Wargaming Tradecraft: Stat-Counting for Safety


Stat-Counting for Safety

"Remember honey, there are bad
people on the internet."
a.k.a. Use what you learn here for the power of good.

This is a post about recognizing that the side effect of having a presence online will no doubt face you with it's shadier parts at some point. Even though everything that goes on in the web is basically tracked, if you have a concern, do you want to wait for delays emailing The Powers That Be and chasing down information you feel you may need right away? If a site is also a store, or doing similar business, this also helps in case of fraud.

In this post, I explore using a visitor counter for safety reasons, instead of statistics.

a.k.a. Please don't stop reading my blog after you read this.

A while back, I created some Warhammer Meme Artwork for a contest on Blood of Kittens. While this post has been ridiculously popular, approaching my most viewed numbers, I only received one comment...

Like a slap in the face, I thought, "Yup, here I am on the internet, sharing myself with anyone, and no way of protecting myself." I can think of worse forms of harassment online, but consider this to have been a pre-emptive wakeup call. Sure, pretty much everything you do online is tracked. Typically, most comment systems already record IP addresses. But if you are concerned about something directed at you, do you want to take the time to contact Google (or whoever your site host is) and wait for a response? No.

By the end of that day I was tracking my site's visits. And here's how you can too:

DISCLAIMER: An IP address can be "spoofed", meaning it's not always accurate. There are also many subtle viruses that don't damage computers, instead turning them into "zombies" allowing nefarious deeds to be enacted through them. Also, businesses, schools, libraries, coffee shops, etc, tend to have 1 or 2 "outside" IP addresses - meaning anyone at those locations all appear to be browsing from the same IP. However, while this isn't an exact science, the average person doesn't have the ability to "spoof" and doesn't have access to a "zombie" and this provides at least some information to go on if there is a need to investigate further.

Also, none of what you're about to see is really advanced or technically sneaky... it's common internet stuff, and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive footprint you leave as you travel the web.

I tried a few stat tracking sites, and listened to some various reviews.. the service I settled on that allowed me to do what I wanted was "StatCounter".

The signup is simple, it's free, but there are paid accounts for more options.

You add a "Project" (a website, or page on a site) and fill out some information. The counter can be visible, just a logo, or invisible. You can even have reports emailed to you.

This will generate some code that you simply add to an "HTML/Javascript" object on your blog, and away you go.

Because I don't pry into the lives of my normal visitors and would never in a million years breach their privacy, I don't actually sit and watch these stats, nor will I post the info publicly. So, I've been waiting for a comment I can make an example of. Last Monday, I got the following comment on my Weekly Update and 3 others (from different user names) on my Troll Impaler WIP 3.

"Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam." - Monty Python

From this comment, we take three important details - Date, Time and the page it's located on.

Logging in to StatCounter, I click the Wargaming Tradecraft "project", and from a list of different types of stats, I choose "Recent Pageload Activity".

Then, look for the date and time that the comment was posted, and check it against the page it was posted on:

You can see the transition... at 4.00.38a, browsed to the post... a minute later to the comment form, and a few minutes after that the showComment page. (Where you're sent after posting a comment)

* note, that the time is slightly off between Blogger's comment system and the stat site.. so times could be off by a few minutes... which makes determining who's who on a post that's particularly active tricky. You'll have to do a controlled test post when your site's less busy and see how behind/ahead things are.

If I click the magnifying glass on the far left, I get more information on the user... I see a nice little map, some information on their browser and computer, and I see that they were in fact the same location the other spam posts came from too.

Not enough information for you? Take the "IP Address", browse to ARIN and do a "WHOIS" search in the top right with that IP. It'll tell you the owner of the IP, which tends to be an internet provider - not usually the person browsing to your website. Most ISPs have admin, tech and/or abuse contacts listed where you can then email these screen shots.

Recognize that ISPs will handle this different ways. Without a court order, you probably won't get any information on the user. They may contact the offending party on your behalf, or at least make a note on their account incase they get more complaints.

Many ISPs will also simply ignore you. If you're shaken enough and feel the need to contact authorities over something posted to your site or directed at you, the above information will give them a good place to start. To make a screen cap, press the [Print Screen] button, then paste [CTRL]+[V] the image in a word document, (or free OpenOffice Writer) an email body, or mspaint (Start, mspaint) / GIMP. (Editing photos tutorial)

Freaked out? That's fair... but this is only a small amount of the info that tons of sites out there are tracking, not even to mention what you willingly give up to social media... it's just kinda freaky to see it in action... but let me remind you:

Would I contact anyone over something like that? No, not unless someone was consistently harassing me. I'd certainly save the above records to be on the safe side though.

Also, please don't contact your internet provider and ask them to "block your IP address". The internet doesn't work that way. It would be like not having a postal address and expecting people to be able to send you letters. I used to work for an ISP and had to explain this to an irate customer once who wouldn't back down.


  1. :0 Awesome! I'm going to have to get this out on the HoP for some extra goodness for you.

  2. heh, thanks.. I suppose it kinda goes with your Bizarro theme ;)

  3. oh nonono. this is serious. this goes in on a regular week.


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