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Smart computers or stupid people


CaptainPanic
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Reading some of the threads on this forum and other forums, and also following computer developments a bit, I start to wonder lately if some threads are created by really stupid people, or quite smart bots?

 

Are the bots nearly passing the Turing test, or are people actually failing the Turing test?

 

Especially posts later in a thread can be absolutely disastrously off topic indicating a complete failure to understand anything at all.

 

Some posts convince me of the need of a certain intelligence (or sobriety!) check before activating an account on this forum :)

 

Would that be controversial?

Sooner or later, we will enter a time where computers can start spamming forums without users noticing immediately... and once they do, forums will be flooded by them soon after.

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I have in the past on MSN had "people" contact me telling me they want to web cam (you know what I am I talking about!) At first they seem like real people, but not for long. They will direct you to a website to join first, which has a fee of course. Either they have a well crafted script or they are robots. I'll have to ask them!

 

For the forum, is it possible to set up one of those "funny writing tests". You know the copy this, but the letters are weird, not plain text that a computer can easily use.

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It's the people that are dumb in general. I went to the shops today to buy some bread, as I gave the last 4 slices of my loaf to the birds in the garden as it had been snowing. We had a couple of inches over night. When I got there, they had sold out of bread because people had been panic buying! Panic buying, because of 2 inches of snow. We had worse snow a few weeks back and we all survived. The shop has had 2 bread deliveries already this morning and have sold out completely. It's not like bread keeps that long anyway.

 

So, because of some cunch of stupid bunts, I can't have a sandwich for lunch and the birds in the garden will starve tomorrow. The last thing we need is for the computers to start buying up all our bread as well. :mad:

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Obviously spam bots exist, but if they're not selling anything, then it's almost certainly a real human. A lot of people are stupid, crazy, barely literate, or some combination thereof, and online forums are highly attractive to many of them.

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But, it is possible to promote a certain class of products in general, without the appearance of selling anything. Or even a specific product, if it is specialized enough.

 

Politicians do that all the time, seeking a contract to any company that meets certain criteria so specific that only one company meets the criteria.

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I have read some "climategate" discussions...

 

I think it is relatively easy to keep spamming the same misinformation on news forums (where people don't really care about scientific methods).

 

You may have to manually create some accounts, but then the bots can do the rest automatically.

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It's the people that are dumb in general. I went to the shops today to buy some bread, as I gave the last 4 slices of my loaf to the birds in the garden as it had been snowing. We had a couple of inches over night. When I got there, they had sold out of bread because people had been panic buying! Panic buying, because of 2 inches of snow. We had worse snow a few weeks back and we all survived. The shop has had 2 bread deliveries already this morning and have sold out completely. It's not like bread keeps that long anyway.

 

So, because of some cunch of stupid bunts, I can't have a sandwich for lunch and the birds in the garden will starve tomorrow. The last thing we need is for the computers to start buying up all our bread as well. :mad:

 

Prospect theory: People are risk averse if they think the know about the unknowns.

 

It's an irrational belief but you can sort of see how it could have been evolutionary advantageous once upon a time.

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We get a huge amount of spam, and there are many different tactics used to imitate a real human.

 

Many spambots post new threads saying how amazing SFN is and how much they love it here... but if you take a look at their profiles, you'll find their homepage is set to a spam site.

 

A tactic we stopped in its tracks had people posting semi-relevant posts in various threads -- the sort of posts that aren't very helpful but say something reasonably on-topic, in about two sentences -- and then, weeks later, changing their signatures to include spam links. The idea is that we'll no longer be looking at their posts, so nobody will notice the spam links. I disabled links in signatures for anyone under 30 posts.

 

Other people join and send dozens of spam private messages, which is most annoying because they often send them to inactive members, who then have to get a "You have a new private message" email. They're reminded of SFN by getting spam. I put a limit on how many PMs can be sent in a fixed time to make this harder.

 

Others make posts asking "does anyone know a good service to do ____?", so that in a few weeks someone else can come along and provide a convenient link.

 

We do administer a sort of intelligence test. I have a set of stupid questions ("type science in this box", etc.) from which one random question is selected. Bots have to pass the test to register. Since I come up with the questions, they can't have answers pre-programmed. However, they can get human assistance to register, then spam robotically.

 

It's frustrating. Some day I might write software that analyzes the vocabulary and grammar used by users to try to pick out duplicates and shills. Hmm...

