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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 6, 2005 10:46 PM. The previous post in this blog was I have no idea. The next post in this blog is All's well that ends well. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Referrer spam attack! Or is it?

One of the peculiar aspects of having a blog is that you're not only a writer, but also a website administrator. If you have your own domain, you pay for bandwidth, and you allow people to come on and write whatever pops into their heads. As a result, there are things you have to watch.

And so it was with some alarm that I determined the other night that I was suddenly getting an enormous amount of traffic from a host of domains, all ending with "" Before the first dot were the names of various radio stations around the country. When I went to my logs and clicked on the referral sources (or, as I've now learned, "referer" as the computer servers know it), you couldn't tell what they were searching for. But if you went to the various "" home pages, you would see that they're all a template, no doubt generated at a single location, that various radio stations use as a site for their listeners to visit. Generic and cheap, but seemingly unique at first glance. And shades of OregonLive and its sister sites in the anemic Advance Publications chain, they're all almost identical.

That was all very interesting to notice, but it didn't solve my problem. The evil hits were coming fast and heavy, and they were landing on various category archive pages on this site. After nearly three and a half years, those archive pages have gotten mighty long. And there are tons of images on them, which makes them a heavy load to send out. If that's a robot spamming me, there's going to be nothing but trouble ahead. It's going to chew up huge hunks of bandwidth, and sully my hit counter with fake traffic.

And so off I went to find a solution. Blocking the IP addresses of the visitors wouldn't work, because the hits were coming in from all sorts of different addresses, and I was sure they were all being faked. The advice I most often received was that I could keep these referrals away by making a modification to a file on my server called "htaccess." It is only with grave, grave trepidation that I mess with such things, but in the heat of yet another battle with spammers, off I went to try to set up a barrier.

Based on various highly technical posts I found on various sites, I came up with a number of different ways that it could be done. But try as I might with my limited technical skills, I couldn't keep the "listenernetwork" hits away. And so I brooded for the better part of two days about how I could save my bandwidth and keep the visits from artificially inflating my hit count.

During all this stewing, I noticed that the hostile searches all landed on the same archives on my site: Family, Food, International, National, and Nostalgia, with the last being the most prevalent. As a temporary fix, I renamed all those archives by sticking a "2" on the end of each name, and deleting the archive page that had each name on it without the "2." Sure enough, that kept "listenernetwork" referrals from making it to my hit counter -- they were still arriving, looking for, say, the "Nostalgia" archive, but instead of seeing any of my pages, they'd get a "404 - File Not Found" error. I was o.k., for now at least.

Still trickling in, though, were a smaller number of hits from various search engines, including Yahoo and a Denver newspaper's site, and on these, you could see the same bizarre search term: "What Manhattan deli served up a corned beef and tongue sandwich called 'Tongue’s for the Memory'?" While trying to figure out what to do to try to block that, it finally dawned on me that maybe that was what the listenernetwork searches were looking for, too.

Yes! Of course! It was that post I had written a while back about Hobby's Deli in Newark! Many of those search terms were in that post! And guess what? That post appears in exactly five archive categories -- the same five that were being hit by the listenernetwork searches. So the listenernetwork attack and the tongue sandwich attack were all part of one and the same evil plot, and they were all looking for the Hobby's piece.

Just for kicks, I ran the search through Google. Tons of hits, including this one as No. 1. Still no clue as to who the evil spammer is, but at last I'm getting somewhere. Then I tried running the search with the word "listnernetwork" up front, and ...

...lo and behold, the scales fell from my eyes. Check it out. It looks as though it's not a spam robot hitting my site at all, but a nationwide internet trivia quiz sponsored by a bunch of radio stations. And all those IP addresses? They may not be fake. Those may be actual radio listeners trying to earn "points" in a giveaway contest.

So what to do now? I'm thinking of taking down the defenses I've been throwing up. If those are legitimate hits, I should let my counter count them -- and just hope I don't run out of bandwidth at the end of the month. But there are so many of them, at so many odd hours, I can't believe they're all real readers. What to do?

Wherever this leads, I'm determined to figure out how to block referrals like this in the future. If "htaccess" will do it, I've got to become more expert at it and figure out how.

One last note: While checking those referral logs, I noticed that the teenagers of America are major bandwidth thieves. All those "MySpace" pages are chock full of images being lifted from other servers via hotlinks. Among the ones the teens liked best from me were this, this and this. But if they are hotlinked to the original places where I had them stored until yesterday, their sites are now displaying this. Clean up your act, kids!

P.S. To answer the trivia question, it's the Carnegie Deli. I've put up this post, with a fake date and an archive category all its own, to see if I can distract the traffic over there. I'll get the hits without the bandwidth drain.

