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Thread: Internet Security/Malware/Spam

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Webcron Seduced By The Dark Side


Chronogical Blog Entries:



Date: Tue, 16 Dec 2008 22:49:26 +1100

Many hosting services do not offer access to cron. Often this is because the hosting service has been setup as a cheap generic solution. Web-hosting providers that use Windows based solutions, don't have cron, of course. However giving individual accounts access to the Windows "Task-scheduler", would be even more unlikely, (not to mention difficult and problematic).

Webcron is a web-based product which purports to provide the functionality of the application owner's crontab. It solves the problem of not having access to cron, and in so doing fills a neat marketing niche. If you are seeking details about a PHP package that does this, read on. Because I have some interesting information about Webcron, which you might want to read before you sign up with one of their programs or give them your e-mail address.

I found out about Webcron when I received this email:

Headers:

From: "Webcron.org" <webmaster@webcron.org>
Subject: Webcron.org Utility for Webmaster
Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 15:48:39 +0100

Body:

The Online Crontab - Try it !

www.Webcron.org is a utility for webmasters. It allows you to launch any script installed on your webserver or shared hosting account at any time, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. It is a web-based implementation of the Crontab under Unix/Linux and the Task Scheduler under Windows.

* Launch jobs every 5 minutes
* Timeout up to 600 seconds
* Notification by Email, SMS or RSS feed
* Easy to use
* Only Euro 0.0001 Per Cron launch (30sec.)
* Support by Email, Skype and Forum

Use Webcron because...

...Your hosting provider does not allow you to schedule a cronjob
...You want to be sure your cronjob will be executed, and want to be notified if it doesn't
...You want an easy to use interface to schedule your tasks
...You want to use one interface to manage all your cronjobs
...You want to monitor your webserver
...You want to be notified on error only or after every execution


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There are a few claims in the above e-mail which may be exaggerated. However, the most most troubling thing about it is the poor web etiquette. It was sent in bulk from the IP address 62.193.248.42, which has the hostname wpc4184.host7x24.com, the same domain which provides the nameserver for Webcron.org. Needless to say I have never joined the mailing list, and if I had have I would not have given the email address that they sent it to.

In the early days of the Internet, the types of businesses that would opt for the quick method of broadening their web footprint with spam. were usually selling products and/or services that were dodgy, phony or outright criminal. In the past couple of years however, some businesses have foolishly resorted to spam to advertise legitimate products. In the case of Webcron, this choice might be due to a change in their sales and marketing strategy. According the website at Webcron.org:

Webcron.org evolves considerably! Created 7 years ago, we made some big improvements today. Find out more about the changements that has been made.

The team grew and we now offer support by Email or Skype (user: webcron). The forum can become a major source for support as well.

...

The downside of this improvements is the free account that will no longer be available.

Whether this spam has come about as they switched from a free model to commercial model or whether they have always employed spammers to advertise their wares, it was poor decision. In any case, it seems that the people who wrote Webcron do use spam to promote their product. Now in show business, there is a saying that there is "no such thing as bad publicity". However, this is not show business. And the type of publicity that you get by using spam is not the way to improve and expand a legitimate business.

Other evidence of Webcron spam can be found in the bubble.ro spam data base . (Note: for spambots, you can send your spam to spam@bubble.ro -- Humans beware! You are not advised to send email to that address).


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Copyright     2008, Gerry Patterson. All Rights Reserved.