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A Response to a Reader Complaint

By Charles Miller

In response to the column that ran here a couple of weeks ago, I received the following email from an Atención reader: “I went to both of those links you mentioned in your article, and both were trying to sell me something right up front. So why would you publish these ads, a public service so to speak, when they both lead to scams?” Naturally I attempted to reach out to the reader, but unfortunately never received any response.

Firstly, the reader is mistaken. The websites mentioned in the Atención article are both verifiably legitimate. I would not have made reference to them were they not, and the dedicated editorial staff at Atención would not have permitted a breach of journalistic ethics by knowingly promoting some scam.

The first link mentioned in the earlier column was monitor.mozilla.com, a site sponsored by the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, which has no product for sale. The second was haveibeenpwned.com, a site sponsored by the respected security researcher Troy Hunt, who also has no product for sale but does accept voluntary donations to support his efforts. So why would the reader wrongly accuse these websites of being scams? Since the reader is not offering to cooperate, I can only guess why, but I can think of some possibilities.

If rather than typing haveibeenpwned.com they mistyped pwned as pawned, that does take you to the wrong website, one that has items for sale. Another possibility is that rather than going directly to the website as the reader should have done, they instead searched for the link. A lot of search engines would have offered to correct the spelling of “pwned” and then displayed search results for pawned and not pwned.

Because the reader said that both of the links led to scam sites, that leads me to suspect the possibility that the cause is something more ominous than a spelling error. It is possible the reader’s computer is infected with advertising malware. Years ago a client showed me what happened while trying to use her computer to access the Baptist Book Store online. There were ads on that web site, but they seemed a little odd. One read For the hottest porn on the web click here while another said XXX Girls! XXX. And the pictures in the ads just did not seem like the kind the Baptist Book Store would want on its website, even to illustrate Galatians 5:19.

Further investigation revealed that her computer was heavily infected with malware that was blocking legitimate ads that were supposed to be displayed on the screen and replacing them on the fly with advertising for pornography.

We cannot be sure how the reader ended up on the wrong website. What we can be sure of is that Atención San Miguel does provide a public service every week through its news reporting, calendar of events, and articles of community interest provided by many contributors.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981, and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044 415 101 8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

 

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