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You are here: MacNN Forums > Community > Feedback > Admins, Stop Banning TOR Exits.

Admins, Stop Banning TOR Exits.
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red rocket
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Jan 18, 2009, 07:34 AM
 
I never used to have a problem with this until a couple of months ago, but now I’m increasingly receiving the ‘Sorry. The administrator has banned your IP address. To contact the administrator click here’ message when visiting MacNN.

Two reasons why this is stupid:

1. There are thousands of TOR exits. Banning one after the other is not going to effectively IP ban any individual user.

2. It’s a massive inconvenience for me as well as any other user of the TOR network.

So, before whoever is doing this does it again, I strongly suggest he check whether he’s blocking a TOR exit or not.
     
Maflynn
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Jan 18, 2009, 09:11 AM
 
what is the advantage of using a TOR network. Isn't it only for creating an anonymous IP address?
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Spheric Harlot
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Jan 18, 2009, 09:29 AM
 
Um, yes, and you just answered your own question.
     
red rocket  (op)
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Jan 18, 2009, 09:30 AM
 
^
1. A level of privacy.
2. Bypassing censorship.
     
Maflynn
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Jan 18, 2009, 09:48 AM
 
Given the type of use TOR Networks are typically used for, I think its a good reason to ban/block. I was hoping Red Rocket could give a cogent answer to my question that could justify the unbanning/blocking but that wasn't the case.
~Mike
     
Big Mac
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Jan 18, 2009, 09:53 AM
 
It's probably done because a lot of spammers likely utilize it. And if it inconveniences some others, so be it.

"The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." TJ
     
reader50
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Jan 18, 2009, 03:45 PM
 
We haven't been specifically banning TOR exits, but we have been banning a spammer infestation. The linked example turned out to be the tip of the iceburg. In addition to the several hundred SEO spammers we banned, there were 5K-6K not-yet-used spam accounts. To get it under control, we had a banning marathon. During a 10-day period starting Dec 25, approx 4,700 spam handles checked out, and a bunch of their email domains got banned.

Along the way, we refined our IP & IP-range bans to lock out future spammer registrations. We have the manpower today to clean out thousands of spam accounts, but if the flood gates were not closed, they might overwhelm us in the future.

The IP ranges that were banned showed large numbers of spam registrations, but no legit posts. An exception is that red rocket (and/or a couple of our other TOR users) would be the only legit posters. If there were enough spammers on such ranges, we banned anyway, since TOR users can just reload to use a less tainted range.

red rocket, if you'd care to post IPs where you get the error, I can list just how many spammers were included from each such range. It may be possible to refine our blocks to omit the TOR exit if it uses a static IP, but we don't want to open ourselves up again to an owned range. We've been banning spammers for years now - in just 10 days, our ban list more than doubled.
     
turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 02:04 AM
 
May I suggest to finally implement other measures, like a minimum of 2 months read only access, and the first 20 posts moderated ?

Doesn't sound like more work that you're going through with all those spammers...

-t
     
Spheric Harlot
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Jan 19, 2009, 02:42 AM
 
That's been discussed at length, and while it may get rid of the spammers, it DOESN'T get rid of the profile spammers described in the linked thread above, AND it also pretty much KILLS this forum as a resource for ANYBODY who isn't a long-term member.

If you can't quickly register to post a technical query, then the only new members this forum will ever see are Political Lounge lurkers - precisely the type of usage pattern, other than spammers, that the proponents of controlled posts want to avoid..
     
reader50
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Jan 19, 2009, 02:59 AM
 
We have implemented other measures, as well as the refined IP and email blocks. Around 95% of spammers are now blocked at the registration stage - the floodgates are closed back down to normal levels.
     
OreoCookie
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Jan 19, 2009, 04:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
May I suggest to finally implement other measures, like a minimum of 2 months read only access, and the first 20 posts moderated ?
What Spheric said. We've discussed these things quite extensively and carefully weighed the pros and cons. We actually think it's less work the way it is now, most spammers are dealt with within literally minutes (somebody is always awake!). And your proposed solution doesn't help to protect us against this new subtle type of spammers that are almost invisible.

We really have nothing against services like TOR -- except that spammers use them. If several spammers use an IP, we ban it. You have to be so strict, because otherwise they keep on coming back using the same IP (which is very frustrating).
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red rocket  (op)
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Jan 19, 2009, 05:14 AM
 
Originally Posted by Maflynn View Post
Given the type of use TOR Networks are typically used for, I think its a good reason to ban/block. I was hoping Red Rocket could give a cogent answer to my question that could justify the unbanning/blocking but that wasn't the case.
You don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

‘Typically used for’, my arse. Not everybody is prepared to let themselves be traced online, it’s as simple as that. You either respect those people, or otherwise you end up with a regime where everybody is forced to post all their personal details online, so you can verify exactly where and who they are. Internet Service Providers, governments, police and other institutions like to block access for all sorts of reasons, if the internet is supposed to remain international and free, you’d do well to support any anonymity and censorship evasion effort by anyone.
     
red rocket  (op)
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Jan 19, 2009, 05:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by reader50 View Post
red rocket, if you'd care to post IPs where you get the error, I can list just how many spammers were included from each such range. It may be possible to refine our blocks to omit the TOR exit if it uses a static IP, but we don't want to open ourselves up again to an owned range. We've been banning spammers for years now - in just 10 days, our ban list more than doubled.
Alright, I’ll starting noting them, and report back once I reach ten or so. Thanks for the info, I do understand your situation better now.
     
