how to help fight forum spam

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Memblers
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how to help fight forum spam

Post by Memblers » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:26 pm

When registering an account on the forum, there is an NES-related question (chosen randomly from a list). In the past, changing the questions seemed to have slowed down the spam for a while. So I figured it would be a good time to try that again. But this time, why not go further and add a lot of questions? I could use some help with that.

If anyone wants to write a question or two, we could maybe get a decent list going and hopefully make it tougher for them to register. I guess they can just google it, but if we're making dozens or hundreds of them waste their time, then good.

Just send the Q/As to me in a PM, not in the thread itself (for obvious reasons). It's kind of tough because you want it to be obscure, but not too obscure. Also, one question can have multiple answers.

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Dwedit
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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by Dwedit » Thu Jan 10, 2019 9:52 am

I hope the new questions help a bit now.
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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by gauauu » Thu Jan 10, 2019 10:22 am

Out of curiosity, can we also incorporate other things like google's "i am not a robot" captchas?

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by koitsu » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:03 pm

gauauu wrote:Out of curiosity, can we also incorporate other things like google's "i am not a robot" captchas?
This solves nothing -- the people doing the sign-ups are not robots/automated scripts, they are human beings who can read/understand English.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by slembcke » Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:26 pm

Really? My experience in the past is that more questions don't seem to help. An attacker would only need to answer one question before they can automate the process and brute force it.

I even tried doing it using a webpage full of GUIDs in different styles. The questions were then just "Copy paste the green words from the following web page". Within maybe two days at most of changing the GUIDs out I would start to get spam accounts again. It was miserable and I finally just shut the forum down. The admins had collectively given up on trying to fight the spammers by that point so the traffic went from a dozen or so daily posts to basically 0. :-\

As far as I've ever heard, the only good way to keep spammers out of PHPBB is not to use PHPBB or to write your own custom captcha. -_-

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by tepples » Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:00 pm

gauauu wrote:Out of curiosity, can we also incorporate other things like google's "i am not a robot" captchas?
For one thing, ISPs in the People's Republic of China block reCAPTCHA, as do web browsers that are set to refuse to run proprietary JavaScript. For another, some people report that reCAPTCHA leads to several minutes of identifying cats, street signs, and the like.
slembcke wrote:The questions were then just "Copy paste the green words from the following web page".
I guess that might work on a forum with no blind members.

A few other systems exist:
  1. Shadowban all newly registered users. Allow a user to post, but hide these posts from the public and from non-staff users until staff release these posts.
  2. Require a referral from an existing member to join. This is the essence of the Vouch extension to Webmention. Some communities make initial contact with newcomers through an IRC channel.
  3. Require ownership of a personal domain and subscription to web hosting to join. The wiki on IndieWeb.com uses IndieAuth protocol.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by slembcke » Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:09 pm

slembcke wrote:The questions were then just "Copy paste the green words from the following web page".
I guess that might work on a forum with no blind members.[/quote]

Sadly it didn't really work regardless of people's abilities. :(

Does PHPBB support first post moderation? Years ago that worked pretty well on the idevgames forums. Basically your posts don't show publicly until after you have been blessed by a moderator. Easier to review the first post of a new member than every post that shows up on the site.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by tokumaru » Thu Jan 10, 2019 2:48 pm

I guess that catching spammers after they register is more effective than trying to catch them during registration. Can't new members get a limited number of trial posts, in which they can't post links to external sites? When the trial posts are over a mod can then choose whether to make them full members or ban them. Maybe this decision can even be made before the end of the trial posts, if their behavior makes their legitimacy obvious.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by tepples » Thu Jan 10, 2019 3:25 pm

That proposal is similar to what we currently do on the wiki for talk page posts by newly registered users. They may edit only talk pages, and adding external links requires solving a CAPTCHA. Promotion happens automatically after two talk edits and a few days in this new user state. But in some cases, spammers have proceeded anyway with "copy and paste and remove spaces".

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by Sumez » Thu Jan 10, 2019 4:26 pm

tepples wrote:
  1. Shadowban all newly registered users. Allow a user to post, but hide these posts from the public and from non-staff users until staff release these posts.
  2. Require a referral from an existing member to join. This is the essence of the Vouch extension to Webmention. Some communities make initial contact with newcomers through an IRC channel.
  3. Require ownership of a personal domain and subscription to web hosting to join. The wiki on IndieWeb.com uses IndieAuth protocol.
a: This solution usually works great. Only downside is that it requires very active moderation as you wouldn't want someone writing stuff for two days wondering why people just ignore them
b: This only works for larger and popular sites, who benefit from filtering in only people who are truly dedicated
c: I assume this was a joke

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by Drew Sebastino » Thu Jan 10, 2019 8:38 pm

I agree that b. would not work. I have yet to meet someone in person who has heard of NESDev.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by FrankenGraphics » Fri Jan 11, 2019 2:23 am

A lot of forum seem to have restrictions until you've reached a certain number of posts. Like, not being able to participate in for sale threads and the like.

For all new users starting with a post count of 0,
-suspend rights to edit posts until you've made a handful of them.
-likewise suspend rights to make a signature until you've made enough posts.

I've seen this too, so maybe:
-suspend rights to make a new thread in most subforums until you've posted at least 1 reply or made an introduction thread in an appropriate subforum.

But often people register when they have a question, and then hopefully some of them stay to become active members, so the 3rd point might be a bit of a hindrance to community growth.
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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by gauauu » Fri Jan 11, 2019 8:49 am

tepples wrote:For one thing, ISPs in the People's Republic of China block reCAPTCHA,
Last time I was there, nesdev was blocked entirely in China.
[*]Require a referral from an existing member to join. This is the essence of the Vouch extension to Webmention. Some communities make initial contact with newcomers through an IRC channel.
[*]Require ownership of a personal domain and subscription to web hosting to join. The wiki on IndieWeb.com uses IndieAuth protocol.[/list]
A couple minutes of clicking streetsigns isn't acceptable, but requiring a personal domain is?
koitsu wrote:This solves nothing -- the people doing the sign-ups are not robots/automated scripts, they are human beings who can read/understand English.
Now here's the right answer. Koitsu's point is correct -- it won't help if these are real people.

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by pubby » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:17 am

create a captcha system that hides an answer in a NES rom

(spammers won't have NES emulators installed)

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Re: how to help fight forum spam

Post by tepples » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:22 am

Good luck with hiding the answer in a ROM if your first question is emulator tech support. Or should that be done directly with the emulator's developer?

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