Please Learn from My Mistakes

Code

Last week I found out that this site was the target of a malicious attack. The end result was hundreds of spam links with titles of let’s say the unseemly (nasty, crude, … etc.) type. By the time I took notice, the bad links were already showing up on Google.

I’ll spare you the gory details of trying to clean up a site that hasn’t been cleaned up in a very long time. It was (and still is) a huge pain. And I have no one to blame but myself for not being on top of things.

Below I’ll share with you some of the common sense lessons that I’ve regularly ignored and the pain of having to deal with everything at the same time.

Common sense lessons and practices

Whether you have a site online, or not, these reminders can be effective in keeping things simple. I’ll use my personal example to illustrate the point, when needed.

Quick is not easy, nor simple.

If you do a search for how to set up a self-hosted blog, you’ll find many articles claiming that you can be up and running in 10 or 20 minutes. On the surface that might be true, but dig a bit deeper, and you’ll be dealing with a boatload of code and technical stuff.

Most things that appear easy are not. It might be easy to go buy a brand new car. You get your financing sorted, and boom you have the keys. In the long run, however, your car will need specialized maintenance.

Quick is never easy, or simple. It’s rushed and can be sloppy.

Consider the long-term costs, and demands of any choice before jumping into it.

We’re always paying with either time, or money

When I started this blog, I didn’t have a clear strategy about dealing with the technical stuff (do it myself, or hire someone). I did pay for a designer about five years ago. But since then I haven’t paid anyone else, and (sadly) I failed to do it myself.

I’ve spent most of last week’s waking hours dealing with this issue. Once I do my part, I’ll probably hire someone to ensure that everything is in working order.

So whenever you’re thinking about doing something be clear about the cost and how you’re going to do it—with time or money (or maybe a bit of both).

Neglect is brutally punishing

Over the years blogs and technology have changed immensely. I didn’t pay attention to the details. I just updated to the latest version of the software running the site, and all the plugins. I didn’t consider all the added complexity that was running in the background.

My guess is: the last attack was the result of a weakness in one of the ad-ons I installed. To make things worse, I didn’t keep updated backups, and for that I really suffered.

Had I done routine maintenance by cleaning up the junk, backing up the site, and running security checks, I wouldn’t have had to deal with all the issues at once.

Think of your appliances, your car, or your computer files. All these things require regular upkeep. If we don’t take care of stuff, we will pay a much bigger price.

Costly breakdowns are usually the consequences of negligence.

Popularity can be a huge pain

I think my site was attacked because it runs on the most used self-hosted platform (Wordpress). This means there are constant attempts to break in. After the attack, I’ve been monitoring traffic, and I’m mortified by what I’m seeing.

Imagine that you’re in your house minding your business, and you have a tiny computer screen showing you what’s going on outside your house (but you can’t see faces): a person is trying to kick the door, another one trying to smash a window, someone is trying to pick a lock, another trying to pry the garage door. How would you feel?

The same can be said about a lot of the popular things we use daily—social media, email, cloud storage, and so on.

The popularity of any product or service makes the provider a target, and, by extension, we become one too.

Malice is not based on common sense.

There is no gain from breaking into this site. There is no financial information, no advertising, or affiliate links. So common sense dictates that it’s not a worthy target.

Unfortunately, reality is not based on my personal logic. I’m just a random target, nothing more.

We need to do the best we can to secure our data and information, regardless of the motives of other people.

Please backup your information and do your part. I know I will after the big mess I had to clean.

Old habits never die

The moment I got into survival reactive mode, I reverted to old habits (lip and nail biting, obsessing and ignoring the important stuff like meditation or journaling, and really bad posture). I had to keep reminding myself to stop. Some times I stopped, and other times the habit took over.

We can never get rid of the old compulsive habits. We need to pay attention and stop. And repeat a million times over.

Ignorance is not bliss

When it comes to important stuff, we need to pay attention, and continue to learn. I failed to do both.

If something is important, then it’s worth our time and effort (or money). If not, then it’s time to let go.

Fancy and shiny options can get complicated

When I started this blog, I was able to find my way around a bit of technical stuff. But all I really wanted was to have a simple platform for me to write and share. The platform I’m using got more complex over the years to accommodate more styles and users. Also the customized design limited my ability to change things. So I’d need to do more research before I change the design.

For the sake of simplicity, I’ve removed more than half of the plugins that I was using, and chose to focus on the basics: content (reading and subscribing) and contact information.

It’s always a good idea to try and answer this question: Do I want fancy and complicated, or basic and simple? My mistake is that I wanted simple and fancy.

There is no right or wrong answer. We just need to be aware of, and accept, both the advantages and disadvantages of our choice.

I’m still working on the site. There might be some confusion with feed subscription delivery (probably because of the articles I had to add after the last backup). I’m sorry if I caused any confusion, or inconvenience.

Before I let you go, please heed my advice and take care of yourself and the important stuff that needs your attention. Thank you for being here. I truly appreciate you.


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