Spammers…………………………

It seems this blog has caught the attention of the spam bots and now gets hit with around 20 to 50 comments a day, 90% of them from the same scammers trying to con people out of money for writing articles (and as some will know, I’ve written a few articles, had them published and know a bit about how the “writing for (very little) money” game works).

The worst scammer of all is an outfit called “writing job income” (and, no, I’m not going to be  daft enough to post their URL; it ends in .com and isn’t hard to guess, and I suggest no one looks it up and visits it, unless they really want to be scammed).

So, I’ve installed some stuff to try and reduce the amount of spam here, but it will only really work well against the spam bots.  Right now I’m reluctant to add the “prove you’re a human” stuff before people can comment, as I don’t like it and I suspect others don’t either.  However, if you get a pop-up when you’re trying to comment, then it means the system here suspects you’ve not read the post before writing a comment.

Hopefully this may reduce the amount of garbage I get in my inbox every morning, although I doubt it’ll stop those who are STILL being a bit childish and sending me junk out of personal spite – I do know who you are, you know, as some of you aren’t bright enough to cover up the trail you leave behind…………………..

 

15 thoughts on “Spammers…………………………”

  1. Jeremy, while your reasons for not “proving your a human” are laudable, you are providing free information for readers. Meanwhile, dealing with spam is a cost to you. It’s really not much trouble to click an “I am not a robot” checkbox or fill in a CAPTCHA.

    Of course, as with all security, nothing is fool proof.

    Just my take.

  2. You’re right, I could pretty easily add a “captcha” or other “I am not a robot” feature, but personally I find the “captcha” things increasingly hard to use (must be an age and eye sight thing!) and I also find them a bit annoying if I’m in a hurry.

    Right now I’m trying the least intrusive “anti bot” mechanism I can, in the hope that will deter most of the spam that’s automated. The non-automated stuff is more of a challenge – it depends whether or not I now get enough of it to cause a problem.

    The settings here now are that that all first-time comments have to be manually approved by me, then once a user has been approved they have automatic “comment rights” from then on. Having moderated a big international forum for a decade now, moderated Ebuild for a couple of years or more until it’s demise, and a month or two on Buildhub (until someone decided I shouldn’t), I’ve built up a pretty good feel for those who try and spoof the “approval after first comment or post” trick.

    I used to do a lot of IP geolocate’s on Ebuild when suspicious, but with so many (me included) using VPNs to get around the “snoopers charter”, this has limited use now. Like most users of a decent VPN service I can choose to appear to be anywhere in the world if I wish!

    Still, I get a surprising number of spam comments from the same IP, and their easy enough to deal with by just blocking that IP.

    Right now I’ll leave it as it is and see how it works.

    Just off to do a manual back up to the faithful little Raspberry Pi 3 that has the nightly sequential backups of this blog, so that it’s up to date with the changes I made this morning, just in case.

  3. As if spammers weren’t enough, my web hosting service went down this afternoon, taking everything (this site and my email server) offline for hours.

    If we had a faster fibre connection here I’d run the whole lot from my own servers. Cheap and dead easy to do now. I reckon a small cluster of Raspberry Pi 3’s, plus some decent HDDS, all powered from the battery system I use to power the machine I’m typing this on, the fibre modem, router, switches etc that run the existing home network effectively “off grid” would do the job.

    The fly in the ointment is our abysmal uplink speed, and it’s not going to improve over the existing 3 to 4 Mb/s in the foreseeable future, as we’re very unlikely to ever get fibre to the house, are tucked in a valley where we get no mobile signal and, from what I can gather, sat links are both expensive, not much faster and have loads of latency.

    Still, at least this site is back up now; no sign of my email server coming back up though………………..

    1. Hey Jeremy,
      On your point of only getting 3-4 Mbs in the next few years, Have you considered anything like this?
      http://www.fibrewifi.com/
      I realise they don’t seem to be in your area but there might be another company that is? its not satellite as such, I think you just need line of site to the nearest mast.
      Its what I intend to use for my build with any luck.
      Also FWIW I don’t like trying to work out the captcha lettering either, but i am not against clicking the “I am not a robot” box at all.

      all the best
      Ed

      1. Hi Ed, nice to “see” you here.

        Something like that fibrewifi system would be ideal, but all I can find locally is a satellite service, and that’s a bit pricey and not too great overall. The village got it’s FTTC box as a result of the government grant, so we get little sympathy when complaining that the service is still pretty grim, despite the grant-provided box.

