June 2, 2017

Know the Comment Spam Industry: Vuukle Friday Anti-Spam Series

comment spam industry

Do you live in perpetual fear of comment spam? While browsing a hilarious post on FB, if you just happen to scroll down to the comments section, you will find it filed with promotional spam. The comments may appear harmless “take this pill and increase your strength three times”, or “get an iPhone 7 for free”. But, click them and you may end up on a porn site or, worse, your credit card details may be stolen.

How do we fight spam? Technology companies like Vuukle, Google continue to innovate in their fight against comment spam. But, in order to truly defeat the enemy, we must first know the enemy. Continuing, Vuukle Friday Anti-spam series, we bring you a breakdown of how spammers operate.

So, what really is spam?

It is a fake link or information trying to take you off the page to a third page. Here you can buy some product. 70% of the time, it is phished for your credential information. These spam links are posted by spammers. They are given money by some company or third parties to increase their profits. Spammers generate hundreds of links on the internet which are more often click baits. The description of the link is so good that you are tempted to click it. Spammers are middlemen and get a small cut.

Some spammers are hired on contract basis and work their own agreement with the company where their money is irrespective of the cut of the product or fixed money. To earn more money spammers post links. When you click on them they take you to a fake page for eg. fake celebrity or fake famous website pages. They gain access to your credentials and then gain access to your accounts. Spammers use botnets to replicate these links and spread them over the internet. Thus, gaining accessing more people’s credentials and making more money.

Research into Comment Spam

According to an Italian security research group, the spamming industry was profiting $200 million from posting links on facebook only. Andrea Stoppa and Carlo de Michelle, the leaders of this group figured out that most of the spamming links were commented as an advertisement. There were quotes such as “hey click here for a free iPad” which redirected the audience to websites outside the network.

Why are spam comments used?

  • Shady websites get traffic
  • Profit from advertising illegal products
  • Sell unsolicited products
  • Surprisingly, FB, Twitter indirectly profit from fake and spam users because this boosts their active “users”

Why should we care about comment spam?

  • Fake users choke internet bandwidth
  • Financial loss due to phishing of your credit card details
  • Personal information sold in illegal online markets to scamsters and more spammers
  • Pornography

Working of the Spam Industry

Most spam is illegal under multiple acts of country laws and company’s terms and condition. These require unsolicited comments to have valid return addresses and opt-out provisions. Spam is usually referred to as messages received from organizations or businesses. These are generally the ones, whose services they have earlier used. These are basically messages circulated by economic agents who fail to offer provisions to opt out, as well as do not have previous relationships with the consumer. However, the fact that cannot be overlooked is that the same spam market tends to have certain things in common to the market for legitimate online advertising. This can be said because spam is often an attempt to generate a sale.

The difference lies in the fact that the major focus of legitimate advertising is the promotion of a brand or its products. On the other hand, obfuscation is employed by spam to achieve the same objective. Usually, ‘affiliate marketing’ dominates the later. Spammers are recruited as affiliates or intermediaries, by the merchant, to advertise on their part.

Yet, there is wide acceptance observed by both the advertising models.

More Research to Understand Comment Spam Industry

The Cutwail botnet was infiltrated by the Stone-Gross team. The offerings of the botnet were documented. Similar to the legitimate advertising market publishers, investment is made by botnets in significant fixed costs of ad serving. A larger reach is offered, because they do the matchmaking between potential customers and relevant advertisers.

To dig deeper into the demand aspect of the spam industry, Levchenko with a team of fourteen co-authors identified examples of spam by using spam feeds. A web crawler was used by them for following the advertised URLs. They also deployed botnet detection algorithm and botnet infiltration to monitor the activity of botnets.

How Vuukle Fights Against Comment Spam

Vuukle has cutting edge technology to help digital publishers fight comment spam. Most of these features have been developed over years of working closely with some of our earliest clients like The Hindu.

In Vuukle moderation panel, you can control each and every comment and easily find blacklisted words. The advanced settings option lets you block any particular IP address or email id, black listing of IP address and integration with Google API to auto block hate speech. The real time analytics seen on Vuukle dashboard gives you email reports, time spent by user on articles, apps etc.

Comment Spam WordPress Vuukle

Vuukle Comment Moderation Panel and tools reduced the moderator team size at The Hindu by 80%

Comment moderation on Vuukle dashboard is easy. Through the comment moderation section, you can easily reject or delete any comment, edit comments and the best part is filter comments from the drop down list present on the left side of your Vuukle account.