Sunday, March 27, 2011

What I learned from being hacked!

As some of you know I had the unfortunate experience of being hacked a few weeks ago.  I thought I would share some "lessons learned"  after realizing my brand new wesite had been hacked. If I can save anyone out there from going through  the frustrations and the fear of possibly losing all my hard work, then that would be great! I hope this will help other illustrators/artists who created their own websites( and like me are not IT specialists or programmers by any stretch of the imagination) to protect your  lovely websites and give you  some things to consider, and steps to take to better protect your website.

I had only had my site up for about a month or so, when I logged on one day to find that it had been hacked. Well of course I freaked out, and quickly emailed my support techs at my hosting company.  While they tried to restore my website from a backup, the hacker had embedded some nasty code in my site, possibly through my own computer, so going through the repeated process of deleting, reinstalling WP files, then restoring my backup was not fixing the problem. I ended up having my account suspended twice over a 2 week period becuase the hacker had my site linked to some phishing schemes that caused it to be flagged by phishing patrol websites. Luckily my friend Jonathan Woodward at zero2illo suggested  his go-to guy for website and WordPress security issues Neil Matthews. He runs a website for WordPress coaching and technical support called WP DUDE. Great name too don't you think?

Neil quickly diagnosed the problem and offered a security service review to beef up my WordPress security. His rates are very reasonable, and believe me it was the best money I ever spent for the peace of mind of knowing my site is protected properly. (insert big sigh of relief here!)
Then about a week or so later I was hacked again! I know it's not personal but it sure feels that way! I've been joking that some one out in cyberspace must really have a thing against plasticine illustration and all things creative-honestly!
Neil was quick to relay the bad news and look into it for me. The hacker got in this time through my FTP, so he could circumvent all the security Neil had just put in place. Geesh. He is going to share with me some steps to ensure my FTP is more secure.

I honestly am so thankful to Neil, who runs the super amazing website WP DUDE. He was so prompt, patient, and helpful,  like an WordPress knight in shining armour, rescuing me from my hacker nightmare!  Neil, thank-you, thank-you ,thank-you!

I highly recommend Neil's services for any security issues you may have, or wonder about, to ensure your site is secure. I signed up for his WordPress troubleshooting methodology mini course, so that I can learn how to troubleshoot myself and further educate myself should I have WP issues in the future. Knowledge is power people!
Neil also offers a fantastic webinar series( yes my Mom even signed on for his webinar series!) and his WP DUDE blog is jam-packed full of other Wordpress goodness for anyone wanting to educate themselves and make their WP sites as great as they can be.  So go now, and check it out!! You will be glad you did.

So  to break it down here are the things I learned:

1. Always back up your website. and back it up often. You can do this via a plug-in or through your host provider, or both.

2. Aways update your site with the latest versions of your WP platform, theme and plug-ins. Any security holes will hopefully be taken care of in the most recent version.

3.Go to WP DUDE and educate yourself on how to protect your website

4. Make sure to set unique and difficult passwords with upper case, lower case, numbers and symbols for each password. Never use names or the same password for more than one account or email. And if you are hacked go and change every single password to ensure the hacker can't access any other personal info.

5. Scan your computer once a week or so with Malware to rid any nasty viruses you may have inadvertantly picked up.  My kids also have access to our computer, and you know how they can be click-happy, so I scan more often just in case.

6. If you fear you have been hacked or need technical assistance, contact Neil Matthews through his website WP DUDE . Save yourself some frustration and let a friendly, knowledgable professional fix your site right the first time!

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