Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

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Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby ThistleWeb on Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:59 am

Not sure if this is the right place, if not, feel free to move it. I've noticed a few tactics spammers use and have a couple of suggestions on how to deal with them a little more effectively.

Post random *** then return to edit in spam links

This enables the post to die away from the "new posts" section where it will likely be spotted, reported and deleted along with the account. They can make the edit days later and not be noticed. If that post is on an old thread like "Mint 7 XFCE Released" it will likely go unnoticed for a long time.

Drive by spammers for Aesoft, shoes, handbags etc

They turn up around the same time every morning with new accounts to spew out 4 or 5 posts. They are always reported and deleted within hours depending on which moderators spot the reports first.

Potential Solutions

Restrict the editing of posts to say 30mins, so nobody can edit spam links into their posts, rendering their first innocent posts useless. It will affect regular members too, specially me, as I like to edit when I see typos, or points I meant to state but forgot. As long as we know, we can adapt and people like me will just have to pay closer attention 1st time round.

Create a "First Posters" forum, and restrict all new members posting abilities to that single forum. Set the limit to maybe 5 posts before they can post to the regular section of the forums. Think of it as a probationary place. That way people who do sign up to ask support questions can do so but only in there, where they can be answered and even moved to the proper place, and potentially a moderator could move them into a fast track group allowing them member access.

Disallow links of any sort in the first posters forum, so all links are obfuscated, meaning even if the spammers throw in a thread of posts and links, the links are automatically filtered out. You could even have any link converted automatically into a link to the Mint forum rules, or the latest Mint release. If the spammers are desperate to SEO game the search engines, why not capitalize on their free work by having them promote Mint? The report / deletion policy would still apply, the spammers would just get no benefit at all in the short time their posts remain on the forum.

Increase the time limit between posts for the first 5 posts, to perhaps 10mins, or maybe refine it to just the starting of new threads to 10mins, which allows new members to respond as usual to a genuine support question thread if someone answers it within 10mins. It will force the regular drive by spammers to either break their workflow to spread our forum out, or return back to it etc. They know it's about getting links noticed and counted by the search engine spiders before they're deleted, a large gap frustrates them. All they can do is throw it all into one thread, which is easily contained and removed.
Last edited by ThistleWeb on Sun Aug 28, 2011 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby erkki on Sun Aug 28, 2011 10:08 am

Great idea, see discussion on another forum : http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=67979
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby monkeyboy on Sun Aug 28, 2011 11:40 am

It looks like the current control scheme depend on bodies on keyboards to catch the spam as it occurs. Perhaps finding a way to get more folks involved is worth looking at. What do you Modder folks think?
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby proxima_centauri on Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:45 pm

ThistleWeb wrote:Restrict the editing of posts to say 30mins, so nobody can edit spam links into their posts, rendering their first innocent posts useless. It will affect regular members too, specially me, as I like to edit when I see typos, or points I meant to state but forgot. As long as we know, we can adapt and people like me will just have to pay closer attention 1st time round.

Speaking as a user, not a moderator - I can see myself being frustrated by a feature like this. Typically the spam sig's or links are added more like days after anyway, so I can't say I'd agree with this solution.

ThistleWeb wrote:Create a "First Posters" forum, and restrict all new members posting abilities to that single forum. Set the limit to maybe 5 posts before they can post to the regular section of the forums. Think of it as a probationary place. That way people who do sign up to ask support questions can do so but only in there, where they can be answered and even moved to the proper place, and potentially a moderator could move them into a fast track group allowing them member access.

That would create a lot of unnecessary work for us.

ThistleWeb wrote:Disallow links of any sort in the first posters forum, so all links are obfuscated, meaning even if the spammers throw in a thread of posts and links, the links are automatically filtered out. You could even have any link converted automatically into a link to the Mint forum rules, or the latest Mint release. If the spammers are desperate to SEO game the search engines, why not capitalize on their free work by having them promote Mint? The report / deletion policy would still apply, the spammers would just get no benefit at all in the short time their posts remain on the forum.

Perhaps a system of 'no links until a user has been established after a set quota of legitimate posts', might be worth looking into.

