post more spam.

The *only* way to stop spammers is to have enough of a profile on how they operate at any given time as to be able to algorithmically track their entire process. Trying to "beat" little pieces will only result in them picking a different piece (like user verification in this case) to attack. Look at email spam; for users of high-volume mail services (like Gmail) spam is reduced to an almost unnoticeable level, thanks to their ability to see so many millions of users worth of email and put together spam patterns instantly and precisely. Therefore, a viable solution to forum spam (certainly more so than this idea) is to have a forum (or some centralized service) large enough to see forum spam from a huge sample.

Re:No. (2)

coldsalmon (946941) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059021)

Whether it works or not, "Spambot Sandbox" is a great band name.

Re:No. (1)

drkim (1559875) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059147)

Great idea. I can see the marquee now:

Tonight only!

Opening act:
"Spambot Sandbox"

Feature Attraction:
"Hell Banned"

Re:No. (1)

CrowdedBrainzzzsand9 (2000224) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059211)

Agree about the mindless bots. Humans don't check the postings often, if ever. I blocked a class C IP block once. The event log showed attempted hourly postings 6 months later.

Some things that help:
--Moderate the forum: heavy human labor, but works. The nonsense of most spam is immediately obvious
--banned words: tricky to avoid banning legit postings. Best used in combination with moderation. But its pretty safe to ban the names of the commonly spammed drugs, expensive sports shoes and ladies' accessories, etc.

Re:No. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41060059)

Once you've decided to ignore a post it's a small step to serve up a slightly different post message web page.

The spammer version post message page could just ignore the content of the message and only send minimal another spam type data, or could simply delay and fake a successful post page locally in javascript. It could fake being a common virus and hope the spammers ISP kicks him offline as a zombie (I'm thinking having it fire the post repeatedly to a well known botnet cnc server).

Hellbanning (1)

taco8982 (725292) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058513)

What you're referring to is known as Hellbanning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellbanning) and is used on various sites. I'm mostly familiar with it from Hacker News which employs it.

Re:Hellbanning (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058653)

I was going to mention this. SomethingAwful used to do this on vanishingly rare occasions, but it put extra load on their already heavily hacked VBulletin servers, and it didn't prevent the targets from otherwise making pests of themselves by 'Hellbumping' old threads up to the front page.

this is called "ghosting" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058537)

and I think craigslist does it. I remember thinking functional data structures (like in Haskell) were a good match for this since it makes it easy to keep many independent views of the data.

Another trick is to slow down the server response to the spammer, e.g. to 1 minute, so they just think it is slow. I know the old photo.net used to do that.

Re:this is called "ghosting" (2)

CubicleZombie (2590497) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059015)

Craigslist just doesn't enter suspected spam into the index so it never shows up. The URL they email still works but nobody will ever see it in the list or the search results.

For a long time just about everything I posted ended up this way. I think using correctly formed HTML was their trigger, since there was absolutely no way the ads I posted could be considered spam. It was very annoying as a user.

Well, it would be easily detectable (3, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058539)

It would certainly prevent spam temporarily but
a) the spammer would notice rather quickly if their spam doesn't show up in Google
b) the spammer could easily defeat the system by simply re-registering with another username
c) one mistake on implementing the system (eg. allowing users to read 'sandboxed' comments through a link) could maybe hide it from your users but not from the other bots that crawl your site (again Google and security bots) which would then mark your site as spam.

The problem is that spamming is usually automated so you have to have the end-user jump through hoops in order to defeat them. One of the forums I moderate actually requires a legitimate introduction on the topic of the forum before they are allowed to post in the general forums. Defeats most spammers as it's somewhat of a niche forum and automated spam is immediately recognized and user/ip banned.

