• Author
    • #19509
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      In a spirit of openness, to let you know we’re currently engaged in a “battle of the spammers” with at least one group (possibly two) who have shown interest in TalkPhysics since we relaunched.


      We always previously received attention from spammers and hackers. For instance, we’d received over 10 000 automated attempts to register new accounts in less than one hour in early 2012. None of those attempts were successful, and neither did that succeed as a “denial of service” attack. During the relaunch, we tested that the site could survive various attacks and remain secure, such as: automated attempts to register an order of magnitude larger than we’d previously experienced, and redirects that might have attempted to steal user data. The relaunch changed our security in various ways, some of which strengthened it considerably.


      The current group have succeeded in registering and activating some user accounts, however none of them have yet posted anything in any existing groups. We’re currently working on strengthening the site security again with the aim that we’ll block these latest attacks. We’re confident that even if they gain access to the site, user data (such as email addresses) would still be secure.


      We’ve revised the site security continuously since our launch on 15 Feb 2010, with at least five changes over those three years. The last time a spammer managed to send a spam email or post in an existing public group was 16 October 2010. We aim to ensure that date doesn’t change!


      Our aim is to find a way of blocking these large scale, automated attacks, without causing every potential user to have to interact with someone here in the office (which would cause several days’ delay), and without causing ourselves the extra, routine work that would result. Hopefully we’re getting that balance right.


      I won’t be discussing any detail about our anti-spam and security measures here, in case a particularly dedicated spammer actually chooses to start reading. Feel free to email suggestions to improve our security to [email protected] .

    • #19510
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      I’ve gone back through all of the records of registrations since we relaunched on 5 September 2012. The new registrations since then break down into:

      * 1078 legitimate, active user accounts

      * About 400 spam accounts (all now blocked)

      * About 150 accounts of legitimate users who began registering, but didn’t click on the activate link in the automated email they received (I’ve now deleted these and contacted the users inviting them to register again)


      So that’s a total of around 1600 registrations, of which about 65% are legitimate and active, 25% are spam, 10% are legitimate but don’t activate their account. We’ll soon be updating the site security to cut down on the number of successful spam registrations. In the meantime, we’re monitoring this every working day.

    • #19511
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Ah, shows how the recent spamming has accelerated: we have about 10 legitimate registrations per day, but are now experiencing 25-30 spam registrations per day (i.e. spam-bots today made up 75% of registrations).

    • #19512
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      For whatever reason, we’re now down again to only one new spam account each day or so. We know that spammers take holidays – maybe they’re all on extended leave… Anyway, it’s now been very quiet for two weeks, and none of them managed to post in any existing group or send any email notifications, thankfully. Also, we will continue reviewing and strengthening our technical, automated defences against them.

    • #19513
      Profile photo of Andrew Normand

      Hmm, spammers are back. Just finished blocking ~300 spam accounts from the last few days (50-60 per day). Security review meeting Friday… 

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