Friday, 14 September 2012

which one of us is real

So I was doing one of my regular websearches for Magical Diary and found myself in a forum thread. Looked like a normal thread on a normal forum, all the posters had avatars, the posts were intelligible English and meaningfully related to each other, the answers were logical answers for the questions being asked.

Only problem? I *wrote* one of those posts. The contents of a post were, entirely, my words from a reply I wrote someone on Yahoo Answers, months ago. The previous post was the question I had been replying to.

The entire forum was fake.

But if you didn't know where the words came from, could you see anything but a bustling forum filled with helpful individuals asking and answering questions, with the occasional helpful little advertising link tucked unobtrusively into the middle?

This isn't the first time I've come across it, but it was the first one I recall that looked so realistic on the surface. Most of the ones I've encountered have had sufficiently poor configuration that it's obvious something fishy is going on.

I've known that Yahoo Answers was serving as a prime source for spambots for quite a while - I encounter them now and then on my own forum. But they're difficult to deal with because it's hard to prove what they're up to until they start dropping payload links... and they're even harder for other forum members to recognise. They sound human, so other humans will try to talk to them.

If you don't know your own writing, you could end up having a conversation with the reflected ghost of yourself, your own words now turned to the service of evil...

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