Under attack

Some people will have noticed that some of the websites that I look after have been under attack this week. Naughty people are trying to gain control of a load of web servers and mine has been one of the many targeted.

What has been happening is that someone has had the great idea of trying to crack as many WordPress sites using a brute force attack. That means setting computers up to try to log in to a site automatically using a computer program to try as many different password combinations as possible. The same technique was a feature in the film War Games of some years ago – the computer in question being the one which controlled US Missiles. My computers have slightly less power.

People do this to gain control of servers so they can do naughty things like use them to send out lots of spam all at once. (Ever wondered where it came from?)

The consequence for my readers this week is that at some times, my websites have been showing up in various security systems (Norton, AVG) as infected and this meant that people couldn’t get access to the sites whilst this protection was in use.

I think I’ve nipped it all in the bud.

For anyone experiencing the same trouble, here’s some of what you can do to help.

  • Change the password combination on your server.
  • Change the password combination on your blog/WordPress installation.
  • Install a plugin like Anti-Malware and use it to scan and remove malicious code that has been injected into your site.
  • Install a plugin like Better WP Security and word through what it recommends. At the very least, make sure you don’t have your administrator account in the name “admin” and use the plugin to lock down your login screen – you can set it to ban an incoming IP address after 10 failed attempts to log in, for example.
  • Don’t panic.

For anyone who isn’t having the same trouble, consider doing the security things anyway.

Teaching for the Diocese

Oh, what a jolly afternoon yesterday, teaching a development session for folks from the diocese on how to use WordPress in general and the new Scottish Episcopal web template in particular. I’m not sure what it was that made me agree to the foolishness of such a teaching session on my first day back from holiday – must have been the difficulty of several diaries needing to play off one another. However, I’m glad that I did it. I’ve not been in a computer lab for years and there was something rather fun about doing it. My best moment for the afternoon was getting people to learn how to use drop-down menus in less than five minutes and see their faces light up with joy.

The whole thing was very typical of the Scottish Episcopal Church, of course. I suspect that there are not many people in the Anglican world who run a Cathedral who would find themselves teaching webskills on a Monday afternoon to folk from the diocese. I actually like the fact that our church is a bit like that. Our church being like that makes for a very varied life and rewards the generalist who has a bit of skill in a lot of things rather than the specialist who is good only for a narrow range of skills.

I was very interested that the gender balance of the group was 10 to 1 in favour of women. I don’t know what conclusion to draw from this. Could it be for any of these reasons:

  • Women do communication and men don’t
  • Women think communication is important and men don’t
  • Women are more ready to admit they don’t know something and go for training whilst men presume
  • Men are more likely to tinker and get something going themselves
  • Communication isn’t regarded as important and unimportant things are “women’s work”
  • Women are communication positive, men are information positive
  • Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus

Anyway, I’m very grateful to all those who were there. It was a very enjoyable afternoon and I got a lot out of it myself. Just like when I did the pilgrimage days in the Cathedral a few months ago, I find myself realising how much I enjoy teaching – something I would never have guessed about myself when I was younger.

How to write a blog #1

Well, having looked at how to read a blog, I suppose the obvious thing to do is now put something up about how to write one.

The answer I’d give anyone is to use WordPress. Its simple, lovely and oh so easy to use.

You don’t need to know anything about how to make webpages. You don’t need to know anything about how the internet works. All you need is something to say. If you have the confidence, bravado and chutzpah to think that anyone else is interested in reading what you have to say then so much the better, however that will come with time if you don’t have it yet.

Go to wordpress.com and sign up for a blog if you want to try it out. You sign up in the top right corner and can be up and running within minutes. Write your first post about why you’ve started a blog and you are away. All you need to do is think of a title, chose a layout (from the many available), make up a login name and password and you are fit to go.

There are other ways of doing it, of course. If you want complete control you can host your own wordpress site on your own server (which is what I do) or go with another provider like blogger or blogspot or typepad or something.

One of the advantages of WordPress is that it plays well with others and provides nicely formatted rss feeds without you having to think about what that all means. (See yesterday’s entry below for details of what we use rss feeds for). Its user interface for writing your blog entries is lush and lovely too. What’s not to like?

I think it probably makes sense to try to decide what you are going to write about but I guess that often comes about through writing.

Remember, a blog is not just about you either. Its a community. Its a conversation. Its the world.

If you want that conversation to grow, you need to tend your blog like a garden, cultivating the chatter and pouring in as much goodwill, opinion, wit, wisdom and delight in other people as you can muster.

Oh, and don’t forget to ask people questions. That’s the starter for most conversations, isn’t it?

I’d be interested to hear from regular commenters who don’t have a blog why they’ve not got one of their own on the go already. And from the usual suspects as to whether they’ve got any tips for new bloggers thinking of taking that first step.

Seekers

Doug asked in comments to a previous post how you find out what search terms people use to find your blog. The answer is that there are several ways of doing it. I host my own installation of wordpress, so I can use the blog stats plugin for wordpress. An alternative is google analytics.

If you have your blog hosted by someone else, you are dependent on them providing the functionality to let you see what people are seeking when they arrive.