Read on to find out about the tools the Internet spammers have at their disposal, and more importantly how you can protect your online presence against them.
Note: I’ve decided to deliberately censor the names of some of these tools. I chose to do this, not the editors of MakeUseOf, because these tools are for the most part unethical and dangerous. These tools are technically classified as blackhat, and stand a very high chance of getting you and your site banned from Google if you are caught using them. You have been warned.
This is a truly vicious little Windows tool that’s able to automatically register and post profile links to popular online forum systems. Defeating this software is a daily battle for most forum webmasters, and often results in wide ranging IP bans. Once a spammer IP address is identified, it’s reported to a community database and stored. An entire industry has arisen which offers to run the software for you, saving you the trouble of worrying about IPs, usually by making use of their own vast database of hacked proxies. $50 will nab you around 10,000 profile links.
One way to make sure your forum site isn’t inundated is to make sure you’re always running the latest version of trusted open-source software. While it won’t stop them registering, it does avoid the complete spam takeovers that occur when a backdoor is discovered in old forum software.
Luckily, Google is now very efficient at identifying sites using this technique. It’s a foregone conclusion that if you use this software or purchase these services, your website will be de-indexed from Google, never to return again.
This one is a blog mass-commenter, but many claim it can also be used legitimately. The process is quite simple – using a series of proxies, you ‘scrape’ Google for blogs that are relevant to your keywords – maybe as many as 50,000 sites – then systematically post the same (or spun) comment to each blog, under a fake name, fake email, and whatever links you want. The result of this is poorly worded and grammatically incorrect comments which usually have nothing to do with the original article – AKA comment spam.
Another common tactic is flattery. You’d be surprised how many blog owners will actually approve a comment just because it says “Thanks for this wonderfully useful post, I’ll be sure to bookmark your site!“. Sometimes you’ll receive seemingly innocent non-spammy comments that don’t contain a link – but don’t be fooled – spammers know that if one comment is accepted, most blogs are set up to automatically accept their next comment. So after a single spam campaign, they repeat the whole thing using the same name and email – this time in the hope that their first comment was accepted and they are now free to post whatever link they like. If one site fails – who cares, there’s another 49,999 to try!
The best defence against this kind of spam? Akismet will catch a lot of it, but if you want to be really sure, add a comment Captcha plugin or require users to be registered. We have previously covered a number of methods to stop spam and you might also even consider switching over entirely to Facebook comments.
This software is prohibitively expensive for most at around $150/month, but it’s the most powerful automated promotion tool out there. With a built in database of thousands of forums, blog providers, social networks, press release and article sites, it can automatically create multiple online personas – registering accounts all over the place, posting some links or articles, and making itself relatively indistinguishable from a regular user in the process. And all with automated proxy rotation, error recovery and multi-threaded browsers. Scary stuff – and you can even design your own attack plan.
Luckily, it doesn’t target individual blogs, but rather the services that provide free blogs or resource sites – so you don’t have to worry about defending against this one. It may however give you pause for thought about how much relevance we should be placing on social signals in search..
Proxies & Decaptcha Services
We cover a lot of proxy services and VPNs here on MakeUseOf, usually a way to get around a corporate or school firewall – but hiding IPs is also essential to those who spam the Internet. Rather than simply using a single proxy though, they will purchase a list of hundreds and cycle through them.
I touched on decaptcha services before in my article Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Captchas. By utilising systems that forward the captcha image to third world countries, spammers are able to take advantage of incredibly cheap labor to accurately solve captchas for them.
One problem that spammers find is that the same content posted over and over again is very easily to identify and therefore block. Spinning was therefore invented as a way to automatically and very slightly alter various parts of the content, and in the most basic terms means swapping out words with ones that have a similar meaning.
Writing out these variations by hand is painstaking work though, so most spammers rely on an automated spinning service – which explains why the majority of spam you see seems to have the most ridiculous English ever. It’s not written by foreigners, it’s auto-spun.
Anyway, I hope this has been an interesting little tour into the underground world of Internet spammers, and hopefully armed you with a little more knowledge on how to defeat it. For those of you looking to learn more about these tools and how to obtain them – sorry, this is one topic I won’t be divulging any more details on! If you are looking at promoting your website through legal or ethical methods though, I suggest you check out my previous article on 8 Proven Ways To Make Your Blog Popular, or subscribe to my own personal site, , where I regularly address the topic.
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