Definitive Guide to phpBB Spam Control

The following guide is for a phpBB 2.x forums, which is an outdated version.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.

Humanizer MOD

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.

Only Active Members Can Post URLs

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.

Deleting the spammers from Admin Userlist

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

Russell

Linux geek. FOSS advocate. Web crafter. Floral photographer. Micro-blogger. Aquarian. Caffeine lover. Suicidal. Over perfectionist. Trance addict. Meh.

17 thoughts on “Definitive Guide to phpBB Spam Control

  1. What's up, is there anybody else here?

    If there's anyone else here, let me know.

    Oh, and yes I'm a real person LOL.

    Peace,

  2. Hi friends!

    How are you? I'm Chris from the UK! Really enjoy your community! You are great! Just continue like that….

  3. A contestant, Sally, on 'Who wants to be a Millionaire?' had reached the final plateau. If she answered the next question correctly, she would win $1,000,000. If she answered incorrectly, she would pocket only the $25,000 milestone money. And as she suspected the Million Dollar Question was no pushover.

    It was, 'Which of the following species of birds does not build its own nest but instead lays its eggs in the nests of other birds?

    Is it:

    A) The condor

    B) The buzzard

    C) The cuckoo

    D) The vulture

    The woman was on the spot. She did not know the answer. She had used up her 50/50 Lifeline and her Ask the Audience Lifeline.

    All that remained was her Phone-a-Friend Lifeline.

    She hoped she would not have to use it because….Well, her friend was, well, a blonde. But she had no alternative.

    She called her friend and gave her the question and the four choices. The blonde responded unhesitatingly: 'That's easy. The answer is C: the cuckoo.'

    The contestant had to make a decision and make it fast… She considered employing a reverse strategy and giving any answer except the one that

    her friend had given her. And considering her friend was a blonde that would seem to be the logical thing to do. But her friend had responded

    with such confidence, such certitude, that the contestant could not help but be convinced.

    Crossing her fingers, the contestant said, 'C: The cuckoo.'

    'Is that your final answer?'

    'Yes, that is my final answer.'

    'That answer is absolutely correct! You are now a millionaire!'

    Three days later, the contestant hosted a party for her family and friends, including the blonde who had helped her win the million dollars.

    'Jeni, I just do not know how to thank you, ' said the contestant.

    'How did you happen to know the right answer?'

    'Oh, come on,' said the blonde 'Everybody knows that cuckoos don't build nests. They live in clocks.'

    Sally fainted.

  4. For Toms Devil: The MODs are to be downloaded from the phpBB site, but sadly the site is down due to disk failure. Please wait for few more days until they find a way recover the data.

  5. Thanks for this, it has worked fantastically! I was getting worried as our website forum is aimed at the education market and having p0rn messages all over it wasn't a good look! I was trying to keep up but was always worried that someone might be put off after seeing our forum.

    Thanks again!!

  6. Thank you! Thank you! Just like you, I was looking all over for help with the horrendous spam.
    Cheers mate!

  7. Wow!!!

    So cool, I too looked through alot of mods and configs before I found your post.

    All installed and working perfect.

    A Big Thanks

  8. I followed the instructions and it worked like a breeze. Spam count on my forum has dropped from 150 to 5 in the last one week. Thanks mate!

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