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One tactic I thought of against spambots, allthough it's not cheap, is to find the state-of-the-art spambot and hire the use of it (the best ones be can be bought for a time-limited period) and get the lowdown by it's producer on its capabilities and modify your filters accordingly.

 

One of the main functions of a spambot is not to sell something it's to improve search engine rankings...more 'hits' = higher ranking.

 

One spamminig strategy is to 'seed' many forums with 'members' that are inactive for a while and then they are later simultaneously activated to make a post with a similar link. People then hit the links and... bingo.. first page search engine ranking.

 

They seed first harvest later.

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We get a huge amount of spam, and there are many different tactics used to imitate a real human.

 

Many spambots post new threads saying how amazing SFN is and how much they love it here... but if you take a look at their profiles, you'll find their homepage is set to a spam site.

 

I've noticed that too. Whoever wrote those spambot programs, doesn't have a good understanding of American English conversation. I read lots of newbie introductions; I can usually tell if it's a bot. Also, if you Google their screennames, you'll see them posting in several forums at about the same time.

 

The war against Spam is an Arm's Race. The smarter a forum gets, so then the bots have to get smarter and so on.

 

Sites like Craigslist, is plagued by bots. I can't post anything without getting a ton of fake replies that redirect me to sites. It's really hard to sell anything there.

 

 

I'm also seeing the potential for spambots in marketing and politics. If one likes candidate X, then they can program spambots to mimic posters and post on forums, blogs, news sites etc., a few comments, but then steer them towards a favorable opinion of candidate X.

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I think there's some element of randomization to their introductions to make them harder to catch by spam filters. We use Akismet and find that it catches most of it, but of course the spammers will try to get around that by changing up their spam text.

 

We ban almost 100 spammers a week. I hardly remember any spam at all when I first became a moderator. Most of the spam now is flagged by Akismet before it's ever posted, but still... the sheer volume is becoming overwhelming. We need better anti-spam tools and systems.

 

And less stupid people who let their computers get infected with malware that spams forums.

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The war against Spam is an Arm's Race. The smarter a forum gets, so then the bots have to get smarter and so on.

 

We ban almost 100 spammers a week. I hardly remember any spam at all when I first became a moderator. Most of the spam now is flagged by Akismet before it's ever posted, but still... the sheer volume is becoming overwhelming. We need better anti-spam tools and systems.

 

I think perhaps we are seeing an example of evolution between the spambots and anti-spam software. They are, and probably will always be, in a sort of natural balance. If the spammers kill the internet (i.e. people stop using it) they also will stop using it. If an anti-spam software finds a way to eliminate all spam across the internet, the spammers will find a way around it.

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I've noticed that too. Whoever wrote those spambot programs, doesn't have a good understanding of American English conversation. I read lots of newbie introductions; I can usually tell if it's a bot. Also, if you Google their screennames, you'll see them posting in several forums at about the same time.

 

The war against Spam is an Arm's Race. The smarter a forum gets, so then the bots have to get smarter and so on.

 

Sites like Craigslist, is plagued by bots. I can't post anything without getting a ton of fake replies that redirect me to sites. It's really hard to sell anything there.

 

Quite a few English mistakes there, bot boy :D

 

I'm also seeing the potential for spambots in marketing and politics. If one likes candidate X, then they can program spambots to mimic posters and post on forums, blogs, news sites etc., a few comments, but then steer them towards a favorable opinion of candidate X.

 

They don't have bots for astroturfing yet, do they?

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Hey, I just got back from biking when I posted that. I didn't proof read. My bike I got mail order from Acme products. Buy Acme products.

 

I suspect the majority of spam bots are foreign. An IP check could confirm.

 

But when you have to ban 100 a week. Soon, it will be 100 a day.

 

And zombie computers are the worst. There's nothing like a virus that makes your computer a spamming machine.

 

Back in the day, when I first started going to forums, there were less people with high-speed internet and more with dial-up internet. Also, forums were more popular before Myspace & Facebook came around.

 

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't the US have control over the internet? That is, the US serves and a nexus hub for the world? If so, then the US could control the internet and end spamming.

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The US doesn't really have "control." ICANN, which controls the assignment of top-level domains like .com and .net, is based in the US, and so the US government could hypothetically beat ICANN into doing its bidding. But the routers, switches, and servers that make up the core of the Internet are owned by independent businesses and corporations. You could cut off one piece and the others would patch themselves together and work around the hole.

 

The other problem is that the Internet was never made with identity in mind. That is, there's no easy way to verify that information comes from one particular person, or even one particular computer. So stopping spam is a huge challenge.

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