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Dude, You’ve Been Hacked!

Published November 17, 2014 - 2 Comments

No one ever wants to hear those words.  “You’ve been hacked!”  Sure enough, when I went to the blog, I was greeted by this:

HackedIt slowly scrolled up and told me how good my security was, but how they were far better.  Blah Blah Blah.  I figure that it’s just a group of script kiddies somewhere who don’t have a clue and are just getting their jollies from defacing some websites.  The real kicker here was that I went to check each of my websites, and they were all showing the same thing! 🙁  That’s one of the joys of shared web hosting.  When one is torched, it’s almost a sure thing that everything is gone.

I contacted my hosting provider Dreamhost and received instructions on how to get my websites back up and running.  Unfortunately there is no simple way to roll them back, so I had to go through each one and create new WordPress installations, copy the database and uploads from the hacked folder into the new one, and re-install my themes and plugins.  This started off as a  very slow process, but after the third or fourth time, I began to get the knack of it.  Let’s just say that I’m now pretty proficient in understanding which WordPress files are key to holding your data.

So how did these punks get in in the first place?  I don’t know.  The most likely scenario is that one of my WordPress plugins or themes had a vulnerability in it, allowing them access to all my sites.  Wordpress plugins get updated all the time, and it’s a big pain to keep them up to date – especially when you are running multiple sites.  Some of my sites are not actively used, so I rarely log into them.  That makes them especially vulnerable to hackers looking for access.

How do you manage multiple WordPress sites to keep your plugins or themes up to date?  There are some services out there that allow you to update everything from a single dashboard!  One of the free ones I found is WP-Remote.  Their website claims “Monitor and update all of your WordPress‐powered sites. 68,253 WordPress websites already do.”  I created a login and added a plugin to each of my blogs that I wanted to manage.  Voila!  This is what the WP-Remote dashboard looks like:

 

WPRemoteYou can see the list of WordPress sites on the left hand side, and easily determine whether they are up to date or require action.  Installing updates is as simple as clicking a single button on the right side to update all.  Within seconds everything is good to go!  This is a brilliant service, and saves me a ton of time!  I’ve made a habit of checking in with WP Remote in the morning and updating any files that require it.  Did I mention that it’s free?  They sell a premium version of their service that adds things like automated backups, but I’ve discovered that I don’t need to pay for those.  Why not?  Keep reading, and I’ll tell ya!

Updraft Plus is a fantastic (and free!) WordPress plugin that performs fully automated backups on whatever schedule you set, and saves them locally as well as on virtually any remote storage location.  They offer a premium plan that gives you more control over how those backups are performed, but I’m OK with the free version for now.

Free managing dashboard.  Free automated backups.  What a great deal, right?  Yup!  But there’s one area that I DID decide to splurge a little money on.  I’ve been a faithful Dropbox user for years, and I’d worked my way up to 14GB of free space, but it just wasn’t enough.  So with the money that I saved from the other two services, I upgraded my Dropbox to the Professional plan.  For $109/year I now have 1TB of space.  That’s more than enough for all my backup needs. Famous last words.

So while this hacking incident has cost me some time and money (lost Adsense revenue and increase purchasing) I’ve learned a great deal about WordPress installations, the critical files, bulk management, and now have a solid backup/restore plan in the event of a catastrophic failure in the future.  It was a difficult pill to swallow, but I think that the lessons learned far outweigh the loss.

Let’s hope that I never have to deal with this again. But if I do, I have the right tools in place to minimize any downtime.

Disable Dropbox Upload Speed Limits

Published December 5, 2012 - 2 Comments

Have you ever thought that it seems to take a really long time to upload your files to Dropbox?  You’re right!  One of the lesser known facts about Dropbox is that the default setting automatically limits the speed of uploads.  (Download speeds can also be limited, but this is not the default setting.  Only uploads.)  This probably isn’t an issue unless you’re trying to upload multimedia files such as a large presentation, a movie, or the latest batch of family photos… but really… do you really want it to take more time than is necessary?  Unlikely.

Thankfully you can easily disable this setting with the simple click of a mouse button.    Check out this little screen capture video that I made to find out how!

(yes.. I’m playing with new software… sorry…  the video is quite small, but if you click full screen, it looks pretty nice.  Will keep working on figuring this stuff out!)