ThistleWeb wrote:Increase the time limit between posts for the first 5 posts, to perhaps 10mins, or maybe refine it to just the starting of new threads to 10mins, which allows new members to respond as usual to a genuine support question thread if someone answers it within 10mins. It will force the regular drive by spammers to either break their workflow to spread our forum out, or return back to it etc. They know it's about getting links noticed and counted by the search engine spiders before they're deleted, a large gap frustrates them. All they can do is throw it all into one thread, which is easily contained and removed.

I'm not sure of the logistics of implementing something like this, but it might be something to consider. We have experimented with bumping the time between posts in the past - but user-wide. We have a flood interval of 100 seconds, I'll see if I can find any interval settings for creation of threads - I'm only recently becoming familiar with the ACP.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby ThistleWeb on Sun Aug 28, 2011 2:19 pm

proxima_centauri wrote:
ThistleWeb wrote:Restrict the editing of posts to say 30mins, so nobody can edit spam links into their posts, rendering their first innocent posts useless. It will affect regular members too, specially me, as I like to edit when I see typos, or points I meant to state but forgot. As long as we know, we can adapt and people like me will just have to pay closer attention 1st time round.

Speaking as a user, not a moderator - I can see myself being frustrated by a feature like this. Typically the spam sig's or links are added more like days after anyway, so I can't say I'd agree with this solution.


Then how about applying the same principle but making the time much wider, to several hours instead of 30mins? Or potentially restricting the editing to new posters with less than 5 posts?
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby vrkalak on Sun Aug 28, 2011 3:54 pm

In another Forum, that I have recently become active in; they have been plagued with with these types of tactics - from an apparently huge SPAM Farm. Since, April 2011 some 65,000 SPAM posts.

What the Forum Admins have done there is: All New Member posts do not show-up in the main-Forum until after Admin/Moderator approval. We (the Mods) check all new posts routinely, anyway. This keeps all the New SPAM posts out of the Forum.

The New Members Post / Approval limit has been set to 50 posts - after which time, a regular members post, will go directly into the main Forum without approval.

So there can be 200-300 new posts made daily - Awaiting Approval.
But, are not listed in the Forum nor are they seen by Forum viewers.

They get deleted/removed, without ever being seen.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I can say that the Admins and Moderators in the LinuxMint Forums and LM-IRC channels have an excellent communication network in-place. We discuss and are accountable for our actions and to each other - daily.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby proxima_centauri on Sun Aug 28, 2011 4:33 pm

ThistleWeb wrote:
proxima_centauri wrote:
ThistleWeb wrote:Restrict the editing of posts to say 30mins, so nobody can edit spam links into their posts, rendering their first innocent posts useless. It will affect regular members too, specially me, as I like to edit when I see typos, or points I meant to state but forgot. As long as we know, we can adapt and people like me will just have to pay closer attention 1st time round.

Speaking as a user, not a moderator - I can see myself being frustrated by a feature like this. Typically the spam sig's or links are added more like days after anyway, so I can't say I'd agree with this solution.


Then how about applying the same principle but making the time much wider, to several hours instead of 30mins? Or potentially restricting the editing to new posters with less than 5 posts?


Again, most cases the message lies dormant for days before the signature or edit is made. Also, I don't believe the level of specification exists within our ACP to restrict specific rules to new users.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby ThistleWeb on Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:12 pm

proxima_centauri wrote:Again, most cases the message lies dormant for days before the signature or edit is made. Also, I don't believe the level of specification exists within our ACP to restrict specific rules to new users.


This is the point. If they return 1 day or 10 years later to edit the post and can't, they can't add the spam links. If they can't edit the spam links, they are wasted spam posts, as they've not been made active. If they know there's a few hours time window it forces them to show their hands sooner, which makes them much more likely to catch the attention of someone who will report them.

Granular control of users will be restricted to applying to groups, as well as what modules are available. It should be simple enough to create a new group for 1st 5 or so posts, then apply that on a read / write basis per forum. Beyond that I dunno, I'm not really familiar with PHPBB.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby dagon on Sun Aug 28, 2011 9:13 pm

@ThistleWeb - Thanks for bringing this up.

