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Comments September 27, 2008

Smackdown Round VI – phpBB3 versus phpBB-Dave

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 2:25 pm Comments Off 

In the first five posts of this series I went through the feature list comparing phpBB2 with phpBB3 from the list posted at phpbb.com. I then included notes discussing which new features for phpBB3 I had covered already by adding MODs. At this point the score is 4-1 in my favor, based primarily on my needs and use of the code. This is the sixth and final post in the series and I will cover the Administration Control Panel, Styles, Permissions, Notifications, and Localization.

As a disclaimer: this post is not intended to be a criticism of phpBB3 in any way. It is simply a way for me to formally review the features provided by the latest version as compared to what I am currently using, and help evaluate whether I should prioritize an upgrade or remain happy with what I have.

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Comments September 23, 2008

LOLZ @ Google Groups

Filed under: Anti-spam — Dave Rathbun @ 11:49 pm CommentsComments (3) 

I was over at the Google Adsense blog and forum earlier doing some research for one of my upcoming posts when I got a good laugh. Why?

A picture says it all… :twisted:

Google Message Board spam

Comments September 22, 2008

Smackdown Round V – phpBB3 versus phpBB-Dave

Filed under: phpBB, phpBB3 — Dave Rathbun @ 7:19 am Comments Off 

In the first four posts of this series I went through the feature list comparing phpBB2 with phpBB3 from the list posted at phpbb.com. I then included notes discussing which new features for phpBB3 I had covered already by adding MODs. At this point the score is 4-1 in my favor, based primarily on my needs and use of the code. This is the fifth post in that series and I will cover the User Control Panel, Usergroups, and the Moderator Control Panel categories.

As a disclaimer: this post is not intended to be a criticism of phpBB3 in any way. It is simply a way for me to formally review the features provided by the latest version as compared to what I am currently using, and help evaluate whether I should prioritize an upgrade or remain happy with what I have.

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Comments September 19, 2008

Spammer “Tells”

Filed under: Anti-spam, bbProtection, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 6:11 am CommentsComments (14) 

If you have ever watched poker (or other games that involve bluffing) then you might have heard people talk about “tells” from other players. A “tell” is simply something that the person does – perhaps without even being aware of it – that gives away certain information. Spammers do the same thing. If I can find their tells then I can use that information against them, just like I could use that information to my advantage in a poker game.

Here are some “tells” that I have identified after analyzing my phpBB2 honey pot board with one month of spammer data.

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Comments September 17, 2008

Processing Words Is Easy, Processing Content Is Hard

Filed under: Anti-spam, MOD Writing, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 2:48 pm Comments Off 

Have you ever received an email with an advertisement for something unsavory followed by a paragraph of seemingly nonsense text? The reason for the extra text was the spammer was trying to get past one of the more common email spam filters known as Bayesian Spam Filtering. The process of adding text is called “poisoning” the filter, and it’s yet another tactic in the ongoing war between legitimate content providers and spammers. I was asked at Londonvasion 2008 whether I felt that there would ever be an effective way of dealing with human spammers. My comment at the time was that the best defense against spammer posts (human or otherwise) is an active and effective moderator team. Could this sort of algorithm be adoped as an anti-spam technique for board posts? Yes, I believe it could. To the best of my knowledge nobody has yet tried to do that for phpBB2 (my google-fu may have failed me, but I did look). I would be very interested to hear of such a project if it exists.

The problem with this and other anti-spam techniques is that it’s based on words rather than content. This may seem like splitting hairs… after all, isn’t my content made up of words? Yes, yes it is. And that’s the problem. Confused yet? I hope so, because it gets worse from here. :lol:

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Comments September 15, 2008

Am I an Apple iTunes Genius?

