Post details: Referer Spam - Meta Refresh Used

Tue, 23 December 2003

Permalink 03:28:54 am

Referer Spam - Meta Refresh Used

Something that is becoming a real headache for sites like mine that display recent referers is referer spam. This is where a site, mostly porn sites, appears as a referer to yours, but if you check the site they don't actually link to you. The purpose of this is to increase their Google PageRank - the fake referer appears as a link, and the greater the number of links, the higher a page will be in a Google search.

The way that they are doing this is by having a list of targets and then generating a dynamic page on their site that uses a meta refresh tag to redirect to their next 'victim'. It would not be difficult for them to write a script that continually displays this page in a browser, thus generating thousands of fake referals.

There is no easy way to stop this whilst still allowing genuine referals through. b2evolution, the software that I use, has a function that blocks refers from a blacklist. A similar result is achieved by using a .htaccess file if your web server supports them. If you already have a file named .htaccess in the root of your site append the following to the bottom, else copy the following to a text editor, save it as .htaccess (including the leading .) and ftp it to your server. Replace domain.com and domain2.com with the domains you want to ban and add similar lines until you have included all sites that spam you.

RewriteEngine On #this line should only appear once in .htaccess

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(www.)?domain.com(/)?.*$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(www.)?domain2.com(/)?.*$ [OR]
RewriteRule .* - [F,L]

Be warned, this is not a permanent solution as new spammers seem to appear every couple of days, but it will allow you to keep your referers section relatively clean if you keep it updated.

There may be ways to crash the spammer's browser using this method. One that I'm going to try over the next couple of days is redirecting to a page that then uses javascript to try and get the browser in to a loop (window.location.history.go(-2) or infinite popups maybe?). I'll keep you posted.
3 comments - Trackback (0) - Pingback (0) - Permalink

Comments, Trackbacks:

Comment from Darren · http://boncey.org/
I doubt if they use a browser.
It will likely be a bot/script instead that won't understand javascript etc.
The ones that hit my home page don't follow any links upon it, a sure sign that it's a bot.

An approach I am considering is not to return their request until I have checked the referring page actually does link to me.
Then if they don't I can return a 403 instead.

Your comment form renders very oddly in Galeon by the way, I can't see a submit button, gonna have to post in Windows.
23/12/03 @ 09:04
Comment from s7uar7 · http://www.ivorysky.com
Or even play them at their own game and return a 301 pointing to one of the spammer's sites. If we all coordinated we could knock them out in turn, and land them a large bandwidth bill.

I hadn't even heard of Galeon until you posted. I tested on IE, Mozilla on Windows and Linux and Konqueror on Linux and they all seem ok. Strange that it doesn't display correctly as Galeon is also based on gecko.
23/12/03 @ 14:40
Comment from Gweedo · http://www.cruiselime.com
That loop thing sounds great if they are indeed using the meta refresh tag in a browser.

What stops people from making a basic HTTP request spam program. The referer tag is based on the honor system, and can be set to anything.
03/08/04 @ 17:40

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