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Tue May 22, 2007

More Known Trackback Spammers

Since I began utilizing the blacklist feature in my blogging software, I've been having little difficulty with trackback spammers. As quickly as they appear, I zap 'em! If you are having a similar problem, check your blogging software or features that your blog service offers to see whether you can do the same.

I'm offering an update to the blacklist of trackback spammers I provided on 13 May 2007. New entries are highlighted in bold.

ljnl_com
lqoi_com
mtqk_com
top_addfreestats_com
www_boogiebrown_com/wp-blog/
www_jvlo_com
www_vztl_com
www_zjxszx_com

When adding the above to your own blacklist, substitute a dot (".") for each underscore. I used underscores because I do not want these showing up as active URLs in this post, which is a follow-on to Known Trackback Spammers and Trackback Spam - A New Battleground for Bloggers.

The first three domains on this updated blacklist all utilize the same registrar, ESTDOMAINS, INC. The registrant has cloaked themselves through Privacy Protect (a company which may or may not operate out of Wellington, New Zealand) so that they can prey upon unsuspecting webmasters with impunity. This represents one more case of anonymity on the Web being used by criminals to shield themselves from discovery.

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Posted by: The Spidermaster on May 22, 07 | 8:40 am | Profile

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Sun May 13, 2007

Known Trackback Spammers

Since I discovered that my blogging software has a blacklist / whitelist feature, I've been kicking hell out of the trackback spammers. If you are having a similar problem, check your blogging software or features that your blog service offers to see whether you can do the same. Prior to my discovery, I complained about one trackback spammer, who mysteriously disappeared several days later. It is far easier and faster, however, to simply blacklist them within your blog if you have the capability.

To get you started, I'm providing you with my current blacklist of trackback spammers. Here it is:

top_addfreestats_com
www_jvlo_com
www_vztl_com
www_zjxszx_com

When adding the above to your own blacklist, substitute a dot (".") for each underscore. I used underscores because I do not want these showing up as active URLs. Never click a spam trackback link to investigate it; I did this once and spent three solid hours cleaning the viruses and adware that it spewed out, some of which managed to breach both my firewall and antivirus software, off of my computer.

I'll post a revised list as new trackback spammers appear. I hope this helps some of you out there who are pulling hair as you try to stop these scofflaws from littering your blogs with trackback spam.

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Posted by: The Spidermaster on May 13, 07 | 6:45 am | Profile

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Wed Apr 25, 2007

The Zombies Are Coming — And They Are You!

I have insomnia. It's because I can't stop thinking about the zombies. They're taking over, you know. They're everywhere! What's worse is that you may have already become one of them. You may be a zombie!

I'm not talking science fiction here, although it is nearly as scary. I'm talking about zombie computers. They're taking over the Internet. And, if you are not diligently -- even aggressively -- taking measures to prevent it, your computer may have already been converted into a zombie.

"So what is a zombie computer?" you say, "and why should I care?" A zombie computer is a computer that has been infected by malicious software which enables it to be controlled by someone other than its owner. That's right! Once your computer becomes a zombie, it is no longer entirely under your control. It can be taught to do things that are not nice, like sending spam, generating pop-up ads or stealing your personal information.

Think for a moment. Has your computer been misbehaving lately? Has it been hesitant to respond to your will? Has it outright refused to obey your commands? Has it been running oh, so slowwwwly? While many problems can precipitate such behavior, one of the more common maladies is a malicious software download. Such a download can be accomplished through infection by a virus such as a trojan horse, or it may be by your own hand. As an example, have you recently downloaded that new, cool toolbar your friend told you about?

Many toolbars embed spyware on a host computer, and they can be incredibly hard buggers to remove. Spyware frequently carries with it a means to reinfect a host computer should any attempt be made to remove it. This mechanism is deliberately hidden in some location on your hard drive that is not obvious, or it is embedded within an operating system file so that it cannot be easily removed. Such a mechanism is referred to as a program stub; it is essentially a tiny bootstrap loader which can call a remote location over the Internet to reload the complete program.

