28th March 2011
Four of my domains hacked! A steep learning curve.
Some of you might have noticed that my blog and (indeed) a few other websites, including Freedom Team (which I fund and host on behalf of the Team), have been behaving very erratically over the last 4-5 days. That's because four of my domains were hacked.
The first major round of attacks took place in early February this year, disabling my blog and forcing a re-install of most things.
But then recently all kinds of problems started happening. Blog passwords got stolen, "phishing" stuff was planted in various directories on my domains, and thousands of emails went out purporting to be from Paypal or Wells Fargo or some such thing. Over 20,000 emails have flooded my domain's inbox in the past week, which is only a small part of the fake emails sent out from my domains (many of these are emails bouncing back). A total racket, these hackers, have caused. I've been made into a spammer.
Google itself got involved and sent in many messages about the attacks, even universities sent in messages, and Paypal sent in messages. The support team at my web hosting company did their best, but for a mere $4 per month one can't expect them to solve the entire thing themselves.
Fortunately I had the valiant support of Anubhava Srivastava, an FTI member, who worked doubly hard in his spare time to identify and eliminate problems. As a result of all this the attacks have (I think) finally been conquered. Now comes the task of fully re-establishing these domains once again and ensuring that security is beefed up.
In this process I've learnt FAR more about WordPress than I ever wanted to. A very steep learning curve. I also got my hands dirty by re-entering the UNIX shell – something I had not done for over 7 years (and indeed, not seriously for over 13 years) – hence very rusty!
Vague terms like backup systems, mysql databases, .htaccess files, security plugins, etc., that I thought I'd not need to know about with WordPress systems, came back to haunt me. WordPress is not foolproof. You need to be very cautious about running these blogs. Security loopholes are far more common and far more dangerous than one imagines. It appears that if I am to operate WordPress blogs I have no choice but learn about such things. Had this blog continued on blogspot (where it happily resided till July last year), Google would have managed the security. With my own domains and blog installations, I am directly responsible. A great challenge.
This blog is still limping. I'm unable to recover the 'widgets' I had on the right hand column. All the "nice" things are gone, I'll have to recreate them over the next few weeks.
Overall I've already spent well over 20 hours in the past 4-5 days fighting these attacks. I wrote some time ago about the massive loss of productive time caused to humanity by hackers and virus generators, estimating that they have eaten up at least 4 years of my life so far. It is unimaginable how much they harm the world's GDP each year. Without such EVIL people we would have needed lesser security and therefore could have done more productive things.
These leeches/ crooks/ scoundrels/ rascals (I can't find a word strong enough for them) have demonstrated again the essentially VILE nature of man. Hidden from sight, these scoundrels destroy other people's time.
It is for dealing with such EVIL people that we need governments.
I don't have the time to lodge a complaint with the police, but hope that someone somewhere is busy trying to track these crooks down and bring them to book.
Let me now try to get back to work (I'm on leave this week) and retrieve at least some of the MASSIVE amount of time I've lost.
30 March 2011. Still struggling. Found this extensive, useful blog post on WP security. Very daunting!
Here's another one.
Here's very useful information.