My blog was hacked last week, deliberately and maliciously. I was hacked because my lacking knowledge in the area of website management and saved by my control issues as a Database Administrator. It was a valuable lesson to learn in regards to being a woman in technology and new technical skills.
If you ask most women, they’ll most likely say that they haven’t had too many difficulties with men harassing them, especially if they’re over 40. In truth, its not that they haven’t, we often become so immune to it, until other women recall their own stories, then suddenly recall issues. We’ve also learned that when we bring it up, someone will most likely ask us if we’re over-reacting or if we could have misunderstood the situation, so we’re unsure why we should bother with it.
Due to this, I under-estimated the anger of a someone that was causing difficulty for a woman I was mentoring and had advised. When the woman, we’ll call “Sarah”, first started her recent job, “John” was really nice to her. He went out of his way to help her get to know the lay of the land at the company and was the first to answer questions. She admitted she isn’t sure how she would have gotten along without him. After six months on the job, she started dating the man she’s about to marry. As soon as they started dating, John began to behave differently around Sarah. He went from brushing her off, to speaking in a condescending manner in meetings, but she thought she might be over-reacting. She finally asked to meet with him and he admitted he was hurt that she was dating someone and thought they’d had a “connection”. She carefully and clearly set the boundary that they were coworkers- ONLY. The negative interactions escalated until she reached out to me asking for advice on finding a new position. She really loved her job and had been there for over a year at this point. I worked with her, advising her how to track the issues in writing and report it to HR. Due to this, a number of meetings occurred to address the behavior with John. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to address his behavior with Sarah and he was terminated. As the conversations were extensive, Sarah did let it slip that I was the one assisting her in how to work through the challenge and John chose soon to start blaming me for why Sarah hadn’t done what he wanted.
I didn’t put two and two together when I received my first email and honestly, I get weird emails from time to time. I simply deleted it. The next one, I sent to spam and ignored them. Seriously guys in tech, these idiots are why you can’t have a nice conversation with women everywhere. We never know when one of these freaks are going to come out of the woodwork and how much they’re going to go off the deep end. If you get frustrated that women won’t have a simple conversation with you in public, don’t get upset with her, but with these guys that go to ridiculous lengths to get vengeance and justify their behavior because they didn’t get what they wanted.
This guy had just enough skills, discovering I had an out of date PHP version on my blog. He used this to get into my blog and hack it with malware. The old PHP version is my fault and my lacking skills in website administration. My saving grace is that I am a damn good DBA and had multiple backup software on dbakevlar.com because…well, I’m a DBA. The backup software that had saved me in previous times of challenges, Site Backup Pro, failed me and my website provider in this scenario. After the full, fresh install of WordPress, it wasn’t able to recover to a working state. Luckily, my second daily backup, Updraft Pro, DID work and I was able to recover everything back to before the damage.
What John didn’t have was superior enough skills to cover his tracks. After they siphoned off all my varying IP addresses from my travels that had logged into the site, they were able to pinpoint John’s and after two days, had the evidence they needed to go after him for putting people at risk online. John is out of a job at Sarah’s company and now in trouble with my provider, Bluehost.
Lessons learned? I really needed to up my website administration skills. Check.
I learned a lot the last week on how to manage my own website and realize that after eight years, I have a lot of garbage that needed to be cleaned up on my site and proceeded to do so. I also lost all of danceswithwinnebagos.com, as it didn’t have the Updraft backup configured, only the Site Backup Pro and I may have to build that one back up from scratch… 🙁
Second lesson? I may need to take emails, online threats and such more seriously. Tim and I discussed how many I receive on a regular basis and he was taken aback on the reality of it. I don’t feel that vulnerable personally, but my online content and my connections are vulnerable. As often as some are quick to troll or throw shade, they need to be reviewed individually and not just tossed away as empty threats.