Spammers and hackers: either word probably makes many of you shiver in disgust or in fear. We all know both spammers and hackers do things online that annoy and disturb people.

But they have different motives and take different actions.

Do you know the differences?

Spammers

clown-400

Spammers are clowns! Spammers want you to look at them and click on their stuff. Spammers send or post unsolicited messages online. Email is probably the most obvious method spammers use, but spamming can be seen in other places, too:

  • Blog comment spamming
  • Text/SMS spamming
  • Online forum spamming
  • Social media spamming

In this article I want to highlight the “blog comment spamming” issue as many people tend to confuse it with hacking. Comment spamming is simply done by posting unrelated comments to blog posts; the spammers are not breaking into your website.

Most of the time, spamming is done as a way of advertisement to get you to click to their site, while some people spam just to annoy.

What spammers do is find your comment box on your WordPress site, and leave junky comments so that the fooled person will think they are real and will click on their links, thereby driving more traffic to their spammy sites. 

They are easy to spot, cause they don’t have a picture.  See image below:

spammer comments

Although the spamming is not as serious as hacking, it’s a good idea to do what you can do to eliminate spam comments as much as possible. You do that by getting a Gravatar.com image, so when you comment online, people can see your face and know you are a real person.  This post on “How to Avoid Looking Like Spam” shows you a simple thing (that’s free)  you can do to avoid being mistaken for a spammer.

So if you get spam comments in your WordPress site, all you need to do to deal with the comment spam is to delete them (which is a very easy thing to do in WordPress). You can even take advantage of WordPress plugins to easily deal with spammy comments (See this post on “How to Reduce Spam Comments” for more information on using plugins for this.).

Hackers

thief

Hackers are thieves!  They want to steal or destroy something. In the computer security world, hacking means gaining unauthorized access to a computer/system/network. Basically, hackers “crack” the code to access areas of the system where they are not supposed to go in. Once they are in, they often proceed to do things like:

  • insert links on web pages
  • insert web pages
  • make the system vulnerable
  • use the system to publicize a political message
  • drop a malware on your site to spread infection

Sometimes hackers do it for non-malicious reasons such as testing (ex. white hat/blue hat hackers). But we all need to watch out for hackers as their motives are, in many cases, not out to help you.  I take website security very seriously!  I have a specific training program on Website Security for folks who already know the basics of WordPress.  In addition, here are a couple of tools I recommend to my Website Creation Workshop students to make sure their WordPress sites are as secure from hackers: iThemes Security, BackupBuddy and Wordfence Security.

But the #1 thing you can do to avoid hackers, is to have STRONG PASSWORDS, and to keep your WordPress Website up to date!  (Go here for the steps to update your WordPress website)

clown-400thiefSo once you understand the difference between spammers (the clowns) and hackers (the thieves) you will not worry when you get a spammy comment in your WordPress website.

You will know that your site has not been hacked, but instead just has a simple spam comment that you can delete.