Maflynn
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Jan 19, 2009, 09:57 AM
 
Originally Posted by red rocket View Post
You don’t seem to know what you’re talking about.

‘Typically used for’, my arse. Not everybody is prepared to let themselves be traced online, it’s as simple as that. You either respect those people, or otherwise you end up with a regime where everybody is forced to post all their personal details online, so you can verify exactly where and who they are. Internet Service Providers, governments, police and other institutions like to block access for all sorts of reasons, if the internet is supposed to remain international and free, you’d do well to support any anonymity and censorship evasion effort by anyone.
Yah and don't forget to wear your tin foil hat, so that the government satellites won't read your mind

A little paranoid are you? You're right I don't know what I'm talking about, the only time I've read/heard about TOR networks is for people who want to disguise their whereabouts for actions that are less then honorable. I failed to take into consideration the paranoid too.
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OreoCookie
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Jan 19, 2009, 10:21 AM
 
TOR networks can and are successfully used to circumvent censorship, that's correct. And no one should be made fun of for wanting to ensure his or her privacy, I believe. (What are you afraid of? I have nothing to hide!)

But in this case, our (read: MacNN's) interests are different: we need to deal with spammers. I haven't really noticed that we were banning TOR IPs as well, so we (= that's an assumption on my part) weren't even aware that some `legit' users were using the TOR network.
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Maflynn
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Jan 19, 2009, 10:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
TOR networks can and are successfully used to circumvent censorship, that's correct. And no one should be made fun of for wanting to ensure his or her privacy, I believe. (What are you afraid of? I have nothing to hide!)
There's ensuring privacy and then there's paranoia. Using TOR networks to mask your browsing because you're afraid of the government spying on you is paranoia but hey what ever floats his boat. Perhaps I can point him to where he can get a discount on tin foil helmets
~Mike
     
Doofy
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Jan 19, 2009, 10:57 AM
 
Doof is probably the most security-conscious bloke on here. And still sees no need to use TOR in order to hide his inane ramblings on NN from the evil government.
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turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 11:29 AM
 
Originally Posted by Spheric Harlot View Post
That's been discussed at length, and while it may get rid of the spammers, it DOESN'T get rid of the profile spammers described in the linked thread above, AND it also pretty much KILLS this forum as a resource for ANYBODY who isn't a long-term member.
Well, shutting some TOR exit nods doesn't get rid of the profile spammers either. You'd had to basically close ALL exit nods. And even then: there are other ways, like public WLANS that can be used.

Screening new registrants can not be easily circumvented.
Yes, some might just pretend and behave for the first 20 posts, and then spam, but most spammers won't bother.

I know we have discussed this at length, but that doesn't mean the idea is bad or doesn't have merits.

-t
     
turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 11:31 AM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
But in this case, our (read: MacNN's) interests are different: we need to deal with spammers. I haven't really noticed that we were banning TOR IPs as well, so we (= that's an assumption on my part) weren't even aware that some `legit' users were using the TOR network.
While you're at it, as a preventive maintenance, you might as well shut down all IPs used by http://hotspotshield.com/

Next up: IP ranges of public libraries, Starbucks and airports.

Is this IP banning ever gonna end ?

-t
     
OreoCookie
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Jan 19, 2009, 11:54 AM
 
Turtle, we did not ban TOR exits on purpose, I don't think none of the staff was consciously aware that a certain IP is associated to TOR and that `legit' members (read: everyone but spammers) were using TOR. Hyperbole isn't necessary.

We've literally banned several thousand spammers last month which took quite a bit of work (several unpaid man days, in face). reader has offered to lift the ban on TOR IPs once we're made aware of them. There is no simple way to ban or unban IPs associated to a certain domain. Trust me, we'd all love this features (there is one specific Chinese ISP with 0 legit users so far, we'd love to impose a ban like *.*.massive-ISP-of-Chinese-spammage.com.cn). So give us a break, will ya?
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Simon
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Jan 19, 2009, 12:00 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
TOR networks can and are successfully used to circumvent censorship, that's correct. And no one should be made fun of for wanting to ensure his or her privacy, I believe. (What are you afraid of? I have nothing to hide!)
Seconded.