Maybe it's time to check out stopforumspam or some similar service.
http://www.stopforumspam.com/
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby Oscar799 on Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:40 am

Perhaps a system of 'no links until a user has been established after a set quota of legitimate posts', might be worth looking into.


That sounds like it would be a good idea,but the phpBB won't allow it,we either have to allow links everywhere or we have to disable them everywhere for everyone
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby Oscar799 on Mon Aug 29, 2011 12:44 am

dagon wrote:@ThistleWeb - Thanks for bringing this up.

Maybe it's time to check out stopforumspam or some similar service.
http://www.stopforumspam.com/


We do use that site to check on anything that makes us suspicious - but manually checking every new member (last month there were nearly 1800 new members) would be very laborious and time-consuming
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby dagon on Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:33 am

Oscar799 wrote:


We do use that site to check on anything that makes us suspicious - but manually checking every new member (last month there were nearly 1800 new members) would be very laborious and time-consuming

Checking up information manually, and I do it quite a lot, is basically good for getting a feel of how spammers work. But there is software to do it for you on a larger scale:
http://www.stopforumspam.com/contributions
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby Oscar799 on Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:46 am

I've posted that link on the thread the moderators keep for suggested future plugins/mods for phpBB
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby randomizer on Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:50 am

ThistleWeb wrote:You could even have any link converted automatically into a link to the Mint forum rules, or the latest Mint release. If the spammers are desperate to SEO game the search engines, why not capitalize on their free work by having them promote Mint?

That wouldn't be a good idea unless you want to tell search engines that the latest Mint release is somehow related to dodgy video conversion software and counterfeit handbags ;)

Oscar799 wrote:That sounds like it would be a good idea,but the phpBB won't allow it,we either have to allow links everywhere or we have to disable them everywhere for everyone

Not out of the box, but someone made an extension to do just that: http://www.phpbb.com/community/viewtopi ... &t=2096637
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby Oscar799 on Mon Aug 29, 2011 5:55 am

Thanks randomizer,that one is added to the list of future plugins/mods suggestions too :D
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby ThistleWeb on Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:44 am

randomizer wrote:
ThistleWeb wrote:You could even have any link converted automatically into a link to the Mint forum rules, or the latest Mint release. If the spammers are desperate to SEO game the search engines, why not capitalize on their free work by having them promote Mint?

That wouldn't be a good idea unless you want to tell search engines that the latest Mint release is somehow related to dodgy video conversion software and counterfeit handbags ;)

Hey, I resent the implication of "dodgy", I put lots of work into creating accounts to promote this.....erm......uhm.....you never saw that right? :lol: I only thought of the links not the text surrounding them, so yeah you're right.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby randomizer on Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:07 am

ThistleWeb wrote: I only thought of the links not the text surrounding them, so yeah you're right.

It's also the links I'm worried about. Most often they use keyword-laden anchor text to indicate what the content of the target page is about.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby ThistleWeb on Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:10 am

randomizer wrote:
ThistleWeb wrote: I only thought of the links not the text surrounding them, so yeah you're right.

It's also the links I'm worried about. Most often they use keyword-laden anchor text to indicate what the content of the target page is about.


My intent was to rewrite the anchor text as well as the links automagically, but it wouldn't touch the page of text around the links, so it was an idea that's shot down on merit.
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby randomizer on Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:18 am

ThistleWeb wrote:My intent was to rewrite the anchor text as well as the links automagically, but it wouldn't touch the page of text around the links, so it was an idea that's shot down on merit.

Ah, gotcha. I suppose it could work, but in the end, it's probably best just to get rid of the spam :) Since the links are semi-internal (different subdomain, same domain), they wouldn't have a huge impact anyway. It's inbound links from other domains that we want. :D
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Re: Forum Anti-Spam Suggestions

Postby Garvan on Mon Aug 29, 2011 8:55 am

Limiting editing to a time period would stop people putting [SOLVED] in their post titles, unless you changed the forum to add an option to do this automatically.

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