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June 20, 2009

Preventing Contact Form Spam //

When I moved the Notebook site over from the domain over to this one, one of the things I wanted to do was rebuild the contact form from scratch and integrate it into the base Movable Type install that manages things behind the scenes.

That was a fairly simple process overall and using a bit of PHP, jQuery and Ajax magic, I built the form so that it works whether Javascript is enabled in the browser or not. Unobtrusive progressive enhancement — it’s good. You should try it.

Where I ran into a problem though was that all of a sudden bots were going to town on the form and I was getting all kinds of spam through the form, despite work put into preventing that at the start — e.g. ensuring the form would only accept local requests from the same domain, using secret server-level key validation, etc.

Ultimately what proved to cure the problem: give the fields unusual names. If you have a field that collects a person’s name, don’t name it “name” or an email address, “email”. Bots look for that and can easily exploit it.

Truth be told: I knew this. Maybe you already do too, but an occasional reminder never hurts.

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