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Referrer Log Spam

I’ve been curious about this for a while, watching my referrer logs (where visitors are coming from) fill up with apparent referrals from site with obvious spammer domains–I won’t use the words, we all know them. These sites should have no interest in referring to my sites. What does a gambling site want with Why would a porn site send 500 people a month to The Design Weblog? Why would a site advertising the hair-growth medication Rogaine link to I Am Granted, I’m not only a client of the Long-Hair Club for Men, I’m also the president, but still…

When I found this, it all made sense.

The spammer writes a script to trawl through a list of URLs (something like the home page of is ideal) and performs an HTTP GET on each site, setting the address of their own site in the referrer header. This results in an entry in the site”™s access logs showing that, apparently, the spammer”™s site is linking to you. Of course, when the owner of a site goes through and clicks to see who”™s linking to them, they”™re driven directly to the spammer”™s site. Often, they”™ll register interesting sounding domain names to throw you off the scent – but of course they all point to the same place.

From All In The Head

The U.S. Congress, Federal Communications Commission, and similar bodies in other countries are slothefully hesitant to do anything about unsolicited advertisements–spam–of any form. Just last year the first step laws were passed. When will we see the next one? When will we actually see the enforcement of anti-spam legislation beyond a few token prosecutions that take down the easy-to-find spammers while leaving the real culprits alone?

China, they say, is tolerant of spammers, allowing the largest such criminals to use Chinese hosters without restriction. I say, they U.S. is lax on spam.

Spam, in all its varied forms, costs consumers and corporations billions each year. When will our governments begin actually representing us, we the people? When will they actually do their jobs?

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2 Responses

  1. Also, it helps a site’s google rankings to be linked to through your referrer logs. If your website has public logs, then a spam referrer can quickly get many links from your website to his merely through the technique above. Multiply by a million website and suddently you’ve got a surefire way of improving your google ranking without an overt googlebomb.

    Annoyingly, once targeted, it’s next to impossible to get spam referrers to shut off. I shut down my public logs months ago, and even generate a 403 forbidden code when many of them visit my site. Yet the numbers continue to grow larger and larger.

  2. Wonderful. I hadn’t even thought that a website’s referrer logs would be publically accessible. I’ll have to verify that mine aren’t.

    Thanks for the info, Reed.