Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The Working Life

I don't often blog about my job, and I don't really know why. Hatamaran and I stare at each other all day and toss jokes (and the occasional wadded up pieces of paper) at each other, so there's no end to the hilarity.

But a couple things noteworthy things happened today that are probably of no interest to anyone but I'm blogging them anyway.

I design and maintain websites for a major health system here in Knoxville. Hint: We own and operate five hospitals here and in the surrounding counties. Hint: We're not Baptist, St. Mary's or UT. You do the math.

Anyway, currently we have a promotion giving away free Holiday Survival Handbooks provided by our Behavioral Health division. There's an order/request form online that gets about 5-6 requests a day from people wanting us to send them a free copy - the majority of which come from in and around this area. All well and good.

I come in this morning, and overnight there are over 200 new requests for Handbooks. I check the email orders that are created, and the addresses are from all over the country. There are a few local ones, but most from everywhere else.

First of all I thought that maybe there was a national promotion, but a quick check with our Behavioral marketing reps nixed that idea. Then a closer look at the orders showed the forms were submitted every 3-4 minutes all night long - wee hours of the morning, even on the West Coast.

And they continued after I got to work this morning - one every 2 or 3 minutes. Each different from the other, each with a random name or address. My next immediate thought was a spam-bot, similar to those that send comment spam on blogs, but I can't figure out why....

The only reason would be to cause trouble, since there's no ad pitch, no marketing gimmick... It seems like someone wrote a program to submit names from a mailing list into the system. Something that I would think would require a bit of work, but hey, I'm the one with the real job.

So, along about 10:45 I pulled the webpage, replacing it with a "Down for Maintenance" message. The emails stopped in their tracks.

An hour or so later, I put it up again - the emails started right back up. So I pulled it again.

While this saves our servers from overuse, it keeps legit customers from requesting the books, which bugs me to no end. I'll probably try to put it up again closer to the end of the day and see what happens.

I just can't figure out why someone would want to do that, except to annoy me...

(looks around suspiciously...)

I'll write about the second thing later...

UPDATE (12/09/04): Well, I thought I had it beat. At 4:00 I reposted the page, and the emails started up again as if the bot was continuing to access the page continually. So I pulled it down, renamed all the files involved, changed the links on the referring pages, and reposted. This should stop it since, like all robots 'bots are stupid and only do what you tell them to do. In this case, go to this particular page and fill out the form with different names and addresses over and over.

So about 4:15 I posted the new page, and it stopped. That way legit customers could navigate their way to it and order, but the bot would by stymied. By the time I left at 4:30, nothing had come through.

This morning, (with human help, I suppose, or else it was designed for this kind of circumstance) it apparently found the new page and started submitting again. Much less often than before - only about 15 since 4:53 yesterday afternoon, and spaced apart very unevenly. I'll keep any eye on it and see what happens, but it's very annoying.

One of the entries was a local Knoxville address, and I'll have to make sure that order gets out...

No comments:

Post a Comment