Tag Archives: spam

Looking back at comment-spam in WordPress

In February 2012 we started noticing a large influx of new comment-spam coming into our sites.middlebury.edu WordPress system that the built-in anti-spam plugins weren’t able to handle. To combat this annoying plague we created a new plugin that instantly killed any comments trying to submit an “author URL” along with the “author name” and “comment text” now that the “author URL” field is hidden.

In the year and a half since this plugin has been in place across our blog network it has blocked an average of 40,000 spam comments every month.

+------+-------+--------------+
| year | month | spam blocked |
+------+-------+--------------+
| 2012 |     3 |       14,814 |
| 2012 |     4 |       19,956 |
| 2012 |     5 |       18,225 |
| 2012 |     6 |       15,937 |
| 2012 |     7 |       29,232 |
| 2012 |     8 |       24,073 |
| 2012 |     9 |       25,973 |
| 2012 |    10 |       42,514 |
| 2012 |    11 |       49,265 |
| 2012 |    12 |      106,128 |
| 2013 |     1 |      103,850 |
| 2013 |     2 |       72,944 |
| 2013 |     3 |       38,336 |
| 2013 |     4 |       35,125 |
| 2013 |     5 |       32,975 |
| 2013 |     6 |       35,011 |
| 2013 |     7 |       28,218 |
+------+-------+--------------+

While some spam is bound to get past any automated filtering, we hope that these efforts have alleviated most of the hassle of dealing with spam comments in WordPress.

Reduced comment spam in blogs

During the past few months we have been seeing an increased amount of comment spam coming into WordPress (sites.middlebury.edu) that follows a distinctive pattern: the comment text is useless, but unoffensive and contains no links itself, while the Comment Author Website field contains the URL of a commercial site. Because the comment text doesn’t contain any links, the comment doesn’t get picked up by WordPress’s existing spam filters and until now would be held for moderation. Continue reading

Does tagging content make it easier to find with search? No.

I’ve received this question from several people now. Below are two videos from Matt Cutts who works on Google’s Webspam team explaining how tagging content mostly does not affect their search results. This also means that tagging largely will not affect how results appear on Middlebury’s site, since we use Google to provide our search results.

Tags

Tag Clouds

This does not mean that you shouldn’t tag content at all. Tags can still be useful for humans who want to find other posts and pages on a topic. However, if you want your page to be easier to find, your time is better invested in making sure that the content is well written, structured and relevant to a particular topic.

PCI and Blocked Email Messages

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS v2.0) is a standard that has been accepted by all major credit card companies and most credit providers. It is a standard that we must abide by if we are to accept credit cards as a form of payment. PCI DSS is broken into 12 requirements; each focusing on a different domain of security.

While PCI DSS is not an actual law, it is a standard enforced by the credit card industry, and the banks have stated and upheld the policy that they will no longer accept business from non-PCI compliant merchants. The government has used the PCI DSS as a yardstick by which they have measured such regulations as Gram-Leach-Bliley, Sarbanes-Oxley, and most recently the drafting of the Data Accountability and Trust Act.

We employ a device called a Barracuda here at Middlebury which helps us prevent SPAM from flooding our email system. Just shy of a year ago this system was updated to enable it to filter on cardholder information. By default this feature was turned on. We have left this enabled and have begun reporting on these blocked messages and alerting the senders of outbound messages.  The Barracuda is intended to serve both as a SPAM filter and a compliance tool.