Spam. You hate it, but what are you doing about it?

Until recently I thought that other than setting up aggressive inbox filters, there isn’t much one can do about it. Except, perhaps, to become a 419 baiter to at least have a laugh at the spammers’ expense (more of which later).

But in doing a bit of detective work on the IP address of a particularly persistent offender I stumbled on Project Honeypot, which turned out to be a great way to help the anti-spam cause in general and improve my own spam defences at the same time.

Olafur meets his 419 scammer, Benjamin, in Icelandic comedy Næturvaktin
Olafur meets his 419 scammer, Benjamin, in Icelandic comedy Næturvaktin

As the name suggests, Project Honeypot works by setting up irresistible little traps for the spambots, email harvesters and other such automated scumbags which roam the internet looking for a sucker.

Apart from the thrill of being able to see who is behind all those unwanted emails about viagra, joining Project Honeypot and installing your own traps gets you access to their HTTP Blacklist — a constantly updated list of  offending IP addresses that Honeypot members have snared.

Armed with that, you can keep known spambots off your website and spend less time removing comment spam.

Setting up a spam honeypot

Setting up is easy, even if some of the technical jargon and a slightly utilitarian website make it look otherwise. All you need to do is sign up for an account and their tool will help you to generate a page that, once placed somewhere on your website, serves as the trap.

That’s basically it. As your trap begins to collect data, you can view list of the harvesters you’ve helped to identify, which is surprisingly rewarding in itself.

The best bit, though, is the Blacklist. Having done your bit to fight the good fight, you get an access key for the HTTP Blacklist, implementations of which have been written for all common servers and CMSs, including easy to use plugins for WordPress, Drupal, Joomla! and phpBB.

What this means is you get an easy, set-up-and-go solution that will check IP addresses of your traffic against the project’s Blacklist. You can then choose how aggressive you want to be in dealing with them, based on how naughty the IP has been and what sort of naughtiness it specialises in.

Don’t get mad, get even

Honeypot is all very quick, easy and effective, but perhaps it’s not quite active enough for you. In that case, you might consider joining the ranks of sites like 419 Baiter.

Apart from dishing out revenge to the (usually hilariously dimwitted) crooks behind the enduringly popular 419 type scams1, the “games” on 419 Baiter often involve some inspired and intricately convoluted plot-lines that evoke a combination of noirish crime thrillers and an episode of American Dad (try the Princess Naomi Kamara Letters, for example, where the protagonist gets younger and goes from wealthy heiress to aspiring porn star while battling the unwanted amorous advances of a Martian).

1 The ones that typically involve some variation on a rich Nigerian trying to get improbably large sums of money into a foreign account, making you a millionaire in the process.