Interview with a Link / Comment Spammer

The Register interviewed a link spammer who revealed some of his methods and motivation. The bottom line — spammers can make up to seven figure incomes from some simple computer code. Some key points:

For even a semi-competent programmer, writing programs that will link-spam vulnerable websites and blogs is pretty easy. All you need is a list of blogs – which again, even a semi-competent programmer will be able to pull together (by searching for sites with keywords such as “WordPress”, “Movable Type” and “Blogger”) a huge list of blogs to hit.

And people like Sam are much more than competent. “You could be aiming at 20,000 or 100,000 blogs. Any sensible spammer will be looking to spam not for quality [of site] but quantity of links.” When a new blog format appears, it can take less than ten minutes to work out how to comment spam it. Write a couple of hundred lines of terminal script, and the spam can begin. But you can’t just set your PC to start doing that. It’ll get spotted by your ISP, and shut down; or the IP address of your machine will be blocked forver by the targeted blogs.

So Sam, like other link spammers, uses the thousands of ‘open proxies’ on the net. These are machines which, by accident (read: clueless sysadmins) or design (read: clueless managers) are set up so that anyone, anywhere, can access another website through them. Usually intended for internal use, so a company only needs one machine facing the net, they’re actually hard to lock down completely.

By this Sam means spammers setting up their own blogs, and referencing posts on zillions of blogs, which will then incestuously point back to the spammer, whose profile is thus raised. So what does put a link spammer off? It’s those trusty friends, captchas – test humans are meant to be able to do but computers can’t, like reading distorted images of letters. “Even user authentication can be automated.” (Unix’s curl command is so wonderfully flexible.)

“The hardest form to spam is that which requires manual authentication such as captchas. Or those where you have to reply to an email, click on a link in it; though that can be automated too. Those where you have to register and click on links, they’re hard as well. And if you change the folder names where things usually reside, that’s a challenge, because you just gather lists of installations’ folder names.”

Diggin’ in the Crates: Native Tongues

A little something inspired by the Tribe Called Quest concert I hit a couple of months back as well as an article about the Native Tongues in last month’s Vibe magazine. This crew was largely responsible for making the late 80’s & early 90’s such a classic time for hip-hop. And of course the repped that hip-house ish too. For a little history:

Ushering in a new era of hip hop that downplayed violence and sexual exploits, the New York City based Native Tongues took the rap world by storm in the late 80’s/early 90’s. The base of the group originally consisted of the Jungle Brothers, Afrika Bambaataa, and Queen Latifah, with the purpose being to perform with each other and promote one another’s projects in order to get noticed by the mainstream. They shared a common goal, and that was to spread a positive message through music without taking away the gritty realism and street logic that came with hardcore hip hop. De La Soul was the next to join the group, taking Stetsasonic producer Prince Paul and upstart teenagers A Tribe Called Quest with them. [read the rest]

Jack Johnson Documentary

I watched “Unforgivable Blackness – The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson” over the last two nights on PBS. Ken Burns has produced another fascinating documentary (also see The Civil War and Jazz). If you missed it, I highly recommend seeing it. It’s being aired a few more times this week but it’s also available on DVD. Not only does the film show how dominant Jack was in the ring but it also gives great insight into his extraordinary live outside of the ring. The most striking thing to me about this trip to the past was seeing how things have changed (or not) since the early 1900’s. On the ‘not changing’ side is how the U.S. government will go out of its way to abuse the law in order to prosecute a black man for being involved with a white woman. Just look at the recent Marcus Dixon case to see how little things have changed in that respect.

Criminals Getting Ideas from HBO’s ‘The Wire’

Hell, if I was a criminal I’d probably adopt some of the ideas from ‘The Wire‘ too:

The accused leaders of the Queens gang, whose arrests were announced yesterday by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and District Attorney Richard A. Brown of Queens, mimicked the practice of characters in “The Wire,” using disposable cellphones to make it more difficult for the police to eavesdrop on them.

Each time the suspects switched phones, investigators and prosecutors had to go back to court and seek approval for a new wiretap from a State Supreme Court justice, a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, said Sgt. Felipe Rodriguez, a supervisor on the case.

“Believe it or not, these guys copy ‘The Wire,’ ” said the sergeant, who is assigned to the Organized Crime Investigation Division. “They were constantly dumping their phones. It made our job so much harder.”

Sergeant Rodriguez said several members of the gang were big fans of the HBO show and talked about it constantly. He said that the investigators could catch up on the latest developments in the show, if they hadn’t seen it, when members of the gang talked about it the next day. “If we missed anything, we got it from them Monday morning,” he said. [read the whole story]

(via Gothamist)

Some People Just don’t Understand RSS

Last night I happened across a post by Martin Schwimmer entitled “Why I Have Asked Bloglines To Remove My Site From Its ‘Service’“. It generally accepted that BlogLines is by far the number one news aggregator so I had to go read that post. Here’s Martin’s post (emphasis is mine):

This website is published under a Creative Commons license that allows for non-commercial use, provided there is attribution. Commercial use and derivative works are prohibited.

