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Recently, the Dew has come under an attack from presumed terrorists. The Patriot Act was useless to help keep us safe. These people are smart, motivated, well-financed and uncaring.
This was a malicious attack. We don’t have any private information or accounts to steal, so none was at risk. It was just a mean spirited bastardly thing to do. We join a long, and some distinguished, list of sites that have been attacked and hacked.
For weeks, these criminals have been bombarding the dew with site registrations – often as many as 20,000 in a single day hoping to find a weakness to exploit. We have continued to ratchet up security settings, adding layers of security and tests – sometimes hourly – hoping they would just give up. Apparently, it just made them mad. (I apologize, will you stop now? Please?)
Generally speaking, these types of terrorists are sponsored by the Eastern European mafia, though they could be from anywhere (you are all suspects). They use sophisticated computers to attack sites. When that doesn’t work, they turn to the third world and pay a few pennies to people who would starve otherwise to spend their days in front of a computer hoping to post a link to site and earn their dirty money. (I’ll feed you if you stop. Please.)
Most recently, they injected a Wonka Trojan Horse – I kid you not, though I assume you can get one by visiting your local chocolate factory website or by googling it. The code was planted in above our “header” that appears at the top of each of our pages and began setting off alarms. I received my first email about it late Monday AM. We ran Trojan scans on our server, didn’t find it, made some changes and hoped we were OK. About 3:30 PM, I got an email from a Dew reader reporting that his computer had been wiped out by a virus on our site. We immediately shut down the site.
The virus was found. The holes in our security were plugged. We examined many thousands of files for additional infection. We deleted many registered users (comment and author users have been preserved. We reset all cookies and all passwords (if you are registered on the Dew, your old password will no longer work and you must click the “Lost your password?” link to receive your new password via email). We installed a firewall on our cloud server and drastically altered privileges of users that had permission to get to the administration side of our site.
We thought all was OK. We hoped all OK. But it the Trojan reappeared. So we spent Tuesday and Wednesday going through the site. Reinstalling everything. Wiping most all files. Restoring from back ups (nothing was lost). Manually going through each of the thousands of folders to check dates and review data.
Since the Dew’s beginning, we purposely allowed some functions to be easy and rich for our readers and users. Functions that we knew made us vulnerable should some nefarious type wish us harm. No longer will the links in your comments be hot. No longer will images or html code be accepted comments. No longer will users be able to use short easy to remember passwords.
We have turned off new registration for the time being (we’ll announce a new policy soon) – if you wish to submit a story, send me an email and I’ll set you up. We reviewed logs and banned and blacklisted suspect IP addresses (this is a waste of time as they hide behind proxy servers all over the world). We have washed, cleaned and have hope. All to say, the site is back on. You might notice a few changes and some features that we haven’t gotten to work, yet, but… we hope again (ahh, the arrogance of hope!).
Don’t count on it. Check your computer’s security settings (especially if you use a PC) and take things seriously (but, no immediate need for plastic wrap or duct tape). If you get warned by a browser message, believe it, stop and let me know (click here to send an email report). If you haven’t already, please install virus protection software on your computer (Avast, McAffee, etc.) and for goodness sake, back up your computer regularly.
We must remain vigilant – individually and as a community. If you notice something suspicious, please let me know.
Unlike a recent President, we have little hope of “smoking them out of their holes.” My preference is that they would just go back to them.