Ottawa keeps your data SAFE!

Note: If you've already read my Unemployment Insurance Browser Spoofing post on Worth, don't bother reading this. It's a copy/paste of the whole damned thing.

Right now I am, as they say, "between jobs." For years I've contributed my taxes to the unemployment insurance pool but have never drawn from it. Today I began the long and grueling process of applying online for UI benefits.

It took me almost two hours just to make the darned government website accept my choice of browsers. As you know, I am the only person on the planet who thinks both Windows and IE are a bit...insecure. Certainly the Canadian government thinks they're safe! So safe, in fact, that they won't let me fill out their forms online using Opera.

See, browsers send a string to the servers they visit. Mine sends this by default:
Opera/8.51 (X11; Linux i686; U; en)
But that's bad. It's not Internet Explorer!

Okay. I can tell Opera to pretend it's Internet Explorer by clicking a button. Then it reads:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; X11; Linux i686; en) Opera 8.51
Now it looks like Internet Explorer, but still not enough. The website sniffs out that "Opera" at the end and says "your browser is insecure." Ottawa still won't risk it.

Cripes! Okay, fine. I've got Firefox installed, so I'll try that. It's more popular than Opera, so maybe the government will accept it as "safer." Here's the string Firefox sends. Note that there's no mention of Opera in there anywhere:
Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.7.12) Gecko/20051010 Firefox/1.0.7 (Ubuntu package 1.0.7)
So does Ottawa want to deal with me now? NO! I get a new message telling me Linux is insecure and unsupported. OMGWTF?! Do you know how hard it is to even find a virus scanner for Linux? It's like trying to find a snow shovel in Egypt. There's no market for them because there are no viruses worth worrying about.


I searched around on the net and found a Firefox extension (User Agent Switcher) that will spoof not only the browser type but also the operating system name:
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1)
Bingo! I'm in.

After an hour and a half of diddling around I finally convinced them that I was no longer using Opera on Linux. Instead, I made them think I was downstairs on the family Windows PC--riddled with spyware, viruses, keyloggers and lord knows what else--logged on with IE. Now I'm on a secure connection, boyo!

They don't like Linux? Or Opera? I'll bet their servers run on Linux. Their IT guys would probably rather eat glass than run their site on a Windows server. And I'll bet they all go home at night and browse using Firefox or Opera or even Lynx rather than use IE.


(Note: This isn't a pro-Opera/anti-Microsoft post, so don't go there. It's a pro-good-design/anti-idiot-webmaster post.)
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