How to deal with a wall of SPAM

“Doctor, I think I have a spam problem. It keeps coming back”

The first signs of spam often go unnoticed and untreated until eventually a plague is visible and difficult to deal with.
The symptoms can include sleepless nights, head-aches, teeth-grinding, swearing and an increased resentment to other humans.
Sit down and let the Doctor write a prescription.

What is all this spam, and where does it come from ?

You can blame the silly British sense of humour and Monty Python for the strange name for junk messages (click on the picture above for the wiki info), but the source of most modern spam is automated software (bots) and people trying to boost the search ranking of their site.
Email spam is usually just trying to trick you into visiting a bad site or downloading malware.

Many people still believe that posting on comments and linking to a site is a good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) method, but because of comment spammmers Google do not rank links that are posted in comments, they only consider the links on the blog post for site ranking.

What does it look like ?
Something interesting I discovered a few years ago, while cleaning up the bad SEO and reputation that a law firm in London had paid for, is that the common spam on Western sites is from the Eastern countries, and the common spam on Eastern sites is from Westerners.
This is why the use of language often seems strange or even like a collection of random words.
Generic sentences that do not mention anything in the blog post are converted into multiple languages with online translators, so the authors usually have no idea what the text says.
These are then posted on any blog with a keyword that their spambot found.
Some have links in the text, and others rely on the fact that comment posters can add a web address to be used when you click on their avatar.

Most comment spam will be be generic text designed to make you feel valued, or a comment designed to look like it is a useful reply. Sometimes they are designed to make you feel pity.
Many comments refer to the style of your blog and ask for recommendations or offer a recommendation.
Often they complain about a large comment that was lost or that they can’t subscribe to your blog.
It seems your blog is popular with someones brother, and people claim to read it with their breakfast.
They often comment that you have duplicate content or do not monetise your site.

OK. How do I block the spam ?
There are several free anti-spam services you can use depending on your needs.
Here on the Vivaldi blogs you can use the Akismet plugin for WordPress.
Akismet used to be enabled by default in WordPress blogs without the need for an API key, but at some point they changed the requirement.
It still works fine on my real WP site and I have never made a key for it, but here you will need one.

For me getting a free API key involved signing into Akismet with an existing account.
Thankfully I already have one so I logged in with that.
You may not need a WP account, but I could not see a way to do it without.
Once you have logged into the Akismet site and go to create your API key, you must select the option for choosing the price you want to pay.
It will already have a price set on the slider on the right side of the page.
Drag the slider to 0 and you will see the panel on the left change to show 3 tick-boxes, where you agree that your blog is not used for business and does not have adverts.

Now you can type or paste your site address into the space provided, and generate your key for pasting into the Akismet section in your blog admin page.
For Vivaldi (WordPress) blogs you must look in Settings -> Akismet Anti-Spam

Vivaldi blogs also come with a free SEO addon “All in One SEO”. You can enable/disable more free addons in its “Feature Manager”. One of the freebies is “Bad Bot Blocker”. Enable this to stop bad bots from being able to view your site.
Extra Anti-Spam blocking and checking options

If you need to do manual checking in a public blacklist, or if you administrate other sites or forums you should also visit StopForumSpam where you can find a free plugin for many types of sites.
There is a very useful tool called “Forum Spam List Checker” made by a member of the site, which can check the details of any suspect users in many blacklist sites.
Download Forum Spam List Checker v3.2.8 (65 kb zip file)

Ageing techno-hippy armed with a radio show and not afraid to use it.

6 comments Write a comment

  1. I am thinking of writing a few articles myself, as the Vivaldi blog is there waiting to be used, and I want to have somewhere to post random thoughts and experiences for my close friends when I eventually leave Facecrook for good. …So this post is very useful to me and couldn’t have come at a better time!

    I noticed that e-mail spam seems to be quite prominent in Vivaldi, and I found your comment about most western spam coming from the east (and eastern spam from the west) very interesting. I have managed to almost completely eliminate spam from my Vivaldi inbox by creating a simple (but very long) filter rule that just blanket-rejects any message where the “from” or “reply to” header contains the domain name for any Chinese e-mail service/ISP that I could find out about. About once every couple of months I get a message sent via Yahoo, but that’s about it. By essentially geoblocking China, I’ve pretty-much stopped all spam arriving.

    • Mostly I use my blog space as a resource for myself to refer to (often just a page of categorised links to stuff), or for basic tutorials that stem from common conversations or topics that the listeners of my radio show may find useful.
      Very occasionally they are my annoyances that need a voice. I feel more like I am talking to the Universe instead of select people within the FBverse
      I often recommend to FB users that the best way to use FB for deep subjects, is to prepare your thoughts on a blog. A blog which you have editorial control of. You can add any pictures or vids in your topic to illustrate, and create sensible lists and sections.
      Then you drop a link to that in FB or twitter and get people to leave that hell-hole.

      Yeah it is a shame when you end up having to basically block a whole country, but also from experience with the games world it often ends up that way when trying to block cheaters or hackers, or you just play an endless game of whack-a-mole.
      Mostly the activity is obviously from commercial and private VPNs and Proxies so it is difficult to genuinely know the country of origin of the spammers.
      From doing domain and IP checks on many of the email accounts I see trying to sign up at the forums I moderate, I can see a common trick of people hosting remote boxes running only DNS, RDP, VPN and an email server using some cheep disposable domain name. That way the emails pass validation as being sent from a real service.
      Then there are a the Chinese companies that give free email accounts, and a signup that can be done easily with a bot to spew endless variations of a dictionary added to a name.

      I only briefly touched on email inbox spam, as the anti-spam options for email are either use whatever comes with your email account and software or like you did make your own rules.
      Email clients are generally either equipped or not, so generally your option is a different email client.
      Really what we need is for Vivaldi is for them to make use of StopForumSpam, BotScout or whatever so it can be used at the email server level, or in our webmail, so when we mark mail as junk, the details get immediately added to the public database.
      As far as I can tell the regular email junk system seems to take far too long to react, and seems to be isolated to each email provider.
      eg. when you mark junk Yahoo emails in your Hotmail account Yahoo don’t know about these, which would have made more sense as it is up to Yahoo to cancel these accounts. Same the other way round and with other domains.
      As I have all my email in a desktop email client using IMAP, I realised you can solve the issue slightly.
      I copy the spam emails over to my inbox of the account that matches the spammer account, then mark them as junk.

      • No problems with SPAM on my heavy used accounts.
        The SPAM filters of my mail provider do an excellent job, haven’t seen a SPAM since some years in my inbox, only the daily digest of what was rightfully marked as SPAM, no FP too …

        … and neither problems with the company account. 99.99% of the spam SPAM lands in our honeypots before they finally find the real address – and promptly get filtered out as SPAM. Self learning SPAM filters in combination with honeypots that feed them are a tough thing to crack for spammers 😀

  2. Thanks for bringing Akismet to my attention. I’m going to go check that out under my own Vivaldi settings right now.

    Comment spam was occurring quite frequently on my Vivaldi blog in the beginning, but seems to have dropped off for me, for what ever reason.

    • We do still have the Akismet feature thankfully, but the other stuff in the SEO plugin is now gone since we have a different one.
      I haven’t looked at all the options I think but the new plugin does not let you manage the bot blocking options.
      Vivaldi may have implemented some anti-spam filter across the whole site if you are not seeing so much.
      Maybe they aren’t getting to post, but you should check your spam collection in your comments dashboard and see if any recent spam shows.

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