AVG caves to Webmasters

Wanton link scanner cut down.

The deluge of false traffic triggered by the LinkScanner Search-Shield component of AVG anti-virus will dry up after the company axed its Web trawling function.

AVG was berated by furious Webmasters who likened the scanning functionality of Search-Shield to a Denial of Service (DoS) attack.

The component, built in to Version 8 of the popular anti-virus program, scans all results returned by Google for malware, effectively hitting at least 10 Web site pages for every search query.

The company came under fire after Webmasters reported a surge in zombie Web site hits, including broadband forum Whirlpool.net.au which claimed it was attacked with more than 700 hits a minute. The Web site urged users to remove the product and joined others in redirecting burdensome Search-Shield queries to the AVG home page.

IDG Australia, the publisher of Computerworld, was also hit by multiple requests.

Wikipedia-watch.org, self-appointed watchdog of Wikipedia.org, claimed a test of LinkScanner returned 600 complete pages without images in three minutes, including "230 downloads of the home page and 370 downloads of deep pages averaging 50Kb each".

Users said the technology was irresponsible, however effective, because it chewed up the bandwidth of legitimate Web sites to protect AVG users.

One user likened the methodology to smashing a nut with a sledgehammer.

In less than 11 weeks, the fake Web site hits caused by Search-Shield reached a number expected by AVG to be produced over 34 months. AVG reported about 5 million downloads of the AVG Free version 8.

The company has released an updated version of AVG, modified to prevent Search-Shield from scanning unvisited Web sites.

Local marketing manager Lloyd Borrett said the updated version is available for download now and will also be pushed out in a release cycle.

"Our number one support issue with respect to LinkScanner prior to this was Webmasters accusing us of falsely saying their web site was infected," Borrett said.

"Yet 99 percent of the time such accusations were raised, we've been right so far."

The scanner renders more than 1 billion verdicts a week, according to AVG, which includes one infected Web page per 43 searches.

"While this has affected Web traffic analysis and marketing analytics on a handful of sites, we are dedicated to protecting our users with the best technology on the market today while at the same time not being disruptive," AVG wrote in a statement. "AVG will issue a product modification to address the spikes that a few individuals have seen with their Web traffic."

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