Is Your Site Vulnerable To Spam Traffic?
On the whole, spam traffic or what we have officially coined as web traffic spam is a problem that still requires a lot of education. There are roughly 1 billion active websites and online applications on the Internet today and that is a lot of opportunity for spammers. Most people who have some form of web property online have no idea that this problem exists. In our opinion, the reason for this ignorance is basically because the technology needed to deal with this problem is immature and can only partially deal with this issue.
Take Google Analytics (GA) for example, many users of GA are happy to ‘remove’ spam from their analytics report, thinking that their problem is solved. In reality, Google’s move to squash ghost spam is only going to push the spammers from virtual to actual spamming. We have seen this happen before and hence we have positioned MB™ for this inevitable onslaught coming our way in the near future. However, GA’s contribution to this issue is important. Even though GA does not really deal with actual spam traffic, it has revealed this problem to the average web property owner. It serves as a widely used tool that has helped unearth the dirty data that was once unknown or hidden. Nothing can be done on GA to reduce spam traffic because of the way GA has been implemented but it is nonetheless an important contributor to web traffic spam awareness.
The sad part about this whole idea of web traffic quality is that most people who we have spoken to are very short sighted. They merely want lots of web traffic so that they can use the numbers as a marketing tool rather than actually figuring out the truth hidden in their dirty data. Our prediction is that the problem in the long term will worsen to a point when it will no longer make financial sense to keep supporting these spammers, scammers, thieves and hackers. Our goal in terms of our work and research with MB™ is to fight web traffic spam for the long haul. At least, we hope that we will last long enough to make a difference.
Until now, web traffic spam is in general considered more of a nuisance than a pain for many people who does nothing useful or important with their web analytics. However, as the importance of data analytics continues to dominate across different industries, spam traffic will inevitably evolve from nuisance to pain. This has shown to be true for email spam and we think will be true for web traffic spam. History is repeating itself but many of us are not paying attention until it is too late. Who then do we think are the most vulnerable to the web traffic spam problem?
The Hungry Profile
Incapsula claims in their research that spammers seem to especially target medium to low traffic websites. We think this might be true. Our analysis of the web traffic profile of the medium to low traffic sites show that they are in the hunger stage. They are hungry for more web traffic which means that they are obsessively monitoring and constantly trying to maximize their web exposure. These sites are most vulnerable to spammers because spammers know that in the hungry state, they will bite when given a carrot to entice them. Hence, direct spamming using referral spam, ghost spam or similar type of methods are very effective for these group of sites.
The Fat Profile
We think that spam traffic for high traffic sites have not gone down. Rather the tactics in which web traffic spammers attack the site have changed. Our analysis based on the web traffic profile of high traffic sites suggest that websites that have high traffic are not obsessed with trying to get more web exposure. Instead, they are largely focused on site retention metrics. Therefore, the old trick of biting the carrot will not work here. Spammers have turned to other approaches such as keyword stealing, content cloning and etc. Let us discuss about keyword stealing. The key idea for this exploit is to ride the waves when the topic or content is hot. Hence, spammers use scrapers, spiders and crawlers to rip the content and their keywords off the currently hot content. Reuse the keywords on their target site so that search traffic or automated aggregating tools can pick them up and help promote their content. This is an indirect but nonetheless effective technique.
The Dead Profile
This group of websites are the most vulnerable to web traffic spammers. The owners of these websites throw them onto the Internet but does nothing to them thinking that just a website presence will produce magic. These sites are not monitored or frequently accessed by anyone. Hackers, scammers, thieves and spammers love these type of sites because they can be easily hacked or hijacked for other criminal purposes. Because the administrators do not value these sites, the overall security of these sites are often generally very poor. Once the web traffic spammer has taken over control of the site, malware can be distributed, botnets can be setup, it becomes the golden goose for the hacker.
Why should you care? Your website might be next inline to be exploited by web traffic spammers unless you take action today to start fighting web traffic spam! If you do not know how to start, we shamelessly promote MB™ to you. ;D
Originally published at blog.malleablebyte.org on March 16, 2016.