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.
“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.
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.
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.
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?