        I may have a go at trying to get some community interest up in getting a long-range wifi system up. Other small villages have done it and found it to be affordable and effective; it all depends on how many of those who complain at the moment will put their hands in their pockets and join a community scheme.

        A lot of the problems are really just down to the terrain here, especially with 3G/4G, which seems to be the way internet connectivity is moving. This area is a high plain, with deep valleys, and all the ‘phone masts are up on the plain, whereas all the houses are down in the valleys, so the signals go straight over the top.

        The answer is to get up above the end of the valley, erect a long range wifi mast and beam a decent broadband signal down into the valley. A few miles away a neighbouring village has done the same, and they get very good speeds here.

        The really annoying thing is that we get no terrestrial TV, no mobile coverage, no DAB radio and usable, but not great, FM radio. And, guess what, the government is going to turn FM radio off in 2020, so we won’t even have radio…………….

        Still, not as dire as some, I know someone who’s only way of connecting to the internet is dial-up, and she’s not alone.

        Fingers crossed, but the anti-spam stuff I installed a day or two ago still seems to be working – no spam at all has come through (except one of the “children” who knows me from some where else and is STILL trying to be a nuisance…………….).

        1. 😮 I didn’t know dial up was still even available, I suppose its obvious really, but you just assume everyone has access to some form of broadband in one way or another,

          are they really planning to remove FM radio? I suppose that means we are all going to have to get DAB in the car. seems a bit soon to me, our Kia is a 14 plate and that hasn’t got DAB as standard.

          there was talk a few months back of our village trying to set up a “community mast” which would have been great for me as the ideal location would have been on our hill, alas it looks like the village will be getting fibre in the next year or so, so the idea sort of lost its momentum.

          luckily we still have line of sight to one of the masts in the area, now the problem is getting them to upgrade the service to the mast so they will allow more connections 🙁 supposedly I have been on their list of “customers wanting connection” since about this time last year but i have heard nothing from them. Maybe I should give them another call just to see how they are getting on.

          somehow “The Mitchells” have stumbled across a pair of podcasts you were involved in on house planning help , so I’m going to spend the next hour or so listening to them.

          Hopefully we will see you about soon

          Ed

          1. A mile or so up the road from us people only have dial up, as they are too far from the exchange for even ADSL to work, and it’s not that uncommon in rural areas. My mother was still on dial up until about a year ago, when Cornwall County Council invested in a rural broadband programme (with government funding I think) and she now gets (very, very slow) ADSL, at around 3Mb down, 1Mb up. Still, it’s a LOT faster than dial up, and meets the government target of most people being able to get download speeds above 2Mb/s. BTW, if you can get 2Mb/s that’s considered fast enough, and there aren’t usually any grants available to get anything faster.

            The government have been putting off the turning off of FM radio for some time now. I think is was originally planned to be turned off by now, so they could sell the frequencies used to other commercial users. Yesterday on Radio 4 there was an announcement that currently FM will be switched off in 2020.

            Now, my car has DAB, as did a hire car I had when my last car was written off. If I were to give an honest opinion then I’d say that it works very well within Salisbury itself, and for around three to four miles outside the city. Once you get further away that that then DAB just starts dropping out, and it’s far, far worse than FM in this respect, as the radio just stops completely, rather than just get a bit noisy. By the time you’re within a couple of miles of either our current house or our new build there’s no DAB reception at all. I fitted an external DAB antenna at the new house, knowing that FM was going to be turned off soon, but even that can’t get a signal, as the much higher frequencies that DAB use are strictly line-of-sight, rather than the much lower frequencies used for VHF FM radio that will follow the terrain to some extent.

            I get good FM reception at our current house and reasonable reception and the new house, and FM reception in the car is near-perfect when driving anywhere around this area. I’m not going to be happy at having to use up precious broadband bandwidth just to listen to the radio in a few years, but it seems that will one of the only options (unless I revert back to 198kHz long wave for R4!).

