Tuesday, December 13, 2016

From Russia With Spam

For whatever reason, Russians have been spamming Scribbles.

Legendary Soviet leader and one-time Marxist propaganda leaflet distributor Leon Trotsky once observed – “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.”

Throughout the past month I’ve discovered that Leon was right. No matter how well we live our lives (or at least try to) war seems to find us, even in ways that have nothing to do with guns, bombs, or ballots.

I came to this glorious, red epiphany last month when I logged onto Google Analytics and discovered some curious hits to my blog and photography websites.

For some reason, representatives from a website called Secret.Google.com were visiting my sites several times a week to flip through a few pages. What’s more, Secret.Google.com was imploring me to “Vote for Trump,” even though the election had been over for days.

When I clicked the country link I learned that Secret.Google.com’s reps had visited me from Russia. One click on the city link and I discovered that my visitor was from Samara Oblast, a city of about 3 million comrades, some of whom have a penchant for hacking. 

In all fairness to the Russians, my sites have been hacked from miscreants in other countries as well – even in the good ol’ U.S.A. But none have been this persistent, this active, this intolerable.

For the first few days, I did little to address the issue. Big mistake. In retrospect, it was the first shot fired, a Lexington and Concord, a Fort Sumter, a Sarajevo, a late summer morning in Poland.

Channeling Neville Chamberlain, I decided to avoid war and monitor the situation. Soon I began noticing that my Russian visitors were clicking on my sites with growing frequency, sometimes at a rate of one hit per hour. Their army seemed to be advancing. After all, I doubt I’m that popular in Russia.

After about a week, the Russian spammers were in full recruitment mode. According to Google Analytics, Secret.Google.com was popping up across my Russian map like a smallpox outbreak in a gulag. I began to see hits from St. Petersburg, Lipetsk Oblast, Magadan Oblast, Primorsky Krai, Krasnodar Krai, and even Moscow.

Leon Trotsky 1; Neville Chamberlain 0.

I began to wonder why the Russians were hacking me? It’s not like I’ve got secrets only I, the State Department, the C.I.A. and George Soros know about. No one is going to find anything salacious on either of my sites. No pictures of naked women; no incriminating photos of celebrities; and no personal essays that begin, “You’re not going to believe this, but every word of it is true…”

I can just image the disappointment my Russian spammers must have felt after weeks of perusing my sites.

BORIS: “Ivan, my dear comrade, my Bolshevik brother from another mother, my K.G.B. homeboy, how much more time and rubles are we going to spend peeking at this stupid Amerikan’s websites?”

IVAN: “You just keep logging on every hour. Something is bound to pop up! I’m beginning to suspect this DiCesare has been spying on the Kremlin! Try decoding those hackneyed, bourgeois essays of his. There might be something, some secret message of sorts, hidden in all that Amerikan mediocrity.”

BORIS: “For the love of Lenin! How could this moronic Amerikan possibly succeed in spying on the Kremlin? When I first went to his websites I was hoping for some good, capitalist, western porn. But instead I got a boring, middle-aged Amerikan with an identity crisis! That mudak can’t decide whether to be Alexander Rodchenko or Kurt Vonnegut. Have you seen his work? It’s about as titillating as a babushka in a bikini. What a hack!”

IVAN: “Boris, have another vodka and quit your proletariat bitching.”

After a few weeks of this nonsense, I decided to end my détente with the Russians. My analytics for November were now misleading, the data a falsehood. I became red with anger. If the Russians wanted war with me, then war it will be, I said to myself during a Monday Night Football halftime show.

My first move was to go to Google Secret.Google.com to get intelligence on these mudaks. I learned that Secret.Google.com is a referral spam site set up for the purposes of self-promotion and screwing up your data. I also learned there was a way to block these spam artists in Google Analytics, which I did. A few days later the hits from Secret.Google.com stopped. Victory was mine.

I monitored my sites’ analytics for a few days and found no referral spam from Russia or any where else. Thanksgiving came and all was quiet. My sites’ analytics were flat-lining. Under normal circumstances this would be cause for concern. But I was elated. I’d rather get no hits than ones driven by spam.

Then, last week, the Russians returned, this time under a new referral spam site: o-o-8-o-o, which came straight outta Moscow. This time my hackers told me, “Google officially recommends o-o-8-o-o search shell.” Ironically, a few days later, another o-o-8-o-o hacker, this one from St. Petersburg, stated that “o-o-8-o-o search shell is much better than Google!”

I don’t know why, but o-o-8-o-o makes me itch. Maybe because it looks like a string of mosquito bites. Nevertheless, it too was zapped from my websites.

Peace had once again returned to Scribbles and my photo site. I got a few hits on my photo site from links I had posted on social media, all of which seemed legit.

Then, on Monday, I got another hit from Russia. This time the spam read:  “Vitaly rules google *:。゜゚・*(^^)*・゜゚。:* ¯\_()_/¯(ಠ)(ಥ)(ʘ‿ʘ)(ಠ_ಠ)( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)(Д)ʕ̫͡ʔ (=^ ^=)oO” 

And so my war with the Russians continues. I blocked “Vitaly rules google” and all its ensuing – and rather artistic – code. I guess no matter how many times I filter out these Russian hackers and spammers they will find a way to attack my analytics. Like Herman Melville’s unnamed narrator in “Bartleby, the Scrivener” I’m waging an unwanted war of passive aggression and losing badly.

Indeed, Trotsky was right – war will find us whether we like it or not.

Ah, Leon! Ah, humanity!


  1. Thanks, Rick. Hopefully, I'll bring this e-war to a swift conclusion ASAP!