Boulevard of broken dreams

image

10 & 11 October 2014

On Friday night I had two major problems and a zillion minor ones. Major problem number one was that I still couldn’t get onto my blog to reset it even if I knew how. Major problem number two was that my email was slowly filling up with non delivery notifications for emails I hadn’t sent, hundreds of them. It didn’t take a genius to realise the two things were connected. For once Googling got me nowhere. In the end I rang LCN, the blog hosts to ask for help.

image

“You can’t get onto your blog because we’re locking you out,” the techy bod told me. What he couldn’t tell me was how the hacker had got in and that was something I found very worrying. If the techy bods didn’t know then how could I prevent it happening again? He did confirm my suspicions about the non delivery notifications though. The hackers who’d hijacked my blog were using it to send scam emails. Because my email address was the one associated with the blog, the delivery failures were coming back to me. He promised to send me an email with a list of instructions, which would verify I was the real domain owner. Once I’d done that they’d unlock my blog and I could reset it.
“The data we’ve been able to recover is too corrupted by the malicious code to save any of it I’m afraid,” he said, “do you have back ups?”
“Most of it is backed up except the last few days,” I said, “but what if the code is in that? Do you think it will be?”
“I don’t know but it’s worth a try,” he said, rather unhelpfully.

For the next hour I waited for the email but it didn’t come and the email notifications didn’t stop. Of course I was itching to find out what, if anything, could be saved. At the same time I was terrified of trying in case I started the whole thing off again. While the blog was still locked though there was nothing at all I could do. Or was there?

WordPress users will probably know that you can create free, if pretty limited, blogs on their site. What if I created one to try out one of my backup downloads? If it all went pear shaped I could close it down straight away. If not, I would at least know if the backups had worked and what they’d saved. It was ever so slightly risky but at this point I didn’t feel I had that much to lose.

It didn’t take long and, once it was done, I downloaded the most recent backup. It took a while. When it opened there was good news and bad news. The good news was all my text was there, every single bit of it. The bad news was none of my photos were. When I’d backed up I’d thought I was backing up everything. What I was actually doing was backing up all the code for the photos but, without backing up the media files, the code pointed to thin air. Bad, bad news.

Of course I still had a few of my favourites saved on my iPad and phone but the vast majority were gone. The one tiny glimmer of hope was that, once they unlocked my blog, I might be able to somehow salvage them. I was thinking screen shots, which would mean no possible code contamination. It would be a long laborious job but worth it if it worked.

image

The night was a stormy one both figuratively and literally, with ferocious thunder and blindingly bright lightning. At five o’clock on Saturday morning when I got up for work the lightning was scarily spectacular and the rain and wind a little worrying for someone who’d be leaving for work in just over an hour. There were still no emails from LCN although I was getting text messages from Panda asking me what was going on and why she couldn’t get onto my blog. She was missing her reading fix. At least someone had noticed I was missing.

image

Walking through the dark and rain to work was not fun. Despite my padded jacket and my plastic mac I was soaked by the time I got there. This was mainly courtesy of idiot car drivers going at speed through the flooded roads. Thankfully there weren’t many cars at that time of morning but enough for me to end up dripping wet and very grumpy.

image

image

Ten hours of moans about bus delays and lost property later Commando picked me up. The rain had more or less stopped, there was even blue sky in places. What there wasn’t was an email from LCN. There had, however, been another development. The white screen with the Linux10 message had been replaced with a notification from LCN saying

‘Web hosting expired – If you own this domain please contact our customer service team for more information.’

Of course, by this time, it was too late, their offices were closed.

I spent a lot of time looking through my emails, including my deleted items, to try to salvage what photos I could. There were a few thanks to my terrible habit of not emptying the trash but not as many as I’d have liked. Still some was better than none. Once I’d exhausted the emails and looked through my Facebook photos, where I found a few more, I began to wonder where else there might be some. This was when I turned on the Mac. Most of my photo editing is done on the iPad so I didn’t really expect there to be much in the way of photos on the Mac but I was a touch desperate by this time.

When I looked though I discovered everything that had gone through my photostream since I got the Mac last Christmas was saved on there. This included all the things I’d deleted from my iPad and phone. OK so there are still lots of missing photos but a lot less than there were before and I was thankful for every single one of them. Maybe it would be possible to put the blog back together after all, or some semblance of it anyway. It would take months, maybe years, but it could be done. Now all I had to decide was whether I wanted to keep blogging. Was it worth the trouble? What if it happened again?

image

Published by

Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

20 thoughts on “Boulevard of broken dreams”

  1. This is an intense story – and suspenseful – you have left us hanging.

    Only you can decide, but you have already retrieved some nuggets if you choose to begin again. Prayers and good thoughts.

