hacked screen

Blogging Badge of Honour: My WordPress Got Hacked

(Image by Darwin Laganzon from Pixabay.)

Well, I say, ‘Hacked’ …

‘Hacked’ sounds really ominous, like I was the target of a deliberate attack for nefarious purposes. Disclaimer: nope. What happened was that some bots looking for a weakness in plugins that weren’t updated and then dropped in some malicious code to mess up my website.

And that’s why I haven’t been blogging for months …

Let’s rewind: I started blogging a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … (Actually, it was 2002 and I was in the USA at the time.) I didn’t know much about html or keeping a weblog, so the only real choice was using Blogger. It was (and is) the easiest software to start with, and because nearly everyone else was using it. It was a good choice for someone with no experience – it was straightforward and powerful, providing everyone and anyone with the experience of publishing on the internet. A few clicks, some typing, even adding images – all of a sudden you had your own slice of the web that was yours. It was pretty sweet.

The Blogger site also took care of everything technical for you – the back-end software was always up to date, you didn’t have to worry about anything, and you could just keep on posting nonsense on the internet. Admittedly, you didn’t have control of all aspects of your site, the templates were limited and Blogger technically kind-of owned it; that was the compromise. But it was a compromise that lots of people, myself included, were happy to take to be able to express themselves to other like-minded individuals. I know I will sound old saying this, but those really were the good old days – the blogs were easy to maintain so lots of communities were able to build up, people could interact easy, leaving comments was the normal way of communicating, long before social media and people using blogs to brand themselves and everyone trying to monetise their passions. Sigh, I do miss the comics blogosphere …

Fast-forward a few years: I only recently moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress back in 2017. The reason was because I was trying out WordPress for my work site (I’d previously used Weebly until I worked out that WordPress would be cheaper) and testing out WordPress on the blog for my partner, so I’m still relatively new to WordPress. It was a steep learning curve, even with 15 years of using Blogger and tinkering around with some of the back-end, but it was enjoyable discovering what WordPress had to offer and playing around with nuts and bolts to get the website the way I wanted to (more or less).

The pros: you do have more control of your site, able to tweak and set it up as much as you want; you have access to so many more things (templates, widgets, plugins) that jazz the shizzle out of your website; you own the entirety of your blog so Google can’t shut you down for no reason. WordPress is as good as people say it is, and I’m glad I made the switch.

However.

The cons: WordPress is a lot of work. It needs constant updating – WordPress itself, the plugins, the template; it never stops. That’s the compromise of having all the control over the website: you have to control it all the time. It’s also way more complex than the simplicity of Blogger; you have to keep up to date with everything that’s going on, and you have to look up how to do everything because it’s so complicated (if you can find the specific information behind the millions of sites that provide generic posts about general aspects of WordPress).

Coming back to the hack: the problem was Gutenberg. WordPress 5.0 was the big update of the block-based editing system, because WordPress thought it had to be all young and hip. It was also a huge overhaul and teething problems were expected – I confess that I didn’t update straightaway because I was waiting until the kinks were ironed out. And that’s when my troubles started.

It seems that by not updating WordPress for a few versions, it meant that various plugins didn’t get updated, which allowed the Pharma Hack to inveigle its way into my blog. It didn’t show up right away – that’s part of its process, turning your SEO into links for pharmaceuticals, and it’s a real pain to eliminate. Plus, I didn’t want to pay to get it fixed because I’m a cheapskate and I thought I might be able to fix it myself …

This lack of regular blogging while I tried in vain to find the information that could fix my blog, plus some other health-related issues that hit me this year, led to one my regular sabbaticals and the attenuation of my blogging habit. However, a change of ISP (shout-out to kualo – thanks, guys) that fixed my pharma hack, a desire to write about the films I’ve watched and loved (Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame), an offer to review a film book I couldn’t resist, and here I am. Trying this pointless blogging thing once again, even though it’s a dying hobby. I still love it, even if I’m not very good at it. I mean, I couldn’t let the hackers win …

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