Lessons I Learned After Being Hacked

You may have noticed that I was offline for a while. That’s because I got hacked…okay, not me exactly (that would be weird) but this lovely website I call home. I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned after being hacked.

First of all, please don’t worry. Everything is completely safe here now this is a new site. In addition I have a scary amount of security running on my page right this minute keeping all of us super secure. You can enjoy this blog without concern. Phew!

Please Don’t Panic

Maybe a little panicking is okay but don’t pitch your tent there, it isn’t helpful. Being hacked was awful and I felt outraged and hurt and more than a little stupid but none of those emotions were going to help me solve the problem so pretty quickly I had to set those feelings aside and move on.

Don’t Think It Won’t Happen To You

I suppose I fell into the same trap as a lot of people. I never thought it would happen to me. My website isn’t massive. I can’t claim to have a million visitors a day, or even a year, though that would be lovely. So I thought this site would be be insignificant to so called hackers, therefore safe. I was very wrong. Size, in this respect, doesn’t matter. Any site without the proper security can be hacked. Lesson learned the hard way.

Research, Read & Change

The internet is amazing. There are so many fantastic places to find information on what to do after you’ve been hacked. There is just as much about making sure it doesn’t happen in the first place too but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. I spent hours researching and reading all the advice going and used it to make changes. I want my site to be as secure as I can make it. I’m also grateful to all the people who offered their advice and support.

It Isn’t Personal

In my naivety I thought hackers were people like you and me. I believed a person had looked up my site and maliciously decided to ruin it. In my case the hackers weren’t people at all. They were programmes called bots. I won’t even attempt to explain it all here, not that I could, but hackers (via bots) trawl through the web in search of vulnerable sites and then redirect any traffic visiting the infected site back to their dodgy servers. Unfortunately, these nasty gremlins found a way in to my site and messed everything up, but it wasn’t a personal attack, just a deeply unhappy event.

Failure Isn’t Fatal

Success is not final Winston Churchill Quote

There was a very low point when I thought, “Just close the site down.” I had a cry I asked myself if it was worth the time, effort and cost to keep the site open? Then I shut down the pity party and put my business head on. I considered the pros and cons of what I was doing and weighed up all my options. Then I decided I wasn’t going to quit. I love what I’ve built (and am continuing to build) here so I’m not giving it up.

Don’t Be Afraid To Start Over

After the initial shock and the resulting crying…I mean productive introspection…I chose to see the positives. Now I had the chance to refresh everything, to change sections that had been bugging me and learn loads of new things in the process. If I’d built it once I could do it again and this time it would be even better because I’ve grown so much since the first time. I deleted everything and started over. I wasn’t wrong.

Websites Take Effort

Websites aren’t a “build it and they will come” endeavour. They take effort and a level of commitment I hadn’t expected. I thought updating my site with new blog content or a couple of new product photos now and then was enough, but I was very, very wrong. That is just one small part of it and you can’t get complacent over the rest. Now, website housekeeping is on my daily to-do list and I don’t regret that one bit. Set some time aside to update your site regularly. It is 100% worth your attention.

Cyber Security Is Confusing

Cyber security is a minefield in itself but if you want to beat the hackers it’s essential. Finding the right plugins, setting the levels, running and checking the scans, making the changes…it’s all a little scary. I will say that any effort you put in researching website security will pay off. There are a whole host of free and premium plugins available through WordPress so find which ones work best for you. I used this list to help me find the plugins I use and I’m pleased to say they work great. I get emails to tell me when something needs attention (if I don’t catch it quickly enough on my own) and a regular update on what nefarious shenanigans have been blocked too. It’s strangely satisfying knowing that the hackers aren’t able to mess with me anymore!

Take Your Time

I put so much pressure on myself to get my site back up as quickly as possible. Fortunately I had a time sensitive order on my hook or I would have been working in a tear soaked panic for more hours than was healthy. I shut everything down immediately (there’s even a plugin for that!) then turned my attention back to my order so by the time I got my hands on a keyboard the panic had abated. The best thing I did was take that time before I began trying to fix the problem. After that initial mad rush I understood that doing it right was more important than doing it quickly.

It’s A Process

Building any website is a process, not a destination so there is no end to it. I believe I’ve made more progress because of this disaster than I would have attempted without it. In that sense I see it as a positive experience. I’m much more aware of what I’m doing and how to be safe doing it. Would I recommend it as a learning tool…no, never, but it has been worth the effort.

I’m not a web designer (clearly) but developing this site has been and still is a gratifying experience. As I’ve said, I love learning new skills, so even though the detour was unexpected, the adventure is worth the effort. Getting hacked was never in my plan but that’s the joy of plans…they change!

Thank you for sticking with me and for everyone’s patience while I continue to rebuild the site. Don’t forget to check back and see what new crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into.

Until next time.

Be productive, be brilliant, be kind

Love

Vivienne x

If you liked this post you may also like this one on Learning Out Loud

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