Google Search Algorithm Update to Target Piracy Sites

Posted on August 11, 2012
Filed Under Search Engine Optimisation, Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

Google® Inc announced yesterday that they have incorporated an update into their algorithm which will aim to penalise sites that have (in their own words) “valid copyright removal notices”.

Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results ….. we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner.

The new algorithm will take into account the number of these copyright notices and aim to push the offending site down the rankings and potentially out of the index entirely. The system which Google offers to copyright holders to notify them of copyright infringing material/sites within their index has been receiving an increasing number of notices since they introduced it in 2009. According to their Transparency Report, copyright removal notices are at an all time high, the graph does indeed show a worrying trend.

Current Statistics..

URLs Requested to be Removed 4,415,284
Specified Domains 29,006
Copyright Owners 1,636
Reporting Organizations 1,265

 

One of the most striking thing about these statistics is the notices received from ‘Reporting Organisations’ which seems to fuel a trend in copyright enforcement company growth. It must be a big business now. Topping the list of reporting organisations within the last month is The multimedia copyright protection company – Degban Ltd and their number of notices follows the recent trend closely, putting them at the forefront of copyright owner representation. However, topping the list since Google starting reporting the statistics is Marketly llc who surprisingly only represents 2 Copyright Holders (reporting 2,972,512 URLs within 21,745 domains, compared with Degban’s 92 clients, reporting 2,403,531 URLs within 8,639 domains. The BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) Ltd comes at number three for the top reporting organisations, showing the recent trends in music piracy online, representing an impressive 270 copyright holders reporting 1,904,995 URLs within 262 different domains.

The recent trend in music piracy online is further proved when looking at the top copyright holders in the reports. First is the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. which represents EMI Music North America, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group and their associated record labels. The RIAA has had notices served against 1,565,247 URLs (at an average rate of 7,387 per week). The top 5 domains reported for infringement by the RIAA (does it seem remarkable that Youtube is not featured in this list?) …

downloads.nl
135,064
mp3searchy.com
96,922
pisamba.com
91,218
mp3skull.com 91,118
audiko.net 87,673

 

All Time Top 10 Copyright Infringement Reported Domains on Google

(11/08/12)

Domain Copyright Owners Reporting Organizations URLs Reported
1 filestube.com
1,062
418
867,070
2 extratorrent.com
521
176
275,195
3 torrenthound.com
531
185
267,916
4 isohunt.com
782
279
245,201
5 bitsnoop.com
691
293
244,591
6 kat.ph
730
230
231,001
7 torrentz.eu
778
354
229,407
8 4shared.com
380
138
195,601
9 zippyshare.com
428
87
185,622
10 filetram.com
634
211
182,327

Pingdom Service Alerts issues

Posted on June 21, 2011
Filed Under Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

Since around 19:35 Pingdom (the server/website monitoring service which took over from Paesslar earlier this year) is reported to be having hardware issues and is subsequently sending false positive site/server down emails to it’s users.

According to some users on Twitter, alerts are being dated as far back as up to 41 years ago (1970).

Pingdom posted on Twitter themselves at 20:22 saying “If your site was down anytime the last few hours, you will get delayed alerts now. Some timestamps may be incorrect though. :( Very sorry.” The troubles seem to have begun 5 hours earlier though, Pingdom posted “Our site is currently unreachable. Working on fixing it asap. Thank you for your patience. Monitoring continues regardless, though.” on Twitter, followed by “Hardware failure at our main datacenter so our site is unreachable. We’re working on it. Monitoring continues, so no data will be lost.”

On checking a server report ourselves we found that the service had falsely reported the server as ‘Down’ which does not do well for any uptime report that pingdom produces, it will be ‘in a nutshell’ and in some cases ‘wildly’ inaccurate. Meanwhile, Pingdom have been responding to Twitter users, who have been raising the issue with them on Twitter, with the message “Sorry about that. Explanation reg. alerts (not false, but bad timestamp): ” Sorry Pingdom but we have been seeing false alerts, just like the rest of your users.

