Tag Archive: Spam

Akismet and Jetpack Issues, Stop Spammers and CloudFlare Save the Day

My Web Host Penalised Me Yet Helped Speed Up My Site

Introduction

shared web hosting

shared web hosting

This site used to be hosted on Site5, in Texas.  I had a shared web host account, about the cheapest there is on Site5 though by no means the cheapest around (I’ve had experience of really cheap hosts….).  It worked alright, site management was good.  Then, I got hit by spammers.  Twice.  Big time.

Each time, this slowed the site down, made life hell for other shared accounts, especially when I introduced WordPress plugins to counter this.

Naturally, Site5 advised me to stop the hits or they’d pull my account (they’d already temporarily disabled it).  They advised me to cut the plugins, using GoDaddy’s plugin testing tool, WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler (P3).  So I did this, and after some trial and error, got the running processes down.  Of course, I lost a bit of neat functionality.

Testing Times

Apart from internal WordPress testing, it pays to test your site as if you are someone else somewhere else.  Pingdom have a set of tools that does just this, testing from various global locations and I can recommend it.

Result!

I used an iterative approach, testing various combinations of plugins and systems to end up as being in the top 8% sites for speed in the world!  Not bad for free is all I can say!   You’ll see in the screenshot above, that 92% of websites are slower than mine….   So is it really free?  Here goes…..

Paid For:
  • Web Hosting.  Shared.
  • My domain registration.
Free:
  • WordPress and all the LAMP functionality
  • WordPress plugins
  • CloudFlare
Pingdom Says

Pingdom Says

Automattic Issues

WordPress (which this site uses) is built by the Automattic team and naturally have expanded over time.  I’ve used their plugins for many years, Akismet from the off, which is a comment spam blocking system.  Latterly, they came out with Jetpack, where they say,

Supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users.

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.

P3 Selected Output

P3 Selected Output

This is all well and good, except when I tested it using the P3 plugin profiler, Jetpack was the biggest drag on everything!   The worst part of it, was that actually, I was only using a small part of its features and it was still the biggest suck on performance.

  • I didn’t use Carousel for photos since I had an old solution, NextGen Gallery, that I’m loathe to change.
  • The comments system mucked up all other comment plugins, grabbing all for itself (a bit like Microsoft here!)
  • I used the stats, and that was about all, yet they were very slow and not that informative, actually.
  • Nearly all the other stuff I looked at, tried and ditched for similar reasons.

So much for the awesome cloud power.  On top of this, you’re now supposed to pay for parts of Automattic’s offerings, like Akismet, the comment spam blocker while a major offering of theirs was actually slowing my site right up!

What Did I do?

Change host!

Well not initially, actually, though the heavy-handed Site5 approach got my ire a bit I must admit.  I did do loads of tests with a host of caching, anti-spam and page load improvement plugins first…

Vidahost

Vidahost

I now use Vidahost in the UK.  The site is faster to manage (along with my others) since the servers are in the UK with me, and it’s cheaper, providing almost the same functionality and tools as Site 5.  I took the opportunity to clean out a few dead files in the process, but essentially, all was moved, database and files.  The lot.  Just twiddled config.php and the .htaccess file a bit.

did worry that my American visitors, who are actually in the majority, would  suffer slower speed and thus I’d get hit in Google rankings, but hey, wait for later…!

I got it all working and as part of the whole “thinking” process since the very first warnings from Site 5, I’d been looking for better things.

Looking at Things Closely

  • I like Related Posts.   Related Posts plugins do just that.  I love the idea of pulling out meta-data relevant stuff from a website.  Site 5 had said, as have others on the web, that this sort of plugin makes big hits on a site.  Some of them really do!  I use  YARPP, with a limited subset of features enabled which cuts down processing.
  • I also like Andrew Ozz’s Shutter Reloaded which shows images nicely.   I also like his post editor, TinyMCE Advanced, it being the best of many I’ve tested over the years.
  • I like NextGEN Gallery having used it since before WordPress got all image fancy.  I haven’t got time to fiddle with thousands of photos now…
  • I’d like some statistics within WordPress.
  • I’m not that interested, any-more (though I was) in Social Networking sharing features.  Truth be told, if someone wants to share, they will.
  • I’ve read a lot on image improvements.  I’ve always shrunk images manually before uploading using the excellent IrfanView application.  But during this enforced research, other things like sprites and delayed image loading popped into the equation.

