Feeds

How to beat AVG's fake traffic spew

A header to save the internet

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Updated As the AVG LinkScanner continues to spew fake traffic across the internet, web masters say they've uncovered a reliable means of filtering these rogue hits from their log files.

Bundled with AVG's newest anti-virus engine, AVG 8, and used by roughly 20 million people worldwide, LinkScanner checks search engine results for malware before you on click them. If you type a keyword into Google, for instance, it automatically visits each address that appears on Google's results page.

This has caused an enormous spike in traffic on sites across the web, including The Register, and many webmasters may not realize where these hits are coming from. Hoping to fool malware writers, LinkScanner mimics real live human clicks. At least in part.

When scanning pages, LinkScanner employs the IP addresses of those 20 million people who use the product, and as of last week, it sends the same user agent as Microsoft's IE6 browser.

But there is a way of eliminating this fake traffic from log files - without clipping the real thing. Two separate webmasters have learned - through two different avenues - that an AVG request leaves out at least one HTTP header: the "Accept-Encoding" header, which defines what sort of compression a browser can handle.

Filtering or redirecting traffic according to this header (and the IE6 user agent) should do the trick - though AVG did not respond when asked for confirmation.

AVG has said "There are still ways for concerned web masters to filter LinkScanner requests out of their statistics." But it hasn't given specifics - at least publicly. And any fix may be temporary.

Part of the problem is that AVG won't put its cards on the table. But the company may worry that divulging too much information would feed the black hats. If a web master can identify AVG scans, so can a malware writer. But more on that later.

Meanwhile, web masters continue to complain that LinkScanner forces them to pay for extra bandwidth. But AVG has promised a fix for this problem as well. ®

Bootnote

Many Reg readers have asked why LinkScanner doesn't scans links after you click on them. But it does. It scans both before and after. AVG chief of research Roger Thompson argues that this two-layer approach guards against so-called zero-day exploits. If a site is infected with one piece of malware, there's a good chance it's infected with a second, he says, and if you prevent users from even clicking on a site, you protect them from exploits you see as well as those you don't.

Update

To avoid confusion, we've updated this story to point out that webmasters are filtering traffic by identifying both the missing HTTP header and the IE6 agent. It should also be noted that LinkScanner seems to be using two other user agents. But these are far less prevalent. At the moment, these are the three user agents the product seems to employ:

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 is the IE6 agent.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Kaspersky backpedals on 'done nothing wrong, nothing to fear' blather
Founder (and internet passport fan) now says privacy is precious
TROLL SLAYER Google grabs $1.3 MEEELLION in patent counter-suit
Chocolate Factory hits back at firm for suing customers
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Sit tight, fanbois. Apple's '$400' wearable release slips into early 2015
Sources: time to put in plenty of clock-watching for' iWatch
Ex-IBM CEO John Akers dies at 79
An era disrupted by the advent of the PC
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?