Apart from the inaccurate uptime reports, some are reporting that the automated SMS alerts have cost them $$$

The thick plottens :s

Blocking Referrer Spam

Posted on June 20, 2011
Filed Under Server Security, Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

We’ve just been dealing with what can only be described as the worst case of Referrer Spam and Comment Spam on a client’s wordpress blog site today…

At first, one our support technicians went about trying to create a list of IP addresses to block that sent referrer strings to the wordpress blog, but soon realised that it was going to be a long and arduous job. We considered using mod_security to automatically monitor for referrers and create a block list based on 3 or more referrers within a given time period, but with the absolute deluge of referrer spam coming in (up to 5 per second on many occasions) it was decided that it may take up too much by way of server resources.

So we opted to simply block any request that contained a referrer string that did not match the site’s domain name, i.e. any referrer which did not come from the site itself was blocked. In this instance we decided to return a 403 Forbidden error which uses up 0bytes.

So, using a mod_rewrite rule we added the following to the site’s htaccess file …..


<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !myhdpackage.com
#RewriteRule .* %{HTTP_REFERER} [L]
RewriteRule .* - [F,L,E=spam:refspam]
</IfModule>

Obviously you would replace the “the-domain-name.com” part with your actual domain name.

So, here we are checking for any referrer, then checking if any such referrer string contains the site’s domain name and if so we let it pass (i.e. continue to load the page as usual), but if it does not match the site’s domain name then it is sent to a 403 Forbidden page. This blanket approach was the simplest way to stop this absolute deluge of referrer spam, it’s unfortunate that while in operation ti will also block any genuine referrer, but the site owner is prepared to live with that as a temporary measure, having just used up 3gb of bandwidth per day by this referrer spam, it’s a small price to pay. Once the attack, because it can reasonably be described as a Referrer Spam Attack, has subsided then the rule can be commented out (leaving it there for instant reactivation if necessary). In the mean time, a search for an up to date wordpress plugin that detects and blocks referrer/comment spam is on. For now this is one simple and complete solution to Stopping Referrer Spam.

We did consider redirecting any request with a referrer string to the referrer itself (wouldn’t it be nice to burn up their bandwidth in the same way that they were burning up this site’s bandwidth?), but in reality it would have led to the site and server being penalised/blocked by other servers. That is not desirable at all.

As for the comment spam, disabling comments for now was the first course of action, then preventing links to external sites in comments and a comment spam plugin was the way to go.

Testing the Referrer Spam Block

We can see what happens when a referrer string is sent int he request to the site by running the following from SSH:

curl -e "http://www.somesite.com/spamlink/" http://www.your-site.com

This will output the following (which is exactly what would be sent back to the bot/browser):


<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<html><head>
<title>403 Forbidden</title>
</head><body>
<h1>Forbidden</h1>
<p>You don't have permission to access /
on this server.</p>
<p>Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error
error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.</p>
</body></html>

You can test further to see that in the absence of a referrer string, or if the referrer contains the site’s domain name; the output will be the actual page requested.

Business Website Design and SEO

Posted on May 29, 2011
Filed Under Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

A presence on the Internet for any business is essential in this day and age, without it no business could completely succeed. Professional Business Website Design is subsequently an essential service to any business, not just those who operate an online business but also those who want to engage a worldwide audience and perhaps promote their business products or brands locally, nationally or internationally.

Website SEO is also an essential service, one which ensures that websites reach the top of search engine results for the content that they wish to deliver or their products or brands. Professional SEO is a service which will never die out, the fight for placements at the top of search enginge results will go on forever. Choose your Business Website Design service wisely, forget about those who promise the world and embrace those who are honest and give detailed advice and strategies. TamDigital.com is a website design service offering the full breadth of services to build and promote your website on the Internet, from inception to SEO.

Paypal Topup Card problems

Posted on September 29, 2010
Filed Under Billing and Payment Services, Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

As RBS clawed their way back into usual operations after suffering ‘technical issues‘ earlier this month, they are under pressure from clients as they suffer yet another issue with their pre-paid Visa card service, the Paypal Topup Card.

