Crypto Spam Attacks on Fediverse
Starting around 8 May 2023, we began to receive reports that Mastodon Social was being inundated with crypto spam.
Initially, it appeared that only Mastodon Social, and then Mastodon World, were impacted. In each case we Limited the instance and made a site-wide announcement. As the issue progressed, it became clear that more instances were being targeted for this same style of crypto spam. As a result, we have decided to change our communication strategy to utilize this blog post as a source for what’s happening and who is being impacted, rather than relying on increasingly frequent site-wide announcements.
As it stands: right now we have seen waves of spam from Mastodon Social, Mastodon World, and now TechHub Social. These waves usually mean that we receive over 100-200 reports in less than a few hours. (By contrast, we usually receive ~20 reports per week.)
What this means for Hachydermians (and Mastodon users in general)
Spam attacks seem to make use of open federation to either find accounts to misuse follow/unfollow behaviors, DMs, comments, and other invasive behaviors. In general, Limiting a server is sufficient for mitigating the impacts of these behaviors. Limiting means that Hachydermian’s posts no longer show up in the Federated feeds of impacted instances, which means that bots can no longer use the Federated feed as a vector for malicious behavior. While this is a good thing and means that these bots will no longer be able to spam Hachydermians, the Limit works both ways. This means:
- The posts for Limited instances will no longer show up on the Federated feed
- You will receive approval requests for all accounts on Limited instances
- User profiles will appear to have been “Hidden by instance moderators”
The UI messages for the latter two are a little difficult at times to determine what it means. Essentially, you will see the same message for a user to follow you from an instance that’s been Limited, and for you to view their profile page, as you would if we had only Limited that specific user.
For users on the impacted instances, these messages should not be taken as the individual user has engaged in any sort of malicious activity. In general, when we see individual-level malicious activity, we suspend federation (block) the individual user rather than Limit them. Instead, these messages are only a consequence of us needing to Limit the servers while they are doing their best to manage the spam attacks they are undergoing.
The impacted instances
We are maintaining the list of instances that we are Limiting as a result of the current crypto spam attack here. Note that this is not all instances we currently have Limited for any reason, only the ones that are experiencing this specific scenario. We will continue to announce when new instances are added to this list via our Hachyderm Hachyderm account and link back to this blog post. Instances that are no longer impacted will be un-Limited and removed from the list below. (When the list is empty, that means that all instances have been un-Limited.)
Update 25 May 2023 - we’ve been crypto spam free from Mastodon Social and Mastodon World, so we’ve gone ahead an un-Limited those instances.
Update 2 Jun 2023 - we’ve been crypto spam free from TechHub Social, so we’ve gone ahead and un-Limited that instance! That’s the last one, so this incident is resolved.