            It’s all about money; the government controls frequency allocations and can sell them to the highest bidder to generate revenue now. They want the cash they will get by selling the FM frequencies.

            Hope you enjoy those pod casts. It was The Mitchells that roped me in to do them, and I wasn’t at all sure how they would come over.

            As an update on the spammers, I’ve had NO spam comments at all today, not even the few that knew me from somewhere and were sending obnoxious stuff, so the anti-spam thing seems to be working. I might do some IP tracing later and see if I can find out who they are, as I’d love to know what it is I’ve done to get up their noses.

        2. I’m pondering looking into something similar [wireless broadband via line-of-sight receivers].

          There are two commercial services in our area, but I’m a bit hesitant over any lock in – the setup fees are quite large and looking back of the history of one of the services they increased fees 50% in three years.

          Openreach make a big play of “helping” rural communities onto “superfast” broadband; they obviously want to avoid laying fibre to villages like ours (eleven houses) because for Openreach it will never be profitable. That’s not the same thing as it being valuable of course… but as you know in the UK all decisions are made with reference to next quarter’s financial figures 😉

          But if they were really interested in making faster broadband work for communities it would seem like helping with this would be an obvious solution. You’d need one technical person in the community, and then Openreach to provide the connection wherever fibre is nearby. That seems very low cost to them… obviously a lot more detail to work out there.

          Let us know if you find anything interesting out.

          1. When I get the time to dig into it a bit more, I’ll certainly post about it. FTTC is OK if you happen to live within a few hundred metres of the fibre cabinet, but frankly is slower here than ADSL2+ is at our old house, where we were pretty close to an unbundled exchange.

            The local wireless network solutions look promising, especially if the community can do some of the donkey work, and even more so if the community can contribute a bit of technical expertise as well.

            Our village could get a decent wireless service if the mast was located so the antenna pointed down and along the valley. The new FTTC cabinet is in fairly central location, and is only around 300m from our house, line-of-sight. The problem is the copper route is anything but line-of-sight and does a big U turn around behind our place, then comes back the other way, so our incoming copper is pointing at the damned cabinet it originates from!

            Putting a modest multi-user wireless system on the end of that fibre would give a massive improvement in speeds, assuming that the back haul is up to it. When I was talking to some of the people involved in the “Wiltshire Online” project it was clear that the OpenReach hardware going in was the very bare minimum that would allow the government broadband target to be met, which is, I think, 2Mb/s down and about half that up.

            What I’d like is speeds akin to FTTH, so around 50 to 80 Mb/s down, but I can’t see that happening anytime soon.

            Just re-organising the cable arrangements here would made a big difference to around 1/3 of the village, as the main cable leaves the FTTC cabinet and follows a road with very few houses on for around 500m, before doubling back through a more populous area. The houses right next to the FTTC cabinet on our side of it have a longer cable run to it than we do!

            I believe there have been some community initiatives elsewhere that have given good speeds and been affordable. I seem to remember reading of one in the Western Isles, I think – I may try and dig out the details, as IIRC a fair bit of the work for that was done by the community themselves (putting up masts, trenching, cable laying etc).

  4. Jeremy, WP has quite a few decent anti-spam addins. The simplest is a Q&A based on some known context, such as “My house at ? ? Please fill in the blanks”. Another is Geo lookup and only accept IP addresses from countries which have English as the main spoken language. These will defeat most Bot-based spammers, but not the human ones coming into the UK over VPN, but these are still quite rare.

    You don’t need an RPi cluster, as a single RPi3 is easily powerful enough and you don’t even need HDDS, as Linux does enough caching that you’ll get enough performance out of a USB2 HDD, but the main slug is that most ISPs won’t offer a dedicated IPv4 on a basic consumer connection, so you’ll need to use openDNS.

    BTW, I am surprised that FastHosts are having outage problems. They’ve usually got a pretty good reputation. I think that whilst this a pain, it’s also quite unusual.