Article on Coding Horror (2)

timdaman (110404) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058543)

http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/06/suspension-ban-or-hellban.html

Good Idea, Yet Easy to Subvert (1)

erik.erikson (1821660) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058551)

It's a great idea but there's an issue... If aware of such a policy, such a spammer could create to accounts. One to simply be a "is my other account banned" validation-only account. The strategy could be more effective if the "invisibility" were applied on an IP basis (all accounts from the communicating from the same IP could also view the comments) or something of the like but that strategy could as easily be subverted by switching IPs. Still, it increases the work required of a spammer and complicates their efforts, so I take it as an overall good method of discouraging spam or at least making it more expensive to spam.

Re:Good Idea, Yet Easy to Subvert (1)

heypete (60671) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058871)

Indeed. I do part-time abuse desk work for a medium-sized email provider. We have basic no-automated-signup methods, such as only allowing one new account per day per /24 (we're only doing IPv4 right now, but are working on transitioning to dual-stack) and a captcha. It's reasonably effective at stopping bot signups, though we do see a lot of spammers creating new accounts from a bunch of open proxies to avoid the subnet blocks.

It's clear that they're the same spammer, as they create accounts with distinctive patterns and their post-account-creation behavior is very similar. It's really annoying. You'd think they'd give up after a while as it's clear that we're onto them, as their accounts get nuked within minutes of creation before they can abuse them.

I've proposed doing something similar to IRC servers where our server checks the user's IP address to see if it's running any open proxies on common ports, then checks various public open proxy blacklists. Alas, developer resources are constrained and they're working on other stuff.

In regards to forums and blogs, I've found reasonably good luck with Akismet and the WordPress plugin "conditional captcha" -- all comments/posts are sent to Akismet to see if the message is spammy. If it is, the plugin comes into play and presents the user with a captcha. If they solve the captcha within 10 minutes, the message gets placed in the moderation queue for approval (I figure that if it's spammy enough to trip Akismet, it is likely to warrant human moderation). If the captcha isn't solved within that time period then the message is deleted. It keeps out a ton of spam and saves the administrator time from having to go through a queue with hundreds of messages. Over the last few years, this method has caught tens of thousands of spam comments on one of my blogs and only about 10 messages made it into the moderation queue (only one of which was actually legitimate). I'm sure a similar method can be implemented for web forums.

vbulletin (3, Funny)

scint (555735) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058565)

I'm pretty sure that the vbulletin forum software has this feature. Users can be tagged by moderators such that all of their post are invisible to the rest of the community. Members see their own posts. In a spambot situation, I would be cautious about using this approach on account of database growth and system maintenance. ymmv.

A for Effort (2)

jimmifett (2434568) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058567)

A decent enough idea to be sure, but it must be carried forward to conclusion. Not only could these be detected by a second bot account, the spammer is still eating up your resources, whether it be disk space or processing cycles to detect viewing by bot accounts. Even if legit users never see the spam, the spammer half wins by making your system work harder to filter them out.

The Secret Garden (5, Funny)

george14215 (929657) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058573)

What's even funnier is to allow all the people marked as "spammers" to see each other's comments as well. We called this the Secret Garden.

Re:The Secret Garden (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059029)

Usenet variant: Some free Usenet sites that have been havens for troublemakers or allow practices like injecting articles with fake paths get blocked from NNTP forwarding by other sites' admins. So pretty soon, posters on these sites see all the garbage they attempt to spam various groups with. But nobody else does.

Vbulletin (2)

compro01 (777531) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058601)

Vbulletin implements this with their global ignore (a.k.a. Tachy Goes to Coventry) function.

Their marry way? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058603)

Seriously, what sort of fuckwit actually thinks that is the proper expression?

Let me guess: You hold down the fort too while you bunker down? You would of anyway.


If you're already too stupid to fucking write, stop trying to think about technical solutions. You're only going to fuck it up.