So I like certain plugins or functionality.  I try and use the one that works best for me.  Too many plugins make a big hit on the server and thus website loading.

Caching

A way round this is caching.  e.g. If a post is created and has related posts clagged on the bottom using YARPP, then the post is cached and YARRP is only running once.  How and where the caching is done is the crux of the issue…

Site 5 suggested W3 Total Cache as a better alternative to Wp Super Cache,  which I’ve used for years.    Naturally, I’ve tested this and my conclusion was that it could be fast, and it was fast for a while, but over time on each of my sites I got issues around lock-ups and the huge and complex caching system around files, databases and sprites.  This list is long.

I’ve also tested various database query caching plugins likewise over the years.  W3 Total Cache incorporates this method too, but ultimately, it made too much work for not a lot of difference IMHO, since I’m lazy.

However, it did point me to one thing!  CloudFlare.

CloudFlare

CloudFlare Admin1

CloudFlare Admin1

Ah.  The power of the cloud is back!

Not only that – it works!

CloudFlare Admin2

CloudFlare Admin2

You re-direct your DNS at your domain registrar (joker.com in my case) to CloudFlare’s DNS servers, set up the site malware protection level you want – then after a few hours your whole site is cached and protected.  Best of all, it’s free for a little site like this!

In fact, using CloudFlare speeded everything up even before I got caching going again…

Further Plugin Work

Now, I went back to Wp Super Cache from Doncha and it all works fine.  Site speed good.  I then ditched Jetpack after testing it again.  It really does interfere with all comment plugins, and I really like this comment one as do people who comment here:

  • U Extended Comment

It works great and does everything I want.  So Jetpack, it’s bye bye.  Take all your fancy commenting system, your stats, your social media and fancy image handling.

But What About Comment Spam?

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results1

Stop Spammer Results1

I’ve found the best solution is a plugin called Stop Spammer Registrations Plugin.  It needed a bit of fine tuning and a re-activation of Akismet to whip out a few wisps of spammer, but it works and seems to trap and report more spammers than ever Akismet did alone.  Akismet, by itself, does the commenting bit in tandem with the plugin, rather well.

Registration Spam

SABRE Results

SABRE Results

Unfortunately, during testing, a few unwanted visitors managed to register on the website.  They can’t do real harm since I use the lowest role level at registration time.  So I re-enabled SABRE and since then, no more unwanted visitors.  I’ve tested SABRE as a visitor and the settings I’ve chosen are just about right – I’ve had issues with it previously when it blocked registration!  But reducing the feature set and re-uploading a clean plugin fixes that.

CloudFlare and the CDN Issue

I toyed around getting a CDN to host images.  But they (can) cost and anyway, I’ve gone off Amazon and others because of their anti-Wikileaks actions plus they don’t pay UK tax…

Delayed Image Loading

However, in the course of my reading, I found that images can be loaded just as the page comes into view, which speeds up page loading, and as a consequence the perceived nippiness of a site.  The plugin BJ Lazy Load does this for me and works brilliantly.  Check this last post about Australia which has a lot of medium sized images to see them pop into view!

Delayed Javascript Loading

I use two plugins that handle this end of the issue around JavaScript.

Statistics

WP SlimStat1

WP SlimStat1

Well, Jetpack is gone.  I won’t be using it unless some serious improvements are made, it being the prime reason for the server load that brought me to this position in  the first place.  As soon as I disabled it (and simultaneously blocked all comments to the site, which isn’t the best thing, this being a blog after all), all server loads went away.

I now use SlimStat and it works very well.  I’ve tried many over time, including Google’s analysis tools, my webhost’s stats tools, Wassup and more, but for now, this is it.

