Sorry I haven’t posted in a while but it’s been an interesting few weeks. If you’d looked at this site on the morning of 6 October, you would have seen a very different page – black background, yellow arabic writing and some very disturbing pictures. The vandal replaced the front page of our local beekeepers’ website with very similar content. It was a rude surprise, especially so early in the day.

Some background – I maintain the beekeepers’ website for them and host both that site and this one through a third-party provider. And while I do all of the writing for the infosec blog, I have a couple of other beekeepers who were helping to maintain the beekeepers’ site. It’s all volunteer work and I’m so glad for any help I can get that it’s hard to impose a lot of strict standards or hurdles. Besides, who cares about hacking a beekeeper club’s website?

Apparently lots of people.

It’s unlikely that we will be able to prove exactly how the hacker got in but it was almost certainly a scripted attack – a robot run by a hacker against anything he/she could find vulnerable – not a targeted attack. (For example, the hacker vandalized only pages titled index.htm, the standard name for a site’s home page, and none of the pages which had human-created names. Any targeted attack would have overwritten the other pages as well. Not only would it be more pages hacked but the vandalism might go unnoticed longer.) Our best guess is that the hacker go in because we weren’t careful enough about passwords. One of my authors had a password the same as his username. Even a kiddy-script can test for passwords that easy.

Lessons Learned:

  • Any site is vulnerable even if you don’t think that anyone would bother with little old me.
  • Passwords are important, even when you think they aren’t.
  • Volunteer time is valuable but only if it’s the right volunteer. Even if his/her heart’s in the right place, sometimes that time is more expensive than it’s worth.
  • Internal segmentation would have limited the damage. Merged accounts makes it easier to manage the domains but separate accounts would have kept the hacker from “promoting” himself across to the other accounts so easily.
  • Monitoring is a good thing. In my case, it was dumb luck. My wife has the site as one of her home pages and noticed it as soon she logged on in the morning.
  • Good backups make repairing the damage easy. My backups are automatically managed through third-party host and they do an excellent job. Once we discovered the vandalism and collected the evidence, the act of repairing the vandalism took mere minutes. I wish I could take credit for it but I got lucky and picked a good vendor.

Anyone can get hacked. Do what you can to minimize your chances, discover it quickly and plan so the costs to repair are low. I can’t say that I’m proud of this post but I do hope that you can learn from my mistakes.

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