Hostgator Bites Spam

Hostgator LogoLast week I began tracking a series of spam blogs and some Twitter accounts for a planned story about how spam bloggers were using microblogging to push their sites out further.

However, toward the end of the week, something strange happened, many of the blogs went down, including some that had been up for well over a year. Not all had been using Twitter and they did not appear to be on the same network, yet they were closed.

The spam blogs seemingly had only one thing in common: They had been using Hostgator.

The Perfect Spam Host

In my experience, Hostgator has always been quick to act on both abuse reports and DMCA notices. Unfortunately, this has not discouraged spammers from signing up.

The problem is that, from a service point of view, Hostgator is exactly the type of hosting spammers would want. For eight dollars per month, Hostgator offers high bandwidth caps and unlimited domains. This is very appealing to spammers, who put out thousands of domains and subdomains that get very little traffic each.

This has made Hostgator very popular with Internet marketers of all stripes, both legitimate and spammy. Though the abuse team at Hostgator is quick to act when notified it has always felt that the spammers have had the upper hand.

However, in an email to me, a security administrator at Hostgator said:

“We’ve been more actively fighting email-based spam and web-based phishing/splogs for quite some time now. Especially splogs since they are becoming one of the most prominent ways of spamming these days, along with spammy comments left on blogs and trackbacks.”

Apparently these efforts are now paying off as I’m seeing more pages where Hostgator has suspended the site than spam blogs currently hosted on the service.

Moving On

The bad news in the situation is that, no sooner had I grabbed the screenshots of the “suspended” page than I discovered that some of the domains were pointing to new hosts.

Though only one or two of the sites are already back up, most just point to a default page, it is clear that the spammers are moving on and will likely have their sites back up within a few days or weeks.

While I don’t doubt these suspensions were a big deal for the spammers, it appears that they will recover and, while looking at the new hosts, they appear far less likely to cooperate in such matters than Hostgator.

Conclusions

There is a disturbing and frustrating trend among spammers in recent months. They have been seeking, and more regularly finding, safe harbor when it comes to hosting.

Though spam still thrives on some free blogging and free hosting services, much of it moved to domain hosts in recent years. However, spammers were not exactly welcomed with open arms there as well, many of the larger and cheaper domain hosts began to push back against the trend.

Spammers once again seem to be relocating. Though some are moving their sites into countries where reporting abuse will be next to impossible, most are staying within the United States still and are finding smaller hosts that are willing to look the other way.

The combination of less cooperative hosts and spammers getting smarter about copyright law is going to make it more and more difficult to get spam removed from the Web. If search engines don’t get more aggressive about punishing hosts that routinely provide shelter to spammers, this problem is only going to get worse.

Sadly, until spammers can’t profit any more from their activities, they’re going to continue both improving their craft and making things harder for those of us that want to put them out of business.

Though the presence of the Hostgator suspended page hampered my article a bit, it was still a welcome site. The service, despite reportedly acting quick against spammers, has earned a reputation as a spam haven due to the nature of its hosting.

It seems as if, just maybe, the Gator is biting back a bit and that could lead to a slightly cleaner Web for all of us.

Further Questions

What more can hosts do to battle spam?
Does an offer of unlimited domains encourage spammers?
Where do you think spammers will seek refuge?

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