Have you seen these kinds of comments on a blog lately: “Wow, Thats kinda crazy when you think about it dude” or “Wow, this really does make a lot of sense dude. Wow.” Usually it’s followed by a link to a site like www.net-privacy.at.tc, www.anonymize.edu.tc or www.anon-tools.tk. Virtually every high profile tech site on the Internet that allows comments is currently full of messages like these. Of course, comment spam is nothing new, but these guys are not only targeting high-profile sites – their comments actually make it onto these sites with alarming regularity and most are never removed by the site owners.
Given how frequently these messages pop up these days, I decided to take a closer look at who is behind them.
Easily Wowed Commenters: WemiZemi, KemiPemi and YemiYomo
Usually, they are left by commenters with names like WemiZemi, who left no less than 17 spam comments on Mashable in the last few days, as well as 14 on TechCrunch and another 14 on Engadget. Similar spam comments also appear on ReadWriteWeb, Wired, WinRumors, Clicker.com, Robert Scoble’s blog and social media sites like Reddit and Digg. The name of the commenters changes every few days (last week it was KemiPemi and YemiYomo). Most of the comments are of the “That’s kinda crazy when you think about it dude” variety, but some are also clearly geared specifically towards the article the spammer is commenting on. Chances are then, that this isn’t just bot-driven spam.
From an SEO perspective, these links probably don’t help much. Links in comments today are generally tagged with nofollow or just rendered as plain, unlinked text, so search engines simply ignore it.
So what’s the company behind all of this comment spam? All the link go to identical sites that advertise a product called “Ultimate Privacy.” The company behind this site – Cyber Solutions – promises a “complete privacy and anonymity solution,” including anonymous email, anonymous web surfing, private chat, secure file storage, anonymous blog posting and commenting, as well as anonymous snail mail. According to the site, the company’s business address is in Winter Haven, Florida (in a strip mall right across from a Wal-Mart).
Subscriptions to this “service” start at $24 for 3 months up to $58 for a lifetime membership. Depending on which version of the site you arrived at, the lifetime membership is either there to celebrate the 13th or 14th birthday of the site (the domain name was indeed registered in 1997 and Archive.org first indexed the site in 1998). Payments are handled by PayPal or through the site’s own credit card form.
Image by داود via Flickr
While the spam sites are usually registered to .tc or .tk addresses, the sites sooner or later load content from www.ultimate-anonymity.com (a site registered in São Paulo, Brazil) – including the checkout page. Besides comment spam, the company’s representatives also like to post what I can only assume are fake reviews of their own product.
Who is Doing the Spamming? Probably not Resellers
In the past, Cyber Solutions has argued that it’s the company’s resellers that are involved in spamming. It’s possible that this was the case in the past. Today, however, I can’t find any referral links in their URLs, so it’s hard to imagine that the company – which doesn’t even seem to have an affiliate program – isn’t involved in spamming all of these blogs itself.
But What About Their Awesome Privacy Product?
Wonder if the site is legit? I couldn’t quite get myself to pull out my credit card and sign up, but here are a few things that make me distrust their product: The testimonials on the site, including ones from PC Today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the long defunct PC Computing magazine. Breaking news updates on the site are between one and three years old.
Complaints about the site and its comments spam are nothing new. Indeed, there is a whole blog just dedicated to tracking the works of Cyber Solutions/Ultimate Privacy. Quite a few of the complaints argue that the software Cyber Solutions offers is either old, doesn’t work or available for free elsewhere.
I contacted Cyber Solutions for a comment, but never heard back.
Say Hello to WemiZemi and Friends
So the next time you see WemiZemi and one of his friends spam your favorite blog’s comments, you can rest assured that this company has long established its credentials as a prolific comment spammer since the days of USENET – and then please go ahead and delete those comments.