Public education, ACMA, and anti-spamming

Public education, ACMA, and anti-spamming

We tip our hat to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) for its relentless fight against spamming.

The ACMA is responsible for the regulation of the broadcasting, radiocommunications, internet, and telecommunications industry in Australia. With approximately 540 staff spread over its principal offices in Canberra, Melbourne, and Sydney, the organisation is not small.

I have followed the activities of the ACMA during the last 18 months or so, and noted the organisation has not minced any words so to speak in making public its findings. The government watchdog has pursued its charter with no regard to whether the delinquent parties are large or small organisations. Continue reading

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How to blog spam-free at WordPress.com

My last post about email spams was more for working than WordPress-ing. This time let me go back to the latter, albeit on the same subject, but focused on WordPress.com blogs.

You know of course I am referring to comment spams.

When you log in to your Dashboard, you are greeted with a note like:

Akismet has protected your site from xxx spam comments already, and there are xx comments in your spam queue right now.

In my calculation, more than 70 per-cent of comments posted to date on this blog are spams in the six weeks it has been online.

Big deal? No, not really. Akismet is a friend to WP bloggers. Well, at least to some.

So what is this Akismet?

It is a plugin or software that deletes or “kills spam” in comments and trackbacks. It is an “Automattic production” and native to WordPress.

As of this writing, 3:30pm AEST 27 Oct, Akismet reported that it had caught more than 13 billion spams since it started more than 3 years ago, and that 83 per-cent of all comments are spam, a fair estimate considering that for emails about 88 per-cent are spam according to reports.

Here’s a screenshot of an Akismet stats page (time-stamping is mine to jog my memory):

Akismet stats

In its early years, I gather that Akismet had received a lot of complaints from WP users. Quite understandable, I think. The plugin was new, and it is the type of plugin that can only be perfected through actual practice. Akismet has to update its database and lexicon of words and phrases of words used in spamming.

The plugin also needed to learn from patterns of comment spams and feedback from users.

After more than 3 years, we could only expect Akismet to be more effective and more learned than when it started.

That said, it does not mean that you should leave Akismet totally on its own.

From time to time, you need to check your blog’s spam queue. There may be comments from friends mistakenly considered as spams by Akismet.

For example, today when I checked my blog’s spam queue, I found one comment posted about a week ago by another WP blogger. I guess the reason why that comment was caught was that in the comment was URL of the page I was being invited to visit. I am not sure here, I am only guessing.

Anyway, the point I am driving home is that we should not leave everything to Akismet. We still have to do some work.

Two things we can do:

1. As mentioned above, check your blog’s spam queue. If there are any comments which should not be considered as spams, you simply approve the comments to remove them from the spam queue. Just like with emails, from time to time we need to check our Spam folders. Sometimes, spam filters get so over-zealous and over-protective that even legit messages are being erroneously classified as spams.

2. Check your blog’s settings. On a WP blog’s Settings | Discussion page, there are two options you could configure to “teach” how Akismet should behave. These are the “Comment Moderation” and “Comment Blacklist” options. Why not put them to good use and fine-tune Akismet?

Comment moderation and blacklist options


I hope this post helps. Here’s to a spam-free blogging.

The role of internet service providers in curbing spams

spamhaus-10-worst-spam-serv

Top 10 Worst Spam Service ISPs

For those who have been following me and my blogs over any period of time, my dislike to spam is well known. I regularly post news and anti-spam tutorials as part of our company’s educational drive.

Today, I posted an entry, Australia not in Top 10 worst spam origin countries, but home to #6 spammer.

The gist of my blog is that Australia has been able to stay away from the Top 10 list because of its strong spam laws.

But governments can only do so much in fighting spam. The real key to fighting spam is the private sector’s network of internet service providers. Unless ISP networks cooperate, the fight against spam will be a losing battle.

But will networks cooperate?

The daily updates of the independent spam-tracking organisation, the Spamhaus Project, show that the positions and ranking of the world’s worst spam service ISPs keep on changing. Last May 2009, even one of the largest ISPs in the United States was in this Top 10 list, and it was ranked #6 worst spam service ISP.

Here is a part of the Spamhaus Project report :

Although all networks claim to be anti-spam, some network executives factor revenue made from hosting known spam gangs into corporate policy decisions to continue to sell services to spam operations. Others simply decide that closing the holes in their end-user broadband systems that allow spammers access would be too costly to their bottom lines.

The majority of the world’s service providers succeed in keeping spammers off their networks and work to maintain a positive anti-spam reputation, but their work is undermined daily by the few networks who, out of corporate greed or mismanagement, choose to be part of the problem.

If corporate greed, it would of course be foolish to assume that these networks will give away the proverbial “goose that lays the golden egg”. At best, they may stop servicing spam business only when cost structure arising from loss of customer support or from government lock-down pressure will be greater than the profits they derive from servicing spammers.

If mismanagement, networks have to put plugs to holes in their operations including a regular monitoring and reporting of any unusual activities in their network. Even that would mean extra costs which many ISPs will try to avoid as much as they can.

You can read more about this in my blog, A Matter of Sharing.