EFNet Spamtrap

A guide to EFNet’s spamtrap system for End Users

Stephanie (Triona) Daugherty

IRC Operator


Thanks to ^duck^, Beige, HndlWCare, wmono, Jupiter, jilles, and various other EFNet opers and #irchelp’ers for proofreading and feedback.:


Copyright © 2007

Table of Contents

Overview - What is Spamtrap?

How does spamtrap work?

How is privacy protected?

Will spamtrap mistake legitimate onjoin messages for spam? What do I do if I believe I’ve been banned unfairly?

The spamtrap collectors are annoying, how can I keep them out of my channel?

I’m having problems with spambots in my channel, Can spamtrap help?

Where can I find more information or support?

Overview - What is Spamtrap?

Spamtrap is a sophisticated, distributed system run by EFNet IRC Operators and Administrators to detect spambots. It helps EFNet detect and respond to spambots proactively - often before they would be detected by a user complaint or by server-level spam detection.

The system is flexible, and under constant change and improvement to improve detection rates and keep the system as unobtrusive as possible while maintaining our goals of protecting privacy, efficient use of resources, proactively catching spambots, and preventing false positives.

How does spamtrap work?

Spamtrap uses a set of honeypots that roam the network to bait spambots. Messages received by the honeypots (also referred to as “spam collectors”) are analyzed to determine if they are spam, and if so, what action should be taken.

How is privacy protected?

The spamtrap system only cares about messages and invitations specifically addressed to the collectors. Conversations within channels simply aren’t processed by the system.

Will spamtrap mistake legitimate onjoin messages for spam? What do I do if

I believe I’ve been banned unfairly?

Probably not. If this happens at all, it happens very rarely. We respect that channels may wish to legitimately use onjoin messages to convey information to their users, and recognize that such messages may legitimately contain URLs and similar information. Spamtrap has a number of measures to differentiate between legitimate onjoin messages and spam. There have been very few reports of false positives from onjoin messages, and we take all reports of false positives seriously.

All automaticly generated K: lines (bans) from the spamtrap system include a support URL with pointers to help and a tracking code that an IRC operator can use to find full details of what triggered the ban. Please include the full ban message when asking for help regarding a spamtrap K: line or G: line.

The spamtrap collectors are annoying, how can I keep them out of my


While we try to keep the system as unobtrusive as possible, our privacy obligations and the technical limitations of IRC itself mean that you will sometimes notice a spamtrap collector joining or leaving a channel. The last thing we want is to create a greater nuisance than the one we are trying to correct.

If you are a channel operator for a particular channel, there are a few possibilities.

As the main way we find channels to patrol is from /list, setting a channel +s and keeping it that way will usually stop the spamtrap system from checking that channel for spam. Unless the channel has been identified as a “priority channel”, the spamtrap collectors will stop coming within a few hours, and will leave the channel alone as long as it is +s. For many channels, this is the best solution, because it also makes it harder for spambots to find your channels.

If you don’t wish to set +s, or if the channel is already +s, you can ask for assistance in #spamfix, and we will discuss the matter and work with you to find a solution which may include excluding the channel from spamtrap or reducing the frequency with which spamtrap’s collectors join your channel.

While we can’t stop you from banning the collectors from your channels, we don’t recommend doing so because the hostmasks are changed constantly, and there are easier solutions described above.

I’m having problems with spambots in my channel, Can spamtrap help?

Remember that spamtrap only deals with spam that’s delivered privately. If the spam is happening in channel, spamtrap can’t help. Report any spambots you see to an IRC operator - preferably on the same server as the spambot.


Because spamtrap does not process channel conversations, it won’t catch spambots that join a channel and spam in the channel. We have other means of detecting these type of spambots, however, if you see one please report them to an IRC Operator or to #spamfix so that we can ensure they are addressed quickly.

If the spambots are using private message, notices, etc, an IRC operator may be able to adjust spamtrap’s settings for your channel to improve it’s effectiveness - if necessary we can force spamtrap to visit a channel more often.

If your channel is very small, or +s, spamtrap may not find it without help - if spambots plague such a channel, feel free to ask for assistance in #spamfix.

Where can I find more information or support?

To keep the system as effective as possible, we have to chosen to limit the available information. Spammers are known to use any information available to improve the effectiveness of their spambots. We already have seen dramatic changes in the way spambots on EFNet behave, and this can be attributed at least in part to the spamtrap system. Please understand that we do not wish to aid spammers in any way, and that we have to be vague in some of our descriptions and with the details we do release.

Also due to these concerns, we do not post any listing of the spamtrap collectors and their hostmasks or discuss their numbers, and we strongly discourage others from doing so - such lists make our efforts to fight spam more difficult, while providing little benefit to anyone, since we change the hostmasks constantly.

With that said, we maintain the #spamfix channel on EFNet for users to go for help with spam issues or issues with the spamtrap system.