ExtraWatch Anti-Spam and Blocking

Anti-spam


One of the most important functionalities in all of ExtraWatch’s capabilities is reducing and even eliminating spam. After all, if you have a lot of traffic to monitor, it only logically follows that your site will be the target of spammers and Internet hucksters alike.


In ExtraWatch today, the Anti-Spam report might look different to what you’ve seen in the past, but it comes with great capabilities. You’ll be able to define the most common spam words you receive and add them to your Anti-Spam settings so that you can customize your own anti-spam strategy.
Let’s take a closer look at the anti-spam features you can find as part of ExtraWatch.

The Anti-Spam Dashboard

Click over to Anti-Spam under your ExtraWatch menu options and you’ll see a dashboard that looks quite similar to this:



Of course, if you’re new to ExtraWatch, much of the information you see above won’t be filled in – but don’t worry; that’s what we’re going to be helping you with.


On the left, you can see the Blocked IP addresses, in addition to this neat little alert that tells you exactly what’s been going on in your site’s anti-spam strategies today:


Under that notification are the aforementioned Blocked IP addresses. This list shows which IP addresses have been blocked for violating your anti-spam policies. Let’s break this down even further to fully explain.

The Left Side

On the left-hand side in your ExtraWatch Anti-Spam page, you’ll notice there’s a grey chart with five rows. Those rows show the IP addresses that have been blocked (these are grouped by dates), the amount of hits that IP address created, the “bad word” that caused the block in the first place (more on this later), and the reason that the block took place. The fifth row allows you to unblock any innocent bystanders that might have been unnecessarily wrist-slapped by the ExtraWatch Anti-Spam function.


As you can see, sometimes users don’t deserve to be blocked. (Also, note that the user’s flag shows you which country they’re from.)
The word “C*alis” is blocked for obvious reasons, but because a user typed in “specialists,” into a search form on our site, which contains the word C*alis, they were blocked. An unblock can then be issued to serve justice.

The Right Side

Where do these “bad words” come from? You can designate them yourself. That’s what happens under Anti-Spam Settings on the right side of the Anti-Spam page. Let’s zoom in on it:


The first option, on top, allows you to enable or disable the ban you have on each of the words. This allows you to keep the Spam Words List below in tact while still removing the Anti-Spam settings. This is great if you want to turn off your spam settings without losing all of the words you’ve added over time.
Keep this option clicked, of course, if you want your strict Anti-Spam policy in place. Keeping this box clicked will mean that anyone caught using those spam words on your site will be blocked and put on the list on the left.


Under that, you can enter in the individual words you want to be on the “bad word” list. Some obvious bad words like certain products should be a part of this list, but generally you want to use any words that you notice spammers are using on your site in particular.
By the way, if you want to change these words and ensure that they’re integrated into your anti-spam system, you’ll want to click the “save” button below the list of words. It looks like this:


One quick note about selecting your words: you’ll want to be careful about them because you want to avoid false blockings, as we saw in the “Cialis” example above. Remember that ExtraWatch will include words even if they appear within the text of larger, harmless words. So it’s a good idea to routinely look through your bad words and try to eliminate those that aren’t helping your anti-spam efforts.

Important Notice: the ExtraWatch Agent

It’s important that we mention this: if you want your anti-spam program to really be effective, you’ll need to place your ExtraWatch agent icon before the actual content on your site. It’s not too difficult to install this module so that it’s placed every time, but it should be somewhere on the left side of your site. This will help ensure that the page isn’t loaded after an attempt to spam your site.

Conclusion

Using the Anti-Spam feature should not just be about the reports. In ExtraWatch, you’ll have a lot of options to customize how you fight spammers. You’ll want to customize your own “bad” words that are banned from users entering on your site, of course, but you’ll also want to routinely pluck out the bad words that are banning innocent users.


Additionally, you’ll want to use the Anti-Spam ExtraWatch section to unblock users that have been unfairly classified as spammers, as we saw in our specific example. That’s why it’s a good idea to routinely check the left-hand side of the Anti-Spam page and view “Reason” that an IP has been blocked. If some users are being banned unfairly, you’ll likely see entries like this:


Of course, sometimes larger words will contain smaller words and it will still be spam. So it definitely requires a human touch to ensure that your anti-spam strategy is working effectively.


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2014-04-06
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2014-02-21
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2014-02-04
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2013-11-13
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