MyBroadband: Race question was the only way

Tweeters responded in anger after a 2OceansVibe story was circulated reporting that MyBroadband.co.za was asking users to "select the white name" from a list of suggestions when registering on the site's forum, which allows you to comment on its articles. 

As a security question, the site asked users to pick out the white name and surname, with options including Thabo, Mandisa, Gert, Mandela, Sexwale, Venter and Zuma.

Rudolph Muller, editor of MyBroadband, said the site was trying to weed out human spammers and had very few options at its disposal.

"We've been trying to stop spammers. It's a question to prevent international spammers from registering on the site and spamming people, and one has to be quite clever in doing this. We need to find questions that South Africans will find easy to answer, but are difficult for most in South-East Asia – where most spammers are from," he said. 

"For two months we've been trying different types of questions to see what would work. We have asked people to send through recommendations, and it's not easy to come up with something. For example, asking which is the biggest city with the options of Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Port Elizabeth will be easy to google," he said.

Muller explained that the question needed a cultural understanding to be answered correctly, which was why the race-based question was effective in keeping spammers at bay. Another requirement was that finding the answer needed to be time consuming.

"Such a question is not easy to put into a search engine and answer. It has taken spammers four days to crack this, which is incredible. Other options have yielded in a matter of minutes or hours," he added.

'Ways other than race'
When asked why the word "white" was used, instead of a South African language, Muller said it proved too easy to crack.

"Unfortunately, asking people to identify an Afrikaans or Xhosa name, for example, proved too easy for spammers to solve."

But the editor explained that there was another option that worked effectively. 

The one other question that did seem to give positive results included an answer in scrambled letters. But the question had to be phrased in such a way that it would not be searchable and could only be obvious to South African users. 

An example Muller offered was a question such as "where is the mountain?", with the answer – Cape Town – scrambled. The answer should be recognisable to a South African and not easy to decipher by someone with little to no knowledge of the country. The question as it stands is also not ideally searchable. 

Muller said the questions were not permanent and would change as more options became available. He also pleaded with the public to offer better options that could be just as effective.

"We are looking for ways other than race and if anyone has an idea, please let us know. This is just the most effective way right now."

Muller added he was disappointed that 2OceansVibe did not ask the site for comment before publishing its story. 

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Deshnee Subramany
Deshnee Subramany is our loudest employee. After slogging through various positions in marketing, advertising, radio – and a cow suit – Deshnee finally found her way to the M&G as a content producer in 2010, and was then forced to grow up by filling the position of day editor of the website. Sometimes she puts on her radio voice and guest-hosts the M&G Newsroom.If she was a superhero she would be called the Feeding Frenzy. Her passion is South African politics and revolutions. This comrade loves setting her world alight by discovering new ideas and people, and isnt afraid to laugh the loudest.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Latest stories

Spaza shops take centre stage in township economy

Consumers living in such areas are spending more at spazas than big retailers, according to a report

PODCAST| Monkeypox: How it spreads, when to test and why...

The smallpox vaccine provides 85% protection against infection with monkeypox, but South Africa stopped vaccinating people against smallpox in 1980

Nike x Jacquemus collab: What to expect

The Nike x Jacquemus collaboration drops on Tuesday 28 June online. So far, no ludicrously tiny handbags in sight, but luxurious feminine twists on activewear that make this the collection you didn’t know you needed

Test cricket is dead, but not for the eager Proteas

Even before the demise of this format of the game was predicted, the women’s team had little opportunity to experience and enjoy it
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×