AVG disguises fake traffic as IE6

Where's the ham and cheese?

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 - or some other identifier. 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. "Web analytics is about finding trends which can help online marketers/webmasters improve things for their visitors and their businesses," says Steve Jackson, co-chair of the International Web Analytics Association. "It's a big part of the whole online ecosystem in a fast growing up industry.

"No-one wants spyware or viruses, and AVG does provide a useful service which is getting better all the time. I wish, however, they would take business needs into account before launching software that makes life even more difficult for the people trying to do the analytics. Web analytics is not easy at the best of times, and this kind of thing from AVG just compounded the problem.

"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. In saying there are still ways that webmasters can filter LinkScanner hits from their log files, 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." ®

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