Comments (6)

Interesting post Jack. And I'm sure your message about stealing bandwith will stop the myspace kids from using your pictures. hahahahaha...

a more clever message would have been a picture of Nancy Regan proclaiming "Just say No".

Actually, I believe I've got them all "forbidden" now. They can steal the pictures all they want, but they'll have to show them via their own bandwidth, as they can no longer hotlink successfully to my server.

I did get a sadistic pleasure out of that "revised version." One kid had an image from my server tiled across his page as wallpaper. Wish I could be there when he saw what it looked like after my little change. Dude!


... and you have to keep this blog around, until your daughters become teenagers. Besides suicide bombers, teenagers are the most irrational group of people alive.

MySpace. If there's a bigger cesspool of inanity available on the infobahn, I'm not sure where to find it. They gleefully give Joe Average Nitwit the easy ability to create an wholly-unreadable "home page", complete with retina-searing color combinations and tiled backgrounds the likes of which went out of style... oh, about five minutes after they came INTO style, lo the many years ago. *shudder*

(Disclaimer: I have a MySpace account, but only because my closest buddies in the office have accounts there and insisted I join the collective, as it were. It's much the same with with LiveJournal... I have an LJ so I can comment on LJs.)

I am, however, curious about my website traffic for the first time in ages. Hmm, where'd I put those log processing scripts...?

The problem is that people who do not pay for bandwidth have no idea how much of someone else's they are using when they hotlink an image that will be viewed on a website (like, say, that gets tens of thousands of hits. I make it a rule to only hotlink images from large corporate websites--CNN, Yahoo, etc.

Just a technical point: Contrary to popular opinion, it’s nearly impossible to fake an IP address on a TCP connection. Had those been actual spambots, they would likely have used borrowed*, but real, IP addresses, i.e., when a computer gets taken over by a virus, it allows spammers to post from your computer without your knowledge.

* technical term is “trojanned”


As a lawyer/blogger, I get
to be a member of:

In Vino Veritas

King Estate, Pinot Gris, Backbone 2014
Oberon, Napa Cabernet 2013
Apaltagua, Envero Carmenere Gran Reserva 2013
Chateau des Arnauds, Cuvee des Capucins 2012
Nine Hats, Red 2013
Benziger, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Roxy Ann, Claret 2012
Januik, Merlot 2012
Conundrum, White 2013
St. Francis, Sonoma Cabernet 2012
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2012
Decoy, Cabernet, Sonoma 2013
Marqués de Murrieta, Reserva Rioja 2010
Kendall-Jackson, Grand Reserve Cabernet 2009
Seven Hills, Merlot 2013
Los Vascos, Grande Reserve Cabernet 2011
Abbot's Table, Columbia Valley 2014
Forlorn Hope, St. Laurent, Ost-Intrigen 2013
Upper Five, Tempranillo 2010 and 2012
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
Topsail, Syrah 2013
Jim Barry, The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2013
Robert Mondavi, Cabernet, Napa Valley 2012
Adelsheim, Pinot Gris 2014
Boomtown, Cabernet 2013
Boulay, Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Domaine de Durban Muscat 2011
Patricia Green, Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Crios, Cabernet, Mendoza 2011
WillaKenzie, Pinot Gris 2014
Dehesa la Granja, Tempranillo 2008
Abacela, Vintner's Blend #15
Selvapiana, Chianti Ruffina 2012
Joseph Carr, Cabernet 2012
Prendo, Pinot Grigio, Vigneti Delle Dolomiti 2014
Joel Gott, Oregon Pinot Gris 2014
Otazu, Red 2010
Chehalem, Pinot Gris, Three Vineyards 2013
Wente, Merlot, Sandstone 2011
Abacela, Fiesta Tempranillo 2012
Monmousseau, Vouvray 2014
Duriguttti, Malbec 2013
Ruby, Pinot Noir 2012
Castellare, Chianti 2013
Lugana, San Benedetto 2013
Canoe Ridge, Cabernet, Horse Heaven Hills 2011
Arcangelo, Negroamaro Rosato
Vale do Bomfim, Douro 2012
Portuga, Branco 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Late Bottled Vintage Porto 2009
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Kristina's Reserve 2010
Rodney Strong, Cabernet, Sonoma 2012
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 28, 2012
Coppola, Sofia, Rose 2014
Kirkland, Napa Cabernet 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Napa Meritage 2011
Kramer, Chardonnay Estate 2012
Forlorn Hope, Que Saudade 2013
Ramos, Premium Tinto, Alentejano 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve, Rutherford Cabernet 2012
Bottego Vinaia, Pinot Grigio Trentino 2013
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2011
Pete's Mountain, Elijah's Reserve Cabernet, 2007
Beaulieu, George Latour Cabernet 1998
Januik, Merlot 2011
Torricino, Campania Falanghina 2013
Edmunds St. John, Heart of Gold 2012
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2010
Chloe, Pinot Grigio, Valdadige 2013
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir 2013
Kirkland, Pinot Grigio, Friuli 2013
St. Francis, Red Splash 2011
Rodney Strong, Canernet, Alexander Valley 2011
Erath, Pinot Blanc 2013
Taylor Fladgate, Porto 2007
Portuga, Rose 2013
Domaine Digioia-Royer, Chambolle-Musigny, Vielles Vignes Les Premieres 2008
Locations, F Red Blend
El Perro Verde, Rueda 2013
Chateau Ste. Michelle, Indian Wells Red 2
If You See Kay, Red 2011
Turnbull, Old Bull Red 2010
Cherry Tart, Cherry Pie Pinot Noir 2012
Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Cabernet, Oakville 2012
Benton Lane, Pinot Gris 2012
Campo Viejo, Rioja, Reserva 2008
Haden Fig, Pinot Noir 2012
Pendulum Red 2011
Vina Real, Plata, Crianza Rioja 2009
Edmunds St. John, Bone/Jolly, Gamay Noir Rose 2013
Bookwalter, Subplot No. 26
Ayna, Tempranillo 2011
Pete's Mountain, Pinot Noir, Haley's Block 2010
Apaltagua, Reserva Camenere 2012
Lugana, San Benedetto 2012
Argyle Brut 2007
Wildewood Pinot Gris 2012
Anciano, Tempranillo Reserva 2007
Santa Rita, Reserva Cabernet 2009
Casone, Toscana 2008
Fonseca Porto, Bin No. 27
Louis Jadot, Pouilly-Fuissé 2011
Trader Joe's, Grower's Reserve Pinot Noir 2012
Zenato, Lugana San Benedetto 2012
Vintjs, Cabernet 2010
14 Hands, Hot to Trot White 2012
Rainstorm, Oregon Pinot Gris 2012
Silver Palm, North Coast Cabernet 2011
Andrew Rich, Gewurtztraminer 2008
Rodney Strong, Charlotte's Home Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Canoe Ridge, Pinot Gris, Expedition 2012
Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Gamay Noir Rose 2012
Dark Horse, Big Red Blend No. 01A
Elk Cove, Pinot Noir Rose 2012
Fletcher, Shiraz 2010
Picollo, Gavi 2011
Domaine Eugene Carrel, Jongieux 2012
Eyrie, Pinot Blanc 2010
Atticus, Pinot Noir 2010