Conclusion

My site works pretty fast and is pretty protected from the bad guys.  I actually still use more plugins than what is usually recommended – 50 is a huge lot according to web gurus and sages.  Currently there are 31 in active operation with 8 inactivated.  I love trying new ones, it’s like that, that’s just the way it is.

The delayed image loading is particularly apparent on a post with a lot of images, say this recent one.  The post loads fast and you see the first images load, and as you scroll down you’ll see other images appear with a slight delay.

All the other stuff is incremental improvement, with the biggest, by far, being the free CloudFlare service which I cannot recommend highly enough.  It’s a no-brainer, go and do it?

My Full List?

These are the plugins currently running that help my site work.  Many are for security, which demonstrates the state of play versus the bad internet guys full well.

Related Posts:

Estonian Spammer Forges CBS and The Guardian

Get Rich Quick Scam Forges Genuine News Agencies Web Pages

Gmail Spam

Gmail Spam

I recently received two emails from a friend’s old Hotmail account, but to two of my email addresses.

Email Spam

Email Spam

Probably, the account has been hacked as I could detect no spoofing in the emails’ headers.  These are the emails, with the email addresses blacked out.

Initial Email Investigations

The text is similar in that they try to entice a user using pretty poor English to click on the shortened URL links, which are active.

Here’s how the links work:
To my Email address;
cbsbusiness9

cbsbusiness9

I had http://cbsbusiness9.com/index2.php?/5260 which then goes to

http://cbsbusiness9.com/uk.html?/partners/the-guardian/small-business/5672-9782-67834/making-money-online/

 

To my GMail address;
cbsnews-article

cbsnews-article

I had http://cbsnews-article.com/index2.php?/4032 which then goes to

http://cbsnews-article.com/uk.html?/partners/the-guardian/small-business/5672-9782-67834/making-money-online/

 

The screenshots show the results using a neat Firefox plugin, Flagfox, which displays the source IP address and country on mouse-over.

The WHOIS’s of each domain are almost identical.  These are screenshots.

whois.domaintools.com screen capture 2012-12-12-17-12-26 whois.domaintools.com screen capture 2012-12-12-17-13-17 That Arthor Brown’s a one, eh?  Notice the Ukrainian, Russian and New York connections?   Who is/are  or what is:

TNew line ave 172 95
NY, 18274
UNITED STATES
+1.7343541732

Google Search on +1.7343541732

Google Search on +1.7343541732

Googling the phone number pulls out a heap of (not)surprises including an awful cesspit of scamminess that’s now starting to rival Pacific Webworks’ Google Treasure Chest and Jesse Willms’ Colon cleansing efforts!  (We saw these scams a few years back – check the links)

Just check out the fake news and dodgy sounding sites in the search results….  These are the first couple of pages of current search results:

  • Com-news8.net
  • Bcnews8.com
  • Dildobigg.com
  • Raspberry-Ketone24.com
  • BigGgEts.com
  • HurtGuys.com
  • GrowsPeniss.com
  • HugerAss.com
  • Com-news9.net
  • Com-nbcnews9.net
  • coloncleanse-extreme.com
  • nbc9news.com
  • nbc1news.com

Arthor Brown is in most of them with his Yahoo! email address as [email protected]   Please don’t confuse him with this Arthur Brown, but yes, handle all of these websites like Fire!

Forged Webpages of The Guardian Newspaper

cbsnews-article.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-3-51

cbsnews-article.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-3-51

cbsbusiness9.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-3-23

cbsbusiness9.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-3-23

The Guardian, is an old and respected news organisation in the UK.  CBS is a long-established US media network.

They, and the purported author of both webpages, Sirena Bergman, must be pretty pissed off about the hijacking of their names.

Also to be annoyed, is Lloyds TSB Bank who apparently are “in association” with this get rich quick scheme for work at home moms!

Completely Forged News Articles!

Indeed they are.

