The problem with spammers on the web that I talked about before has continued getting worse and worse, to the point where hundreds of spam comments (and no identifiably non-spam comments) have made it through onto this blog. Akismet wasn’t doing the job, and I don’t maintain this blog often enough to keep all of the spam out. My only fix is to disable all comments. It sucks, because the two defining features that characterize a blog are (a) being personal and opinionated and (b) allowing multi-way communication between the author and the readers, and the readers with each other. I’m no longer doing half of that, so in some very real senses this is no longer a blog (though feel free to still email me if you want to chat). I’m really sad about it. But the spammers have won. It’s no longer feasible to try to maintain your own blog out there. Just host it with WordPress or similar and let someone else handle the spam problem, because I can’t stay on top of it any longer.
I’ve switched from Akismet to Defensio for my spam-stopping needs here on this blog. The change should be transparent. If anything goes wrong, like if your comments are all of a sudden getting marked as spam, you know how to contact me.
I’ve made the switch to Defensio because I’ve heard some good things about it, and decided to give it a whirl. Akismet definitely wasn’t doing the best possible job, so hopefully Defensio will fare better.
As the more astute readers may have noticed, I’ve increasingly been having spam problems on this site. More and more garbage comments and pingbacks were getting through my spam filter, Spam Karma. Unfortunately, the sole developer of that WordPress plugin stopped working on it more than a year ago, while the spammers haven’t stopped improving their techniques. So I’m switching over to Akismet, WordPress’s own anti-spam plugin, which is still actively supported. I’ll report on how well it’s doing after I’ve seen it in use for a couple weeks, but after one day of usage, I can at least guarantee that it doesn’t totally suck, as it’s stopped dozens of spam comments without letting a single one through.
Those of you who aren’t bloggers, consider yourselves lucky that you don’t have to deal with the messy issue of blog spam. I’ve found it to be a lot worse than tackling email spam. For starters, I get a lot more of it, and I also have to deal with it, as any spam that gets through makes your site look really trashy and could potentially damage your search engine rankings (Google punishes sites that link to spammy havens of the Internet). When you get a spam email, you can just ignore it and nothing bad happens; when you get a spam comment on your blog, you have to delete it, and that’s a fair bit more effort.
In my time off from fighting against spam, I amuse myself by thinking of all sorts of creative punishments for blog spammers. For instance, I’m a fan of Medieval-style hanging, drawing, and quartering, but that doesn’t quite satisfy me. I’d prefer hanged, drawn, and fractally quartered. Cut into four pieces, then cut each remaining piece into four pieces, ad infinitum …
That’s an appropriate punishment for spammers, and it satisfies my fascination with mathematics to boot.
So here’s the latest stock scam spam email I’ve just started noticing (and I’m only noticing it because it’s so “clever” that it bypasses both of my spam filters, whereas the “traditional” stock scam emails don’t). I’m getting stock scams in the form of Adobe Acrobat (PDF) attachments on otherwise blank emails. There’s no message body or subject, and the usual randomized fake sender identity. I must admit, the blank subject emails are rather noticeable, as is the fact that they come with attachments. So I did end up looking at one, though of course I didn’t trade on it either way, which is something I’ve long been suggesting.
This particular stock scam is for a company called Latitude Industries Inc. (LTDI). The company makes powerboats, but they really haven’t been doing well recently. Their stock is down from a high of $3.50 as recently as December to its current price of $0.11. In other situations, it might make a good (risky) investment — that is, you’d go into it full well knowing you could lose everything you invested on the off-chance that it rebounds back to somewhere near its higher peaks, yielding a huge profit. But with the spam activity surrounding this stock, I wouldn’t even consider it. It’s being heavily manipulated by spammers who already own large numbers of shares in the stock or who have placed a large number of shorts on the stock, and there’s no way to really know which way they intend it to go. Trading this, either selling short or buying shares, would be like playing slots at a casino, only with worse odds. Don’t fall for it.