It was only a few weeks ago now that the Royal Bank of Scotland, who provides the Paypal Topup Card to Paypal clients, had some ‘technical issue’ which caused an excessive delay in payments made from customers’ Paypal accounts showing up on their card as available funds. Whilst it usually only takes around 24 hours (the quickest way to get cash from your Paypal account), clients who had made payments from their Paypal accounts on the Sunday had still not received the funds on their cards by the end of the Monday.

Now its happened again, payments sent from paypal accounts on this Sunday (27th September 2010) have still not been applied to the respective clients’ Paypal Topup Cards.

Reasons cited include things like, its Paypal’s fault, they have not provided the list of payments so we cannot apply them, or … its a technical issue. Funnily enough, one Paypal Topup Card telephone operator said yesterday that it is expected to be resolved by 8pm today (Monday), guess what time they close the customer service phone lines :)

Talking from experience in Banking, and knowing a little about where and how the payments service for the Paypal   Card is operated, I actually believe that there is some staffing/data input issue at the Royal Bank of Scotland’s payment processing centre in Milton Keynes. I’m more inclined to lean that way in thought as well given their decision last month (August 2010) to no longer accept any new applications for the Paypal Topup Card. That decision was accompanied by the decision to stop asking existing card holders if they would like to renew their expiring cards but to automatically issue a new and replacement card anyway.

It seems as though the user base for the Paypal Top up Card is bigger than they may have the resources to handle already.

UK Web Hosting on Facebook

Posted on May 5, 2010
Filed Under cPanel Web Hosting, Domain Hosting, Multiple Domain Web Hosting, PHP Hosting, PHP Nuke Web Hosting, UK Web Hosting Vouchers, Coupons, Codes and Offers, Web Hosting, WHM Hosting | Leave a Comment

Everyman Hosting (UK Web Hosting providers) are moving into the social networking scene with a push into Facebook and Twitter.

What follows will be a series of promotions for Facebook users – there will be a run of promotional discounts with coupon or voucher codes for UK Web Hosting products and services. Blog posts, news and messages will be posted regularly to the page as well, keeping you up to date on what is going on with Everyman Hosting.

Catch the early bird and add yourself to the Facebook page …

DoS-Deflate blocks numbers not IP addresses

Posted on August 5, 2008
Filed Under Denial of Service Attacks, Server Security, Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

We’ve seen a large number of problems with the impementation of the highly acclaimed (D)DoS-Deflate script which on occasions reads the netstat command incorrectly and subsequently blocks a single number instead of the IP address which exceeds the number of connections into the server on which it is installed. Please see http://deflate.medialayer.com/ to obtain the script and installation instructions.

This is purely down to the netstat command that DOS-Deflate uses, it does not account for some elements of the strings returned, particularly when the string ‘::ffff:’ that is added to http (port 80) connections.

To overcome this error a rewrite of the netstat command in the ddos.sh file (located in /usr/local/ddos directory if you installed in the default fashion). Line 117 reads…

netstat -ntu | awk '{print $5}' | cut -d: -f1 | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr > $BAD_IP_LIST

this should be rewritten to read as follows…

netstat -ntu | grep ':' | awk '{print $5}' | sed 's/::ffff://' | cut -f1 -d ':' | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr > $BAD_IP_LIST

NOTE: this command should be written on a single line, you should also check each character as selecting and copying can sometimes lead to different characters being pasted!

We use the sed command to replace the ‘::ffff:’ with nothing (an empty string), thus removing it.

A slight improvement to a widely used and highly acclaimed script :-)

The Web Hosting Affiliate Program ~ Affiliate Marketing

Posted on May 31, 2008
Filed Under Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

Affiliate Marketing, how ever long you have spent on the Internet either as a user, provider of some service or product or as a business, you will have heard of affiliate programs. They are in themselves a means of providing commission based earnings for affiliate scheme members. Wikipedia describes Affiliate marketing as a ‘web-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s marketing efforts.’

The Internet offers a huge audience to the budding webmaster and a huge earning potential as a consequence, apart from selling advertising affiliate programs offer another method of making large gains from web site visitors, perhaps a greater income can be derived from targeted or relevant affiliate marketing to the content of the web site. Affiliate programs do after all offer a larger earning per click/sale than mere display of advertising. Let’s say for example that your web site specialises in offering webmaster resources, related affiliate programs will return a greater return because your audience will have an interest in buying particular products such as web hosting, so a web hosting affiliate program would be a very good commission earner for you.

