Hackers, spoofers and spammers!

Well it’s been an ‘interesting’ week, in the apocryphal old Chinese curse sense of interesting, ‘may you live in in interesting times’! We have had a week beset by IT issues. Firstly our antivirus ran out and I decided that as I hadn’t been too happy with it I’d replace it with something else. I looked at the reviews and Bitdefender seemed to be coming out top, so I bought that for all three PCs. Lesson learnt: always try out these things on the free trial first! Now I’m not saying Bitdefender is bad – I’m sure it’s excellent – but I know very little about things like setting up a firewall and so on, and as we are an office of networked PCs it’s not as straightforward as just doing it on the one PC at home.  We were getting unexplained crashes, updates failing to update, even an infamous ‘blue screen of death’! Eventually I managed, with the help of their support department, to iron out these niggles, only to find that some charmer had hacked our website and was sending out vast quantities of spam through our ‘online quote request form‘.

At least I think that’s what was happening. It’s not the first time I’ve been hacked through a ‘back door’ like that, and of course the website was a few years old and the form didn’t have one of those deeply frustrating reCaptcha things on it – you know the ones, where it says ‘write these two words in the boxes below’ and shows you a series of unreadable squiggles that you’re supposed to interpret. I hate those things. I expect you hate those things too! Well I’m sorry to have to tell you that the online quote request form does now have one on, because it’s those foul and horrible things that prevent the even more foul and horrible thing of being hacked!

So if in the last few weeks you have had an email from my purporting to be the biggest fan of some electronics store or telling you how to find an exciting new job,  that would be why. Fortunately it did not hack into my address list and it was not a virus, so none of my friends, clients etc.  should have been affected and it’s quite unlikely that you received an email. They were sent randomly to hundreds of people, but not specifically to my clients. That’s one blessing anyway!  Sadly that can’t be stopped altogether because if one’s email address is ‘out there’ on the net it can be picked up by spammers and ‘spoofed’. Spoofing is where an email says it’s coming from say me, for instance, but in reality, if you dig down into the email header, the part that’s not normally visible, you will find that it’s actually being sent from somewhere entirely different. Fortunately spoofing is usually in relatively small numbers, unlike the hacking where I was getting a couple of hundred a day!

The Penguin Transcription website is now completely revamped again and is running on WordPress. Hopefully it will now be relatively secure, at least for a while, and I can get back to business.


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