And I am still amazed at the numbers these people have no compunctions whatsoever about making up. The 5-day “target price” is listed at $0.50. Anyone who knows anything about the stock market knows that there’s no such thing as a target price. The market reacts nearly instantaneously to information. If somehow it is known that the share price of a stock is guaranteed to rise to a certain value in five days, then the share price will rise to that value in minutes as everyone furiously buys it. If there really was any validity to this claim of a $0.50 price target in five days then the stock would already be trading at $0.50.
And you can check out the stock scam PDF for yourself if you’re curious. I received four separate copies of these in my Inbox, not including all of the copies that were variously caught by my two spam filters.
Yesterday, image CAPTCHAs were enabled for all anonymous edits on all Wikimedia Foundation wikis (including the popular encyclopedia Wikipedia). I noticed this by chance because I’m in a computer lab right now and found some vandalism on an article linked from the main page, but didn’t want to take the time to log in first. However, by the time I finished typing in the CAPTCHA, an admin had already reverted the vandalism. Drat.
The reason for the CAPTCHA is that we’ve been having some spam problems on-wiki recently, with spammers using automated bots to add links to dozens of pages before they end up being blocked. We have a global spam blacklist that does a good job of stopping spammers dead, but all of their edits still have to be manually reverted, which is a pain. Hopefully this new change will alleviate some of that. This change will basically stop all anonymous bot edits (including legitimate bots that get logged out by accident). It will also stop vandalism bots that are running anonymously, which we’ve seen a few of.
Unfortunately, this change still doesn’t do anything against spamming/vandalism being done using registered user accounts. Yes, you do have to pass an image CAPTCHA to register an account too, but that’s only once per account rather than on every edit, so people could conceivably manually register a bunch of accounts and then hand the account details off to their bots.
What I’d like to see is CAPTCHAs on the first twenty edits of each new user (in addition to each anonymous edit). This would make automated spam/vandalism impossible.
One thing I’m worried about though — are we making the barriers to edit too high? Anonymous edits do contribute significantly towards writing the encyclopedia. There’s a trade-off between making it hard for automated ne’er-do-wells and putting a burden on legitimate editors who just can’t be bothered to login or register an account. I hope we haven’t gone too far in one direction.
Update: It looks like CAPTCHAs have been disabled; read the comments for more information.
I’m now getting more stock scam emails in my inbox than ever before. It’s really quite depressing. Are people actually falling for these?! I’ll repeat my standard advice regarding all of these stock scam spams: Don’t even think of buying spamvertised stocks. The odds are very much against you if you try to beat the spammer at their own game and try to “get in on it” before the inevitable stock collapse. Just steer far clear and pursue traditional investment opportunities (you know, investing in companies because you think the companies are doing or going to do better than their evaluation suggests).
Here’s an analysis of the individual spams: Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
For some reason I just got hit today with spams for two rather similar stocks, Ten & 10 Inc. (TTEN / TTEN.PK) and L International Computers Inc. (LITL / LITL.PK). Both used to listed on major markets, but their primary form of trade is now pink sheets after their stock prices plunged. LITL is now at $0.47, down from a 52-week high of $1.85, and TTEN is at $0.02, down from a 52-week high of $4.00. Ouch! Clearly these stocks aren’t winners. But do they have the possibility to rebound? Who knows, who cares? I’m not looking at that! I’m just looking at stock spams. Any small stock that is down in the pennies range and traded primarily over-the-counter is a definite no-no, especially when it’s being touted in email spams. It’s just common sense.
Anywhere, here are the images I received in the stock spams. I do like how TTEN is advertised as “OUR TOP PICK!” Who is the “our” supposed to be, exactly? And does anyone else think these images are getting uglier over time? Just look at what they used to look like.
In the past two days I’ve started receiving spam emails touting the latest pump-and-dump scam stock, LOM Logistics Inc. (LOMJ / LOMJ.PK). It should be stressed that it is most likely not the company themselves running the scam, but rather, that they are the innocent victim, an unfortunate target of a stock scam. Unfortunately, none of the online finance sites seem to have any historical data on this stock, just five days of data, which doesn’t show any deviation from the recent price of $1.70 per share. I’ve included the spam image I received in my email. It came with the usual word salad designed to evade spam filters (it didn’t).
