Astrogator's Logs

New Words, New Worlds
Artist, Heather Oliver             

Those Who Hold Up the World

No matter how lucky and cosseted we are, at some point in our lives we will experience a flat tire, a broken bone… and, in today’s First World, a site hack. Being a Mac user, I’ve been spoiled in that regard. However, yesterday I detected the dreaded signs that this site had been hacked: the blog dashboard turned into a shapeless mess that would not accept new uploads (though I could still moderate comments); and while loading, the site flashed a redirect address whose suffixes are known to be the sign of hijackers. A large number of WordPress-run blogs in the service provider that hosts my site got hit with this Trojan, which infects all the index.php files and also leaves behind backdoor scripts for later re-entry.

Every task requires the right tools and the person with the knowledge to use them. In this case, I found the right person in Jim Walker of TVCNet/Hack Repair. He was willing to walk me through the repairs on the phone, for free. When it became apparent that the extent of the infection exceeded my capacity to deal with it manually, he took care of it immediately and thoroughly, for a extremely reasonable fee. It took him about six hours and he worked late into the night, not stopping till he delivered the site, scrubbed clean and intact, back into my anxious embrace.

After my experience with Jim, I know more about the workings of sites, just as I learned a lot while watching John McCoy, who set up the components of the site and still does the heavy-duty updates and tweaks that go past my own knowledge boundaries. I am glad and grateful that such people exist. They’re members of the conspiracy of the competent that quietly holds up the world. The experience also made me realize how much this site, obscure as it is, means to me. It has become an integral part of my identity. Jim and John are my physicians as much as my treasured GP. Thank you.

Top image: the original Trojan horse; burial pithos, Mykonos, ~670 BC.

7 Responses to “Those Who Hold Up the World”

  1. Caliban says:

    I’m glad you got your website back safe and clean. I wouldn’t know what to do without it!

    I am fairly nimble with computers…except security issues like this give me a headache. It is often a thankless, decidedly unsexy job, and I agree with you that we should be grateful to those who shoulder this task.

    (It also makes me thankful for and appreciative of my own immune system, which has to put up with even greater and more sinister threats…)

  2. Athena says:

    Thank you for the wonderful words, Calvin. I’m happy to know you enjoy this virtual home. I agree, maintenance is not deemed heroic — yet infrastructure and reliable continuity are what keep civilizations going.

  3. Rose says:

    I am also glad you got your website back. It would be such a pity to lose it.

  4. Athena says:

    Thank you, I appreciate your words! I have full backups — but reconstitution is a forbidding and dispiriting task.

  5. Rose says:

    I figured you’d probably have backups – but I went through that process once, and it was absolutely grueling.

  6. Athena says:

    Yes, exactly. At least in this case, the hackers seemed to have infected the sites just to show they could, rather than ripping them apart. But even an expert with the right tools had to spend six whole hours cleaning up.

  7. Susan says:

    It is my pleasure and privilege to have such a job myself. I am glad that people like us can be of use.