What If We Blocked The Sites Advertised By Spam?

from the thinking-out-of-the-box dept

Whenever a debate over stopping spam comes up, someone usually suggests not to worry about filters or knocking the spammers themselves offline. Instead, they say, we should target the people who pay the spammers to pay. There are tons of little scam shops set up that simply give a few hundred dollars to spammers and then rake in whatever money they can from gullible dupes who believe spam. Many of these sites are hosted by ISPs who just want the money and are willing to take all sorts of abuse before they take the site down. With that in mind, here’s a suggestion for a different way to stop spam: have other ISPs simply block all traffic to spamvertised sites. The idea would be to set up some sort of central database that major ISPs could pull off of. Sites that were being spamvertised would be blocked completely and all traffic wouldn’t be allowed to go there. So, you get the big guys (AOL, Earthlink and MSN) to agree to use this list, and you can really stop a lot of traffic to the sites that are being advertised by spam. Plus, by having a central database with this info about domain names, even if the domain moved, other ISPs could check to see if it had a history of spamvertising. Thus, it stops the gullible folks from buying off of spam, thus making spam less worthwhile to the spamvertised sites – and kills the economic incentives for spam. At least that’s the theory. Of course, it’s not to hard to imagine how this will backfire. First, sites may get blacklisted incorrectly. This happens all the time already with typical spam filters, and it’s a pain. Imagine how much bigger a pain it would be if all traffic was suddenly completely blocked from your website? People would go nuts. Second, spammers will quickly learn to rotate new sites up quickly and get the job done before it made it onto the list. The biggest problem, though, is that spammers will just start including legitimate links in their spam as well – or even “spamvertising” legitimate sites, just to piss people off. Then, for every spamvertised site that gets blocked, they’ll take down a legitimate site as well. It’s definitely a different idea, but I think it also brings up too many problems without solving the spam issue.

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Comments on “What If We Blocked The Sites Advertised By Spam?”

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Bob Bechtel says:

It's a multi-step process

1. ISP installs spam filter (as some have apparently done).
2. Filter is enhanced to harvest links in suspected spam messages – symbolic links get resolved. Call these suspected vendor addresses.
3. Suspected vendor addresses are graylisted – a request for that address doesn’t fail (blacklist), rather it generates a “that looks like a spam-using site, are you sure” intermediate page.
4. Users that do click through (after all, the intent is not censorship, exactly) have their ID and/or IP noted, and added to a “suspected spam encourager” list.
5. Stats are kept.
Near-zero clickthrough rates on suspect pages increase the “this is a bad site” weighting on the suspect page, and the “this is spam” weighting in the original spam filter. High clickthrough rates suggest that perhaps this isn’t a spam-abusing site after all – the solicitation may look like spam, but boy, it’s sure popular. Similarly, users that always click-through to suspect sites are marked as dupes (in-duh-viduals in Dilbert terms) and are extended special offers on the Brooklyn Bridge, oceanfront property in Arizona, and favored entry positions in the Darwin Awards competition.

Michael M (user link) says:

It will never work

I have a very popular site and it has been reported as “spamvertised” several times at places like Spamcop. None were anything to do with me – either people included a link in semi-bulk mail that someone mistakenly reported as spam, or a real spammer used a link to my site to try to appear more legitimate.

My URL never changes – It would destroy my business to change it. A system like this hurts innocent sites like mine. The spammers, on the other hand, have no trouble coming up with 50 or 60 new disposable URLs a week, and this will have very little effect on them.

Gary (user link) says:

Blocking sites that advertise via spam

I have developed a list of about 17,000 such sites. You can find it on http://www.geocities.com/filterlists for now. I’m looking for other lists to expand this one. I consider this list to be in the public domain.
I’m using it with a program I wrote for Exchange server that blocks messages based on content in the body of the message. The program also blocks based on content in the subject line – there’s a separate list on the filterlists page for this purpose as well.
I’m blocking an average of 97% over the last 2 weeks of all spam to my servers.

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