So, you know what makes a trip to Hawaii extra fun? Having your website — your main source of income — hacked so that 500 pages indexed by Google contain offensive pharmaceutical ads!
Many months ago I received an email from a reader asking why there were Viagra ads on my site. I replied that there certainly weren’t any that I approved and asked where she saw them exactly. I never heard back so I forgot about it. Then, a few days before I left for Hawaii, a friend wrote me and told me that he too was seeing Viagra links on my site. He sent me screen shots and sure enough, there they were — generous offers for male enhancement drugs, inserted casually into sentences about catching a train in Bangkok or sailing through a caldera in Santorini. I tried not to panic as I called my server host and explained the issue. They assured me that he probably had a virus on his computer, as I couldn’t find any files in my public html folder with any offensive keywords. Full disclosure: I have no idea what that last sentence means.
So, the day after I arrived in Oahu — because timing is awesome — an advertiser contacted me and told me she had to back out of our deal because my site was infected. At this point I decided to do a little research of my own. After an hour of confused and desperate internet searches using highly specific terms like “website broken HALP!?!1” I found a simple way to see which of my posts were infected with the Viagra keyword links. The result? Over five hundred individual posts and pages were hacked. Okay, so in one of those 500 posts I did legitimately write about Viagra — but it was kind of necessary in order to explain how exactly I was mistaken for a prostitute in Burma, okay? The rest were totally not me, I swear it.
Luckily, I have an amazing network of blog friends to reach out to in times of horror. My friend Matt talked me off the edge and recommended a talented developer who would charge me reasonably and clean up the issue quickly. After a few hours of stubbornly trying to fix it myself (side note: HA HA HA) I gave in and handed the issue over the developer. That’s not to say the battle was over. I spent hours fretting and panicking and staring at my website willing it to heal itself, all hours that should have been spent enjoying my friends and my beautiful surroundings. This, my friends, is the glamorous side to blogging. Long frustrating phone calls with your server host, lost advertising deals, nights spent quite literally falling asleep in front of the computer (pictured here thanks to my highly entertained travel companion Heather). It’s not all free plane rides and comped hotel suites and parties at the Playboy Mansion, you know! (Just kidding. It is never those things. At least not for me).
A few weeks later now, and I will tentatively say that the problem seems to be solved. The hacked files have been scrubbed, Google has reindexed my pages, and I’m going to try to chase down that ad deal again. The good thing was, most readers actually never even saw the offending links thanks to anti-virus software or page caching or some other sort of coding magic. Full disclosure: I have no idea what that last sentence means. Again.
So, in conclusion I have two things to say. One is to the hackers: Screw you guys. I work really, really hard on this site and how dare you come in here and tear down my work, ruin my credibility, offend my readers, hold up my advertising and make Google mad at me. Google and I have been getting along great, why you be messing with us like that? Get a real job and seriously, God help anyone who actually buys genital related pharmaceuticals on the internet.
The second thing I have to say is to the web developer who saved my
life website. Chris Richardson, you are a computer genius and I bow down to you and your amazing magical skills with the inner workings of the interwebs.
I’m glad this is over, and I apologize deeply to any readers who were offended by anything they saw on this site. I look forward to getting back to normal and offending you all the old-fashioned way, with my failed humor, butchered metaphors and my inability to stop taking selfies.
This seems as good a time as any to say it again: Thanks for reading Alex in Wanderland. I love you guys. And I pinky promise to never sell you male enhancement drugs.