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grantm (164)

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Just a simple [] guy, hacking Perl for fun and profit since way back in the last millenium. You may find me hanging around in the monestary [].

What am I working on right now? Probably the Sprog project [].

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Journal of grantm (164)

Monday July 28, 2008
03:17 AM

Crazy comment spammers

[ #37027 ]

A client's web site that I support has a simple feedback form which emails the form submission to a number of business users. This form has become very popular with comment spammers despite the fact that nothing submitted via the feedback form ever ends up on the web site.

On Friday I added a simple anti-spam measure and was disappointed to discover that the emails continued to roll in over the weekend. After tracing back through various logs I discovered it wasn't my script at all! When we launched a new site design 3 months ago, I took the opportunity to consolidate a number of CGI scripts into the existing mod_perl application framework. The feedback form was tweaked to point to a new form handler URL. I left the old form handler script in place to facilitate easy rollback and assumed it would do no harm since there were no forms pointing at it. Duh!

So it appears that multiple bots have cached copies of the old form handler URL and the field names it used to expect - despite the fact that the original form disappeared 3 months ago.

Rule number 1 of web security says you can't trust the input data. In particular you can't assume the form that was posted is the one you provided. Unfortunately the comment spam continued to pass all of the old handler's validation rules, so it continued to sail through to email. Of course another key rule of web security is that your web site should not expose any code/functionality that is not essential for the running of the site. I guess I'll have to say mea culpa to that one.

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