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One Problematic Aurora 51 Client


There is one particular client, whose client_id I’ve obscured, that seems to be sending orders of magnitude more “main” pings per day than is expected, or even possible.

I’m interested in figuring out what we can determine about this particular client to see if there are signifiers we can use to identify this anomalous use case. This identification would permit us to: filter data from these clients out of derived datasets that aren’t relevant identify exceptional use-cases for Firefox we don’t currently understand

How many pings are we talking, here?

import pandas as pd
import numpy as np
import matplotlib

from matplotlib import pyplot as plt
from moztelemetry.dataset import Dataset
from moztelemetry import get_pings_properties, get_one_ping_per_client
Unable to parse whitelist (/home/hadoop/anaconda2/lib/python2.7/site-packages/moztelemetry/histogram-whitelists.json). Assuming all histograms are acceptable.
all_pings = Dataset.from_source("telemetry") \
    .where(docType='main') \
    .where(appBuildId=lambda x: x.startswith("20161014")) \
    .where(appUpdateChannel="aurora") \
    .records(sc, sample=1)
pings = all_pings.filter(lambda p: p['clientId'] == '<omitted for privacy>')
submission_dates = get_pings_properties(pings, ["meta/submissionDate"])
from datetime import datetime
ping_counts = p: (datetime.strptime(p["meta/submissionDate"], '%Y%m%d'), 1)).countByKey()
from datetime import timedelta
df = pd.DataFrame(ping_counts.items(), columns=["date", "count"]).set_index(["date"])
df.plot(figsize=(17, 7))
plt.xticks(np.arange(min(df.index), max(df.index) + timedelta(3), 3, dtype="datetime64[D]"))
plt.ylabel("ping count")


Just about 100k main pings submitted by this client on a single day? (Feb 16)… that is one active client.

Or many active clients.

What Can We Learn About These Pings?

Well, since these pings all share the same clientId, they likely are sharing user profiles. This means things like profile creationDate and so forth won’t change amongst them.

However, here’s a list of things that might change in interesting ways or otherwise shed some light on the purpose of these installs.

subset = get_pings_properties(pings, [

Non-System Addons

pings_with_addon = subset\
    .flatMap(lambda p: [(addon["name"], 1) for addon in filter(lambda x: "isSystem" not in x or not x["isSystem"], p["environment/addons/activeAddons"].values())])\
sorted(pings_with_addon.items(), key=lambda x: x[1], reverse=True)[:5]
[(u'Random Agent Spoofer', 4570618),
 (u'Alexa Traffic Rank', 419985),
 (u'Firefox Hotfix', 1)]

Nearly every single ping is reporting that it has an addon called ‘Random Agent Spoofer’. Interesting.

Session Lengths

session_lengths = p: p["payload/info/sessionLength"] if p["payload/info/sessionLength"] < SESSION_MAX else SESSION_MAX).collect()
pd.Series(session_lengths).hist(bins=250, figsize=(17, 7))
plt.ylabel("ping count")
plt.xlabel("session length in seconds")


215    2756799
135     417410
284     273834
27      258250
40      257293
64      172439
85      160477
25      160317
62       30421
63       27640
dtype: int64

The session lengths for over half of all the reported pings are exactly 215 seconds long. Two minutes and 35 seconds.

Is this Firefox even the default browser? p: (p["environment/settings/isDefaultBrowser"], 1)).countByKey()
defaultdict(int, {False: 4571188})


CPU speed

MHZ_MAX = 5000
mhzes = p: p["environment/system/cpu/speedMHz"] if p["environment/system/cpu/speedMHz"] < MHZ_MAX else MHZ_MAX).collect()
ds = pd.Series(mhzes)
ds.hist(bins=250, figsize=(17, 7))
plt.ylabel("ping count (log)")
plt.xlabel("speed in MHz")


3504    2796444
2397     973539
3503     506650
2097     274870
2400       4225
2399       3324
3495       3284
2396       1962
2600       1907
2599       1540
dtype: int64

There seems to be a family gathering of different hardware configurations this client is running on, most on a particular approximately-3.5GHz machine

Operating System

def major_minor(version_string):
    return version_string.split('.')[0] + '.' + version_string.split('.')[1]
pings_per_os = subset\
    .map(lambda p: (p["environment/system/os/name"] + " " + major_minor(p["environment/system/os/version"]), 1))\
print len(pings_per_os)
sorted(pings_per_os.items(), key=lambda x: x[1], reverse=True)[:10]

[(u'Windows_NT 5.1', 4571188)]

All of the pings come from Windows XP.

Physical Location (geo-ip of submitting host)

pings_per_city = subset\
    .map(lambda p: (p["meta/geoCountry"] + " " + p["meta/geoCity"], 1))\
print len(pings_per_city)
sorted(pings_per_city.items(), key=lambda x: x[1], reverse=True)[:10]

[(u'US Costa Mesa', 599161),
 (u'US Phoenix', 449236),
 (u'FR Paris', 245990),
 (u'GB ??', 234012),
 (u'GB London', 187256),
 (u'FR ??', 183938),
 (u'DE ??', 144906),
 (u'US Los Angeles', 122247),
 (u'US Houston', 97413),
 (u'US New York', 93148)]

These pings are coming from all over the world, mostly from countries where Firefox user share is already decent. This may just be a map of Browser use across the world’s population, which would be consistent with a profile that is inhabiting a set %ge of the browser-using population’s computers.


None of this is concrete, but if I were invited to speculate, I’d think there’s some non-Mozilla code someplace that has embedded a particular (out-of-date) version of Firefox Developer Edition into themselves, automating it to perform a 2-minute-and-35-second task on Windows XP machines, possibly while masquerading as something completely different (using the addon).

This could be legitimate. Firefox contains a robust networking and rendering stack so it might be desireable to embed it within, say, a video game as a fully-featured embedded browser. The user-agent-spoofing addon could very well be used to set a custom user agent to identify the video game’s browser, and of course it wouldn’t be the user’s default browser.

However, I can’t so easily explain this client’s broad geographical presence and Windows XP focus.