The End of Email Alerts

So, those of you who have signed up for email updates from the site may have seen a large vomit of spam from our site yesterday. Sorry about that. I loaded some posts in from a backup, and the WordPress plugin decided that meant it should send out alerts for those old posts again. Because, obviously.

In combating this latest accidental spam, I also noticed that the plugin in question has an unpatched security hole in it and has been withdrawn. So, I need to delete it ASAP. Instead of trying to find an alternative, I’m going to retire the email updates again, and this time permanently. When I mess up the site usually, the worst that happens is that it appears messed up in your browser. If I mess up something that involves email alerts, I can end up sending out thousands of junk emails. I’m tired of that.

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Spam Redux (err… Reduce?)

So, part of my weekend was spent addressing the aforementioned spam issue. Turns out we’re not the only ones getting this same spam influx: this guy is getting it, too, and he links to another site. As the spam tidal wave rolled in, I realized that this was a massive spam operation. The IP’s are from all around the world, bot just China and Venezuela. There are also hits from legitimate ISPs and hosting companies, not just the fly-by-night places well known for tolerating spam. Someone has themselves a huge-ass botnet.

Fortunately, a bit of Googling turned up a solution to at least reduce if not totally stem the tide. This post over at RTCXpression explains how to block spammers from commenting based on their country code. Since most of the spam was coming from a  few countries we’d never imagine would be posting real comments here, that seemed perfect. You can also specify a separate list of IP ranges to block, and the auto included his blocklist. That list mainly consists of Web hosting and virtual server companies, which generally won’t be posting comments to a blog. This solution is faster than some WordPress plugin. It also works with the web server we’re running. Most of the WordPress plugins rely on features found in the Apache web server  (which most sites use).

The solution isn’t perfect, simply because of the breadth of the botnet that has been assembled to advertise various craptastic products. Servers that aren;t on the blacklist and aren’t in one of the banned countries are still popping in to drop a load of spam. But now it’s along the lines of 3-4 posts per day, rather than 80-90.


Two-Fisted Tales of Spam Fighting

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been flooded with spam comments—up to 100 per day.  While 100% of it is caught by WordPress’s more-or-less standard Akismet anti-spam plugin, it still ends up in a spam queue that I have to go through and clean on a daily basis.

Most blog maintainers probably just clear their spam queue and move on. Not me, though. Spammers annoy the hell out of me the same way many home owners get pissed at someone tossing beer bottles or candy wrappers into their yard. Yeah, it takes a few seconds to clean up, but the fact that you have to do so because of someone else’s assholery really gets under your skin. If I had an easy avenue to do so, I’d file complaints about these tools to the hosting services hosting the sites they are flogging. The ones I do bother tracking down are, unlike your average penis-pill and “russian girls waiting scam date you” site, seem to actually be hosted in the US or some other place that might be responsive to spam complaints. If someone is looking for a coding project for a WordPress plugin, make one that will let you send off a report of comment spam to the site’s ISP.

Anyhow, I set out to make it as hard as possible for spammers to dump their trash in our back yard. And apparently, for the moment, I seem to have won. It’s still early, but our spam queue has been clean for the last two days. Hopefully there’s no collateral damage (err… more so that there was already, see after the jump). If you see anything weird on the site, post a comment or send a message via the comment form (especially if I managed to break commenting).

How I managed my (Pyhrric?) victory after the jump.

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Hi Folks. Well, the site’s a mess, due to a recent WordPress update breaking a plugin. At the moment, all of the sub-sites will show you all of the Wetmachine posts, not just ones from a single author. I’m working on a permanent fix that will mean we won’t be relying on a plugin for something so basic in the sit, but that will require a lot of work behind the scenes, and there will likely be a lot of problems to fix with that approach. Please stay tuned…