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Thread: REG: Carly Fleischmann's 2018 Guide to Stopping Forum SPAM & Automated Registration

    1. REG: Carly Fleischmann's 2018 Guide to Stopping Forum SPAM & Automated Registration

      REG: Carly Fleischmann's 2018 Guide to Stopping Forum SPAM & Automated Registration

      By: (Super VIP) cfleischmann is offline 26th Feb 2018 00:40

      In this tutorial we'll be looking at how to stop the most annoying things when running a forum: Forum SPAM, Automated Registrations, and Trolls. For this tutorial we will be using built-in features within vBulletin 4.2.3 and a bit of common sense.

      The first things I do is enable both the email verification feature, and the require unique email addresses option. These Settings can be found at AdminCP > Settings > Options > User Registration Options (as pictured below)

      Screen 1: require all email addresses to be unique and verify email settings.

      By enabling these settings you're accomplishing 2 things. The first thing is that you're ensuring only one username can be associated with any one given email address and the second is that you're ensuring that the user actually has access to the email address and is not just inputting something that looks like an email address. This also ensures that if a user forgets his/her password they can reset it.

      Next, change your human verification type to Question & Answer. This setting can be found at AdminCP > Settings > Human Verification Manager. Set it to Question & Answer then hit save and define a few questions as pictured below.

      Screen 2: Human Verification Options

      I suggest using questions that a reasonable member of your community would know the answers to like the following (note that these are questions used across my various web properties feel free to use them):

      - Question: What is the most widely used web search engine?
      -- Answer: Google
      - Question: What is the name of the AI who changes Jerrica Benton into Jem in the cartoon?
      -- Answer: Synergy
      - Question: What condition does doctor Shaun Murphy live with in the TV Show "The Good Doctor"?
      -- Answer: Autism

      When you define your questions be sure to use the RegEx option to limit the possible inputs and to ensure that the user can pass it if he/she doesn't capitalize as the answer is inputted below. thus "Autism" = "autism" = "AuTiSm" = "AUTISM" you get the point. The exact RegEx code I use is:

      Only registered members can view code.
      This ensures that the user will only be allowed to input letters uppercase and lower case (A-Z or a-z) nothing more. IMPORTANT NOTE: be sure to include 0-9 in the RegEx code if your answer requires a numerical response (thanks Tempus for reminding me about that) The revised code to include numbers is:

      Only registered members can view code.
      Define a few of these kinds of common questions that a legitimate member of your forum would know or be able to reasonably obtain the answer to with the use of the information on your site or a simple google search.

      Next We're going to restrict the registered users group from doing much which will then be used with the promotions system to grant the features. Edit the Registered users group and turn off things like signatures, custom avatars, and PM or blogs, image gallery, and downloading attachments. Any combination of features will do because we will allow them to post wherever they want because you should force all of the registered user's posts into moderation by setting "follow moderation rules" to "no"

      Next, define a new usergroup (AdminCP > Usergroups > Usergroup Manager > Add new usergroup) and choose to base it off of the settings of registered users thus making a clone of it. change the name to something like "advanced members" The settings you disabled, turn on thus restoring them then choose save. Next go to AdminCP > Usergroups > Promotions > Add Promotion. Set source user group to registered users, set all other factors to 0 except post count. set post count to an arbitrary number (about 3-5) and set promotion strategy to Posts and move the user to your newly created group and save it. This makes all content posted by a newly-registered user forced to moderation and will auto-lift the restrictions once a user has minimum (X) posts as defined in your promotion rule. Tempus also has I guide to promotions system which I will link in below as it does a much better job of describing this procedure.

      Screen 3: Define Usergroup Promotion.

      Next setup a notice that lets the user know that they're on probation and how to lift the probationary status and what doing so will get them. This can be done at AdminCP > Notices > Notice Manager > Add Notice. define a custom name, and notice text then make the notice persistent and dismissable. In the conditions set the post count between 0 and (X) where X is the number of posts a user must have before he/she is promoted.

      Screen 4: Define Notice Text and basic options

      Screen 5 (well the second half of screen 4): Define Notice Conditions

      Screen 6: The Notice as a user would see it in the frontend.

      Finally disable guests from doing anything besides looking at the forum (AdminCP > Usergroups > Usergroup Manager > Edit "Unregistered / Not Logged In") set all options to "no" except those related to viewing posts/threads and forums. This forces guests to register and go through all the security checks.

      Finally edit all usergroups to disallow HTML ANYWHERE on the forum since allowing HTML can open your forum up to abuse and possibly break your layouts.

      Those are the features I use on all my sites and they seem to do well to stop or reduce the amount of abuse that my forums get from bots, trolls, and spammers.

      Some common sense advice would be to have a strong set of forum rules and enforce them consistently. Find a good team of moderators to help you as well. Don't be a horrible person and just hand out bans like taco bell hands out cups, but definitely say (place a user into global moderation or disallow PM) for users consistently and blatantly breaking the rules. If it's severe enough, ban them either temporarily or permanently. Another thing I recommend is to define infractions and infraction groups, but that's another tutorial for another day.

      Hope this answers the question "how do I stop spam and secure my site?"

      External Links & Related Guides:

      Tempus's Guide to vBulletin Promotion System:
      Last edited by cfleischmann; 27th Feb 2018 at 20:24. Reason: Correected Spelling erors and added one more screenshot
  1. #2
    Administrator Tempus's Avatar
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    This is a very useful and informative post. Thank you for spending time making it. I have a few suggestions.

    1. Use recaptcha v2 instead of questions and answers. Most bots are able to read and answer these Q&A’s.

    2. You can follow my guide for more information on usergroups and promotions here:

    3. If you do use the Q&A’s human verification, make sure to enter a regex that allows numbers if you require the answer to be numerical

    4. You can use “stop forum spam” or “block bots” etc for additional security.
    The Small Print
    Our staff assume members have read the rules and will not accept ignorance as an excuse for not following the them.
    The breaking of any rule WILL lead to you being warned or even banned without notice so don't risk it!

  2. Thread Starter #3
    Super VIP cfleischmann's Avatar
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    I will be making some alterations to my guide including adding one more picture soon and correcting spelling errors that I noticed after listening to it for a few rounds on my iPhone.
    Carly G. Fleischmann:
    Customer Experience Lead / Sr. Web Dev.:
    XDS Support & Training Services

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