  • The articles are dated “December, 11:41”, which is odd since there’s no day, just month and time!
  • Both articles are embedded in genuine Guardian web-pages, with all the links surrounding the article going to genuine Guardian web-pages or genuine advertiser websites!
  • The hook links in both forged webpages go to http://workinghome22.com/go.php

The forgery is done in the same manner as the well-known phishing scams done for banks and on-line finance and insurance.

Apart from the images sourced from The Guardian, the scammer’s images are sourced from:

  • ddmcdn.com which is HowStuffWorks.com!
  • localconsumeralerts.com
  • prosperadtracker.com
  • ophan.co.uk

So, Who Is workinghome22.com

Bad Gateway

Bad Gateway

The first link was dead, opening a bad gateway so the expected redirect didn’t work.  The tracking pointed back to Ireland!

Bad Gateway

Bad Gateway

The second link worked, but the sweetly named workingfromhome22.com wasn’t the destination.   No, the link immediate re-directed to http://onlineincnow.com/2/?aff_sub=72

Well, at least the affiliate number 72 is getting paid….

But hang on, who exactly is workingfromhome22.com?
workinghome22.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-31-44

workinghome22.com screen capture 2012-12-12-16-31-44

Well, typing the URL directly takes me to workingfromhome22.com!  This is it!

Cunningly, you’ll note that it’s pulled out my home-town as Bournemouth (where I live) with that awful “mom” Americanism!  No-one in the UK addresses their mother as mom…  I mean, FFS?

The webpage links, containing the disreputably used graphics of Thomson, Reuters, CNBC and NBC Universal all point to http://workinghome22.com/go.php, which is of course in this domain.  So let’s click it, shall we?

Well, pctrck.com is trying to load, but not much else.

Reversing then trying to exit workinghome22.com produces a pop-up of dubious functionality!  Check the words – there’s no cancel button!

workinghoome22_Popup

workinghoome22_Popup

I did however manage to successfully close this page following that.  Whew!

Now Back to onlineincnow.com

OnlineIncNow Location

OnlineIncNow Location

The previously mentioned http://onlineincnow.com/2/?aff_sub=72 is located in the USA.

So What Is It Up To?

OnlineIncNow.com Whois Record

OnlineIncNow.com Whois Record

Good Question!   A WHOIS puts the registrant in China with the DNS servers in Russia!

As I mentioned earlier, the similarity of the scamminess of this thing is just like the Google Treasure Chest/ Google Money Tree / PWW scams of old.

The site is plastered with the logos of well known businesses to ad an air of authenticity to things (just as the original hook sites used The Guardian Newspaper and CBS in the same way) yet at the bottom of the page they disingenuously ad:

This site and the products and services offered on this site are not associated, affiliated, endorsed, or sponsored by NBCNEWS, ABC, USA Today, CNN or Fox News, nor have they been reviewed tested or certified by NBCNEWS, ABC, USA Today, CNN or Fox News.

onlineincnow.com T&C Screenshot

onlineincnow.com T&C Screenshot

Despite all this, it is of course bollox set to deceive.  In fact, it now appears that it’s the well known negative option scam, used by Pacific Webworks (PWW) and Jesse Willms to good effect until they were found out.

Let’s see how this pans out, shall we?…..

Check out the T&C page from the tiny link in the page footer – screenshot on the right.

  • They say that the applicable law is the State of Florida.
  • You will become a “member” and the key phrases are here:

You must register as a “Member” with Online Income Now to access certain functions of the website. You must provide current, complete and accurate information about yourself (the “Registration Data”) when registering as a Member. You agree that such information is truthful and complete. You agree to maintain and keep your Registration Data current and to update your Registration Data as soon as it changes. You are responsible for maintaining the security of your password. Online Income Now is not liable for any loss that you suffer through the use of your password by others. You agree to notify Online Income Now immediately of any unauthorized use of your account or other breach of security known to you. You also, by becoming a Member, agree to report violations of these Terms and Conditions by others to Online Income Now.

