This is an interview conducted by myself (Shawn Gossman) and Pedigree of StopForumSpam.com, a forum spam blocking and prevention system which many forums use.
Please introduce yourself and your position at Stop Forum Spam:
To all those that use the site, they'll know me as pedigree. Im the current "everything" guy. I write the code, maintain the servers, plan the roadmaps and do all the administration with the help of some of the site staff.
What exactly is Stop Forum Spam and how can it help forum owners?
Its a central reporting database for forum and blog spam. Forum and blogs owners can report spam to us in order to help others from getting spammed. We provide both manual and automatic methods for checking this data and the majority of the traffic that we see and the majority of our traffic is automated checking of data via the provided API. We do also provide online searches and data for those site operators just wish to check any details of new members or posters.
How many spammer do you have listed (at this moment)?
We currently have about 13 million records, spanning 5 million usernames, 4 million email addresses and 1 million IP numbers. Old data is purged after 12 months.
What was the reason SFS was created? What started it all?
It was created for a small group of forum administrators to cross check data due to a sudden rise in spam on our own forums. An automated API was put in place and 4 years ago, we started growing.
When SFS was created, did you all think it would be used as much as it is today?
We knew it would get larger but I dont think anyone thought that we would serve more than double the initial load, of 100,000 queries a day. We currently serve between 4 million and 5 million requests a day from over 23,000 users and its still growing. We have doubled our query rate in under a year.
Some people argue that SFS may actually block real members, what do you have to say about this argument?
There is no point in arguing this, it's fact. We state the reasons for this happening on the website. There are several reasons why a legitimate user might be blocked, including using a shared IP number due to the provider (NAT and forced proxy usage is high in Poland, Russia, Singapore and the Philippines), using an IP number that a spammer was using and has since abandoned, using an infected PC, using a common username that has been used to spam or simply having your email address hijacked by spammers. We don't block anyone from anything, we just provide the data to sites and its up to them how they decide to use it. If a site wants to check all data and will trust old record data, that is up to them.
If someone was blocked by SFS and is not a spammer, how would they go about getting unblocked?
We have an online removal system, where people can enter the details that they want removed. It used to be completely automated but that was heavily abused so its all moderated now. Unless a request is from an IP that is still spamming or is abusive, then it will usually be removed.
What other ways can forum owners protect their forums from spammers?
This is the ongoing fight. Captchas can be easily broken but do stop a majority of automated crack attempts. Moderating new users is the only way to guarantee that there is no hit and run spam flooding of your system. The idea is to make your forum just that little bit non-standard, making it harder for automated systems to bypass. Some countermeasures arerandom questions at registration, hidden form fields that only bots will fill in and just keeping on top of what is happening.
Do you have any websites, books, articles, etc. you want to share?
We put everything that people should need, on our websites FAQ at www.stopforumspam.com/faq - We update this from time to time with answers to questions posted but there is usually a much better discussion happening on our forums.