Saturday, September 10, 2005

'Splogging' polluting blogosphere with spam, expert warns

By Joey Alarilla

WITH blogs becoming more mainstream while retaining much of their credibility as an alternative voice on the Internet, an expert has warned that they might increasingly be used to spread the most irritating online message of all: spam.

"The problem with spam is that this threat is actually generating revenue for marketers," Mark Trudinger, vice president for Asia of SurfControl told technology journalists at the MediaConnect Asia Security Issues forum, Sept. 5 in Singapore, as he discussed the emerging landscape of threats to the Internet.

As such, marketers have a very compelling reason to see spam in terms of profit, even though it is considered as one of the worst evils by Internet users flooded with unwanted information.

"A new term has even been coined for this new form of spamming, which is splogging. Spammers are taking advantage of MSN's free blogging service. In fact, 70 percent of the spam we monitored over the weekend before came from the MSN blogging area," Trudinger shared.

According to blogger Andy Carvin in his Aug. 25 post "The War on Splogging: Fighting An Online Cancer" at , users most often encounter splogs when they use a keyword on a search engine, or through a false hit via RSS (really simple syndication). These sites automatically redirect you to other blogs and sites.

This is reminiscent of the way popular Internet content, such as porn, MP3s, ROMs or warez, give rise to links that redirect you to a seemingly endless series of sites containing even more links -- all of them misleading search engines and users by embedding popular keywords.

According to Carvin, the term "splogging" was coined by Mark Cuban, in this post. Cuban, of course, is most well-known for being the owner of the National Basketball Association team the Dallas Mavericks, which explains the name of his blog.

Cuban defined a splog as "any blog whose creator doesn't add any written value."

In his presentation, Trudinger noted that spammers are turning their attention to blogs because "the perception about blogs is that they have credibility." He said that the online community puts more trust in bloggers, and blogs are gaining more public acceptance.

Trudinger said splogging and other forms of spam that leverage on online applications that are becoming mainstream, such as spimming (spamming using instant messaging), will be one of the biggest threats to Internet users, who will not only be annoyed by useless information, but prevented from performing tasks, such as the current case with e-mail spam that overwhelms mail servers.

"Spammers will always ask themselves how they can take advantage of the habits of online users," he said.

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