AVG LinkScanner pretends to be IE6, screws up analytics

Speaking of Internet Explorer, AVG has been disguising as Internet Explorer to visit websites. Web developers and webmasters aren’t too pleased. AVG’s LinkScanner is estimated having to be downloaded by more than 20 million people. The LinkScanner attempts to disguise itself as a real live human click claiming itself to be Internet Explorer 6. It just screws up web analytics.

AVG disguises fake traffic as IE6

…webmasters who rely on log files for their traffic numbers may be unaware their stats are skewed. And others complain that LinkScanner has added extra dollars to their bandwidth bill.

…(Paid AVG) appears that scans now use these agents as well:

  • Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)
  • User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)
  • User-Agent: Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1;1813)

…the first agent is by far the most common. Which is bad news for webmasters. That’s also the Internet Explorer 6 user agent. Unlike the other two – and the original “1813” agent – it’s a perfectly valid agent that may turn up with real clicks.

AVG’s chief of research Roger Thompson says the for-pay LinkScanner is only using the IE6 user agent

In an effort to fix this problem, one web master advocates redirecting AVG scans back to AVG’s site. “Many webmasters simply tell LinkScanner to scan AVG’s site instead, so their site gets marked as malware free every time – while AVG gets handed the extra bandwidth cost,” says the webmaster of TheSilhouettes.org.

But this assumes that AVG is using a unique agent. And at the moment, it’s not. The send-it-back-to-AVG method may redirect legitimate clicks as well.

Which gets to the heart of the matter: AVG’s security philosophy is fundamentally at odds with webmaster peace of mind. The company wants to scan search results, and it wants to scan them in a way that’s difficult to distinguish from real traffic. “In order to detect the really tricky – and by association, the most important – malicious content, we need to look just like a browser driven by a human being,” AVG chief of research Roger Thompson has told us.

And if that causes problems for webmasters, Thompson says, so be it. “I don’t want to sound flip about this, but if you want to make omelets, you have to break some eggs.”

Clearly, the company doesn’t fully realize the importance of web analytics.

“In order to make an omelet you have to crack some eggs. But a good omelet has cheese, ham, peppers, mushrooms and all sorts of other ingredients which AVG seem to have forgotten about.”

But AVG continues to say it’s working to solve the problem – including the bandwidth issue. Referring to LinkScanner’s new IE6-like user agent, Thompson told us, “We intend to leave those in place until we can find the right balance point which will allow us to continue to provide the best possible protection for our customers, without imposing too much extra bandwidth on websites.” (Source: The Register)

[ad#highlight]

I was reading what the chief of research had to say – “If you want to make omelets, you have to break some eggs.” Sir, that’s just a nonsensical comparison, when you break eggs, you don’t get your neighbors to pay for them.

Bandwidth is a clear issue. It is not free. This solution is another example of how innocent parties are penalizes just because of a tiny number of visited sites infected with malware.

(By the way, I go around disguised at GoogleBot as my user agent. But that won’t hurt your bandwidth, I have reasons for doing so.)

AVG Free 8 installs useless crap, thanks!

I use AVG Free on my Windows XP virtual machine. I installed 3 Windows XP the past 2 days and I am damn familiar with installing antivirus software AVG after a while. I always customize my installations and AVG forces me to install AVG Safe Search and there is no option to opt out. It’s unfortunate that AVG seem to be more and more reluctant to offer transparent software.

AVG Safe Search not working in Firefox 3

Yes, I use Firefox 3, but at least I should be able to uninstall a plugin that I don’t want right? Stopping malicious links should be browser’s job anyway.

On a side note, it is harder to find AVG Free these days as compare to a year ago. Kinda reminds me of Real Player back then where they keep putting their free player in the most obsure location. I rather go exploring new lands on Earth than find that bloody button.

Gridsoft appears to follow suit and hide the link of AVG Free. They offer AVG Internet Security for download but there it doesn’t tell you that you have to pay till you reach this checkout page. AVG Free is still no where to be found in the homepage it appears.

[ad#highlight]

So where can you get AVG Free then?

http://free.grisoft.com/