  5. Hi Terry, nice to “see” you here, and thanks for the comments.

    I agree that a single RPi 3 would probably do the job. I have one running this same blog on the LAN at home and taking a nightly incremental back up from the Fasthosts server every night, just in case. Right now I’m not even bothering to delete the old backups, but just letting them accrue on the attached USB HDDs, as they don’t take up a lot of space.

    I’m frankly amazed at just how capable the RPi3 is, TBH, I never expected a £30 bit of kit to be as good as it is, and until a couple of months ago I’d never even looked at the RPi at all. I’m currently half way through making a £4 RPi Zero into a 1080P wifi IP security camera, which seems to be working on the bench like a dream. To say I’m impressed with how easy it is to use these things, is an understatement.

    I have the simplest anti-spam plug-in at the moment, and have had no spam at all overnight, or so far today, so that seems to be dealing with the bot spam well. If I start getting more sophisticated spam then I’ll look at some of the other methods, like the Q&A method your suggest.

    My problem with hosting from home is really our slow uplink speed. We have FTTC, but the copper is around 1km, so the speeds are worse than our old ADSL2+ at the old house, where we were only around 300m from an unbundled exchange.

    I was also a bit surprised that Fasthosts went down for so long. The reason given is that a disk check went awry, not something I’ve seen happen before. We’ve been using them to host our email for a few years now, and they were OK, but we have had a fair few outages, some lasting several hours, and Fasthosts aren’t the best at telling you what the problem is (or even admitting there is a problem!) or estimating how long things will be down.

    I’ve not been using the web hosting service for long enough to see how often it goes down. As you say, they have a reasonable reputation, so perhaps this is an uncommon event.

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    Only just found your site. I always followed your build on the e-build site and gleaned a lot of very useful information for our own MBC passive build. We’re still at the plaster boarding stagerat the moment, but are hoping to complete by the summer.

    I just wanted to throw a suggestion as to a solution to your broadband problem. We had the same situation at out current house a few years ago when adsl was being rolled out. We are about 2.5km from the local exchange and our exchange was always the last to get any upgrades. What I found out was that a hillside town 3.5km distant as the crow flies (Llantrisant RCT) had adsl and I could see the chimney of our house from there with a telescope.

    Some tests were in order, so I put a high gain wi-fi antenna on our chimney and connected my home network to a cheapo linksys wireless bridge, then set out with my laptop and a “cantenna” to see whether I could get a connection. Hey somewhat to my surprise I connected easily and was able to send and receive.

    I put some letters in homes in Llantrisant offering free broadband for anyone willing to host a connection and share it with me by wireless and got a willing volunteer within a couple of days. We set up the kit and got an aerial installer to put up the remote antenna with another linksys bridge in an IP65 box and powered it with POE. It all worked without a hitch and we had adsl broadband 18 months before BT upgraded our exchange. Only problem was three other people spotted my antenna and figured what I had done and wanted in, so I became a mini wireless ISP.

    A long winded story I’m afraid, but what I thought is you might be able to do the same if you can find a willing partner in the village with the fibre cabinet, especially if you’re only 300m line of sight away. These days the kit is really inexpensive and has built antennae and POE and supports up to 300mb/s so would cope with VDSL2 speeds perfectly.

    Just a thought!

    1. Hi Andy,

      Sorry for the delayed reply – as I mentioned in another post here, I’d been fiddling around and somehow broken the comment notification thing!

      The idea of setting up a local wifi system sounds a good one. I know there are a few in the village that would support it, and probably offer to help, plus we have the advantage of the new fibre cabinet being right outside the village youth club, which is owned by the village, which should make putting a mast up a bit easier. Against that is that we’re in an AONB and a conservation area, so there would be some planning hurdles to overcome!

      Jeremy

  7. Jeremy

    I haven’t seen it mentioned, but when I used to write a fairly prominent blog with 10s of k of spam comments per month the goto resource was a plugin called Akismet, which is still around and does 50k spam checks per month for free.

    It is possible that this was in your initial wordpress install and the spam you are seeing are ones that get past it.

    1. Akismet is loaded by default at the moment, but I’ve not yet activated it, as just blocking automated comments seems to have fixed the problem for the time being, but thanks for suggesting it.

      Jeremy

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