American in Spain

Wacky Wacky Web

July 24, 2008
Hacked Blog

You may have noticed some weirdness on this blog this week. On Monday evening, some of my coworkers, for solid business reasons, had to reinstall the server this blog runs on. They backed up the database, reinstalled the operating system, restored the database, and brought the blog back up. The only real problem my blog experienced was with the character encoding of the database. The odd Spanish characters like "ñáéí­óíº" weren't showing up properly. Today I managed to fix it, and there were only a couple comments from Tuesday and Wednesday that were lost. Below I'll share a few interesting things that happened throughout the process. asdf

I was surprised to see that one of my readers, Ray Tibbetts, had taken a screenshot of my blog as it was down on Monday morning and posted it on Flickr. By the time I saw my blog that morning, it was already up (albeit with the broken Spanish characters), so it was interesting to see what had happened earlier.

Hacked Blog

This screenshot blows my mind. Get this: During my repair of the character encoding today, I had to blow away the database, create a new one with the proper encoding, and then import the original Monday backup. The import took about 10 minutes. During those ten minutes, my blog was showing the default Wordpress "empty database" screen that asks you to click "install wordpress" and set up your blog.

During these ten minutes, someone from the internet found my blog, noticed that it was a virgin Wordpress installation waiting to be set up, and clicked "install wordpress" and set up the header to point to his money-making affiliate site.

I've never been robbed and my website has never been maliciously hacked, so I'm usually not very paranoid about stuff like that (although I do take important security precautions), but it's good to have the world remind you that there are people out there in the shadows willing to take advantage of you if you ever let your guard down.

The solution to this problem, by the way, was to change the database password setting in the Wordpress configuration file so that it could not see the database while I was doing the import. Still, pretty amazing.

The other thing that happened this week from the server reinstall is that the BITWRATHPLOOB website was completely destroyed. Its database was not backed up before the machine was wiped, and all the posts, pages, and comments were lost forever.

Or were they?

Through a process that I still find difficult to believe myself, through several hours of copying and pasting this week, I have been able to restore all the pages and posts from Google Cache. When Google scans your website for information to index their search engine, a couple times a month, they save an entire copy of each page in their cache. This enables you to find information from websites even when they are down or unavailable. To view any page in the Google Cache, you simply google the full url with the word "cache:" before it. Like so: cache: If you click on that link, you will see a copy of this website from a week or two ago without hitting my webserver. It's pretty incomprehensible to imagine how Google has an entire copy of every public web page everywhere stored on their servers. They've gotten into more than one law suit about it.

So this is why my blog has been a bit quiet and strange lately, and I hope you've learned a few things about the nature of this wacky wacky web. That is what "www" stands for, you know.