The Internet is complicated!

spider on keyboard
About eighteen months ago, my site was hacked and trashed. I vowed not to get too deeply involved again and let those who know what they are doing take the strain.

But I’ve been seduced back into trying things out – mostly through a desire to make my drawing videos available in schools. As I’ve sorted out and learned new things, new ideas have come into my head and I’ve started thinking about all sorts of new projects. Then I had a strange email from Digilante, which I mentioned in a previous post, which set the alarm bells ringing again.

This morning I was going through my 404s, those are the requests made to my website that were unsuccessful. This is a useful habit as it helps to find files that are missing or links that are broken, but it also shows when you are being probed.

Someone is asking for files that have never existed on my site. That someone, a robot crawler or something, is looking for weaknesses, like a fox sniffing around a chicken run, looking for a bit of wire that’s gone rusty.

This morning, I was also researching systems by which hackers can take over your site to post links back to their site in the single minded attempt to get themselves to the top of Google search results. Most of the sites they are pushing are of the unsavoury type or they are sites without any content, or content stolen from others, which are purely designed to fool you to go to their site so you will click on an advertising link. Reading the forums of these people makes me feel quite queasy. There is a total lack of morality involved in this business.

When I first went on the internet in 1997, it was a wonderful experience. Everyone was a pioneer, everyone helped each other out. If you look at all those billions of pages that Google searches through, about 80% of it is swill and, going on the Pareto Principle, that 80% is produced by 20% of people running websites on the net. I suppose it is easier to be immoral, if not criminal, on the net because you never see the damage you are doing to others. Those posting on SEO site forums are only interested in advancing their totally useless sites and they don’t care whose site or reputation they trash on the way up.

I think it really is time to admit that the internet has changed and become very complicated. I just don’t have the time or the inclination to try and stay one step ahead.


Digilante – I’ve been saved by the Dark Knight of the Internet!

There are good guys out there! In my post yesterday about This Website Business, I mentioned how much work was involved in making sure that a registration system was secure and how I thought one of those who had registered was a bit suspicious.

Well, last night I received a very strange email. It came from Digilante – the digital vigilante. Digilante was so fed up with having their forums spammed, they bit back and spammed the spammers, taking over their email accounts, so that whenever they compromise a forum account, an email is sent to the webmaster warning them to tighten up security. How brilliant is that!

I got straight onto my admin account, closed down the login and erased the offending registered accounts. There’s a lot to think about before I allow people to log on to the site to access extra content .

It is weird though. It’s as though the Dark Knight is watching over me from the roof tops! I feel a little bit special to have been picked out for their protection – silly but heart warming. Thanks Digilante – I think you may have saved from a whole heap of hassle!


XAMPP – What a joy!

My Brother has been nagging on at me for a while about XAMPP. “Wassat?” you ask. It’s a brilliant bit of software that I got working on my mac this morning that installs an Apache server, Mysql for a database and PHP which lets you do cool stuff with databases on the web. It works on PC and linux too.

But this is not on the web. It is a local web server for web development, which means I can try out lots of stuff on my computer and not screw up my website in the meantime. I mananged to set all this up before. It took me the best part of a day and everything stopped working when I upgraded to Mac OsX Snow Leopard. I couldn’t be bothered to work out what to do.

But This morning, I went over to www.apachefriends.org, downloaded the package and I was up and running in about two minutes – amazing! Ten minutes later, I’d worked out what was going on and had a new install of the Joomla! content management system running locally on my desktop. How brilliant is that?! Well, it is. Fiddling about with a live website on line can be quite dangerous. Yesterday, I wanted to see how permissions worked for registered users. Before I knew it, I’d lost a whole menu. I had to spend half an hour rebuilding it. Much better to experiment on a local site that can be trashed and rebuilt at will.

I am not a programmer nor a techy, but with something this simple, I’ll be happy and confident to learn through making mistakes on a site that isn’t live or critical and that no one else can see.