Find Duplicate Files on your Mac With Gemini: The Duplicate Finder from MacPaw

Published April 8, 2012 - 2 Comments

I knew that I had duplicates.  I save things all the time, and then I make backups.. and backups of those backups!  I have external hard drives with backups.  I have a wireless NAS drive with backsups.  I have a SugarSync account that does automatic online backups.  Then of course there’s my Dropbox. So there’s no shortage of backups.  The problem is that those backups are not organized in any logical way, so they’re really more useless than anything.  I probably couldn’t find what I was looking for if I needed to, yet my backups continue to get larger every time, simply be virtue of backing up what’s already been backed up.  It’s insane.  So yeah.. I knew that I had duplicate files within those backups.  I just didn’t know HOW BAD it really was… until I bought a neat little program from the Mac App Store called Gemini: The Duplicate Finder by MacPaw.

If you’re a Windows user… well.. I’m sorry… but this isn’t for you.  Do yourself a favour, and throw your Windows machine in the garbage.  Then go buy a Mac.  You will thank me later.  I promise.

Gemini: The Duplicate Finder is $7.99; it’s not expensive, but it’s also outside the range of “Bah.. It’s only a buck.. I’ll try it, what’s the worst that can happen?  I waste a whole dollar…”.  And quite honestly, I think that too many of the $0.99 Apps flooding the Mac App Store are crap, so I’m willing to spend a little more for something that does the job I’m looking for, and does it well.  Reading through the reviews I quickly noticed one thing… most people who purchased Gemini loved it!  There were a couple of people who said that it did not work at all, and that kind of worried me, but there’s always someone out there who runs into problem.  It doesn’t matter what it is.

I am pleased to tell you that (so far) I am one of the very happy users of Gemini: The Duplicate Finder!  As I started the post with… I knew that I had duplicates.  I just didn’t know HOW MANY…  Well so far I have scanned a 250 GB external harddrive and discovered 61 GB worth of duplicate files!  I have some MP3s backed up SEVEN TIMES!  I think that every music video I’ve ever purchased is duplicated 2 or 4 times… and this is just ONE hard drive… I can’t wait until I scan the 1.5 TB NAS.  That’ll be scary.

Of course finding the duplicates is only the beginning.  If you don’t do anything with them, then what’s the point of even looking for them?  Gemini: The Duplicate Finder makes it very simple to delete the duplicate files, while at the same time providing checkpoints to ensure that you don’t inadvertently wipe out more than you intended to.

I am going to play with it some more, and you can be sure to see a complete review in the near future.

 

Dropbox Doubles Referral Bonus Space… Retroactively!

Published April 5, 2012 - 2 Comments

The Best Free Online Storage and Sharing Option.. Period

The timing couldn’t be better!  I’ve been considering writing another post about the virtues of Dropbox as the best solution to your online storage and file sharing needs… I just didn’t want to rehash the same ole thing that I’ve already discussed before.  If you’re not using Dropbox, why on earth not???  It’s free!  (yes, there are paid plans, but you don’t need those unless you have massive amounts of data that you want to store)  It’s simple!  Even your grandmother could do it.  And that’s not a knock against grandmothers… it’s a fact!

When I logged into my Dropbox this morning I saw a notice that I had received bonus space.  Cool!  To what did I owe this pleasant surprise?  My Dropbox folder appeared to be about 4GB larger than before, but I didn’t immediately see any reason for that.  There was nothing in my inbox.  No flurry of referrals had signed up through the night.  What then?

Seems that the fine folks over at Dropbox have been rather busy.  When I stopped over to their blog I immediately noticed their announcement of the double referral space.  Incase anyone isn’t quite sure what that means exactly… if you have  free account, and refer a friend using your unique referral link, each of you will now receive an extra 500MB of space!  Not just you.. but your friend too!  It’s a pretty sweet deal.  And if you have a paid account, you receive an additional 1GB of space for every referral. Yup.  And the best part?  It not simply for new referrals.  They’ve applied it to existing referrals that you might already have!

And then I noticed something on Twitter… U2’s Bono and The Edge invest in Dropbox?  Nice.  Well, if you won’t take my word for it, maybe you’ll take Bono’s!  Get a Dropbox account.  Use your Dropbox account.  It will help simplify your life.

And we could all use a little more simplicity in our lives.

