AVG LinkScanner Updates User Agent

The Register are running a further follow up article “AVG disguises fake traffic as IE6“, which states that AVG are now using a “new” user agent for the paid version of AVG’s LinkScanner.

This has been confirmed by Roger Thompson in the AVG Webscanning Google Group, to which I’m a member.  When asked if it was true Roger said –

..Yes, it’s true, but it’s not quite what it seems. It was a planned
service release that was already in the works when we found out about
the issue, and fixed some other critical issues at the same time.

It changes the User Agent string to SV1, but it leaves some of the
other request headers so that they’re different enough that you can
still parse them out of stats if you want to..

I personally don’t really see this as a “new” user agent, as I’m already filtering my logs for this one.  From what I’ve read, this is the original agent used by LinkScanner before they were purchased by AVG, so it’s already mentioned in my initial AVG log spam post.

That aside, it’s still not a great move from AVG at this point.  They are supposed to be working with the community (myself included) to resolve this from a webmasters point of view, switching (well mixing in another) user agent at this point is a little silly.

At this point I need to credit Michael Ducy who tipped me off this change yesterday, he however claims it’s affecting the free version also –

AVG changed the user agent with the latest release. They now use “Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1)”. I confirmed this by downloading and installing AVG free this morning and using wireshark to sniff the traffic.

The saga continues..

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Invited to join closed AVG discussion group

Over the weekend, I had an email from Karel Obluk at AVG inviting me to a Google Group they have set-up for discussions around the AVG logfile spam issue.

..I would like to invite you to participate in a group dedicated to discussion
about AVG LinkScanner technology, its advantages as well as potential impact
on web sites, the nature of recent web threats and ways of protecting both
users and web masters. Your input and feedback will be highly appreciated.
The group is closed and by invitation only..

I have accepted the invite but unfortunately now have to be re-approved as I used a different email address (my Google account).

Hopefully we’re getting somewhere on this issue.

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AVG confirms Adwords unaffected

El Reg have a follow up article AVG fake traffic spares Google AdWords confirming that LinkScanner does not ‘click’ Adwords links, it follows them but parses out the ‘real’ URL behind the sponsored link.

The article fails to mention if this is true for all PPC providers though.  I know clients who’ve seen an increase in Yahoo!/Overture spend since this came about.

Anyone have any further clarification?

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AVG’s Roger Thompson gets in touch

I’ve had a response from Roger Thompson overnight

Hi Adam,

Thanks for your thoughts and offer. I’ve passed this along to our product managers. They are really the right guys to coordinate this.

Sorry for the delay in replying … we’re a bit busy. 😉

Cheers

Roger

Let’s hope this means things are moving from the AVG end and we might get somewhere with sorting this mess.  I’m not holding my breath though.

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Social bookmarks on hosted wordpress

Earlier today, I realised I was missing out an all the social media hoohah by not having nice links at the bottom of my posts. You know the ones, add to this, post to that, etc.

So, I googled for something to achieve this (on wordpress.com rather than self-hosted) and came across a pretty nifty solution here. This involves keeping a template file and fiddling about doing a search and replace in a text editor and pasting the result back in to your post. You obviously have to remember to do this for each post you write. Although this is a perfectly good solution, I’m a bit lazy and thought I’d see if I could come up with something a bit quicker.

I decided to see if I could use a GreaseMonkey script to do it. After much fiddling, I’ve come up with this

Social Bookmarks Preview

My script inserts an extra section between the post body and the tags section. When you click the heading it generates a block of HTML using Archgfx’s template mentioned earlier.

Social Bookmarks in hosted wordpress

You can then click in the newly inserted textarea, copy the code and paste it in to your post (HTML view, add to the bottom of your post).

This is the first GreaseMonkey script that I’ve written so it’s not going to be that ‘elegant’, suggestions for improvement are appreciated.

I plan to make improvements to it when I get a chance so keep an eye out here for updates.

You can grab the script here (you’ll obviously need to install GreaseMonkey to use it!)

I’d like to get it to insert the code directly in to the textarea, but my knowledge of hacking tinyMCE is pretty much non-existent.

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Automatically generated wordpress links

What do we think about these?

I mean, I can see the advantage of them and in fact I’m seeing visitors to some of my posts from other peoples auto-generated lists, but mostly their not that relevant.

Possibly Related?
This is a brilliant example, the above are supposedly related to my “My name in lights” post, one is a link to someone talking about how nice a Lemon cake looks, one is a poem, and the other (shock horror) is a guy who’s just seen his name on the board to his local church. They all mention the word “name” and “lights” but that hardly makes them relevant!

Do I turn them off and lose some visitors but gain control of my links?

I’m going to monitor this, but generally not impressed with this feature so far 😦

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Contact from AVG

I’ve had a response from Pat Bitton (Head of Global Communications) at AVG, who I emailed earlier following their comment on The Register.

…we’ve been working since then to
figure out exactly was going on and how we might fix it with the best
results for everyone. Your offer to assist is much appreciated, and I’m
copying this reply to Roger Thompson* so he and his team can contact you
directly…

So, it looks like we’re getting somewhere and hopefully this’ll mean a change to the way LinkScanner operates to keep webmasters and site owners happy.

* Chief of Research at AVG and designer of LinkScanner while serving as CTO of Exploit Prevention Labs

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