For a limited time only, the cost of this product is $97.00 ( usual price $299.95 ) and every 32 days thereafter you will be billed the member’s only price of $9.95 for the monthly use.

MATERIALS PROVIDED TO Online Income Now OR POSTED AT ANY Online Income Now’s WEB SITE

Online Income Now does not claim ownership of the materials you provide to Online Income Now (including feedback and suggestions) or post, upload, input or submit to any Online Income Now Web Site or its associated services (collectively “Submissions”). However, by posting, uploading, inputting, providing or submitting your Submission you are granting Online Income Now, its affiliated companies and necessary sublicensees, permission to use your Submission in connection with the operation of their Internet businesses including, without limitation, the rights to: copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat your Submission; and to publish your name in connection with your Submission.

You’ll see that “Online Income Now” will:

  • make you a “member” (of what?)
  • and you will be regularly billed, (why?)
  • and that for anything you post, upload etc (wah?  whadya mean?  Where is this uploading?),  “Online Income Now” will take no responsibility for what you do!

…………….which is curious as you don’t know what you’ll be doing and they have invited you to do it in the first place!!!

Now Lets Click The Link!  Follow that Opportunity!

onlineincnow.com screen capture 2012-12-12-17-46-50

2 Spots Left!

Amazingly (sarcasm alert) there are two “spots” left in my area!  This is the page… http://onlineincnow.com/2/index2.php

Michelle Johnson is the “guru” who will tell me everything!  So what do I do?  I have two options:

  • Back out
  • Sign up

Let’s Try Backing Out, Shall We?

CannotBackoutFromOnlineIncNow2

Cannot Backout From OnlineIncNow 2

CannotBackoutFromOnlineIncNow

Cannot Backout From OnlineIncNow

Well of course, they won’t let me.  It takes two goes to get out and the first one completely takes over the browser!  Bad.  This is B.A.D.

Ah, well.  Finally escaped.

Let’s Try Clicking to the Signup Page, Shall We?

secure.onlineincnow.com Data Entry Screen

secure.onlineincnow.com Data Entry Screen

I decide on my name, “Jobless Jake” and a random phone number…. The website is now https://secure.onlineincnow.com/2/cc_97.php

What I see is bad, really bad, and any attempt by this pack of jokers at saying they don’t run a negative option scam is now revealed on this sign-up page!

The scam is now revealed for what it is – a negative option scam!        Read it carefully…..  They expressly say;

By enrolling, you will be charged a one-time fee of $97.00

In teeny-tiny letters, note!

But remember, right back buried in the T&C’s they say;

every 32 days thereafter you will be billed the member’s only price of $9.95 for the monthly use.

This is expressly against the FTC code and laws in most countries.  If any extra charges are to be levied for any service or goods, they should be expressly stated on the sign-up page where the customer first enters their financial details.

Gotcha! You Bastards!

Okay, I’ve Had Enough of This. I’m Off!

“Not so fast, young Jobless Jake”, say onlineincnow.com……!

CannotBackoutFromOnlineIncNow3

Cannot Backout From OnlineIncNow 3

They’ve an extra 20% off plus and extra bit of webpage-erese!  The screenshot says it all, though it wasn’t the end of it.  I had one more “Leave Page” option like the earlier one above.

Conclusion

Negative Options are banned by law in most countries.  If you get collared by one, you’ll have a job stopping the bastards taking money from your account for ages.  The only sure way to stop this once you’ve been sucked in is through….

  • Chargebacks.   Get your bank or card company to get a charge-back saying the terms of trade or purchase were hidden (as seen in my screenshot above).

So………………….

  • It’s a scam.
  • Stay away from it.


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Related Posts:

Nifty Spam Fighting

Strangely post on December 7th, 2011
Posted in Internet Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Project Honey Pot

Careful observers to this website may have (but more probably not) discovered a tiny little link on random pages, which includes the main page.  The link is there to trap spammers.  Spammers of all kinds really, because once email addresses are skimmed, then they’re in the wild, but initially I trap comment spammers along with address harvesters.  At the end of this post you can see the spammers and scammers that I’ve help trap so far which means that they’re added to block lists thus saving internet users just a wee bit of trouble.

