Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Internet Charlatans Volume II: The Diet Pill

Adoring public, we meet again.

It has been over a year since I last put pen to paper. Or, fingers to... keyboard, as it were. For this, I apologise. I certainly intended to revive the blog much sooner than now, however I just couldn't quite jump back in. I'm not entirely sure why, but for some reason I feel like it had something to do with cheese.

At any rate, I just couldn't stay away any longer. I missed youse guys, and so much has happened. There will be plenty of time for that, though. Right now, I simply must tell you about this product that my sister-in-law put me on to! Serious, this stuff will change your life!

So, listen gang: You want to lose 18 kilos in a MONTH?! You do?! Well, you can! It's all to do with the secrets of the coffee and ketones. Sceptical? God know why, but after reading this you will be convinced!

All you have to do is take a Green Coffee Speed-Slim in the morning, and a Rasberry Ketone pill in the evening. It's spelt "raspberry", you say? Do you think this is a goddamn spelling bee, son?! I didn't think so! They'll call it what they want, if it's alright with your highness.

Everything you need to know about this fabulous diet can be read on the Perfect Women's Health magazines' website, found here: www.healthister.com/bellyburn.php.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Just don't try to go to http://www.healthister.com/ by itself, you'll get a 403 Forbidden message.

Seems legit.

Why would you get a "forbidden" message on the root directory of a supposed magazines domain name, you ask me? Well, goddamn it I don't know, do I look like the internet Jesus? At a guess, they don't have an index.html or home.php I suppose. Yeah, I guess that does sound a little fruity, huh?


Let's look a little bit closer at this website...

No <title>? That's just plain lazy.

Well, aside from missing an actual homepage, it appears to be lacking both a <title> tag and a favicon. That actually can be easily explained, you sceptic, you. Apparently, the developer knew enough about server-side code to host a PHP based website, but lacked the HTML knowledge to give the page an actual name. What? It can happen.

I spot a thumbnail of the front cover of this magazine. It's really interesting. On the front is a picture that looks just like Rachel Bilson, yet the name next to her on the cover is "Ashley Hewett", followed by the headline "How To Lose 18 LBS Of Belly Fat In Just 1 Month"? Hang on a second there, chums... you said 18 kilos before! 18 pounds ain't 18 kilos, friends. Your story is beginning to unravel.

I do a cursory TinEye Reverse Image Search, in vain hopes of finding out more about Rachel's doppelganger. You wouldn't believe what I found! Rachel struck the exact same pose on GQ's cover! They even ran many of the same stories that month! What a coincidence! They could pass for long lost sisters! At least cousins, amirite?! Check it out:

I still reckon Rachel's hotter than this "Ashley" chick.

I decided to look at the page some more, check out some of the other content of the magazine. Only .99c to subscribe? Count me in, good buddy... I'll just click on the... huh. The link doesn't work. None of them do.


Well, that certainly is peculiar. I checked the HTML (I'm helpful like that), to see if I could work out why the links were broken. Funny thing is... the Subscribe, Register and Log In code has no link data whatsoever... It's almost as if they were never coded to work! As for the navigation, it just keeps on repeating a link over and over again, which redirects as an affiliate marketing link as soon as the server responds.

What can all this mean?! Surely their "Like Us on Facebook" link isn't fake.

They must have hit 8,696,488 people liking them and said,
"8.6m Likes is enough, lock 'er down."

It's... a jpg? Their Facebook "Like" button is a static image file?!

Pulse quickening, I stare into the darkness with a fevered brow and reluctantly descend into the rabbit hole further. Or, I scrolled down the page some more. Another thing that was bothering me... it continued to insist that the offer expires today, Monday the 21st of October. Well, that is a coincidence, that I, of all days, decide to visit the day of the sale! It's... uncanny!

Fearing sorcery at work, I delve into the HTML some more to try and determine what brand of magic this was. JavaScript magic, as it turned out.

if ( userAgent=human ) { var discount = true; }

Now, I ain't no Magician, but I'm pretty sure that's fancy talk for: "Offer Expires On {INSERT TODAY'S DATE}". Funny thing about JavaScript... it's handled client-side. What does that mean, exactly? Well, it means that if for some reason I set my computer's date to 1 January, 1980...

If only REAL time travel worked like this.

The hilarious thing about it though, is that they were already running PHP... a server-side request would have just output the HTML with no evidence of sorcery... they obviously wanted us to know in a nudgy-winky sort of way.

Well, ain't that just lovely. They give everyone the same discount, regardless of date, whilst simultaneously making you feel special. They're... anti-timists? Is that a word? Time travellers welcome.

I was so impressed with how progressive they were, offering their discount to both I and the Knights Templar alike, that I thought I'd drop them a line in their comments box.

Uh, THANKS JavaScript popup.

Being ever mistrustful of JavaScript dialog boxes, I decided to check the HTML to ensure my message would be reached by my Michael. J. Fox loving Rasberry Ketone overlords. Wouldn't you know it? It's the darndest thing. They forgot to put a "form action" in the code, to actually make it work. What they didn't forget though, was a "reset" command and JavaScript dialog on "Add Comment" press. Oh you, you sneaky diet pill marketers. It's almost like they don't want consumer feedback! I know, I know... I'm being silly. They've already got 47 comments from satisfied consumers! Well... can only see 7 of them, for some reason. But it says 47 so it's just gotta be a bug of some kind, right?

These comments sound totally legit. They are posted by normal people with normal names like Michael and Michelle and Diane. No last names or internet handles, though. At least they're all pretty decent at spelling! None of them have avatars... oh well. Don't want to become internet famous, I guess.

It's great that they didn't waste precious internets by making the bottom navigation link anywhere, either. Always thinking about the environment, what champions.

And I almost forgot to mention the price! Oh wow, this is the best part!

Order now, and receive a bottle of pills for 14 days FREE!! Well, free aside from the postage, of course. Only catch is that they'll automatically enrol your credit card into their payment system to charge it $80 a month indefinitely, or until you work out how to track them down.

Because herbal pills aren't cheap like pharmaceuticals, you know!


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