AVG Addressing Web Site Scanner Woes

Security firm AVG Technologies is addressing problems with its LinkScanner to address complaints from Web masters.

Responding to complaints from Web masters, AVG Technologies is moving to fix a problem with the LinkScanner feature it added to its antivirus software to prevent the component from eating up bandwidth during Web site scans.

According to company officials, AVG has already patched the component in the free version of its security software, Anti-Virus Free Edition 8.0, and is slated to release a fix for the paid version of its product July 8.

The feature, which AVG got when it acquired Exploit Prevention Labs in December, had drawn the ire of Web masters of late, even leading some to launch a Web site criticizing AVG. LinkScanner includes a component called Search-Shield that checks search engine results by downloading and scanning indexed Web pages before the user actually visits them.

However, some Web masters complained that Search-Shield's scan is recorded by their Web analytics programs as a visitor, creating the illusion of spiking visitor traffic and eating up their bandwidth. In addition, the feature disguises itself as Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0, which some complained made it difficult to separate the AVG scan from actual visitor traffic in their logs.

AVG Chief Research Officer Roger Thompson said the scan conceals itself to fool malware and that Web masters should be able to filter AVG scans out of their logs by looking for the 1813 signature.

In response to the outcry, the company has modified the Search-Shield component to only notify users of malicious sites and no longer scans each search result online for new exploits. However, AVG officials added that they will continue to offer protection via the Active Surf-Shield component of its product, which checks every page for malicious content as it is visited but before it is opened.

The company claims an install base of 70 million for its anti-virus software, millions of which it contends have made the upgrade to the free edition of 8.0 since it was launched in April. According to the company, AVG renders more than 1 billion verdicts per week that result in the identification of one infected URL per 43 searches.

"The whole point of this issue, which seems to have been lost, is that we were[and] are looking out for consumers. ... It's just that we stamped on some Web sites a bit too hard in doing so," Thompson told eWEEK.