About a year ago, people started leaving me strange messages on
Twitter. “You’ve been hacked,” the first one read. “Check your blog,
it’s hacked,” went the next.
Even though these people were my friends, I ignored the messages.
After all, I watched my blog continuously and it looked just fine. I
had customized a WordPress.org template into a unique site design, and
updated nearly every day with what I hoped were attention-getting,
Finally, a good friend sent me a screenshot. Although my blog looked
fine to me, other visitors were getting a different story. All of my
carefully-crafted text was replaced by pharmaceutical advertisements,
and no one could read my new content.
Yes, I had become a victim of the nasty Pharma Hack, which was
particularly devious not only because it affected only pages accessed
from outside sources (meaning that every time I accessed my blog through
WordPress.org’s dashboard, it looked fine), but also because it is
nearly impossible to eradicate. I thought I fixed it, but then it came
back. I downloaded a plugin to prevent it, and it still came back. Every
few months, all my pages would change to pharmaceutical advertisements,
and people would start messaging me again to let me know I’d been
What about you? Maybe your Twitter friends aren’t as thoughtful as
mine are, or maybe you’re still in the early stages of blogging and
haven’t built up a large fan base. Has your blog been hacked? If it’s an
outward-facing hack like the Pharma Hack, how would you know?
The truth is that our blogs get hacked all the time, as do our social media
accounts. Sometimes the hacks are obvious, like the one where your
Twitter account starts spontaneously generating spam links. Sometimes
the hacks are less obvious — they don’t change your account, because
their goal is to secretly gain access to your personal information.
Here’s another hack story, from electronic musician and software
designer n3wjack. Unlike my Pharma Hack, this hack didn’t affect his
blog visibly at all. To quote n3wjack’s post: “The scary part is that
this only happened when Googlebot was munching my pages. Not when I or
any other human passed by with a browser. So in other words, I didn’t
have a clue.”
That’s what hackers want, these days. They want you to keep on blogging
away, without a single clue that they’re working behind the scenes.
Internet security software is becoming more and more sophisticated
in fighting back against these hackers and other security threats.
Unlike previous iterations, this software is designed to prevent
vulnerabilities in Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and other social
networks. It’s also designed to alert you when your email has been
hacked. In short, it’s a program for our current security needs, and
every blogger and content creator needs to add this type of program to
their security arsenal.
Since I installed updated security software, I’ve gotten several
messages informing me of potential threats, and additional messages
letting me know that hacks have been taken care of. I had no idea so
much hacking was going on behind the scenes. On the other hand, we’ve
all seen other blogs and social media accounts get hacked. We’ve all
received an email from a friend affected by the Gmail London Hack, the
one that goes “I got mugged in London, please wire me money.” If it can
happen to our friends, why can’t it happen to us? Or — has it happened
to us already?
If you’re a blogger or a content creator, take some time this week to
thoroughly scan your properties for hacks. Install an updated internet
security program to keep watch behind the scenes. And the next time
someone messages you saying your blog has been hacked — believe them.