Ridiculing somebody for being concerned about privacy in this day and age is silly. In the scope of this whole war on terror nonsense enough civil liberties have been put up for debate. If a responsible citizen wants to ensure his privacy without blindly trusting anybody else that's nothing to snicker at. Nobody has to do it, but making fun of others for choosing to do so is foolish. You wouldn't laugh at somebody for using ssh instead of telnet either.
( Last edited by Simon; Jan 19, 2009 at 12:34 PM. Reason: typo)
     
Doofy
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Jan 19, 2009, 12:09 PM
 
Originally Posted by Simon View Post
Ridiculing somebody for being concerned about privacy in this day and age is silly. In this scope of this whole war on terror nonsense enough civil liberties have been put up for debate. If a responsible citizen wants to ensure his privacy without blindly trusting anybody else that's nothing to snicker at. Nobody has to do it, but making fun of others for choosing to do so is foolish. You wouldn't laugh at somebody for using ssh instead of telnet either.
However, there's many more ways of doing this than using the TOR network, which may or may not be sharing bandwidth with (and thus enabling) kiddie fiddlers, terrorists and spammers.

I mean, if one is that worried about privacy then get yourself a tunnel to your own static IP in a free country of your choosing - that way, you know you're not passing dodgy traffic and nobody's sharing your IP address.
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turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 12:32 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Turtle, we did not ban TOR exits on purpose, I don't think none of the staff was consciously aware that a certain IP is associated to TOR and that `legit' members (read: everyone but spammers) were using TOR. Hyperbole isn't necessary.
I didn't mean to imply that.

However, now that it's known what strategy the spammers use, it becomes pretty obvious that the current counter strategy (IP bans) is pretty much a fight against windmills.

-t
     
OreoCookie
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Jan 19, 2009, 12:46 PM
 
Turtle, with all due respect, but you don't know what IPs spammers usually use. Most of the time, you can directly trace them to China, then India, the use of TOR is not that wide-spread.

The giant spam machine was Russian (reader was the one who discovered them and reported their `business model' to the makers of vBB; edit: reader told me he wasn't the first to report them, but hey, he can still keep the karma points) and used a different tactic.

So, no, IP bans are still very useful. IP lookup bans would be even more useful, but aren't currently feasible.
( Last edited by OreoCookie; Jan 19, 2009 at 01:39 PM. )
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turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 01:07 PM
 
Originally Posted by OreoCookie View Post
Turtle, with all due respect, but you don't know what IPs spammers usually use.
No, I don't. But you know what: it doesn't matter, because what I suggested will work no matter what.

But hey, whatever, seems like we're beating a dead horse.

-t
     
Laminar
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Jan 19, 2009, 01:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
No, I don't. But you know what: it doesn't matter, because what I suggested will work no matter what.

But hey, whatever, seems like we're beating a dead horse.

-t
If by "will work" you mean "will discourage new members from posting, create more work for the mods, and fail to cut down on spammer signups," then yes, your plan "will work."
     
reader50
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Jan 19, 2009, 01:59 PM
 
Originally Posted by Maflynn View Post
Given the type of use TOR Networks are typically used for, I think its a good reason to ban/block. I was hoping Red Rocket could give a cogent answer to my question that could justify the unbanning/blocking but that wasn't the case.
A correction here, we have not noticed spammers using the TOR network. They're using ranges that happen to include some TOR exit nodes, which catches them up in the spammer sweeps.

TOR is a good idea from the EFF, it's not anything we are trying to shut down. There are countries today such as China, in which expressing certain political opinions can result in years in prison. Most countries have problems with rights organizations such as the RIAA/MPAA/IFPA, which want to remove internet anonymity in order to increase their revenues. Even the USA has had problems with warrantless wiretaps and other shenanigans.

It would be unwise to discourage privacy-protecting systems. While citizens living in the free world may not need them, the future is far from guaranteed. One can equally argue that we'll all be needing services like TOR in a few years. It does no harm to support privacy protections as an insurance measure.
     
turtle777
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Jan 19, 2009, 02:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by Laminar View Post
If by "will work" you mean "will discourage new members from posting, create more work for the mods, and fail to cut down on spammer signups," then yes, your plan "will work."
Hey, I never said that there wouldn't be any collateral damage.

Nothing's for free, expect spam.

-t
     
Spheric Harlot
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Jan 20, 2009, 07:03 PM
 
Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
Screening new registrants can not be easily circumvented.
Yes, some might just pretend and behave for the first 20 posts, and then spam, but most spammers won't bother.
Neither will most legitimate users.

Originally Posted by turtle777 View Post
I know we have discussed this at length, but that doesn't mean the idea is bad or doesn't have merits.
Yes it does.

You're advocating throwing the child out with the bathwater, which just means any new users will go elsewhere to post their query.

You and I may live predominantly in the Lounge, but that's NOT what these forums are about.
     
   
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