Just require activation (2)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058625)

Some ways to reduce spam.
  1. Replace the forum's captcha with one of a higher grade, e.g. Recaptcha
  2. Requiring new users to be registered and await activation before being able to post.
  3. Use an extension that taps into NoSpam or similar to so that registrants can be flagged by their ipaddress or email address if they are known spammers.
  4. Use the forum's tools to limit the damage newbies they can do even if they slip through this.
  5. Add a simple challenge to the registration page which is necessary for registration to succeed

For extra points you could probably modify the registration process in all kinds of manners which would confound an automated and replay attacks. Chances are that for the average forum it would be sufficient that no script would even bother to defeat it and would simply move onto softer targets.

Re:Just require activation (1)

rho (6063) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058763)

For extra points you could probably modify the registration process in all kinds of manners which would confound an automated and replay attacks. Chances are that for the average forum it would be sufficient that no script would even bother to defeat it and would simply move onto softer targets.

This is the answer, more or less. For small-to-middling forums, reducing spam is pretty easy. A few volunteers to delete the ones that get through suffices for the rest.

It breaks down to 1) keep out easy drive-by spammers, which means registration with a valid email address and some kind of barrier to detour the smarter bots (ReCaptcha and the like); 2) filter posts through Akismet or similar method; 3) have a community large enough and engaged enough to want to zero out spam posts.

The third step is the hardest, and has nothing to do with spam posts.

Allow posting right away, but moderate... (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058965)

Replace the forum's captcha with one of a higher grade, e.g. Recaptcha

Or eliminate it altogether, since it doesn't help and really pisses off users.

Requiring new users to be registered and await activation before being able to post.

Instead of this allow anyone to post right away, but do not allow the first few posts to be seen until they have been verified to be valid by a human. Delegate some of this verification to your most active users.

Beehive's "worm mode" (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058667)

There used to be a Web forum product called Beehive (not sure on its status these days) which had this as a feature. A spammer or troll could spew all they wanted to, and if the "worm mode" bit was set, only they could see their postings -- nobody else.

For a constant troll, I'd say go for it. For a hit and run spammer who really just wants to get stuff on the board and then run off, I'd say don't bother; they won't be back on that account most likely.

nope (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058673)

Your post advocates a

(X) technical ( ) legislative ( ) market-based ( ) vigilante

approach to fighting spam. Your idea will not work. Here is why it won't work. (One or more of the following may apply to your particular idea, and it may have other flaws which used to vary from state to state before a bad federal law was passed.)

( ) Spammers can easily use it to harvest email addresses
( ) Mailing lists and other legitimate email uses would be affected
(X) No one will be able to find the guy or collect the money
(X) It is defenseless against brute force attacks
( ) It will stop spam for two weeks and then we'll be stuck with it
( ) Users of email will not put up with it
( ) Microsoft will not put up with it
( ) The police will not put up with it
( ) Requires too much cooperation from spammers
( ) Requires immediate total cooperation from everybody at once
( ) Many email users cannot afford to lose business or alienate potential employers
( ) Spammers don't care about invalid addresses in their lists
( ) Anyone could anonymously destroy anyone else's career or business

Specifically, your plan fails to account for

( ) Laws expressly prohibiting it
( ) Lack of centrally controlling authority for email
( ) Open relays in foreign countries
( ) Ease of searching tiny alphanumeric address space of all email addresses
(X) Asshats
( ) Jurisdictional problems
( ) Unpopularity of weird new taxes
( ) Public reluctance to accept weird new forms of money
( ) Huge existing software investment in SMTP
( ) Susceptibility of protocols other than SMTP to attack
( ) Willingness of users to install OS patches received by email
(X) Armies of worm riddled broadband-connected Windows boxes
(X) Eternal arms race involved in all filtering approaches
(X) Extreme profitability of spam
( ) Joe jobs and/or identity theft
( ) Technically illiterate politicians
( ) Extreme stupidity on the part of people who do business with spammers
( ) Dishonesty on the part of spammers themselves
( ) Bandwidth costs that are unaffected by client filtering
( ) Outlook

and the following philosophical objections may also apply:

( ) Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical
( ) Any scheme based on opt-out is unacceptable
( ) SMTP headers should not be the subject of legislation
( ) Blacklists suck
( ) Whitelists suck
( ) We should be able to talk about Viagra without being censored
( ) Countermeasures should not involve wire fraud or credit card fraud
( ) Countermeasures should not involve sabotage of public networks
( ) Countermeasures must work if phased in gradually
( ) Sending email should be free
( ) Why should we have to trust you and your servers?
( ) Incompatiblity with open source or open source licenses
(X) Feel-good measures do nothing to solve the problem
( ) Temporary/one-time email addresses are cumbersome
( ) I don't want the government reading my email
( ) Killing them that way is not slow and painful enough

Furthermore, this is what I think about you:

(X) Sorry dude, but I don't think it would work.
( ) This is a stupid idea, and you're a stupid person for suggesting it.
( ) Nice try, assh0le! I'm going to find out where you live and burn your house down!

Re:nope & I just have to say .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41060039)

I think I love you .... or at least I love your response

Re:nope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41060053)

how much time did you spend on this ?

Ignore vs Hide (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058743)

I have a chat room that implements a few nice features. You can Hide from someone so that nothing you say is visible to them and your name does not appear in their user list. You can also ignore someone so that nothing they say will ever appear on your screen. Also the chat room has a two tier approach. New visitors to the chat room appear in a frame at the top (what we refer to as the lobby) and can not see anyone who is in the main chat room who does not want to be listed. Anyone in the main chat room can chat with them or ignore them. And if the new person turns out to be interesting and not a jerk they can be invited into the main room and then they will see both chat rooms in their separate frames. Jerks can also be demoted back to the lobby or banned. It keeps the spammers and flamers from annoying our pleasant conversations.

Yes, it has been done (4, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058745)

There's a site called Slashdot [slashdot.org] which allows comments to be rated from 0 to 5. Spam, trolls, and posts like this one will be moderated down to zero and blocked from view by most other users.

Check it out some time.

Re:Yes, it has been done (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058983)

-1 and up actually. I believe it goes over +5 even if it only displays +5, it seems to offer a buffer against people troll modding because they don't like what you have to say.

Re:Yes, it has been done (3, Informative)

Forever Wondering (2506940) | more than 2 years ago | (#41060025)

As I'm sure many people already know, you can also flag the comment and it goes to the site admins. Even when I'm modding, I don't want to burn a modpoint on a spammer. I'd rather mod up a good comment instead. You can flag even if you don't have mod points.

--

Recently, there was a spate of spam on slashdot about antivirus software. IIRC, in a single day there were eight instances/variants of the same spam on a single discussion alone [and more on other discussions on the same day]. Different spiels, accounts, AC's.

Such aggressive spamming can [realistically] only be dealt with by the site itself (e.g. filtering by content). The content trigger was probably easy, as each spam message would feature the product name no less than 10 times.

I haven't seen the particular spam recently, so I'm guessing something was done about it.

Pluck Software (1)

ironicsky (569792) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058765)

From what I understand from a contact of mine who works for a news paper, their website has this functionality. They told me that when a spammer is blocked or their comment is deleted they are the only ones who dont know. They can keep posting and they think their posts show up, but to the rest of the world they don't exist. Their websites comments appear to be run by a company called Pluck by DemandMedia.

Same Idea Here (1)

Arabian Nights (2597797) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058777)

I'm really happy to read this paragraph. I had the same epiphany when I began planning for a recipe website that allowed for comments without passwords (to login avoid hassle). I also worked out a similar system to the backend of an Omegle clone, essentially pairing abusive (Ctrl+V then exit, Ctrl+V then exit) users with a Cleverbot routine until they stopped spamming, sandboxing them from the greater user base.

