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spammers registering

why and how to stop it

     
5:01 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Every now and then a whole load of 'people' register for my forum. Their usernames all start with! and their homepages are all for porn sites.

Has anyone else had anything like this happen, and if so, how and why does it occur?

Also, what's the best method of stopping this happening, or is it just a case of monitoring who registers?

Another thing which doesn't help is the forum is not set up to send me an email when someone registers, so I find out about these spammers from angry/bemused users.

Any advice would be appreciated.

5:13 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've been experienced a similiar problem. I believe they are trying to get a link to their website in the membership list.

I've been considering unlinking the membership list from the rest of the forum, so they will not get a spiderable link.

5:32 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Short term solution - disable usernames starting with! so they can't signup.

But yes, they're signing up using a script in order to get spiderable links. If you disable direct linking in your members directory and on your forms (try using a javascript redirect instead of a href) that should make them lose interest.

5:55 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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If you are using phpbb check out this thread [webmasterworld.com].
5:58 pm on Nov 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

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You can quickly install an image-recognition step in the registration process which helps stop automated signups. If you are running phpBB it's now standard in version 2.0.11 which I'm sure you have already updated to [webmasterworld.com], so you merely have to switch it on, and all of the major boards (vBulletin, etc.) have similar features as options.

One other thing I did very quickly when I launched my forum was to simply remove the member list page completely: it serves no useful purpose other than as spider food anyway, and members can still view the profile of a person via a link from one of their posts. No point giving easy access to the entire list, and if someone signs up but doesn't post, then their URL won't appear anywhere.

7:53 am on Dec 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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There is a phpbb mod which temporarily disables the website URL field, and if a bot tries to enter something into that form field, it bans the IP and username. The bot doesn't "view" the page and assumes the website url field must be there when it sends the registration information to the server. However, a real visitor would see no form field for website, and instead a note about it becoming active after registration is confirmed.

They use! to try and get on the first page of the memberlist when sorted alphabetically.

I found this hack at phpbb.com

3:55 pm on Dec 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've used image verification and had zero problems with bots.

Human spammers are still a possibility, of course. You could eliminate the profile URL, you could make it appear only after a specific number of posts, or you could make the profiles unattractive by not permitting spidering/indexing (robots.txt or ROBOTS meta tag) - this won't keep harvesters out, but will prevent the pages from appearing in Google et al.

4:13 pm on Dec 1, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I've had zero problems with "!" users registering since I upgraded to phpbb 2.0.11 and started using the image verification. :)

Scott

6:30 am on Dec 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Does 2.0.11 have the image verification system built in then? I always assumed it was a mod to be added on.
7:49 pm on Dec 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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I guess so - I certainly didn't add the mod. But I'm not 100% - it may have been in previous versions - I just didn't activate it before.

Scott

9:39 pm on Dec 2, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Yes, in 2.0.11 the image verification mod was added into the default installation, so assuming you've updated, you can simply switch it on in the control panel.
11:31 am on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all your helpful suggestions, it gives me an idea of what sort of things I could do to prevent this occuring.

I'm using Web Wiz Forums version 6.28 - perhaps I need to upgrade to a more recent version?

12:52 pm on Dec 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

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Another thing you might consider is how you rank for any keywords related to submitting a website in a form field, or having a memberlist. This won't stop bots, but there are some manual spammers out there who specifically seek these things out.