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Foiling the plot or rather, what I learned from getting hacked

July 16, 2016

 

I wonder about the state of the world. Maybe things have always been so, but through the rise of social media, news from afar is as close as our hand-held devices.  And these devices and websites are now the target for hackers to use as their code-abled fingers allow.

 

They can approach through false social media friendships, attempt to gain access to your data, and in the blink of an eye dash your website dreams. Owning and operating a website, especially self-hosted comes with its own trials and tribulations. I’ve been doing this since 2009, and I never worried about getting hacked … until now.

 

My fears were appropriate. It happened like the dawning of a new day.  Although I wondered, when it happened “why me”, it’s sad that it did – the emotional trauma. What is the point of hacking into a small website, any website?

 

In my hopes of learning from this situation, I decided to use the questions I ask when writing a mystery to assist – and to help me again get some sleep and not let this hack undermine everything I’ve been working on.

 

Who (has been affected?)

 

In looking at my site, it had been infected and affected.  A website I’d spent years building up suddenly no longer rolled out the welcome mat simply because I could no longer connect with the readership I’d built up (besides through my social media).  My internet home no longer had the lights on.

 

Talk about feeling depressed! The glaring words of FAILURE crept in, despite my ever growing need to throw dirt over this already growing pile of crap. It wasn’t the simple sting of pulling off a bandage, but more of getting stitches for a gushing and bleeding wound. My hard work went down the drain, and I was left oblivious as to how to fix it.

 

And despite the stages of grief, I knew I had to stay focus and try to figure out a way back. This act of hacking my site affected everything I did – from my pouring the time into trying to fix the hack instead of writing on my work-in-progress, to shunning everything to do with truly fixing it. I wanted to fix it; I hoped by fixing it, it would fix me too.

 

Just like the website, the hack broke me. It was an outward sign of my own need of treatment. The hackers attacked a mere website and in doing that, they’d attacked and attempted to destroy everything I’d spent the last years working on.

 

Was there a way to use a backup? For that, I needed to ascertain as to when the hack occurred.

 

What (what sort of hack?)

 

After ascertaining what had taken place and what sort of hack had been perpetrated, I needed to access what the damage was.

 

There are a number of different hacks, but the main purpose of the hack that I’ve experienced was a pharma-hack, whereby in my case the hacker input a redirect onto the page and visitors were automatically sent to a pharmacy’s page.

 

When (when did the hack occur?)

 

Just as on any episode of crime TV, we have to determine the time of death, and work backwards. In my case, this is more like a poisoning than a simple one-shot murder. The poisoning took place over an extended amount of time.  Despite my then attempts to survive their poison, the hackers used their savviness to create more and more pages, all under my name, to spread their linkings.

 

This resulted in my page being blacklisted, and essentially, when anyone would try to access my site they’d be warned that the page was malicious.

 

What’s the point in having a website if it is only going to be used for harm?

 

Time to make a tough decision. Somehow or way, I knew I could bounce back from it. I must!

 

Where (where was the malicious code injected)

 

 

Autopsy reports provide law enforcement with a quick view as to the extent of damage and cause of death.  In reviewing the code, the poison had worked its way through the system.

 

After weeks of dealing with this disturbing situation, in that as soon as I tried to get a hand over it, it worsened.  I took the step to rid the hackers of their ammunition, and latched on to the idea that even if I deleted the site, it would not be a deletion of me. It would not mean the end of me and what it meant for me as a writer. I’d have to delete over five years’ worth of data to be free of the initial problem – pictures, posts, calendars, everything gone.

 

Poof.

 

And like that, I realized now I can control the situation. I can take back my space (online), and my name will not be used to endorse someone else’s message or share their malicious inklings.

 

Why (why did the hack occur?)

 

There is a slew of information available for what to do when you’re hacked, and since I am an author, my website is all about getting out information regarding my writing, and connecting with readers. I never thought it would be a target – and that is where I was wrong. As with any crime, I fit the first criteria to be hacked – vulnerability.  My site could be a means to help the hacker be it with their SEO, and ranking.  It potentially also made it that they were then able to acquire money from advertisers based on their number of visitors.

 

There’s a lot of technical stuff that I left out. The point of this post is to encourage you to make sure that your security is up-to-date, and any software updates that you haven’t done for your site that you take the time to do so.  In case a hacker, unbeknownst to you, decides to weave his way into your site, know that there is tons of help out there.  You don’t have to do it alone, and don’t take it personally.

 

I’m seeing this as an opportunity to build everything better than what I’ve done previously. The website is still offline and it’s a work in progress.  It’s not about how many times you fail, but if you truly quit.

 

Be encouraged!

 

But better yet … don’t get hacked.

 

 

Tina Glasneck is a knowledge Junkie and writer of crime fiction. She is currently getting her online real estate back into working order. Become a VIP and subscribe to Tina's newsletter for all upcoming info and  connect with her through social media on Twitter @TinaGlasneck or on Facebook.

 

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