Getting rid of such a stubborn program may cause endless hours of frustration and could cost big bucks! The best solution is to not allow this stuff onto your computer in the first place. You do this by becoming computer literate and by insuring that your computer has up-to-date firewall, antivirus and anti-spyware protection.

So what dangers do zombie computers pose to Internet users? Aside from the very real risk of identity theft through techniques such as keystroke logging, zombie computers can be instructed to substitute bogus ads on your computer screen in place of those actually appearing on websites. This practice robs webmasters of the income they require to provide you with services, and may cheapen the appearance of the websites you visit. (Flashing or bouncing ads are often bogus, and are at the least very irritating and unprofessional.) Zombies can also launch pop-up ads; you know how much we love those!

In addition to the aforementioned nasties, zombie programs are often set to run with a high priority, which results in a dramatic slowdown of any computer upon which they are resident. The reduction in speed can be so apparent that an individual with an infected computer may actually pay money to have their computer serviced or may buy replacement components, believing the problem to be hardware-related.

Zombie computers are one of the leading sources of Internet spam. If your computer is used to send spam emails, you may find your email services blocked by your internet service provider (ISP). Your own email address book may be used to generate this spam, or may be harvested so that it can be sold to other spammers. (Wouldn't your friends just love you if they found out you had "given" their email addresses away to spammers?) The voluminous proliferation of spam hogs bandwidth, which ultimately slows down the Internet for everyone.

A much more targeted Internet slowdown can be achieved when zombie computers are used en masse to flood a specific website with requests. This practice is known as a denial of service (DOS) attack. A DOS attack can bring a website server to its knees, slowing it to a state in which it is unable to respond to any legitimate request or even causing it to crash. The only way to recover from an ambitious DOS attack may be for the webmaster to take the website or server completely off line until the attack subsides. If the site is informational in nature, this results in a loss of credibility; if it is commercial, the merchant may lose both revenue and customers.

As you can see, there are many compelling reasons to prevent your computer from becoming a zombie. As zombie computers proliferate, the very life of the Internet could be threatened. Become an Internet Warrior by battling the zombies! Install antivirus and anti-spyware software on your computer, keep it up-to-date, and install a software or hardware firewall. Doing these things will help your computer to perform at its best and will make the Internet a friendlier and more enjoyable place for all.

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Posted by: The Spidermaster on Apr 25, 07 | 7:30 am | Profile

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Fri Mar 23, 2007

Trackback Spam - A New Battleground for Bloggers

Trackback spam is a relatively new form of spam being employed by nefarious individuals who refuse to work honestly for a living.

I began this post early this morning in response to my recent experience with trackback spam. The post grew larger and more robust until I realized that what I was writing required its own dedicated web page and that I did, in fact, have sufficient material to create one. I set aside the blog post until I was able to deploy the new page, Trackback & Trackback Spam, on which I explain a bit about trackback, trackback spam and IP banning, a method which offers limited control of trackback spam as well as other website intrusions.

I first heard about trackback spam a few days ago. (I can’t recall the source.) Yesterday I decided to check our blogs to see whether we had experienced this problem. Imagine my surprise when I discovered hundreds of trackback spam links, every last one related to buying drugs over the internet. It took me over an hour to rid the blogs of this mess.

I put forth a considerable effort on an ongoing basis to keep both our websites and our blogs free of spam and other unwanted trash. As part of the cleanup of this newly-identified trackback spam, I examined some domains and IP addresses. Two of these, fardir.com (IP 64.28.182.132) and tardir.com (IP 64.28.182.134), came up repeatedly and appear to originate from Newhall, California. A third, resipler.com (IP 64.28.183.149), is a Russian site. The close proximity of these three IP addresses could not, in my opinion, be explained as coincidence. Curious, I performed a reverse DNS lookup (IP Whois) on IP 64.28.182.133 and discovered Cernel, Inc., based in Santa Clarita, California, which controls an IP block from 64.28.176.0 through 64.28.191.255. A bit more research turned up a rather interesting blog post from 11 October 2006 relating to Cernel. In my ongoing quest to clean up spam, I'll be keeping my eye on this one. The three IP addresses related to the trackback spam have been banned in both of our blogs.

