WordPress, malware and the nightmare of a persistant hacker.

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I have a dear friend that has her wordpress site hacked over a year ago. I helped her out then. Basically ended up asking her awful host to do a restore from backup. It cost her, for my time and the host charged her for the restore. The hack came from a pakistian group that signs their sites by leaving a text file claiming “Hacked by . . .” And I’m not going to name the asshat here.

I found a security plugin around that time and got a lot wiser about wordpress security. It starts at the get go. You don’t create a admin user. You only add the plugins that you need and you keep them, the version of wordpress AND the server up to date. You only add one or two admin enabled users. Then you take the time to watch the live traffic on the server. My favorite security plugin WordFence allows you to watch everything hitting the site in live time. From there you can block entire networks of Chinese, Russian or other maliciously minded countries with just a few clicks.

The attack on my friends site a month ago was eye opening.  There was a directory with over 4090 files, over 47 mb of files all directing traffic to various spam locations. I found a common directory name in this folder. Doing a google search for that directory name brought up the top 10 responses all saying this site may infect your computer. The htaccess was changed to redirect all of her menu items to a pharmacy. Of course at the time of the attack I deleted the FTP users and recreated new ones with new difficult 1Password generated  passwords. They were back adding over 60 malicious files in a few days. Then 50 new files the day after.

I was at this time convinced that this was a f649 infection or Darkleech infection. (Darkleech is a nasty malware infection that infects web servers at the root level. It uses malicious Apache modules to insert hidden iframe within the site.) See here  The client called GoDaddy, the hosting company and they tried to sell her a $150 security package saying her passwords were not encrypted. (Bullshit!) We’ve since moved the site to a different host.

The ways they went about coding things to avoid detection was comical.

  1. Url decode was used to obscure encrypted urls.
  2. File names that looked like they belonged were added to various directories.
  3. Base decode was dropped in like “ba”.””.”s”.”e”.””.”6″.””.””.”4″.”_”.”de”.””. “c”.””.”o”.””.”d”.””.”e”.
  4. There were many files that had over 30,000 lines of various words within arrays. I have not deciphered the exact purpose, but I’m thinking search engine bait.
  5. IP addresses where hidden by doing variables with long lines of periods. The string length was counted and that was all joined to create an IP address.
  6. There are several empty files in a wordpress install. Mostly index files that force a directory to show nothing if someone tries to url hack into it. On first glance, these files looked empty with only the php start and one might think “oh, files ok, close it.” On further inspection, there were 265 blank spaces before way off to the right, you really needed to scroll over, an entire pile of malicious code would begin. The file was minimized so it looked to be one line. Most people would not scroll right, at least not as far as needed.
    Looks ok?

    Looks ok?

    This supposedly empty php file looks fine when you open it but when you scroll right far enough...

    This supposedly empty php file looks fine when you open it but when you scroll right far enough…

Our new host DreamHost managed to call us out on several files that somehow made the migration. They were on the situation in a heartbeat and I’m proud to say they didn’t try to up sell the client on some arcane security package. They are in a word “AWESOME!”

As a wrap up, I’d just like to encourage everyone that has a wordpress blog to get the WordFence plugin, get on their mailing list (news of compromised plugins almost weekly) and keep everything up to date.

Good luck!

Exhibit subject decided.
Project ready to roll.

Update: project is done. It was up for a month. Sold nothing.

I am a little amazed that it was 7 months ago that I was wondering what subject I should feature in a hanging show at Stonegates.

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Since then I have created prints. Bought frames. Cut and mounted 10 panoramic images.

The Bio

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The same place, 
different weather, 
different days,
different times.

I walk my 2 dogs about 11/2miles every morning. There’s a particular spot in the woods that I walk through that seems to be different each time we pass by. On a whim, I started taking a photo each day I walked past this spot. Little did I realize that 5 months later and over 70 photos that I would need to select such a small number of them.

I like panoramic photos. To me, a photo shouldn’t lock your head in one position and just let your eyes move. To me, it’s more interesting to have the viewer forced to turn his neck to look back and forth, to not be able to take the entire subject with a glance. You will have to let your eyes follow the long perspective down the creek and then to have to pull your eyes back to look up the creek. Up the creek is a different scene than down the creek. Across the creek another scene within itself.

I hope you enjoy the view.

Roger Poole
Syracuse University BFA 1977.
Graphic designer, web designer & coder for over 37 years.

