The sites that keep on giving

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I used to have a server and hosted several friends, each of whom contributed to the upkeep. It was fun having the server, but a lot of work, too, so eventually I moved back to my current host, Hosting Matters.

I still hosted most of the folk through a re-seller account, but my finances can be iffy at times, and didn’t want people dependent on me when I may not be that accessible. So I helped the folks move — either to other resellers at Hosting Matters, or accounts elsewhere. One person was going to move to a Blogspot position, but she never did return–she was getting tired of the weblogging scene towards the end. I miss her.

I still have one person hosted at; normally a quiet person who didn’t take up too many resources. He’s had situations at home that have required all of his attention so his posting has been infrequent, but that’s okay. After all, we don’t need to monitor a dormant site.

Well, we never used to have to monitor a dormant site.

During my recent cleanup, I checked my bandwidth use and was astonished to see how much bandwidth had been used this month. Further checking showed that my friend’s site was hammered, badly, about a week ago and the high bandwidth use was still ongoing.

Well, after considerable research I think I found the reasons: hotlinking and a malicious attack. At least I have to assume it’s a malicious attack, associated with, but may not be arising from, forums at I say may not be arising from, because anyone can fake a referer from any location. And I say malicious, because I’ve never seen a referer spammer that obsessive with one site, to hit continuously.

I’ve since put a ban on anything from the one site, as well as a ban on hotlinking. I’m now running an active monitor on the logfiles for the site to see if the problem re-occurs.

It used to be when we’d take a break from our spaces that, as long as comments were turned off there wouldn’t be much of a concern about the site just sitting. Unfortunately, those days are over. Hotlinking is becoming more and more of an issue, as more and more people join forums, each wanting their own cute icon and, thanks to search engines, finding and picking images from your site. Then there are those from, who hotlink with the best of them, as Scott from Random Choas recently discovered.

More than hotlinking, though, referer spam is really becoming an issue. It wouldn’t seem like anything other than a nuisance, but as the experience with my friend’s site demonstrates, out of control spam applications or malicous behavior can quickly push a site’s bandwidth use above even that generated by a direct Slashdot link.

So what’s a person to do if they host their own pages but want to, or have to, take a break? How do you counter increasing abuse of our systems by outsiders who are ignorant, rude, greedy, or outright malicious, yet still keep the pages open for those who actually want to access our pages to read them?

I don’t know, but I imagine I’ll learn more about the problem as I continue to monitor log files.

(PS: if you haven’t looked at your bandwidth use recently, I suggest doing so on a daily basis now.)

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