Michelle Rowen

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A cautionary tale

Wow… I had a serious, um, adventure over the last couple of days. My site got hacked and compromised and shut down by google, which posted a lovely “this is an attack site!” warning up front. Let me tell you…not fun!

I learned that my web host (Dreamhost) is absolutely no help in situations like this (and has no phone support!), other than pointing me to information on how to fix it myself. Not too happy with them at the moment, but I’ve been with them for ten years without any other problems, so I don’t think I’ll switch over this.

Luckily, between the advice I received on Twitter and via email, and through hands-on help from the brilliant and talented Shawntelle Madison (whose debut urban fantasy, COVETED, is out next year from Ballantine! Can’t wait to read it!), the problem has been fixed and my site is back online. For a while there, I thought I’d have to trash my site in its entirety and start from scratch, which would have meant I’d lose all my blog posts as well as most of the other content for my pages. Not exactly the end of the world, but it would have been inconvenient and time-consuming.

What I’ve learned from this experience:

1) Don’t panic. Even if you’re completely clueless when it comes to technical stuff, getting hacked is something that happens a lot and there are ways to fix it.

2) People can be wonderful and generous with their time and expertise when they see someone in trouble — definitely the silver lining of this dark rain cloud.

3) Change your passwords on a regular basis for your FTP, host website, and WP access, which I’ve now done. Pick something that isn’t a simple dictionary word since hackers have programs that easily scroll through those till it hits a match.

4) When WordPress lets you know there’s an update to their software, then you should update. If you don’t, it will leave holes in your security that hacker bots can sneak into and happily rape your site code.

5) If you’re the sole administrator for your site — like if you have a WordPress-based website that you control yourself without regular help from a web designer — you should sign up with Google Webmaster Tools. It’s pretty simple to get your site verified and it has a whole bunch of tools for you if things go wrong — and also lots of ways to check and index your site when it’s working properly so you can have stats available.

6) Back up your site information so if something does go wrong, you won’t lose everything in the process.

So that’s about it. I’m glad this particular story had a happy ending…. but it’s a story I don’t really want to experience again if I can help it!!

Now, back to writing! Today I’m finishing up my Blaze novella. Tomorrow it’s all Sarah all the time as I devote myself body and soul to Blood Bath & Beyond.

8 comments to “A cautionary tale”

  1. Barbara
     · June 1st, 2011 at 3:51 pm · Link

    I’m glad things worked out. I once ended up with that attack message on my website but it was because of a clock that I got from another website that had been hacked. The fingers are crossed that I won’t have that problem since I’m a total technotard. I’m not even sure how to make a copy of my website. I’ve thought about moving it but there are so many pages that it would take months to move it.

    Happy writing!

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