Browser metadata phishing?

I was checking my Google Analytics stats and noticed a strange entry in the Languages section of the demographics. Ranking fifth, after en-us, en-gb, en-ca, and en-au was the following:

Secret.ɢ You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!

Do not visit that URL, by the way. You can see that the first “G” in “Google” is an unusual character — it’s the symbol for a voiced uvular stop.

I usually use urlQuery to check out potentially malicious sites, but it didn’t like this URL. I used vURL Online instead, which reported it was malicious:

This domain is listed in the Malware Domain List. Website’s [sic] in this database should be viewed with extreme caution.

These 1500 or so sessions on my site are presumably from some hijacked browser or malicious plug-in/extension, and the end-user has no idea they are sending this bizarre language string in the HTTP headers.

Why put a malicious URL there at all? Did the creator hope that those of us perusing our web stats would be intrigued enough to fall for this trap? Even as I ask that question, I know that some percentage of users must have done just that. I assume they are now broadcasting their language as the same unusual string.

As a site owner, is there anything I should do? I could detect this string and notify the user. E.g. use an Apache re-write rule to redirect the user to a page telling them their browser is infected? This is only a partially rhetorical question. If you have suggestions, let me know.

Social Engineering through Surveys

I received an invitation to a survey today. I was selected as an alumnus of the University of Michigan, an enormous university. The e-mail implies that the survey is possibly on behalf of the university. It includes the well-recognized “Block M” logo.


  • The “From” address is
  • Links to unsubscribe go to
  • The survey itself is at

It all looks pretty fishy/phishy.

Nowhere are there any links to

Also, I happen to know that the University of Michigan tends to use Qualtrics for surveys. Why wouldn’t the university send out a Qualtrics survey from a e-mail address with unsubscribe links instead of a survey from a address with unsubscribe links?

The survey is likely legitimate. The alumni department probably contracted with a research firm, that research firm probably uses a third-party survey software, and they probably use a different third-party service to handle mailing lists.

But I will not be filling out such a survey. You shouldn’t either. And, if you’re in the business of creating surveys or hiring companies to create surveys, you should think about these factors. Why create something that looks this suspicious?

I’ve always said that survey results automatically exclude those who don’t have time to waste on surveys (this one suggested it would take 18 minutes to complete!), but now it seems they also exclude anyone with a mind for security and privacy.