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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 domainsI 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 QuarkVSInDesign​.com? 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 Pariah​.com? 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 weblogs​.com 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 adver­tise­mentsspamof 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.

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