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Confusion About Referer Spam Can Have Unexpected Consequences

As referer spam continues to be reported in Blogger Help Forum: Something Is Broken, we see occasional signs of confusion.

Some blog owners, knowing how to use WhoIs lookups and similar online utilities, to their advantage, are looking up the referer spam targets - and are reporting the targets to their registrars and hosts. What these blog owners may not realise is that not all apparent "customers" of referer spam "services" may have actually contracted to be featured in the services.

In October - November 2011, this blog was featured in one wave of referer spam.

Somewhere, buried deep in my comment moderation queue for this blog, may be some odd comments
Chuck, I clicked on a link in my Stats log, and got this blog. Your blog does not link to my blog - so why do my Stats displays link here?

When I saw one such comment, I thought that it was just some spammer, messing with me - as many do (which is why I moderate comments, aggressively). As more such remarks appeared, both here and in Blogger Help Forum, I realised that what I had idly expected, long ago, had actually come to pass.

I've been using this blog, since I started it, as a weapon against spamming activity in general. In February 2011, I started using it as a weapon against referer spam. I did both knowing well that if I was ever seriously effective in my fight, the guys who I became effective against would eventually attack me.

In October 2011, I realised that my dream had become true. I was honoured by the providers of referer spam, as someone worthy of their attention. In spam fighter parlance, I was the victim of a "Joe Job".

Just as surely as I, personally, was a Joe Job victim, I know that other honest and righteous blog and website owners are similarly being attacked by referer spam, in other Joe Jobs. I know that I am not the only fighter of spam, worthy of the attention of the spammers.

Once we understand that not all blogs or websites featured in referer spam activity may be actual intentional customers of referer spammers, we have to realise that unfocused reporting of blogs and websites, mentioned in referer spam, will actually play right into the hands of the referer spammers.

What the referer spammers are doing, in their Joe Jobs, is also called a "Smurf Attack". The spammers are hoping that thousands of angry Blogger blog owners will report the blogs and websites, featured in the spam, as spam customers. This will cause the immediate recipients of the Smurfing, the registrars and Internet Service Providers, to discontinue service to the reported blogs and websites. In 2011, with such reporting taken seriously, this blog might have been damaged.

Hopefully, most ISPs and registrars know of Joe Jobs and Smurf Attacks - and know how to verify the nature of any individual service being reported for spamming. However, that's simply a complication which can have other effects.

The bottom line is that anybody seeing the referer spam, in their Stats logs, has to understand that not all blogs and websites should be reported for spamming. When you report all referer spam, indiscriminately, you are simply working for the spammers.

Please, don't work for the spammers. The existence of this blog (and other, much more significant blogs and websites) may depend upon your discretion.

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Anonymous said…
Thanks for posting this. I had to go back and read several of your other posts on referrer spam to make sure I understood properly. Reading about referrer spam in the first place is how I came to follow your blog. Keep up the good work! :D

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