[SURBL-Discuss] The (bad) situation with Yahoo / Geocities.

Guy Rosen Guy.Rosen at bluesecurity.com
Thu Dec 22 10:58:36 CET 2005

We've been compiling and reporting lists of GeoCities sites and from
here too it seems GeoCities isn't handling them well. We compile lists
based on spam reports from our user community, and at one point we even
found around 3,500 (!) live GeoCities spam sites.

Eric, do you know that GeoCities were monitoring your list specifically,
or might they have just shut down a lot of sites that day, regardless of
your list?

Guy Rosen
Lead Analyst, Operations Team
Blue Security
Tel: +972-9-9577736 x228
AIM: guyrrosen (double R)

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.surbl.org
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.surbl.org] On Behalf Of Eric Montr?al
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2005 23:32
To: SURBL Discussion list
Subject: [SURBL-Discuss] The (bad) situation with Yahoo / Geocities.


It seems like people who were not too optimistic when the number of
active spamming sites on Geocities dropped from more than 300 to 14 on
Friday were unfortunately right.

Yahoo / Geocities did not make anything to prevent spammers from
(ab)using their service and only used the list once to remove their (old
and unused) spam related sites, but did nothing to prevent spammers from
building new spammy sites all over again. Today, Geocities still makes
the bulk of spammy sites on the list (total 368) and in the last 2 days,
they only closed down 6 of them, that's below 2% !

One thing we learned last friday is that Yahoo / Geocities are not only
fully aware of the situation, but they are monitoring this list.

Here is the current active list:

I thought maybe it's difficult to detect those sites, maybe spammers are
very crafty and make it hard to separate their redirection pages from
other non spammy pages, so I started analyzing the pages content and
here is what I found:

- More than 95% of Geocities spammy sites are redirections (the balance
being 'click here' manual redirections).
- there is a surprisingly low number of variation in those redirection
- The more spammy tries to obfuscate his scripts, the more the signs are
evident and easy to detect.
- only 11 rules have detected *all* redirection scripts to this date.
- Non redirection sites are simply detected by the URIs they contain
(blacklist now, I hope to add SURBL support soon).
- hometown.aol.com *DOES NOT USE ANTIVIRUS !* on their user data. As a
result, they end up being a malware hosting heaven ! (even if they
remove some of them when they get complaints)
- hometown.aol.com non malware sites are *all* using the same randomized
redirection script
- tripod.com seems to be handling the problem perfectly (unless my
sampling is severely biased, send me more) and in the rare cases where a
spammer tries to use them, the spammy site is usually shutdown before I
list it. Fight the spammies, and they'll move away. Why are the others
not doing the same ?

You'll find the complete analysis results for all alive spammy sites on
this page (updated regularly):

I also added http://nospam.mailpeers.net/fresh_alive_spammy.txt that
lists the most recent entries (first one is the most recent). These
sites are actively used in current spam runs (The ones you *really* want
down !)

In cases where spammy does not encrypt his redirector, extracting the
real target URL behind the redirector is a piece of cake.
They end up here, along with blacklisted ones, in
http://nospam.mailpeers.net/spammy_targets.txt  (with country code) Some
of them (but not all) are already listed in SURBL.

BTW, is there a script (bash, perl, whatever) that simply decodes URIs
and query SURBL ?

I won't distribute the rules, since their effectiveness would be
immediately impaired, but if the Yahoo guy or the AOL guy want them, I'd
be glad to share... however, at least for Yahoo/Geocities, I have no

The very low number of variation makes me wonder. Is it because all
spammers use the same spamware to generate their redirection pages, or
are only a selected few of them 'allowed' to (ab)use Geocities for their
redirection needs ?


So, what's next ?

hometown.aol.com is actually shutting down some sites, but it's too few,
too late. They need to be more proactive. the worst problem with their
service being the presence of malware. A list member sent me a reporting
address for hometown.aol.com abuses, I'll  see if it works, and if so,
it will become automatic.

Yahoo/Geocities is a different beast. After months of well known abuse
and minimal action, I think they deserve being treated as a spam
ressource provider.

Just like other spam ressource providers, they can get away with it just
as long as their regular customers are not aware of their activities.

Their parent company being Yahoo, it's completely useless to complain to
their upstream ;-) but they have to protect Yahoo's corporate image. If
yahoo sees a serious risk that their name will be associated with spam
support / illegal activities, a *real* change will occur.

I think I've done my homework collecting enough proof of
Yahoo/Geocities's refusal to stop the spam support activities taking
place on their network and that it could be used as a starting point in
gathering enough evidence (+insiders info?) to issue a well researched
press release.

Obviously, since (as you might have noticed !) English is not my main
language and I'm not familiar with the press, this is a call for
volunteers for the additional data collection and redaction work.




PS-1: If you operate Spamassassin 3.xx, you can share all the Geocities
/ AOL / tripod URIs in the messages going through your server in near
real time. All it takes is a 4 lines patch in URIDNSBL.pm and a simple
cron job.
PS-2:I'd like to have independent third party daily backups of the whole
nospam.mailpeers.net subdomain. It's small, and a simple wget -r -w3
would do. If you want to do it, email me so that I'm aware of it.

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