It was brought to my attention that a website named Bloglines was reproducing the Trademark Blog, surrounding it with its own frame, stripping the page of my contact info. It identifies itself as a news aggregator. It is not authorized to reproduce my content nor to change the appearance of my pages, which it does. In response to my inquiry to Blogline’s CEO as to whether they sell advertising, he indicated that they ‘are not currently running advertising.’ Nevertheless, the Blogline’s home page currently is soliciting ‘targeted advertisements.’ I would also assume that Blogline is accumulating commercially-useful mailing lists (its privacy policy appears to allow it to sell information). The privacy policy also has a provision entitled ‘mergers and acquisitions’ clearly allowing it to sell its lists.

Thus, in my view, Bloglines’ reproduction of my site is a commercial derivative work. Bloglines has agreed to remove my site from its service and I thank it in advance for its cooperation.

I create content in part to promote my law firm, which I cannot do effectively if my contact info is removed. I do not participate in targeted advertising programs because the majority of advertisers that target the keyword ‘trademark’ are competitors. I cannot prevent such advertising when my page is reproduced and ‘framed’ by a third party.

For the 190 of you who subscribe to this site through Bloglines, I apologize for any inconvenience, but I think that you will still find my site easily accessible, here.

If anyone desires the convenience of being notified only when this blog (or most any blog) is updated, then I recommend subscribing to one of the many RSS programs available.

Those of you who are familiar with syndication will understand why Martin was quickly reamed across the blogosphere. People rightly pointed out that other aggregators display ads, including “My Yahoo!”. So to single out BlogLines, which isn’t even showing ads yet, and is very likely his biggest pool of RSS readers doesn’t make much sense.

The part that really gets me is when he talks about BlogLines “reproducing his site” and “Stripping out his contact info”, yet he tells people to use (other) newsreaders. Martin fails to realize that newsreaders only display what’s in your feed. So if Martin didn’t put his contact info inside his feed it won’t display in any of the newsreaders. It seems to me that Martin would have been better off changing his feed to:

  1. Only display excerpts/summaries of his posts.
  2. Include his contact information on every post.

His other option is to turn off his RSS feeds.

Martin does raise an interesting issue about fair use of feeds under Creative Commons licenses. I won’t pretend to be able to describe what constitutes fair use but it seems to me that Bloglines isn’t doing anything different than any other aggregator.

Interestingly enough, another attorney, Dennis Kennedy, also has issues with Bloglines. I’m beginning to share Scoble’s fear that RSS may soon come under legal attack.

P.S. If Martin is so concerned about others making money off of his content he should ask the search engines not to index his site. That’s where he really needs to be concerned about ads being wrapped around his content!

I Hope Randy Moss doesn’t Live to Regret These Words

When asked about the $10,000 fine he got for his ‘fake moon’ during the Green Bay game Randy Moss had this to say:

Reporter: “Write the check yet, Randy?”

Moss: “When you’re rich you don’t write checks.”

Reporter: “If you don’t write checks, how do you pay these guys?”

Moss: “Straight cash, homey.”

Reporter: “Randy, are you upset about the fine?”

Moss: “No, cause it ain’t [expletive]. Ain’t nothing but 10 grand. What’s 10 grand to me? Ain’t [expletive] … Next time I might shake my [expletive].”

Damn I hope I don’t read about him being bankrupt in 10 years… (That ‘straight cash, homey’ part had me ROTFL though!)

Radio.Blog: U.K. Flava Volume 1 (Electronica)

Since there’s so much great music coming out of the UK I thought I’d highlight some of my favorites, which get so little air play in the States. When I went through and ripped my UK CDs I ended up with about 80 songs, so instead of cutting most of those out I decided to break them into genres. The songs on this radio.blog could be lumped into the electronica genre, although they sound very different. There’s representation from Drum & Bass, Garage, Jungle, 2 Step as well as music that would probably be called straight up R&B in the US (like the Craig David & Artful Dodger “2 Step” tracks).

Some other recent radio.blogs to check out:

Aboriginals ‘Sensed’ the Tsunami

I know many of you have seen the stories about animals sensing the recent Indian Ocean tsunami and heading for safety:

At the Khao Lak Elephant Trekking Centre, elephants Poker and Thandung started to panic — trumpeting and breaking free from their chains. It was something their owner Jong Kit had never seen them do before.

“We couldn’t stop the elephants,” says Kit.

They ignored his commands to stop and ran for higher ground, just five minutes before the resort where they’d been standing was destroyed by the tsunami.

Well this one is really interesting:

The five aboriginal tribes inhabiting the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, our last missing link with early civilisation, have emerged unscathed from the tsunamis because of their age old “warning systems”.

“The tribals get wind of impending danger from biological warning signals like the cry of birds and change in the behavioural patterns of marine animals. They must have run to the forests for safety. No casualties have been reported among these five tribes,” ASI Director Dr V R Rao told PTI today. [read the whole story]

It seems that we ‘civilized’ humans have not only lost such ‘intuition’ but even common sense as I’ve heard stories of people rushing to the beach to see the water that was sucked out to sea just before the first tsunami wave rushed in.