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getting a bit technical here... but have you tried the 'honeypot' idea.... it's not perfect, but in combination with what you're already doing it might help a bit... if you google it there are lots of examples....

"Another technique I find to be working really well is the "honeypot" technique. I create a CSS-hidden input field with a delicious, attractive name "url" and then validate it to be empty."

Basically you add a field and hide it using CSS. Then on the server, you check that the parameter is empty. Apparently bots will fill all fields out as they can't tell if they're hidden. Normal users ignore it because they can't see it.

There are many variations. Might be worth a try.

Now back to drumming.... :roll:
hey Foxleg, thanks for the idea, I have used honeypot in the past for contact forms etc, but not on the forum yet, I'll keep it in mind while finding a solution.

Current state of play is I'm going to upgrade the forum software to the latest version and start from scratch on the registration counter measures.

Will keep you all informed.

I did a bit more research on this. There are hundreds and hundreds of forums that are affected by the same thing, and the spammers are humans. The person behind it all is a guy called Vance Miller, also known as the "Kitchen Gangster". He employs an army of people to post the spam. Apparently, much of it comes from Indonesia and China.

Unfortunately, automatic means are unlikely to stop the spam. But we have some ideas for how to stop it from making it through to the board. (That won't make the moderators' job any easier, but it will help to keep the spam from view, to some extent.)

what was done is that all new users are put into a new group where their new posts must first be approved by a moderator.

This has reduced spam to zero, though mods still need to delete the user.

We now have the possibility to delete them and report them to a centralised spamming database which we are using to reject their registration in the first place (this is new in the new forum upgrade, which I have just completed).