Web analytics, AVG couldn’t care less
Grisoft have recently released the latest version of their AVG virus scanner, version 8. Back in December 2007 Grisoft purchased LinkScanner, this tool scans websites before the user has visited them. For example, when the user surfs Google, the tool will scan all results on the page even if you only decide not to visit any of them thus generating much fake traffic. The latest version of AVG has incorporated this piece of technology which is excellent for the home user who will gain greater protection from viruses. However, for a webmaster this isn’t an advantage.
OSBlues were one of the first to notice the issue when one of their clients noticed a sharp increase in traffic, an analysis of the log files showed that the increase in traffic was mostly from Google. Eventually it was worked out that the user agent “Mozilla/4.0+(compatible;+MSIE+6.0;+Windows+NT+5.1;1813)” was causing the trouble. After a search on Google there was a connection with AVG, which was then worked out to be ‘LinkScanner’.
Some webmasters have found ways to block the user agent and feed it blank pages to avoid wasting bandwidth, however some of the agents shouldn’t be blocked as it could also be blocking real users. AVG wants to avoid this sort of problem, eventually they may not even include an out of the ordinary user agent so that there will be no way to block the scanner. An estimated 70 million users run AVG on their PC. Of these 20 million have upgraded to the latest version, this means there are already 20 million users who are unknowingly causing web logging confusion among webmasters and increasing websites bandwidth usage. For the large website, bandwidth isn’t an issue, although for smaller sites extra bandwidth can be costly. However, the main emphasis is on the skewing of data recorded, there is a lot to be gained from analysing real traffic.
OSBlues have been attempting to clear the issue with AVG as a passionate believer in log file analysis. They contacted Pat Bitton, Head of Communications and received this response,
“…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…”
They have also worked out a way of defending against LinkScanner. As time goes on and more webmasters start to feel the adverse effects of LinkScanner then AVG will eventually back-down we suspect to keep their reputation. After all, there are 50 million users yet to upgrade to version 8… that’s a lot of fake traffic.