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Posted by: The Spidermaster on Mar 23, 07 | 8:30 pm | Profile

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Wed Jan 24, 2007

Stealth Tactics by Microsoft

Late Monday evening my website was barraged by a series of anonymous probes (no User Agent string) requesting an assortment of pages. This went on for nearly two hours, then stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The requests were from two IP address blocks, 131.107.0.xx and 207.46.89.xx. Since I consider this to be highly suspicious activity, I investigated. I was shocked to discover that both of these IP address blocks are assigned to Microsoft Corporation. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on Jan 24, 07 | 10:45 am | Profile

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Fri Jan 19, 2007

Bot Watch - An Annoying Little Bot

OK, time for a less serious look at the serious subject of "bad bots". The bot named "bot" is, simply put, an annoying little bot! This crawler comes in two flavors. The first, identifying itself simply as bot/1.0, appeared on our main Business Center page beginning 5 May 2006 from IP 202.96.51.151, which belongs to — surprise, surprise — Microsoft (China) Co. Ltd. Never saw that one coming! Who would suspect that a crawler displaying no identification emanating from Beijing, China, would belong to Microsoft? (Well, on second thought ....) Haven't seen this bot in several months, though. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on Jan 19, 07 | 8:30 pm | Profile

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Sun Jul 23, 2006

Bot Watch - Recently-Detected Web Spiders & Bots

Mammoth/0.1 -- This bot spiders websites for an experimental search engine owned by S.L.I. Systems, Inc. The User Agent string for this bot contains the URL of the company website. Since I could find no information relating to the bot on the website, I decided to call the company using their toll free telephone number. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on Jul 23, 06 | 1:45 pm | Profile

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Sat Jun 03, 2006

EDITORIAL:  The Future of Affiliate Marketing

The editorial below focuses upon affiliate marketing and pay-for-performance advertising.



REPRINT INFORMATION: This editorial may be reprinted electronically provided that it is reprinted in its entirety, it is not framed, your "robots" metatag does not specify "no follow", and the complete byline at the end of the editorial, including hyperlink and copyright notice, is included. For reprinting by non-electronic means, please contact the author.


EDITORIAL

On Affiliate Program Management

If a merchant chooses to launch an affiliate program (thereby becoming an affiliate sponsor), that merchant assumes the obligation to take care of its affiliate members (publishers). It is, after all, the publishers who assist the merchant by bringing traffic (visitors or leads) to the merchant's website. An affiliate program manager (such as Commission Junction, LinkShare™ or Google™ AdSense, responsible for managing multiple merchant and publisher accounts) has an additional obligation to its member merchants (advertisers). While, in theory, pay-for-performance is a sound and promising advertising method, in practice it often becomes more bother than it's worth from both merchant and publisher perspectives. For the aggressive merchant, significant time must be spent updating creative content. For the publisher, significant time must be spent adding and deleting content from web pages as well as in deciding what content to install and where to do it. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE AFFILIATE PROGRAM MANAGER TO MAKE THIS TASK EASIER FOR BOTH MERCHANT AND PUBLISHER. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on Jun 03, 06 | 12:00 am | Profile

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Tue May 09, 2006

Bot Watch - IP Address Block

We have blocked IP address range 195.225.177.0 - 195.225.177.255 because we believe it is being used by a highly aggressive spammer or malicious agent.

We first noticed suspicious activity on 27 April when inspection of our server logs revealed IP 195.225.177.80 using the POST method on multiple directories of our website, apparently in an attempt to gain access to unprotected web forms through which they could spam. I reported this to our hosting service; they blocked the offending IP address. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on May 09, 06 | 1:45 pm | Profile

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Wed Apr 05, 2006

Bot Watch - Recently-Detected Web Spiders & Bots

voyager/1.0 -- This bot provides no identification. It has been visiting our websites for some time now, but we could find little info about it other than the fact that it appears in the access logs of numerous other websites. There has been a great deal of uncertainty relating to this bot because there are a variety of web applications claiming title to "Voyager 1.0", including an internet adventure game. We have been blocking this bot on the assumption that it was malicious. MORE ....


Posted by: The Spidermaster on Apr 05, 06 | 11:00 am | Profile

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