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As an update to my last post on Alexa I thought I would mention that I have run a packet sniffer on my machine to get a better idea of what the search status plugin for Firefox is doing.

The packet sniffer I used (darkStat) does not allow you to view the contents of packets, I have yet to find something for this, but it does allow you to monitor traffic.

What I could see using this simple tool was that each request for a new page caused around 1000 packets to be both sent and received (TCP). Reloading the same page had no effect, i.e. no additional data was sent if the same page was reloaded / re-viewed.

None of this is a surprise, it is in line with most of what is written about Alexa.

The fact that packets are sent back from Alexa kind of confirms a suspicion I have had for a while, which is that Alexa pings back the browsers to check they are genuine. This would prevent people randomizing IP’s to spoof Alexa.

It would also explain why someone told me that they had failed to game Alexa running requests through over a thousand proxies from a small number of clients, i.e. Alexa tracks the client.

This is in line with what I have read about the search status plugin, that a unique identifier is sent from the browser to Alexa.

To go any further with this I would need to read the contents of the packets, which I may do if I ever get the time….

If anyone can recommend something that will allow me to do this in Ubuntu I would be grateful, for anyone wanting to play with darkStat on Debian / Ubuntu:

  • sudo apt-get install darkstat
  • sudo gedit /etc/darkstat/init.cfg
    • START_DARKSTAT=yes
    • select your interface (eth0 default, change to ra0 if using wifi)
  • sudo /etc/init.d/darkstat start
  • browse http://localhost:666

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  • Gaming Alexa
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    1 Comment

    Comment by Ladadadada

    tcpdump is more than capable of what you need for this purpose and it comes standard with Ubuntu.

    sudo tcpdump -i eth0 -A -s 0 host http://www.alexa.com > dumpfile.txt

    -A dumps the packets in ASCII
    -s 0 dumps the entire packet
    -i eth0 is your network interface… you may need to change this to suit your machine.

    host http://www.alexa.com is a filter so you only capture the packets you actually want but you can leave it off if you want. The filtering is quite flexible and the man page is quite extensive. I’m sure you’ll figure it out :-)

    (Comments wont nest below this level)
     

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