Once in a while I get curious about blog traffic. I just checked into my Google Analytics page for this blog for the first time in many months.
First thing I noticed was a spike in traffic beginning on 10/30. The blog gets visitors when I post something new and then share via Facebook. It is not uncommon to attract 75 or 100 visitors over one or two days when that happens. But I haven’t posted anything new since the middle of summer. Without new posts, the daily traffic is a trickle in the single digits, usually between 0-5.
The spikes went to 20+ visits for many days between 10/30-12/28, including a recent high of 51 on 12/15. Of course these are tiny numbers, just websurf dust in the vastness of the cyber-universe. But it seemed odd nonetheless.
Then I noticed these strange entries under the language report. The analytics page has been compromised. Under the listings of language/domain traffic, see entries for 3, 7, and 8. The words ‘Vote for Trump!’ cannot be taken as anything but a political motivation.
Then I clicked on the traffic by country. Normally the geographic distribution follows where I've been and where I know people. So it is mostly traffic from Madison and Chicago, then hits from Minneapolis, New York, Vienna. A few visitors surf in from cities in China, and a few from Detroit and Californian cities. It has been this way for years now.
This time, in the countries category, after the US the second biggest number of visits came in from Russia. The city breakdown was telling, as well. For the period 10/30-12/28 the most sessions from a single city logged by far came from users in St. Petersburg, where I know no one. In the number two spot is (not set)—Analytics’ way of saying the city is unspecified. I had never seen that before. And in the number seven spot is Samara, Russia.
This seems to be something apart from the familiar ‘hacks’ that fill comment sections with spam and gibberish. The blog itself, both dashboard and public pages, seem not to have been affected. Neither has any of my other Google stuff. My guess is that Russian hackers have been writing scripts that find cracks in US sites by which to leave their piles of dog crap for people to find, and that this is what happened to my Analytics page.
In reading about the political interference originating from the Russian cybersphere, I have seen nothing said about low traffic sites and personal blogs being affected. If my blog was targeted, then I’m sure thousands of others have been, as well. Also, if I can see all this, how hard could it be for the US intelligence agencies to conclude that Russian hackers have been at work trying to insert noise into the US elections?
Do you know anybody else this has happened to? Have you checked into your own analytics pages, dashboards and control panels?