For me, as a webmaster, it’s no trouble to install and I urge others to do the same.  It’s called Project Honey Pot.

How it Works

For your interest, a file is served to a spammer which anyone can view should they click the tiny link.  The file is different on each website. It’s actually human readable but is constructed as two columns with no space, plus a few invisible characters.  Copying and pasting aren’t straightforward!

In it, are a perfectly readable set of Terms & Conditions which are broadly similar to those on all my websites, except they’re a lot more formal!  Buried in this formality is the statement that anyone who uses an email address sourced from this website is liable to a fee of $50!

This is the full content that (usually) only automated bots will find.  Enjoy!

Project Honey Pot Site Terms

Project Honey Pot Site Terms

And yes, naturally, being a webmaster, I record IP addresses for all visitors for a variety of reasons.   Everyone does!  Below is my Spam Honey Pot page.

My Honey Pot Front Page

My Honey Pot Front Page

 

Related Posts:

Fabian Tactics of Google Work At Home Scam Legal Team

Pacific Webworks / Quad Try and Dodge the Issue

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave...

Back in 2009 I stumbled upon a negative option scam for which those involved were sued by Google (and folded with an out-of-court settlement) and were prosecuted by Uncle Sam, losing again.  Initially, I was completely unaware of the depths of deception to which these people would stoop, but then I rapidly discovered the nightmare web that they’d constructed and how difficult it was for ordinary people, duped by slick honest-looking promises, to un-pick themselves from it.

Not only that, I quickly realised that PWW weren’t the only spawn of the devil and that others, like Jesse Willms, were up to very similar tricks.  See:

Methods

The above list of links more-or-less shows how we found out the Pacific Webworks (PWW) story.  They’re by no means the only set of devils in the world trying to scam people, but they’re the one’s I stumbled upon first.  That’s all.

Their business was to set up website templates that their “customers” could use to extract money from their customers by use of the negative option scam.  In effect, they were selling the tools to steal to people, who then had the option of calling it a day or selling the tools to steal on themselves, thus stealing.

To promote it they used mass advertising through paid ads on Google (using the Google and others’ trademarks to make it appear that these offers were endorsed by those referenced), through Quad, which they owned, and fake news or personal information websites (flogs) loaded with follow up ads.  The promotions could be their own, but for the most part it was all done by “affiliates” (their customers) that all took varying degrees of commission for follow-through clicks.

The advertising was managed by Bloosky Interactive that also operated through 3rd parties unsolicited email adverts, spam to you and me.

Underlying it all was the credit card processing business which they also owned (Intellipay) usually through the securecart domain.

All parties involved, except the final folk who didn’t really understand how bent this whole operation was, fully understood the nature of this business.  How could they not? – when they were selling “services” for $1.95 for which they’d get $30 commission!!!

Turn of the Screw

In another twist of deviousness, PWW (run by Bell, Bell, Larsen & Larsen at the time) set up The Quad Group (geddit?) to avoid creditors.  This is how they themselves described it:

In June 2009 we experienced limited merchant account processing capabilities which created a situation where we could not satisfy payables to marketing partners. To generate needed cash in the 2009 second quarter we sold a portion of our hosting portfolio that was in excess of merchant account limitations to The Quad Group, LLC, a related party (the “Quad Group”) for $157,786. Quad Group is owned and managed by current directors, officers and an employee of Pacific WebWorks. We may periodically be required to enter into sale transactions with Quad Group to properly manage our merchant account processing requirements.

Neat huh?

Cuts and Thrusts

So that’s about it, as I currently understand it.  PWW’s managers/owners had customers on two levels, that is;

  1. The direct affiliates and associated advertisers who were enticed into the operation or migrated from other similar schemes via the lure of easy money.  These people used the templates to lure others with promises of easy money, paid as commission for attracting others to run the same schemes.  The schemes didn’t sell anything – except the scheme!  A true pyramid scam!
  2. Duped suckers.  These, numerically the vast majority, soon realised after one or two mysterious withdrawals from their account of amounts around the $79 mark, that it was a scam.