From this thread, I learned this system is called "Hellbanning" and some of its downsides are similar to those of honeypots, e.g. you have to store useless data, bandwidth usage goes up by those who think their spam is working, etc. I think these are fair complaints, but the jusy is still out whether these downsides outweigh the benefits of hellbanning.

Hellbanning represents an entirely new way of handling user submitted content. The current norm shows the status of every post to the user who created it. "That comment is awaiting moderation" and "This has been flagged." Essentially, by giving status reports and feedback to abusers, you are grading them on their work and giving them constructive criticism. By obscuring the extent to which their content is shared, they don't know if their efforts are in vain, and they can't improve on their failing techniques if they don't know what is working what isn't.

I would enjoy hearing about anyone else's knowledge about obscurring user content in real world applications, or any theoretical concerns or loopholes someone just hearing about it can come up with.

f70cker (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41058783)

Has steadily time I'm done here, all parties 1t's irc network. The take a look at the

Do the cost benefit analysis (2)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058811)

Currently:
Spammers can register and post for free (or sufficiently free do to low captcha cost)

You propose:
A way to squelch individual accounts. (Assuming errouneously that it has some cost to them)

The result:
Spammers will still continue registering new accounts, because in no way does it affect their cost.

A better solution: make them fund their account - PayPal with some trivial designated amount - $0.75, correlate it to the paypal address during signup. You've now added real cost and real verification. Hold the money for some time, then reverse it. The likely outcome is they'll start using stolen credit card numbers, or stop.

Re:Do the cost benefit analysis (2)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059009)

And that means that I will never ever use the forum. I do no business with paypal, at all, ever. They are a shady business with questionable ethics at best.

Re:Do the cost benefit analysis (2)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059523)

I hear ya. Accept bitcoin then. At least that market is not as shady.

Re:Do the cost benefit analysis (2)

nschubach (922175) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059781)

Hell, if I could get 10 million people to let me borrow a $1 for 6 months... I'd gladly return their money after collecting interest off it.

service already exist for this (1)

itslennie (2673647) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058915)

http://www.stopforumspam.com/ [stopforumspam.com] http://akismet.com/ [akismet.com] Depending on your forum software, someone will most likely have done the hard work and integrated these services to do what need. I use these on vBulletin to moderate spam posts.

No no no! (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058923)

Let us filter the spammers at our end. If you guys do it, you'll get too many false positives. The whole process will become entirely political. Please, don't. And besides the spammer can log in through a proxy find out he's being censored, and just open another account through the proxy.

Re:No no no! (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41058973)

Forgot: You can let us filter them through the foes list. Or just add "spam" to the other categories we have. But please don't censor anybody, not even the spammers

phpbb does this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059027)

new users are sequestered

I'll go you one better. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059073)

Have one post on your site called "Do Not Comment," with clear instructions not to actually comment on it. Anyone who comments on the post is automatically on the "shadow spam" list.

i.e. make a simple Human Intelligence Test that a spambot is likely to fail.

Re:I'll go you one better. (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059261)

IF($postObj->body == "Do Not Comment"){
$postObj = $postHandler->nextPost();
}


Tough one.

Perhaps a better solution... (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059121)

Allow logged-in users to flag posts and allow high-reputation users' flags to count more than other users'.

If a post gets too many "flag points" in too short a period of time, it is hidden to non-logged-in users. Let logged-in users set their own "hide or collapse posts with more than X points" threshhold."

To discourage spam you want search engines to not see it. Consider marking public/no-log-in-required pages that have new posts on them as "noindex, nofollow" for the first few hours or days.

The original suggestion you offer has merit except it's too easy for a spammer to defeat. In addition to wanting to hide reported spam from non-logged in users and from logged-in users who don't want to see it, You want a solution that tells search engines "this message is new, don't index it" and a method to make sure new posts are reviewed for spamminess before the searchbot timer expires.

