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Missing The Point
Monday 16th June, 2008 14:41 Comments: 1
One of the top articles at The Register for the last few days has been this one about AVG. Six months ago, AVG acquired Exploit Prevention Labs and its Linkscanner tool. The tool, which has now been rolled into AVG's anti-virus engine, automatically scans search engine results before you click on them. AVG 8 apparently scans search results on Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Live Search.

I can understand the problem of additional traffic (it does cost money, it does increase load on a server), and I agree with the argument that a decent tool should be able to identify problems when the user loads the page (rather than being quite so proactive, which may itself cause problems if there's a flaw in the scanning engine that can be exploited to perform remote code execution). I can also guess how painful it is when the user needs more than 10 links to be checked, such as when doing advanced searches with lots of results (then again, I've never been a fan of proactive web browsing/web accelerators, perhaps because I have so many things on the go). What I don't like is when people say stupid things.

Barry Parshall, director of product management at WebTrends, said: "I completely get the value proposition [of Linkscanner], but it would be responsible of them to identify themselves, with agent code or whatever it might be, so legitimate businesses can serve their customers properly."

It is clear that Barry, like many of The Register readers that left comments on the article, doesn't realise that anything used to distinguish AVG's tool from a normal user can therefore be (ab)used to hide malicious code until the user visits the page with a browser. The only way to avoid that from happening is to make the browser string indistinguishable from anti virus tools! This is something that wasn't mentioned until "Dan" left the 48th comment.

As much as I like free speech, there are definitely times when people shouldn't be allowed to state their opinions. It's even worse on the BBC News and Sky News sites. If you like reading uninformed opinions, extremist views and general gibberish, you might want to try The Twat-O-Tron.
Avatar Fab - Thursday 19th June, 2008 23:55
Well some of those comments speculated about some of the benefits of the new tool. IE. Websites paid for more hits and as a potential way of defeating Phorn like technology. I have it running on my system and I have no problem with it. It might make google half a second slower, but that really doesn't fuss me. It is a tool that benefits the user, not the companies or the spammers, therefore it is doing its job well.
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