Doug Behl and Ken Getz: Beware the “missing font” scam
March 19, 2017
Q: I was recently browsing the Web, and one page I displayed popped up a message that included the text "The 'HoeflerText' font wasn't found." I clicked the button the mes-sage offered, and Chrome downloaded something, but now I'm worried that I down-loaded something I shouldn't have. Did I do something wrong?
A: Oops. You got bit by an ugly bit of malware, and we can only recommend that you take precautionary measures to clean your computer. This is a scam that currently tar-gets Windows computers only, and only affects the Google Chrome browser. The malware rewrites the contents of the Web page so that it's illegible, pops up a mes-sage directing the hapless user to download a missing font, and in downloading the specified file, installs malware on the local computer. This generally happens on com-promised sites created using the extremely popular WordPress site-creation software (and therefore could potentially affect millions of public Web sites). The real problem is that the error (an unreadable Web page) looks totally real, and the proposed solu-tion looks credible.
Here's the takeaway: Don't ever download anything from a site that you don't know and trust. If a site seems to require a font that you don't have on your computer, just assume that it's a scam, and say "no."
HELPING FAMILY MEMBERS SEARCH ON THEIR OWN
Q: I seem to be destined to be the tech support guy for my family. My parents, siblings, and even distant relatives contact me looking for help. Most of the time, I simply per-form a Google search for them and send them the results. It takes all my self control not to just say "Google is your friend," and let them do the work. Do you have any sugges-tions on subtle (or not-so-subtle) ways I can show them how to find the answers them-selves, rather than depending on me to search for them?
A: Oh, my. Do we feel your pain! We have spent our adult lives acting as lookup/search servers for our families and less-tech-oriented friends. Unlike you, how-ever, we have often sent response emails including the link to perform the Google search along with the "Google is your friend" response. Some acquaintances might even have taken offense at the passive aggressive sarcasm.
So why not take it even further? Rather than doing the lookup for them and leaving the aggression passive aggressive, why not be even more explicit? The Internet, in its infinite wisdom, provides just the right tool for us unwilling family tech support spe-cialists: LMGTFY.com (Let Me Google That For You, get it?). This site allows you to specify the search, and it creates an animated tutorial that shows neophytes exactly how to use a search engine to find the answers they seek. You send them the link that LMGTFY.com provides, and when the family members click the link, the site walks them through the steps of using a search engine to perform the search for them. You have lots of options: You can select a specific search engine, the domain to search (Web, images, videos, maps, and so on), and whether to include a very basic tutorial on how Web browsers work, in general (for the seriously technically impaired). You provide the specific search text they should enter, and ask the site to generate a link you can send in your response.
Give it a try: Go to LMGTFY.com, enter search text, generate the link, and browse to that link. You'll be amused, we promise. Then send the link as a response to a re-quest for support. Your family members will either thank you, laugh at you, or get angry at your sarcastic response. No matter what, you're likely to get fewer tech support queries in the future, and you'll have actually provided a useful response!
Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Submit your own technical questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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