You see that promise in the spam image? This stock is about to explode! Better buy as many shares of it as quickly as possible! Errr, wait. Where, exactly, did they get their data backing up the “price target” of $5.00? I’m not stupid (and neither are any of you). This is just another made-up number, like all of the other price targets I’ve seen in spam over the course of months. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these things actually make its price target, in fact, though I have seen lots of them take a nose dive away from the price target. Maybe it’s not so much a price target as it is a price pipe dream, which the stocks inevitably fail to attain, like so many wannabe rockstars.
Anyway, the investing advice here is the same as it is with all of these stock scams: don’t even think of buying it. The odds are very much against you if you try to beat the spammer at their own game and try to “get in on it” before the inevitable stock collapse. Just steer far clear and pursue traditional investment opportunities (you know, investing in companies because you think the companies are doing or going to do better than their evaluation suggests). The only reason I can see that this stock was targeted is because it recently issued a favorable press release. If that press release is really doing it for you, and you really like the company, maybe consider investing in a few months when all of the spam has died down, and the stock price has returned to pre-stock-spam-inflated heights. But stay far, far away from it right now.
Google publicly announced that they would be taking high-resolution pictures of Sydney, Australia from a plane last Friday to commemorate Australia Day. Some enterprising bloggers decided that they would spam in real life by setting up a large display on the ground that was sure to be noticed from the air. The way they made their display is questionable, using 2,500 sheets of A4 paper and staking them individually into the ground rather than using much larger component parts. But the method isn’t what’s most interesting here.
Someone has already made profanity that’s visible from space, as well “depictions of the human form”. Humans in antiquity even made large lines in the desert that survive to this day whose purposes we cannot yet ascertain. But none of these are as insidious as real world spam.
I can easily forsee corporations painting their roofs with their logos (rumors have it that Target is already doing this). Thus they will be much more obvious in satellite photography. But these are just the roofs of extant buildings. What happens when people start buying up land for no other purpose than to put a horizontal advertisement on it? This isn’t even limited to satellite photography — surely one could see this happening around airports too? And if Google continues to make their picture-taking runs public, then look forward to lots more installations of temporary physical spam, that is, people going to parks or other large open areas and putting out giant horizontal posters, kind of like what the bloggers at the beginning of this post did, except more professionally.
Advertising permeates our culture, and now, it seems, it is destined to permeate our planet as well.
In the past day I’ve received many more of these annoying stock scam email spams, for three different stocks in total. They’re all using the same technique: random word salad combined with stock touting in an image. There’s also coming in with random subject messages and from random return addresses. The spammers are violating email spec here, not that that’s anything new. Luckily Gmail seems to be getting them all these days, so I actually have to dip down into the spam folder to find them.
The three stocks I’ve seen being touted in the past three days are IONN / IONN.OB, QCPC / QCPC.PK, and CNHC / CNHC.PK. All of the spams make outrageous promises about future stock prices (images below), but of course fail to offer up any justification as to how these speculations were made, or what evidence there is to suggest that these companies will magically be doing many times better in the near future.
Looking at the stock trading history, you already would have lost a fair amount of money investing in Ion Networks Inc. (IONN), Quantex Capital Corp. (QCPC), and China Health Management (CNHC). By the way, does anyone else feel like these company names are ripped straight out of dystopian cyberpunk milieus? It’s almost hard to believe that Ion Networks Inc. and Quantex Capital Corp. are companies in the real world, but unless the spammers are really good (to the point of inventing fake companies), I guess I’ll just have to believe it.
Also, does anyone know why, when you type CNHC into Yahoo Finance, it takes you to Cistera Networks Inc. (CNWT.OB), which is something completely different? Frankly, this one fits even better into the dystopian cyberpunk theme, but I cannot for the life of my figure out why Yahoo is redirecting CNHC to CNWT.OB rather than to CNHC.PK.