Don't Panic: Trump Spam in Google Analytics

No, the Donald isn't having the Russians hack your site. Your organization, no matter the political affiliation or lack thereof, is not being targeted. But Vitaly Popov, a Russian hacker, is using the Measurement Protocol from Universal Analytics to produce Ghost Spam. Popov could be generating fake or false traffic to your site and it's getting around Google's built-in bot filters.

If your site doesn't have specific hostname filters for only sites that are under your organization's control, you'll need to keep an eye out for some of the following symptoms:

  • Strange values in the Language field:  “Secret.ɢoogle.com You are invited! Enter only with this ticket URL. Copy it. Vote for Trump!” - like the screenshot above
  • Strange Page Titles:  "Secret.ɢoogle.com voted for Trump by all my scripts, every my byte, in tens of millions google analytics accounts"
  • And hostnames from real sites: thenextweb.com, lifehacĸer.com, or anything at .xyz

If you see any of these symptoms, the best solution is…. Filters!

There are a few courses of action you could take with filtered views of your website(s).

  1. Add an "include" filter for hostnames that are yours
    Add an "include" filter for legitimate hostnames for your content.
    1. EX: translate.google.com can be a legitimate hostname for site because people can use the tool to translate your site into different languages.
  2. Add exclude filters for the symptoms listed above. You can explore other ways to filter google analytics in Analytics Edge comprehensive and awesome blog post.

You could also consider using Referrer Spam Blocker to block other referral spam that might be lurking in your data.

If you install these filters on your own, be sure to use a test view first. Do not apply filters to your RAW profile (EVER). Remember, that data is never perfect and as my colleague Jen puts it – "sometimes you can't help the onesies and twosies" – so don't chase them down the rabbit hole.

Want to make sure that your Google Analytics dashboard is a place you can go to escape Russian hackers and fake news? We’re here to help.


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