The popularity of affiliate marketing amongst affiliate program members dictates the most popular methods of commission earning, with commission on actual sales generated being the most widely used commission method (at around 80% of programs offering that).

Commission Methods

 With each Affiliate Program comes different methods of earning the commission on offer, and the various terms to describe those methods are often presented in abbreviated form which makes for some confusion:

CPS (Cost per Sale, AKA PPS – Pay per Sale) – Commission is earned from sales generated, this is usually the highest money earner and the vast majority of affiliate programs offer this due to its overall popularity.
CPA (Cost per Action or Cost per Acquisition, aka PPA – Pay per Action, aka CPL – Cost per Lead, aka PPL – Pay per Lead) – commission is earned from broader specification of action, including a purchase, submission of a form or information or some other interaction with the affiliate program advertising in place.
CPM (Cost per ‘Mile’, note that the Latin term Mile means Thousand and this abbreviation is normally seen as Cost per Thousand and therefore can also be CPT, aka PPI – Pay per Impression) – earnings are made each time the affiliate advertising is viewed one thousand times.
CPC (Cost per Click, aka PPC – Pay per Click) – earnings are made each time the affiliate advertising is click on (such an action would normally send the user to the advertisers’ own content).

Choosing the right affiliate program has to be determined by the best earning potential, CPS/PPS obviously offers that as the commission earned from a single sale is normally greater than the commission from showing a thousand of adverts look tiny. Hence the reason for its much wider use than CPM/CPA/CPC programs.

Tracking Methods

Tracking methods are very important because the Affiliate Program member wants to be as certain as possible that all referrals/clicks and impressions are properly recorded towards earning their commissions.

There are two common methods of tracking, Cookie/Session Tracking and IP Tracking. Cookie tracking is by far the most widely used and most reliable. We have all heard about Cookies in our Internet browsing experience, the site visited or advert displayed places a tiny file in the visitors browser cache allowing for tracking of the what the visitor sees and will see following the placement of that data. There follows another two methods from cookie tracking that are important to the affiliate, 1zst party cookies and 3rd party cookies. In the first instance, the cookie originates from the domain being visited, for instance, with CPS programs the cookie is normally placed after the user has clicked on the advertising and come to the advertisers’ own web space. Third party cookies are more unreliable as this involves a cookie from another domain being added while visiting the domain with the advert, in today’s software environment and with the plethora of AntiSpyware products freely available to the end user, third party cookies often get ‘tagged’ as being ‘undesirable’ by the anti-spyware software and therefore fail to actually get placed and used in the users’ browsing. This is another reason that CPS programs are more popular.

Cookies also have lifetimes – a date at which they ‘die’ and have no valid use any more. So the next important consideration should be to the life set for the tracking cookie, 12 months is obviously very good and 30 day cookies are obviously not much good.

Payment Methods and Intervals

Another consideration for the affiliate program member, how and when will they get paid? Its common to offer online payment services (such as Paypal) to complete payment, and given the very safe operation of these services and their very wide use in Internet sales and purchasing they are a decent enough way to go. Check/cheque and bank transfers are great but often suffer bank penalties as a result of currency conversion whereas online payment services will hold the earnings int eh currency they are paid in, giving the recipient the choice of what they do with it – pay for goods in that currency or convert to their chosen currency and transfer to their bank or pay for goods in another currency. Converting currencies and transferring to banks with online payment services is often cheaper than banking a foreign currency check/cheque.

Payment intervals can vary, with the huge rise in Internet fraud and crime, affiliate programs often want to account for the ‘golden period’ of a transaction – there is normally a 90 day period in which a payee can claw back their payment if they have some ‘valid’ reason to do so. So affiliate program members can often expect to have to wait for 90 days or more from the date of earning that commission to receiving payment. That blank period can be worrying at the start of their membership and earnings, but of-course once the earnings start to come in they continue in a subsequent fashion, and its better to have a safe earning than one that will be clawed back from them as a consequence of some charge back.

