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December 4, 2011

Blocking and Culling Spammers On Vbulletin

no spam!

Image via Wikipedia

Pretty much any site that has "user generated content" will be abused by spammers.

It's an unfortunate fact of life.

in many respects it's like a war. The software vendors tweak and improve their software to stop spammers, but the spammers find new ways of getting around them.

Vbulletin has several options in a base install that can help, but unfortunately they're not going to be able to stop the more persistent spammers, which means you probably need to supplement your arsenal with some extra tools or plugins.

On your own install I'd strongly recommend that you force users to validate their email address before being able to post and turn on all the other validation checks that come with the software ie. reCaptcha

Here's a few that I've been using across the various Vbulletin installs I run:


Blockscript comes in two versions. With the free version you can block based on the user's IP address and country. So, for example, if you don't want anyone from India posting on your site you can simply blacklist the entire country. With the paid version you get a lot of other options that can help block against dodgy proxies and whole lot more.

The commercial license is well worth the investment if my logs are anything to go by. The developers are also very responsive if you submit feature requests, which is helpful. Plugins

If you want to do something slightly different (or radically different) then chances are you're not the only person who has had that idea. (Sorry - you're probably not that original :) )

The number of plugins on the site is impressive with a lot of them being maintained to professional standards. In terms of fighting spam here's a couple that I've found helpful:

One Touch Ban & Cleanup - The "delete as spam" option in Vbulletin is useful, but if you're doing a cleanup operation you can easily find its limitations. This plugin will completely nuke a user and all traces of them quickly and easily. You can either ban them and delete everything or even delete them entirely. Handy when the Vbulletin tools have a post limit of 50!

Multiple Account Detection & Prevention - Blocks spammers from registering multiple accounts based on their IP and cookies. Very useful. Note: although the plugin is for 3.8.* it also appears to work fine on any of my 4.* installs.

vBStopForumSpam - allows you to check your user registrations against a shared database - think of it as the forum equivalent of a DNS blacklist. You can check both IP addresses and usernames. Be careful with the username check, as it can throw false positives. Also if the database site goes offline nobody will be able to register on your forum.


If anyone knows of any other plugins for dealing with spammers that target Vbulletin installs please do share!




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June 16, 2011

Kantar Media Spamming Social Media Award Nominees

I hate spammers. Anyone who resorts to spamming obviously doesn't have enough skill to market successfully using acceptable methods.It's that simple.

Yesterday afternoon I was spammed by Kantar Media - seemingly because I was "nominated for an award" (We were shortlisted for several and won one, but since spammers are incredibly lazy this lack of attention to detail is probably to be expected)

The email was pretty terrible:

Good Afternoon,

I happened to be at the Social Media Awards last month and noticed you were nominated for an award.

We Kantar Media sponsored one of the categories as a media monitoring and evaluation provider I thought you might be interested in the services we have to offer - Social, Internet, Press and Broadcast Media Monitoring and Evaluation.

I have attached some product sheets for you to review along with a link to our Social Monitoring demo - below.

We run free trials of our offline services and webinars of the social media which you might like to avail of.

Please let me know if this is of interest.
Kind Regards

Why on earth would anyone who was nominated for a social media award want to pay these clowns for their services?
The attachment, which was a PDF, weighed in at close to 8 megs! If I'd been out of the country ie. on data roaming, then it would have cost me a fortune to download this junk.

So I replied:

So you think it's "ok" to send me a 7 meg PDF unsolicited?


You'd think that my reply would either get no response or a brief apology..
Think again:

Good Morning Michele,

Apologies for the unsolicited e-mail. I have never had a complaint
before though I have taken your feedback on board and immediately
shortened it significantly.

I appreciate you probably wish for me not to contact you again, however
if you managed to open the attachment and any of our services would be
of interest to you or your clients please feel free to contact me.

Kind regards

Seriously? Are these people for real?
So you spam me. I complain. You then screw up the apology completely and still try to flog me your snake oil?
You then state that you're going to "shorten" your spam to better target your victims?

And people wonder why social media gurus get a bad rep ..


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January 25, 2011

Irish Political Candidates Given Advanced Warning

Irish politicians love to coo about our "knowledge economy" and how they see Ireland as some form of "digital hub".

It probably used to help with votes. I wonder does it still?

Of course, as we all know all too well, the track record of Irish politicians and the digital world is far from stellar.

Fine Gael got their site hacked, The Greens spammed loads of bloggers and made some "interesting" statements via their Twitter account.

So now the Irish Data Protection Commissioner has felt the need to send a pre-emptive warning to all the Irish political parties (unfortunately he'll have missed the independents!):

The Irish Examiner reports that the Data Protection Commissioner has written to political parties to warn them about texting and emailing people in the run-up to the general election. Commissioner Billy Hawkes has warned parties against using information from third parties to contact voters. The office said it had received numerous complaints during previous campaigns. According to the office of the DPC, "in many cases, the individual had no previous contact with the political party or candidate and was concerned at the manner in which their details were sourced. Subsequent investigations revealed that contact details were obtained from sources such as sports clubs, friends, colleagues and schools."

Yeah - Irish political parties can be really trusted with email and the internet .. NOT!

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August 18, 2010

UK Food Exports Are Spammers

They're at it again

UK Food Exports, which claims it's an independent guide to to sourcing products from the UK, is spamming me and others again.

