JISHOU, HUNAN — This site went down not once, but twice because of some kind of Linux hack.
Thanks to my ever-reliable webhosts, Planet Earth Hosting, and my own backups, the downtime was just a few hours total, but it was still a pain in the ass.
The first incident was on the 6th, when someone named GhOST61 replaced all the index.xxxx pages in my public_html directory (and perhaps in everyone else’s on that server) with his own 40-byte taunt. My quick googlifying turned up a reference to a vulnerability in the Linux kernel that said GhOST61 has managed to exploit all over the place.
The crew at PE Hosting had to take down the webserver, reinstall Linux, then restore the files from their backups. Some of my more recent posts were missing, but I was able to recover them from the feeds I send to my Facebook notes. The site was back to normal up several hours later.The following day I tried to post something here and got nowhere. The URL didn’t work; all I got was a Firefox message saying the server was not found.
Turns out another hacker torpedoed the same webserver while the PE Hosting crew was trying to harden the server against further attacks. So, they had to take the server down again, reinstall Linux a second time, and restore the files from their backups. My most recent posts were once again missing, but this time I had my own database backup. Instead of cutting and pasting from Facebook, I could use phpadmin to insert the missing posts back into my WordPress database at PE Hosting.
(I also renewed my domain name registration with GoDaddy, so these last few days have been kinda web-geeky for me. On a side note, GoDaddy has added a Hong Kong singer/actress, Ella Koon 官恩娜, to its team of GoDaddy Girls. Apparently, GoDaddy is making inroads in the Asian market and wants a suitable spokesmodel for those customers. And yes, she did register her domain, ella.asia, with GoDaddy. I checked.)
What can we learn from these incidents?
Linux is NOT hack-proof, although it is secured better than Microsoft Windows. No operating system is invulnerable, alas. Clever coders who want to show off their prowess like challenges.
Having backups is first priority for a website owner, or any computer user. All decent webhosts do their own backups, but the website owner should also keep his or her own backups. Redundancy is your friend. These backups can be automatic with WordPress and cpanel, so there’s no excuse to neglect the process. As for the computer now sitting in front of you (assuming its yours), buy a portable hard drive, the biggest capacity you can afford, and use it to backup all your important data. All operating systems give you the option to make regular backups, so do it. Now! If you’re really paranoid, you can also burn your stuff to CDs or DVDs.
The above advice applies to cellphones, too. If your cell can connect to your computer, make a backup of all that stuff on your cellphone. Then, you don’t need to bore your friends with tiresome Facebook messages like, “Lost my phone. Need phone numbers NOW!”
Shit happens. Be prepared for it.