Best Backup Services

Published September 6, 2010 - 8 Comments

Online backups are the topic of the day again!  If you haven’t jumped to signup for a Dropbox account, shame on you.  When your hard drive goes south, and you lose a bunch of pictures (like I did not too long ago), you’ll be wishing that you had listened to me.  I haven’t heard anything back from the people who did install Dropbox, so I’m hoping that it’s working out well for you.  I use it almost daily now.  If I’m at work, and I want to see a file in my dropbox, I just log into my account through any web browser.  That’s what I’m doing right now.  I wanted to look at a Word document that I keep on my laptop.  Rather than fire up the laptop, it was easier just to open the Word document in Dropbox, and I have full access to it.  From there I can edit, save, delete, or share it with anyone.  It’s a fantastic service.  And… it’s free for a 2 GB account!

But in the interest of fairness, there are other online backup services out there.  Which one is the best solution for you?  I recently took note of this review site, BestBackupServices.  It has a very nice, simple, straight forward breakdown of many of the best online backup services available.  I really like the comparison chart they have.  There’s nothing fancy about it.  It tells you straight up what each service offers.  And if you click on the Backup Providers tab, you can see the pros and cons of each of the services.  It really is a true review, rather than just blowing sunshine at you.

So take a look at BestBackupServices, and decide whether you want to chance not having your files safe and sound somewhere you don’t have to worry about them.

Oh.. and if you do still think that Dropbox is the way to you, please consider signing up through one of the links on this page.  It helps us both out with an additional 250MB of free storage.

Thanks!

Still Not Using Dropbox??? What’s Wrong With You???

Published August 3, 2010 - 2 Comments

Yup, I’m going to harp on the wonders of free 0nline storage and automatic backup again.  Since I wrote my first post on Dropbox last week, I’ve had a chance to play with it much more, and I like it even more than when I wrote that post!  It truly is a fantastic utility, and you can’t beat the price… free!

To expand a little more on what I had written earlier, once you  have created your free account on Dropbox.com, you then install the software on your computer (takes about 30 seconds) and voila…  you have an icon on your desktop called My Dropbox, which is a direct link to your free 2 GB of space on the Dropbox servers.  It’s that simple!  I threw a bunch of stuff in there… pictures from my Cape Breton trip, movie clips and mp3s from an online course I’m taking, even my VGA-Planets installation files, so I no longer have to ask my friend to send them to me when I reinstall my computer!  And everything gets backed up in real time, and is accessible from anywhere!  When I was writing a post earlier today on my Cape Breton visit, I didn’t have my laptop with me… normally that would mean that I couldn’t include the pictures that I wanted, but then I remembered that they were stored in my Dropbox, and I can log in with any browser and retrieve them no problem.

My days of emailing files back and forth to myself are over.  My worries about not having a backup of my important files are done.  I wish that I had taken my friend’s advice much earlier, because had I started using Dropbox months ago, I wouldn’t have lost a few family pictures along the way.

Need Free Online Storage? Try Dropbox!

Published July 28, 2010 - 5 Comments

A friend of mine told me about Dropbox quite some time ago.  I created an account at the time, but I didn’t actually try it out until today.  What a great little service!

Dropbox provides you with 2GB of free online storage, perfect for backing up important files that you can then access from any computer.  You can also easily share some (or all) of these files with other people, if needed.  It’s a piece of cake to log in and retrieve them.  I stored some mp3 and video files for a course that I’m taking.  I don’t need to worry about accidentally deleting them (again) and can get to them anywhere I have an internet connection.  There’s even a Dropbox app for my iPhone!

While there is an option to pay for more storage, one of the really nice things about Dropbox is that they will give you an additional 250MB of storage for each referral, up to 8GB maximum.  So I’m asking for a little help here.  Sign-up only takes a couple of minutes, and is free.  Plus, it really is a worthwhile service.  Many times I’ve wished that I had easily accessible backups of certain files.  And then there’s the stuff that I’ve lost over the years… sure, you can back things up to a DVD or external drive.  I would never suggest using online storage as your sole method of backup… but keeping everything on local backup isn’t a great idea either.  Things happen.  Trust me.  A good strategy should involve a combination of offline and online backup, especially for those files that you can not replace… ie pictures.

So, please.. if you have a moment, take a look at Dropbox.  And if you think that it might be useful for you, consider signing up.  I just checked their FAQ, and we both get an additional 250MB if you sign up through the referral link.  And remember…  it’s completely free.  And extremely useful!  Thanks!