Death to Bots

Posted By Pamela on Oct 28, 2007 | 4 comments

As a web administrator I spent a frightening amount of time trying to prevent spam from cropping up on this site and some of the other sites I maintain. I don’t always succeed, and occasionally spam creeps into my comments. A have tools to ban specific words and I personally keep an eye on things, but I am outnumbered in this battle at least 10,000 to 1.

I spent my weekend warring on evildoers. In my case, evildoers is defined as porn bots, drug bots, and every other kind of web bot that is out there waiting to invade a hapless website. I maintain the International Year of Astronomy website and forums and we’ve had a problem with invaders posting all sorts of stuff that really, well… makes me question if humans are on average good or evil.

And here is what I don’t get: the fact that people are spending money to create these things tells me that they must work. Just like the Nigerian spam letters must work.

The web bots I warred on where as specific as underaged porn of specific gender, orientation and ethnicity. This means, there are websites that manage to attract people with very specific illegal fetishes. This is something I really didn’t want to know.

In general, I am very much against the periodic congressional attempts to regulate the Internet. Nonetheless, the shear amount of money that is lost out of our economy in terms of man hours spent in bot battle, money shipped overseas by people who fall prey to scams, hours wasted documenting scams, and money spent on therapy and lawyers to recover from harm done by destructive sites must be staggering.

But, 1 solid day of trying and 24 hours of watching later, I think I won a temporary victory. My recipe for bot proofing phpbb is to install: Easy BotStopper, Guest Confirmation, and The Humanizer. If I need to add anything, I’ll edit this post. If any of you have anything you can offer in addition, please let me know.


  1. Ah yes the nightmare of phpBB and spam… I have dealt with this and also the scourge on Vbullitin and for the most part the smart people that have put together the plugins for these have done a good job of at least lessening the influx of spam. On top of this there is the nightmare of keeping wordpress clean from spam…

    So if you want recomendations for WordPress I have a few – that said are you also having spoof signup issues with phpBB – we have run into that with our Vbullitin boards in some cases so badly that we have had to go to manual registration only…

    PS: Great show with Astronomy Cast and I have been crosslinking your guys posts on my blog (as per the guidelines it seems ok to do) to try to get the info out to my friends…. hopefully it will assit in the search for more links and traffic. And then more listeners….

  2. My coworker went to a course on firewalls earlier this year, run by someone from a big uk university. Out of the several thousand people who use the network there, about 50 of them had actually responded to Nigerian 419 scams. So people are actually stupid enough, even at a place of education!

  3. Scams are just one of the most evil things on the Web apart from malwares (often interrelated). Spams are another nuisance (I get them everyday)…

  4. One plugin I have found to kill 99% of the spam comments on my blog was to AutoClose Trackbacks. I just set it for say 2 weeks and the number of spam comments and crud getting through is down to nearly 0.

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