Using Reverse IP to Track Spammers

You Get SignalIf your site should be victimized by a spam blog, deciding how to respond to the case can be a difficult matter.

Part of the problem is that you don’t usually have all of the data that you need. Though you know that your blog was scraped as well as how it was likely done, you don’t know anything about the nature of the spam operation, how deep it runs or what else might be on that server.

This is partly because many spam bloggers break their operation up across multiple domains and subdomains. This not only provides them with additional search engine benefit, but makes it harder for an outsider to pierce the operation and see exactly how deep it goes.

Fortunately, there is a tool, now available for free on some sites, that can lift the veil off of spam blog operations. That tool, Reverse IP Domain, exposes all of the sites on a server and lets users see exactly how much junk content the spammer is hosting.

How it Works

Sample Reverse IPThe concept behind reverse IP domain is fairly simple. Every active domain name resolves to an IP address. Every IP address, in turn, resolves to a server. By taking a look at the IP address a domain uses, you can figure out the other domains that rely upon it and, thus, get a good picture of the other domains on the server.

This works because most spammers, in a bid to save time and money, will cram as many domains as possible into the same account. Since most Web hosts will let you use multiple domains with the same account, spammers simply fill up their accounts with hundreds, even thousands of domains and subdomains in a bid to create as many separate sites as possible, all of it automatically.

The drawback of such a system is that a quick lookup using Reverse IP Domain exposes the entire operation on that server. Furthermore, If the host decides to shut down that particular account, all of the domains on the server are lost.

However, these issues are not major ones as spammers can quickly rebuild dismantled networks elsewhere and host action on spam blog networks is becoming increasingly rare.

Unfortunately, these aren’t the only caveats with the system, there are at least two other limitations to reverse IP domain lookups.

Caveats and Limitations

There are two major caveats to consider when using this tool. The first is that there are many reasons why several domains will share the same IP address. Most shared Web hosts put multiple domains on the same server and have them use the same IP, even though they are from different accounts and not actually a part of the same network. You will see a sample of that if you look up plagiarismtoday.com.

This is not a major limitation when dealing with spam bloggers as they tend to prefer dedicated servers. Not only do dedicated servers offer them less oversight, but also greater control over their Web sites and how they operate. They can use more advanced tools to create, delete and redirect domains within their server.

However, more and more spammers have started embedding themselves into shared Web hosting environments, usually in a bid to both save money and trick search engines into thinking they are legitimate by giving them an IP that is shared with hundreds of human-generated sites.

The second caveat is that it will only expose that particular server of the spam blog network. Most spammers set up multiple accounts across different hosts and use them to forge a very intricate network that spans the Web. Since multiple IPs are involved at this level, a simple reverse IP domain check can not detect the entire network.

Still, the tool can be very powerful and can hone the way you deal with spam blogs, enabling you to do more than protect your own content, but possibly shut down a major wing of a spam operation.

How to Use It

Using the tool is fairly simple, if you discover a spam blog on its own domain and not merely on a free hosting site, use the tool to look it up and see if there are other suspect sites on the IP address. If there are, consider filing an abuse report for the spam blog network in its entirety, not just a DMCA notice for the domain. If the host is acting in good faith, they will respond appropriately and shut down the entire network, including the site that is scraping you.

This technique has many benefits. First, it shuts down hundreds or even thousands of spam blogs rather than just one or two. Second, it is often quicker since it involves a report sent straight to the abuse team, not a DMCA notice routed through an attorney. Finally, it is more permanent since the spammer can not simply recreate the domain or file a counter-notice against you.

If this option is available to you, it is at least worth trying. Some hosts may not respond, especially those that have given tacit approval for spam blogs to use their service, but many will. If the host fails to act on a spam report, filing a DMCA notice is still an option once a reasonable amount of time has been allotted.

Finally, if we can push spam blogs to the few hosts that do tolerate spam, that will make it easier for the search engines to identify potential junk content. This will not only make it harder for the spammers, but punish the hosts that give the ok to spam as they and their legitimate customers will be penalized as well.

Conclusions

The reverse IP domain tool is not an end-all for spam and it is not a substitute for human intellect. It is merely a tool to analyze potential spam networks and open up new possibilities for reporting spam blogs.

It doesn’t prevent you from having to do your research or from having to decide on the best strategy to use. However, it does provide you with additional knowledge and information to make your research more effective and open up new tactics.

Though the technology has been around for many years, it has either typically been a paid service or very difficult to use for the purpose of spam reporting. You Get Signal has not only made the tool free, but kept it as simple and effective as possible for reporting large numbers of potential spam sites.

If you deal with spam blogs regularly, this is a must-have tool. It can drastically improve how you report spam blogs to hosts and save you a lot of headaches as you press on.

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