The Occasional Book

Claire Vaye Watkins - Gold Fame Citrus
Markus Zusak - I am the Messenger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
James Joyce - Dubliners
Cheryl Strayed - Torch
William Golding - Lord of the Flies
Saul Bellow - Mister Sammler's Planet
Phil Stanford - White House Call Girl
John Kaplan & Jon R. Waltz - The Trial of Jack Ruby
Kent Haruf - Eventide
David Halberstam - Summer of '49
Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead
Maria DermoÈ—t - The Ten Thousand Things
William Faulkner - As I Lay Dying
Markus Zusak - The Book Thief
Christopher Buckley - Thank You for Smoking
William Shakespeare - Othello
Joseph Conrad - Heart of Darkness
Bill Bryson - A Short History of Nearly Everything
Cheryl Strayed - Tiny Beautiful Things
Sara Varon - Bake Sale
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Paul Goldstein - Errors and Omissions
Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Steve Martin - Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life
Beverly Cleary - A Girl from Yamhill, a Memoir
Kent Haruf - Plainsong
Hope Larson - A Wrinkle in Time, the Graphic Novel
Rudyard Kipling - Kim
Peter Ames Carlin - Bruce
Fran Cannon Slayton - When the Whistle Blows
Neil Young - Waging Heavy Peace
Mark Bego - Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul (2012 ed.)
Jenny Lawson - Let's Pretend This Never Happened
J.D. Salinger - Franny and Zooey
Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol
Timothy Egan - The Big Burn
Deborah Eisenberg - Transactions in a Foreign Currency
Kurt Vonnegut Jr. - Slaughterhouse Five
Kathryn Lance - Pandora's Genes
Cheryl Strayed - Wild
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov
Jack London - The House of Pride, and Other Tales of Hawaii
Jack Walker - The Extraordinary Rendition of Vincent Dellamaria
Colum McCann - Let the Great World Spin
Niccolò Machiavelli - The Prince
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus - The Nanny Diaries
Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Sharon Creech - Walk Two Moons
Keith Richards - Life
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Natalie Babbitt - Tuck Everlasting
Justin Halpern - S#*t My Dad Says
Mark Herrmann - The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law
Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 69
At this date last year: 110
Total run in 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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