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Comments April 29, 2010

Registration Protection Isn’t Enough Anymore

Filed under: Anti-spam, Board Management — Dave Rathbun @ 9:58 pm CommentsComments (3) 

The focus for the past several years for board owners has been to prevent (or at least have some easy way to ignore) spammer registrations. When spammers thought it was useful to have an entry on a board memberlist they were often satisfied with getting through the registration process. They didn’t bother to activate their account. As a result, one of the most popular (and fortunately very easy) MODs for discussion boards was to prevent inactive members from showing up on the member list. This is the standard configuration for phpBB3, no MOD required.

Spammers reacted by altering their process so they can activate accounts. (I as well as other board owners have seen a dramatic increase in use of gmail accounts for this, so clearly Google’s registration process has been cracked and automated as well.) Like many board owners, I would like to have a “clean” database. But it wasn’t a huge imposition to get spammer registrations. If they never posted, they were not a contributing member of my board but at least they weren’t getting in the way. I had a MOD that prevented board members from entering a web site until they had a minimum number of posts on my board, so at least I didn’t get a member database sprinkled with unsavory web links. There are also MODs available that prevent zero-post users from showing up, and for pruning inactive or zero-post users after some specific period of time. All of these were okay in their day, but are not as effective anymore.

I’ve posted many times about my Checkbox Challenge code. It has served very well in protecting my blogs, several phpBB boards, and even my comment forms from spammers. However I am starting to see some issues, and that bothers me. Why? Because the new spam seems to be coming from humans rather than bots. I don’t know how we can combat that. Spammers seem to be quite creative with their posting strategies as well. More…

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