Torture the blind (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059125)

Do like the supermarkets do. Just rearrange everything on the sign up page every couple of weeks or so

My sandbox (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059139)

I've had a sandbox for more than a decade. Its called Yahoo.

I don't know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059207)

...but I think that Microsoft has really got it right with this new product.

I tried it and the interface is clean, more responsive than the competition. Nice to see some high-quality, reasonably-priced software coming out of Redmond!

Sounds great... (1)

stevenfuzz (2510476) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059227)

Until they figure it out after 1 day and create another account anyway. Or maybe they create and revolve 40 accounts and DOS you, in spite, using 15 differant ips. This would fake a 15 year old in 1995 using their Visual Basic AOL program, but not a company being paid to spam. As someone who has developed scrape spiders and anti-spam code (for highly spammed websites), you are going to need to think a little deeper. I can tell you one thing, any spam bot software worth it's weight in obnoxious comments is going to look for every possible way to fool you.

Analogy with SMTP (2)

dskoll (99328) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059285)

As an analogy, normal banning is like an SMTP server rejecting spam with a 5xx failure code, while your scheme would have the server accept the spam with a 2xx code but throw the message in /dev/null

Each method has the usual pros and cons: Pretending to accept mail reduces (but does not completely eliminate) feedback to the spammer as to whether or not the message made it through. However, it plays hell with legitimate users; false-positives become much more problematic if there's not feedback.

Markov... (1)

ilikenwf (1139495) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059371)

Roll your own, or use Akismet...

Hmm (1)

systemeng (998953) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059443)

A good use for stupidfilter http://stupidfilter.org/ [stupidfilter.org] perhaps?

Good idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059557)

Lets bury them really deep too.

I had this idea years ago (1)

Cute Fuzzy Bunny (2234232) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059629)

When I was a forum mod for a large forum some years ago, we had a lot of troll problems and the same guys would keep showing up as sock puppets. A lot of the time it took a while to suss out if someone was for real or one of the persistent trolls.

So I did come up with an idea to mirror the forum, with idiots and highly suspected idiots able to post all they wanted on the fake mirror, with the non crappy people on the real forum. So what it looked like was that everyone had the trolls on their ignore list, or that they weren't very interesting because no matter what they said, nobody answered them. But they did have some fun conversations with each other that nobody ever saw.

After a while, the persistent ones got tired of the effort since they were getting no return, and they went away.

So yeah, your idea should work unless the spammer notices that the bot isn't actually working properly.

Disable registration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41059741)

Disable registration and Force everyone to email you details of what they want an account for and their contact details are, along with their desired username and password. Spam will plummet considerably. I agree this isn't viable for big forum sites, but for small forums it should work if you're willing to put up with registering accounts for people, not to be confused with account moderation.

Deceptive (1)

fa2k (881632) | more than 2 years ago | (#41059825)

I don't like it. Depends on your foum, but it's much worse than being banned for normal people. So how about a staged solution: As others pointed out, it is necessary to show the filtered posts to users on the same IP address as the spammer, otherwise all spammers will create two accounts and verify that their messages come through. The solution is that *the first time someone spams, they get a proper ban*. Ideally a timed ban, such that normal users who are not spammers can wait for e.g. 1 week and then get back. The spammer can create a new account, and it can be filtered. This may be too complicated, but I find the proposal quite dishonest, in case someone is banned for having an unpopular opinion, etc. Moderators are not always fair. [[ The last time this came up on slashdot I wrote something similar about it being deceptive, then I wrote "How can I even be sure that this message is visible to others?" And someone replied, thanks :D ]]

The brother of this idea (1)

NorthWay (1066176) | more than 2 years ago | (#41060095)

The brother of this idea is a browser adblocker that actually loads the ads, but does not show them to you. Might need a change or two to your browser to make it know what to just invisibelize, but that should be doable?

(You still want to block tracker gifs and similar, but that already works, you just need two kinds of iffy address links.)

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