    1. In the WordPress dashboard, under tools, you can export it all to a file on your computer. It seems to only save the text and code but it doesn’t take too long. I did mine in small batches over a few nights. I’m quite glad I did now.

  2. Firstly, all cyber criminal are sad f#¥ks who should be fed slowly into a bark chipper. Secondly, it’s a good job I bought you that Mac book in an overblown romantic gesture last year. Lastly, spare a thought for the man who had to live with a neurotic, tetchy blogger all weekend!!!!!!

  3. You had to be heart-sick. I’m so sorry this happened to you. PLEASE, PLEASE don’t stop blogging. Your blog is one of the few I consistently frequent. It has been such an encouragement to me and your beautiful photos feed my soul. I’m glad you found a lot of them. Hope more turn up!

    1. Thanks for your encouragement Paula. It’s going to take a while to sort through the debris and see what I can salvage. I don’t think I could stop writing if I tried now 🙂

    1. Thanks Amanda. Im going through the debris as we speak trying to work out what to save and what to discard. You may see a few posts you recognise from time to time as I publish things from the old blog so don’t worry, you’re not going mad 🙂

  4. I’m not sure what the gateway message was all about but it seems to be working now.
    You’ve got me wondering how I’d feel if I gave up blogging. I’m not so sure that I’d like it and I wonder if I’d still be out in the woods each day.
    I hope you’ll be able to find even more of your photos.

    1. I hope you don’t ever give up blogging. I’d miss your posts. It’s going to be a long, slow process finding all the photos and putting them back together with the posts I want to keep. Still, I’ll never be short of something to do 🙂

  5. What a nightmare this has been for you, Marie. You MUST keep blogging, of course you must.
    Anyway, it got me thinking of my own blog’s security.
    I have several free WordPress blog (just pay a small fee for domain names) and have never backed up my prose, until now! Photos are all saved on a USB hard drive. But, even though it is all technically possible to restore, it would be immensely time consuming – not to mention soul destroying – to have to do it.
    On the positive side, Marie, it’s a chance to pick out the really important stuff (senior Commando posts come to mind) and maybe revisit some old topics. We are all thinking of you and rooting for you.
    (P.S. I think your blog host let you down, big time. And they should be able to retrieve your old domain name and point it to this new blog. It’s the very least they can do to make amends.)

    1. I’m finding out just how time consuming it is going to be to restore things. Finding the photos is one thing, adding them together with the text is taking forever. Of course Commando Seniors posts are up there at the top of my list. There are also pots that explain things like the 100 miles a month that need to be reported pretty soon.

      The blog hosts were actually very helpful. They were the ones who spotted the problem and shut things down to stop the malicious code and emails. The techy bod spent over an hour on Sunday talking me through how to fix things and salvage what I could and he is going to redirect to the is new blog too. The problem is a lot of the things like Google searches will not have posts to redirect to.

      Now it’s a matter of deciding what to keep and fixing it.

  6. Oh and the nightmare goes on. I pay for my own domain through WordPress, a small fee. When I tried the back up it wouldn’t let me. When I went on the WP back up help and support it said that there is no need for a domain name .com blog with WP such as mine because it is all automatically backed-up and easy-peasy to be restored. I’m not so sure I read this right or if this is indeed true. I’m wondering if I need to copy and paste everything onto Word and save it on my external hard drive instead, but it would be without the photos. I know how demoralising this all is but don’t give up blogging, unless you really want to that is. You already have this one up and running and although it will take time it will be worth it in the end, but yes, it is a worry about it happening again. I had my BT email address hacked once a few years ago through Yahoo and I had just the same as you with thousands of unsent spam emails. The thing is, I never used it through Yahoo but BT told me that someone had hacked in. I’ve never had any more trouble since then. Oh I do hope you get things sorted out. Hang in there….

    1. If I was you I’d save everything as word documents and back up my photos on the hard drive too just to be safe. WordPress did have mine backed up but the evil code was in it corrupting it so I couldn’t use it. I have got some of my photos back but, sadly, some are gone for good.

  7. Oh, I hate hackers. I too noticed I was receiving a lot of mail delivery status notifications and contacted my ISP who told me that sometimes spammers will find an email address that works but to not worry about it. I changed my password but they kept right on doing it. Then I had my email account suspended by my ISP for illegal activity. I’m like ‘what the’? So I rang them (and was put through to an off-shore tech) and pointed out that I had already been in contact with them about this so they completely reset my account and password. So far, it’s been okay. And don’t even get me started on the hackers to my eBay account.

    1. It’s such a nightmare isn’t it? I find I’m now suspicious of every little thing. Just off to check my eBay account, I hadn’t even thought of that!

Why not tell me what you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.