The Web Hosting Affiliate Program

Conclusion

Affiliate programs are the most widely used method to earn income from web site visitors, even shopping sites earn commission from targeted advertising from other or related sites owned by themselves or other companies.

To not get involved in affiliate programs is to not want to generate income from your web site and therefore be better equipped to build further develop your site and its place on the Internet.

There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as profit.

Blue Square House 2 NOC Outage

Posted on April 30, 2008
Filed Under Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

There was an extended outage for several web hosts and servers from approximately 12.40pm today caused by a problem with Blue Square House 2 NOC in Maidenhead, Berkshire, England.

The initial explanation from Blue Square House 2 NOC …

   At approx 12:40pm today we experienced an issue with one of our four
   UPS systems whilst carrying our routine testing which resulted in
   this one UPS system powering off.

   This caused a short brown out to approx 30% of customers equipment
   located in BlueSquare 2 & 3 as the unit powered off in an unusual
   way. The remaining three UPS systems took the load, and continue to
   provide power to the sites.

   Full UPS protection is in place and we are running as normal and our
   UPS vendors are on-site investigating with senior management.

   We aim to provide a further update within the next 3 hours.

   We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

Remarkable how an UPS system can get ……. interrupted.

Frontpage error – The version (unknown) of the server extensions you are trying to uninstall cannot be uninstalled with this tool. You must upgrade this virtual server to the current version, and then use owsadm.exe to uninstall

Posted on April 7, 2008
Filed Under cPanel Web Hosting, Frontpage, Web Hosting | Leave a Comment

Frontpage© to be really honest is the bane of web hosts. The idea is great, but it was ill-conceived where web hosting is concerned. Woes are so common its not fair to the end user or the web host, but answers to resolve those woes are equally common but remarkable poorly covered on the Internet so here are a few tips to resolving those woes without waiting for your web host to say ‘Sorry we may offer third party scripting and services but we cannot support them’ …

1. Number one rule of all things, Frontpage Extensions have a terrible habit of screwing up folder permissions, form the web root down to sub folders. Assuming that you are in the usual Apache/Linux web hosting environment, then you will have a web root folder called public_html and a symlinked folder called www (that folder doesn’t actually exist, its a ‘ghost’ of [sym link to] the public_html folder there to satisfy the age old www concept [put in the politest and simplest terms]).

So first, let’s look at the permissions for the public_html folder (forget the www folder for the moment) and make sure that it has 0755 set for its permissions and all sub folders therein – every folder (not file) should have 755 permissions set in and including the public_html folder or whatever your web root folder is called). In some cases, changing permissions on the www folder to 755 can have a better affect, so if changing the permissions on the public_html folder does not work then try that instead. NOTE: In some cases you may need to have folders with 777 permissions (this is a bad thing but sometimes necessary, if your server has SuExec or mod_suphp installed you will also need to change those to 755 permissions).

2. The biggest mistake is to think that when moving or restoring a site complete with the ‘special’ Frontpage folders will work fine, but it WILL NOT! The folders that are created when Frontpage is installed include …

_private
_vti_bin
_vti_cnf
_vti_log
_vti_pvt
_vti_txt

If you have copied or restored those then delete them now and then ‘clean up old frontpage extensions’ and reinstall front page extensions, otherwise you will see the following error message each and every time you try to uninstall them …

The version (unknown) of the server extensions you are trying to uninstall cannot be uninstall with this tool. You must upgrade this virtual server to the current version, and then use owsadm.exe to uninstall

… and the following error message each time you try to install them …

An access setup description is required when creating the root web

3. If these two options did not work then delete each and every .htaccess file in the web root and sub folders of the site having the problems (note any contents in case you have any settings of your own in the .htaccess files, such as redirects and mod-rewrite rules, add them back after you have successfully installed frontpage extensions). Remember also that if you delete any .htaccess files in any addon domain folders, you will have to reinstall frontpage extensions for that addon domain if used therein.

The solutions are fairly simple, its a shame that they are so poorly documented on the Internet but that’s purely born from the concept that ‘Microsoft wrote this stuff, they should provide the answer’. Hey, pee off the OS user en masse, what do you expect, a fan club?

 

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