Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyA Gazelle Speaks

  • Sun, 11 Nov 2012 03:49:10    Permalink

    So, to pick up where last weeks rather grim entry left off
    On Monday  October 29th I went on my Ten Pound Island website to check a catalog listing. What I found, instead of a catalog page, was a scary looking red sign warning that my site was a Reported Attack Page! My website had been blocked by Google for suspicious activity.
    It took me a few days to locate a company that could sort the problem out, and it has taken them two weeks, so far, to get it sorted. They tell me my website should be cleaned up and back on line on a new server by next week, but that Google may continue to block it until they re-scan it and find that it is clean. This process could take a week or more. Nobody can say for sure. Theyre Google and were not.
    You can imagine what a marvelous opportunity this has provided for wringing hands, tearing hair, waking in a sweat at 2 a.m., etc. A good portion of my business is done through my website. More importantly, my website is my best source of new customers. This is because my old catalogs are archived on the site. If someone is searching for a book that I listed, say, five years ago, Googles spiders will find it and send that person to my catalog entry. That person will then contact me. I probably wont have the book, but I will have captured someone who has demonstrated a willingness to part with cash. Now when they go to my website theyll think theyve stumbled into a den of kiddy porn or some other unspeakably illicit activity. In terms of public relations, what is the cost of that?
    While waiting for my site to be repaired, Ive spoken about my problem with an assortment of geeks, wireheads and techies. These people tend to be passionately interested in the subject and typically share their knowledge in fire hose streams of jargon, acronyms, and abstruse technical concepts. Consequently, Ive only been able to absorb about 10% of what they said. But, for the record, heres what I think I learned about what happened to me.
    Who did it? Hackers. Often Eastern European, sometimes Asian or African, but could be from anywhere.
    Why did they do it? Contrary to popular belief, Malware of the sort that hit TPI is not out to steal credit card numbers and identity information. The motive of most such hacks is to bump traffic. They want to infect machines with Malware that will send out zillions of ads for penis enlargement pills, drugs from Canada, and the like. They know that most people wont bite, but that a very small percentage will. The more messages they can send out, the better their chances of landing a sucker.
    Why did they do it to me? Nothing personal. You were hit because somewhere between your computer and your web page perhaps as far removed from your control as your service provider - there was a weak spot that they were able to exploit.
    How did they do it? Nowadays people hack software, not hardware. No more hard drives going up in a puff of smoke. Cyber criminals may find a way in through your service provider, your iPhone (no, Macs are not inherently more secure than PCs, there are just fewer of them, making them less opportune targets), by piggybacking JavaScript, exploiting a weak password or a bad hyperlink (those blue letters that you click on to get you somewhere else) that youve just downloaded, or through any weak link your website affords. How many of us sign in as Admin or User 1? Duhh The bad guys run programs that continually scan thousands upon thousands of servers and websites for such weaknesses, which they see as points of entry.
    What happens then? Once they get into a website they install a piece of code that replicates itself throughout your site. The TPI site is simple, but rich in data plenty of places for that nasty code to hide. From each of its many hiding places, the Malware then sends thousands of junk email messages those ads for penis enlargement pills or Canadian drugs to other computers.
    Does this harm me in any way? Probably not, aside from the fact that your website will be blocked. In terms of performance, it is not likely that your computer will be ruined.
    What about my customers? Again, it is unlikely that any of your correspondents will be affected in any way. Unless it specifically targets something like your customer database or list of contacts (and this is certainly possible),Malware targets other victims.
    What can I do to prevent future attacks? You can harden your website to make it more secure, change usernames and passwords, perform regular systems backups and scans and change database usernames. But the main thing to remember is that the Internet is porous. Any system can be hacked. Even the best protection will not protect you 100% of the time.
    Can I insure myself against such attacks? Yes. But policies are very specific as to what they cover, and tend to be expensive. And, there are lots of ways you can be victimized.
    Bottom line? - There is no real, final security. Your protection lies in making it too much trouble for criminals to bother attacking you. Your safety is in numbers. The lion can only kill one gazelle each time, and in cyberspace the herd of gazelles is very large indeed.
    Next week The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. Or, how I paid for my computer technicians

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