Is it ambulance chasing?

Looking at the long list of sites that were attacked during Anonymous’s recent #OpIsrael, reminded me that the vast majority of victims of site defacements are actually just “mama papa” businesses on some $5 a month hosting plan, a few pages of their products, opening times and a map, they probably paid some local “IT Wizard” $200 to personalize a standard template 3 years ago.

defacedWhen they get that phone call from their clients asking “what happened to your site” and they take a look for themselves, they are shocked to see, it’s all gone, replaced by some garish image, a bit of graffiti claiming ownership or if it’s not political or vandalism but commercial defacement, adverts for fake designer goods or some embarrassing “male enhancement” herb.

I’ve helped quite a few clients, both individuals and companies with the clean-up, often as they can’t see anything of their own site, they think the rest of it is gone, only larger companies backup, so these individuals and smaller companies feel hopeless, I feel for them, economy is not good, they will be talking about “rescuing it if it’s worth it”, “maybe we only need a Facebook page”. They often don’t get the instant response they expect from their hosting companies that are not usually helpful anyway, are in a state of panic.

The fact is the vast majority of these defacements are done using automated tools, usually as simple as editing the homepage by adding a couple of lines of code. Each method is different, but the bottom line is that they are nearly always easily recovered.

This brings me closer to my point. When the hackers list their achievements in the defacement archives, which they often do in batches, having used the same script against sites which they have found share the same vulnerability.

And the questions is how ethical is to tout for business by offering to fix these small sites?

I have unsolicitedly emailed random victims, having taken the time to look at their publicly archived site or done a “whois” for contact details, emailing them a whitepaper describing how to fix that particular defacement, and sometimes even telling them the patch they need to apply so it doesn’t happen again.

Half will be appreciative thanking me, sadly nearly always then asking questions like “so how do I edit my default.html file?” which of course is more of a training exercise and would be far more difficult than me just doing it myself, so I don’t reply.

What worries me about offering this “fix defacements as a paid service” is that I can read between the lines that they will never trust that I am not actually the hacker.

Of course I wouldn’t put it past some lawyers to spray the roads with oil.

Hello World!

While I have contributed to a number of blogs, forums and sites over the years, decades even and setup, managed and moderated countless others for clients and friends, I’ve never actually had my own.

I first came to think it would be a good time to commit myself a few months back when I’d started on a “recertification” processPrincess Margaret Bridge Fredericton, as I’d let quite a few of my qualifications lapse over the years. I was spurred on by a friend who noticed how opinionated I was about how badly written the official guide for businesses and organisations to PIPEDA was comparing it to the UK’s DPA and said “write it up”, and while you are at it take a look at the UK’s Bribery Act.

Well that’s not a task I want to take up right now, they’re both sizable documents and PIPEDA should really just be revisited by a copywriter and proof-reader. What is relevant though is that this is a very important document that nearly all businesses of any size in Canada should have an understanding of, and it would make sense that it was written using clear, simple and correct English (I can’t comment on the French). And the Bribery Act, that discussion is more about its broader impact and implications.

Back to the blog in general, I’m not going to be asking my long suffering wife or one of the designers we normally use on clients projects to beautify this WordPress blog, I think I’ll leave it “vanilla” for now.

The friend is right of course, I am opinionated, as he says “You can always tell an Englishman – but you can’t tell him much!”, so here goes…