The thrust of the plan was the hope that most people wouldn’t do anything, wouldn’t investigate much and wouldn’t associate with other suckers through embarrassment or whatever, just writing off the episode as one of life’s bad judgements.  Thus PWW would make say, $200 from which all the ads and affiliates would get their cut.

Just Desserts

Statue of Justice

Statue of Justice

Unfortunately for PWW, it didn’t work out quite like that.  Sure they made pots of money for a few years, but they upset too many people and eventually, through the power of communication via the very internet which was their arena,  news of what they were doing became so much that first Google, then Uncle Sam had to act.

Black September

But still the shit kept coming their way.  Just as I’d predicted in my postings (see list above), karma would get them.  On 19 September 2011 this year a class action was brought against the three main bodies behind the scam – Booth Ford v PWW et al – Barbara Ford is to be commended for her patience.  It was 2009 when she first filed for a class action!

In it, we see just how badly PWW have been acting for years.  Section 11, for me, sums it up perfectly!

Booth Ford v PWW et al Section 11

Booth Ford v PWW et al Section 11

So there we have it!  Now where’s the problem?

Rip-off Too Big!!

On 1 December 2011, Quad (who are actually essentially the same people as PWW with an almost similar board make-up – in fact the Google settlement made it plain that wives of the directors had been roped in as well), filed to be removed from the Class Action because they might have ripped off too much from people!  eh??  See QUAD_GROUP_NOTICE_OF_REMOVAL

The essence of their legal Fabian tactic (as I see it) is that:

  1. They scammed people from all over, not just Illinois, so it’s not a valid class action.
  2. They scammed people so much (by over $5m they say), that it’s the wrong court in which they should be tried, so ditch your claim against us!
  3. They scammed people by so much that the class action lawyer’s fees alone will be $9m so same reasoning as point 2!
Quad Group Sums

Quad Group Sums

Their sums in the above court removal document are in this screenshot.  There are others as well.  Of course, Quad (PWW with a different hat on remember) aren’t admitting any liability at all with this, so my use of the words scamming bastards reflects my personal opinions, not a statement of fact.  These opinions are based on the facts that:

  1. Pacific Webworks acquiesced to all of Google’s demands when sued for illegal trademark usage.
  2. Eborn and others lost their case when sued by the Texas AG when using PWW’s templates*, finance processing and networks to scam folks for millions of dollars.
  3. PWW lost their case when sued by Uncle Sam.
  4. PWW admitted filing untrue SEC accounts and changed accountants twice because of this.
  5. One of the accountants was directly related to a PWW director.

It’s noteworthy that the sum of $43m is derived from one “illegal” charge of ~$80 plus one subsequent charge of ~$25 multiplied across the claimed customer count of ~455,000 persons – because I have evidence from people who’ve contacted this site and others that some people had up to half a dozen illegal account withdrawals before they could put on a stop, which implies that the allegedly scammed amount could be much, much higher.

It’s also noteworthy that Quad’s own suppositional sums show high value amounts from this “business” yet for all this time, no dividends were paid and the only way investors in the company could make money was through share price changes.  If you tie this information to the incorrect accounting and familial accountant/director relationships, plus the fact that PWW is largely the same people as Quad, then collusion looks highly likely over this time period and the SEC will quite possibly be knocking following the conclusion to this class action.

With regard to the SEC, the same SEC filing that revealed Quad’s dubious formation also reveals that;

Our client base includes approximately 30,000 active customer accounts. We rely on the efforts of our internal marketing staff and on third party resellers, including our wholly-owned reseller, TradeWorks Marketing, to add accounts to our customer base. – see SEC Link

Well they can’t both be right, can they, Quad?  Is it 455,892 customers in your sums or is it 30,000 in the SEC filing?

