When hacking meant horseriding

Posted by | January 28, 2011 | News, Websites | No Comments
As a child and teen I rode horses - saying I was horse mad was an understatement. Back in those heady carefree pre-computer days hacking meant a ride in the countryside (or a trail ride here in Australia). One could buy a hacking jacket, usually in a tweedy fabric, for that very purpose. Which, as you can imagine, caused some ridicule in Aussie circles where the de rigeur outfit for a hack or trail ride in the 1970s was jeans, RM Williams boots, a short sleeved shirt in summer covered by a checked lumberjacket in winter. Now hacking means something completely different in the context of my life today. And oh heck, is there a lot of it about. One of my colleagues had not only her bank account hacked but her Facebook profile last year. Same person? Unlikely. Bank hackers try to get into whatever accounts they can. The Facebook one, which impacted on my colleague's other social accounts, could have been more personal; we'll never know as the hacker hasn't been identified. A close family member has also had a bank account hacked and as it's the same bank as my colleague's wonders if they are connected or if it's the same hacker on a rampage. Fruitlessly he's been searching online doing vanity searches with hacking terms to see if someone has bragged on a forum somewhere. I rocked with laughter when he told me what he'd been up to. Even the most private forum can be scrutinised by the powers that be and no hacker worth his binary codes is going to brag on a forum about ripping off bank accounts. And this week, one of the websites I manage was hacked into. It's not one that I control the hosting for; it was a co-development with another developer, who has it hosted overseas. All of his managed sites were hacked, with a nasty translucent skull on a black background overwriting the home page. Easy to fix, as the hacker, thankfully, hadn't changed any passwords en route. He'd just added an extra index.html page which overwrote the index.php page; a quick dash into the FTP area removed it. Because all his sites were hacked this reeks of a server security compromise. Some of the sites were coded in Joomla!, some in WordPress. My developer friend has now read the riot act to the hosting company. It really does pay to buy quality hosting, where server security is a top priority. You might think $100 a year is expensive to host a site when there are much cheaper options out there, but buyer beware, you can in some cases get what you pay for in terms of site security. If you are using a free platform such as Joomla!, Drupal, WordPress etc to host your website, try and install updates as they become available, as updates typically address security issues. Change your passwords often; don't use names of family members or pets just because they're easy to remember. A dedicated hacker has sophisticated tools that can break even complicated passwords (see paras about bank accounts being hacked above!), but making it difficult does make it harder for hackers to intrude on your online life.

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