The following guide is for a phpBB 2.x forums, which is an outdated version. This guide is not applicable for you if you’re using phpBB 3.x.

I have had the privilege of setting up and administer a lot of phpBB forums in the last five years. Spam has always been a major headache, but it went outrageous for my work and personal forums in recent times. Everyday a massive number of spam bot would register bypassing the phpBB visual confirmation, and would post illicit ads. Celebrity porn, erectile dysfunction medications, replica watches, hot jobs, Russian bride, what not?

I googled for anti-spam solutions, followed expert opinions found on various forums, but nothing seemed to work. The spammers seemed to be a step ahead on the game. However, after experimenting with a lot of MODs and hacks, I found the right ingredients (or combinations) to keep my forums clean. No more wasting time to enable new registrants manually, no more logging to the forums ten times a day to find and delete the spam posts.

If you’re tired of the spammers as well, then you might consider trying out my ingredients. It worked for me and should work for you too. Prior knowledge of MOD installation is needed for this purpose, for which you can refer to the official knowledge base guide. Also, remember to backup yours files before attempting the process.

Step 0: Registration restriction:
Install the Humanizer MOD. This will effectively keep the spam bots away from registering on your forum.

Definitive Guide to phpBB Spam Control

Step 1: No URLs for a week:
To stop the spam bots putting advertisement thread on your forum, install the Only Active Members Can Post URLs MOD. Once installed and enabled, the forum members won’t be able to post URLs before (a) certain number days after registering (b) making certain number of posts.

Definitive Guide to phpBB Spam Control

This will reduce the number of spam posts in an immense scale, since the spammers never come back to post using the same nick twice. Forums that has guest posting enabled would gain from this MOD as well, as it would restrict URL posting from strangers.

Step 2: Hiding the spammers:
Hiding the spammers from the member list is crucial. To do this, install the Hide Zero Posters MOD. This would prevent the spam bots with zero posts from showing up in the member list page, and as won’t be displayed as the newest user on the front page.

Step 3: Deleting the spammers:
SQL queries and other geeky hacks are possible to wipw off the spam bots, but a easier and safer way is to use the Admin Userlist MOD. This MOD not only lets you view all of the forum members and various information about them, but it also allows you to delete, ban, activate, and de-activate multiple users at once.

Definitive Guide to phpBB Spam Control

I deleted 700 users (read: spam bots) in about 20 minutes. Make it a habit to spend at least ten minutes a week to perform this maintenance step.

Words of Wisdom:
Remember that no automation is good enough to keep your forums out of reach of spammers.

Moderation is an important part of the job which you’ve to do on a regular basis. The steps above and the hacks beyond would only help you to make your life easier.

If you need any assistance on deploying this on your forums then please feel free to contact me.

Last updated on March 12, 2008