Linkages

Copious links are included in the articles referenced by the site references at the beginning of this article so I haven’t had time to re-reference all the above statements.  But they’re there should you wish to look.

I certainly hope that the Fabian tactics don’t work and that people see them for what they are.

Notes & Addendum

*     Eborn et al used website designs very similar to those provided by PWW.   Whether they were exactly the same is a moot point in my view, because like a burglar who learns to house-break from another burglar, the crow-bar used will not be exactly the same crow bar, but it’s the idea of using a crowbar that’s important to the final act of theft.  In other words templates, like crowbars, are just tools.  Eborn’s websites were almost carbon-copies of those from PWW using all the Visual “tools”, the money processing and the affiliate networks that they “employed”.   Many sites (I had a huge list of them and copied images directly from the site before they locked it down) were partly or wholly hosted on pantherssl.com  via Bloosky.  These co-incidences didn’t happen by chance and show intelligent design behind their purpose.  (Thanks Paul!)

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Turkish Hacker-Crackers, perhaps?

A Cracking Week Off?

I had a week’s holiday of sorts last week.  On returning I found that this website had been cracked. (I already had intimations that something was wrong because of site stat failures and an email from @Justin Asking, sometime commenter to this website and others).  Anyway, so it was.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have good web access so was unable to correct things properly.

The main screen, viewable on zone-h here, was replaced by this,

Site Hack Aug 2011

Site Hack Aug 2011

A neat little JavaScript mouse trailer was part of the package!

The cause was my own – a wide-open directory made so as part of an image upload plugin for my WordPress installation.  This plugin makes it easy and neat for any commenter to add material to the website……unfortunately for me, it allowed any file, with active content or not, to be uploaded.

Needless to say, the plugin is now disabled and the directory is locked down to the specific  file types that I’ll accept.  No more active content allowed there matey!

Unwanted Extras

Once the nasty files were uploaded, the internal site privileges allowed the install of a swathe of .htm files to the site root and uploads folder.  These had various names like f.htm, g.htm etc.  Index.htm was the file on show.

Alongside these, apart from files needed to run the previously mentioned JavaScript, were another swathe of .phtml files, such as joker.phtml, which are actually php code shining as html.  A couple of plain text files had also been uploaded.  These had lists of files, sites and persons.

All .htaccess files were okay as well as the WordPress installation files.  To be sure, I redid the WordPress install from scratch with fresh downloaded files..

Finale

All told, about fifty files were dumped on my website.  I’ve hopefully removed the lot and have them downloaded for analysis at a later date.  The screen content and internal code all points to Turkish or S.E. Asian (Vietnam or Indonesia) Muslim crackers (I refuse to use the hacker term except to clarify the cracking of security by it’s now-common usage).  Saying this, the culprits (the code points to several authors who used freely downloadable files from cracking websites and then proudly expected a pat on the back for their extreme skill at doing a download…like….der….), the culprits could have come from anywhere.

Fifth columnists and agent-provocateurs are nothing new.

Interestingly, being cracked puts me in the same company as at least 186 well-known multinational businesses, such as Acer, Vodaphone, BetFair, The Daily Telegraph, The Register, Spam.Org, Victoria Beckham and Destiny’s Child.

Even System of a Down dot com, was down!

Zone-h’s full list is here.  The Register reports it here, The Guardian here.

The Guardian interview with the crackers notes that the culprits had been planning the attack for some time which obviously includes the time when my site was compromised.  I don’t know if my website was actually used as part of the above DNS server attack but it’s usual for an attack like a DDOS to use several vectors and simultaneous attack points in order to force a server to fail and dump code.  This dump then reveals passwords and the like for later use.

Addendum

WordPress.Org’s forum has a posting about this crack from last week.  A Google search in the comment by RedNeckTexan shows the attack on this website to be far from unique….!   The links I’ve followed go right to the heart of the crack and the people doing the cracking.

This is the Google Search on the “Easy Comment Uploader” plugin.  Like me, RedNeckTexan has pulled the plugin for now, which can be found in the WordPress repository here.

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