They're still using that stupid disclaimer and their phone number goes to a fax machine.

So since I can't contact them directly I think I'll just see if the UK data protection lot have anything to say about them ...

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August 9, 2010

Reasons Your Spam is a Spam

If you want to tell me why I'm getting an email (newsletter) that's fine. It's actually quite helpful, as I could easily forget how I ended up subscribing myself to a list or if I ordered from somewhere...

However putting this kind of text in your email footer is one sure fire way of getting me to list you as a spammer:

DISCLAIMER: This message is not "SPAM" because it contains our identification and unsubscribe instructions. This message was offered to you for one of the following reasons: your email address has been selected from a database that you have subscribed, your email address was made public by you; you have requested to receive the offer; you are a partner of our company; your email address is in our database as a result of previous correspondence.

There are so many things wrong with that disclaimer that it's almost impossible to know where to begin.

The ones I "love" are:

"it contains our identification and unsubscribe instructions"

Um .. ok... so? That doesn't mean anything at all...

The one though that really gets me is the "your email address was made public by you"

That is both hilarious and scary

(And just in case you're wondering - I got two copies of the same spam to two addresses that aren't published anywhere .. )

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July 11, 2010

Tweaking Spam Filters

I've been running my own mail server for this domain and several others for a few years. I could have used our main mail servers, but I like messing around with the server settings and trying out new things.

One thing that I hadn't been checking too stringently on my inbound email was SPF.
Sure, I had it set up on several of my domains so that anyone else getting mail from me would be "happy".
Switching it to more stringent settings and checking SPF inbound, however, has proven to be worth the few minutes it took to set it up - over 100 mails blocked in less than 24 hours!

I opted to install postfix-policyd-spf-perl as I'm using Postfix. Configuration was pretty easy - just adding a couple of lines to the and (the man page gives you the most up to date configuration settings)

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March 9, 2010

Oracle Ireland Spamming Everyone. How NOT To Use Email Marketing

Oracle Spam, originally uploaded by blacknight.

While I doubt this is Oracle's normal policy, they really do need to teach their staff how to market properly.

Using email to help promote sales is a good idea, but the way that this is being done is incredibly bad and damages email marketing in general.

So far today I have received 5 separate copies of an Oracle "offer" on my work domain. I also received multiple emails a couple of weeks ago in my personal email.

It is incredibly annoying.


Because I never signed up for ANY of these emails and now I'm being asked to unsubscribe, which in some cases is going to be nigh on impossible as the emails in question do not send - they are only setup to receive only.

So how can I get off Oracle's spam list?

I can't reply to the emails, as they seem to be coming from some automated system.

And judging by the email addresses that are being targetted it's pretty obvious that the email addresses were scraped off websites.

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April 27, 2009

Logging Email From PHP Scripts

This is more a note for myself than anything else ...

By default a lot of php scripts will send emails that appear as coming from the Apache user, which makes tracking down a rogue script really annoying and time-consuming.

You end up with entries in the mail logs similar to this one:

Apr 27 18:22:29 servername postfix/qmgr[23581]: 0F53421C1FA: from=<>, size=929, nrcpt=1 (queue active)

Which isn't particularly helpful if you have more than one site (vhost) on a particular server.

Making it a bit saner can be done via a simple addition to the Apache vhost config:

php_admin_value sendmail_path '/usr/sbin/sendmail -t -i -f address@domain.tld'

So now any emails sent from that vhost will reference the email specified instead of the Apache user:

Apr 27 19:40:34 servername postfix/qmgr[2469]: 16A8F21C1FA: from=<address@domain.tld>, size=358, nrcpt=1 (queue active)

There are other additions to Php that can log the path to the script itself, though until such time as someone makes it available for Debian / Ubuntu I don't really fancy having to compile it in manually

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January 6, 2009

Irish Green Party Are Spamming Idiots


Image by just.Luc via Flickr

I hate spam.

It's a tactic used by lazy uninventive scumbags.

I don't like politicians that much and consider most of them to be seriously overpaid.

So when I got hit with a spam from the Irish Green Party today to my personal email address I saw red.

Here's the spam itself (screenshot with personal details removed):

green party spam email

I love the way they wanted to "be sure" that I got their unsolicited junk.

I am not interested in the Green Party. I have never expressed any interest in them. I have not asked to be added to any of their mailing lists, so why the hell are they sending me this rubbish?

Funnily enough the contact details on their website include one for data protection - its' as if they were expecting a backlash from their spamming:

green party spammers

Well done Green Party - any chance of ever getting a vote from me is gone!


UPDATE: They spammed Alexia as well
UPDATE 2 - Adrian doesn't really agree with me
UPDATE 3: the story was picked up by The Sunday Times

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May 27, 2008

Todaynic – The Spamming Registrar – Wants Me To Change My Post

Spam Reader

Image via Wikipedia

I have little or no patience for spammers, as most people know.

Since I run several sites that deal with domains and the internet industry in general I seem to have been targetted by TodayNic's comment and forum spammers. Over the past year or so I've had to remove multiple spam comment attacks from several sites.

It's annoying. Very annoying.

However it's even more annoying when they have the gall to demand that I remove a post I made last year about their spam.

Considering they're still spamming from what I've seen in the last few weeks I can think of no good reason to remove any posts where I've referred to Todaynic's spam.

Someone claiming to be "Chris" from Todaynic left  a comment on another one of my blogs at around 3am this morning.

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