Filed under: tech stuff — Dave Rathbun @ 7:52 am CommentsComments (5) 

How private is your music collection? No, wait, let me write that another way. How private do you want to keep your music collection? More…

Comments September 14, 2008

War Against Spammers Takes a Step Backward

Filed under: phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 1:12 am CommentsComments (4) 

Jeremy Jaynes, the first spammer to be sent to jail after being convicted of sending spam emails, just got a bit of a reprieve. He was reported to have at one point been sending out hundreds of thousands of emails per day and was originally convicted of spamming under Virginia law. However, lawyers claimed that the law in question was unconstitutional as it prevented Jaynes’ right to free speech. This all happened several years ago.

A few days ago (September 12, 2008) that law was struck down by the Supreme Court of Virginia for that very reason. The court decided that the law was too broad, and therefore would be too easy to apply in cases other than what it was intended. In an interesting footnote: Jaynes lived in North Carolina but was prosecuted in a Virginia court because that was the location of the servers that he used (abused) to send out his spam. Here’s part of what the court said in issuing its decision:

The justices declared Virginia’s tough Anti-SPAM Act of 2003 unconstitutional because it bars all anonymous, unsolicited bulk e-mails, including those containing political, religious or other protected speech.

Jaynes won’t be let out of prison just yet, as he’s still serving time for a fraud case that was apparently unrelated to his original conviction for spam. Here’s another bit of a quote from the news article:

The Virginia attorney general’s office argued that Jaynes did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law and that, in any case, deceptive speech, as opposed to anonymous speech, is not constitutionally protected.

I don’t know how far-reaching this will be, as this has no impact on the Can Spam Act of 2003 since his conviction took place before that law was passed. Still, it is more than a little frustrating to have so much documentation (he was caught with compact discs with millions of email addresses, the domains in question were registered with a credit card belonging to his sister) and yet not have any justice. At one point he was listed as the 8th most active spammer in the world.

I guess that’s something his mother can be proud of.

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Comments September 13, 2008

Unprotected phpBB2 Board: One Month Status Report

Filed under: Anti-spam, bbProtection, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 11:05 pm Comments Off 

Before I get into the statistics I think a disclaimer should be made. About a month ago I set up an “unprotected” phpBB2 board on a domain that had formerly had a phpBB2 board. (Technically it’s on a subdomain but the point remains valid.) I was a bit surprised by how quickly this domain was found and overrun by spammers so I set up another unprotected board a few weeks later on a domain that had never had a forum. That second domain – at least so far – remains undiscovered and untouched.

But the first domain… it’s really in bad shape.

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Comments September 10, 2008

Building a Better Board Banner System Part III: Banner Instances and Cron Jobs

Filed under: MOD Writing, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 3:28 am CommentsComments (1) 

I started this series of posts talking about various ways to manage the update / select process used to manage a sequential counter. The primary goal in rewriting my board banner system was to ensure that it was both accurate and efficient. I accomplished that task by using the LAST_INSERT_ID() function provided by MySQL as detailed in the prior post. That function would allow me to update a counter and record the resulting value as a session variable, and then retrieve that session variable value without being worried about updates from other pages.

The next design delima I had to overcome was: How was I going to store and manage the banner data? The obvious choice was to create a table called phpbb_banners and store everything there, but that would have required me to do a lot more work. Don’t get me wrong; I did create that table. But that’s not the table that drives the banner display logic. That table is called phpbb_banner_instances and I will show what it looks like and explain why I created it next.

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Comments September 5, 2008

How Much Does Spam Cost? For Me, About $20,000

Filed under: Anti-spam, bbProtection, phpBB — Dave Rathbun @ 2:32 pm CommentsComments (5) 

There are multiple ways for spammers to win. The most obvious victory for them is when they manage to get content on your board or blog. But there are other victories as well that are not quite so obvious. For example, every time a spammer takes up some of my time, they’ve won a minor victory. There are plenty of studies that can be found via google that talk about how much productive time is lost to corporations due to email spam. If I look closer to home… how much of my personal time would have been lost, had I not been able to create some systems to combat spam?

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