All photos with frame $65.00

 

Here are the images:

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Doing an exhibit of photos.

I need to get this out of my head.

My MIL has invited me to participate in a exhibit this August that is presented on the walls of the retirement area at Stonegates, a retirement/health center community where she lives. There’s another photographer invited too. (I’m feeling competitive!)

not to worry I immediately said yes, thinking I could easily do 15 shots of George, and since he use to work there, they’d easily sell, or at least be appreciated.

MIL has put the kibosh on that. Basically it would be over a year since he left and it might be old news.

Since then, I’m going back and forth in my head. Several things keep coming up. The cost. I’ve promised 15 images. There’s the actual print ($4-$20 each) and the frame ($20 – ???). If I need to matt the images, I’m comfortable cutting those but there’s the matt cost so really no other outside labor costs. But that still means spending probably $300 with hopes of return completely un predictable. (In marketing terms, ROI comes to mind.)

My artistic side has been bouncing around with this challenge. And my artistic integrity has been putting up challenges to the challenges. And let me put something out there at the beginning. I’m not a fan of photos on gallery walls. They make me snooze. I’ve somewhat ruled out photos of my dogs, cat, kids and wife. I don’t travel enough to do a travel collection.

Thoughts.

I’d like this to be a series of the same theme. Another thought. Since Beth, my MIL and I will probably know everyone that will see these, going over the top artistic will bomb big. The audience is older conservative Delawareans. If I went fox hunting I’d come back with 15 winners.

mr Toad 1
I could do it as a big project where I grab my macro lens and do 15 shots of bugs on flowers. All squarish formate, cheap photos, cheap frames.

Dog walk - Morning sun at the YMCA
I could do it as a collection of wide panoramas. Could double up on the prints (printing 1- 20 x 24 with 3 – 8×20 images each. This would lead to some somewhat custom frames though.

The night sky
Thinking a collection of night time shots. Moon, stars and other sky based stuff. Maybe some sky clouds. An alternative to this would be nighttime activities type shots (streets of wilmington and or cars in motion with zoom lines).

Thinking a collection of random stranger faces. Ha! Since I’ve started with the 100 strangers group on flickr, I’ve done 3… Let’s not make this impossible.

What to do?
More later.

Memories of George. Originally written in 2010.

My dog’s on hospice. And I never want to forget him.
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I remember when we got George, how none of my 3 partners wanted to keep him. One, because he had a terror dog at home, the other because they had a dog and finally the last, turned him down because he had no room to give him a life. The long term plan was to give him to a client that lived in Chicago. I cautiously agreed to take him home with me after sitting in Joe’s office and watching this goofy little dog try to climb over my legs. It was only 9 months after I had bought Grace for Beth and we were not married.

My first thought was he was a stinky little dog. He had kennel cough and came from dubious breeding compared to Grace. When WH2P purchased him from Smallwood kennels in Virginia, the breeder didn’t want our assistant, Neil to come to the farm. Instead they would meet at a local feed mill. All indications of the breeder screamed puppy mill.

It was Christmas week. He snuggled under my Christmas tree. I still remember his giant ears (compared to the rest of his little body). My favorite thing was to scoop him up in a quart pitcher where his giant smile and matching ears would stick out the end.

As a little pup, he would snuggle up to Grace. They were great together until she figured he was of age. He use to hide under her and bark at other dogs.

WH2P bought him to fulfill an ad campaign for our client Tom Redd, who worked at SIlvon Software in Chicago. The plan was to hold George till we could do several photoshoots with him. Create a photo stock portfolio of George photos and then send him to Tom in Chicago. Ultimately sending him there seemed to be a bad plan because if we needed to do another photo shoot, someone would have to go to Chicago, hire a photographer and do the shoot. Too much money. George’s first year with me was nicely covered by expense account. The boy that was to be George’s owner served in Desert Storm. If this had happened, our George would be in Arizona now.

The week after new years, about 2 weeks after we got him, we got his puppy shots and found he was a very sensitive pup. Damn near killed him then. I worried we’d be seeing a Taxidermist to stuff him and make a doll to finish the needed photos.

I named him George because our client’s previous product was “Arthur” and I wanted to call him that, thinking Art for short, but thought better of it. I have in my genealogy an uncle named Arthur, but I also have great uncles named George. George seemed more fitting. Finally, George and Gracie was a good fit.

Beth ADORED him from the start. He was hers and visa versa. It wasn’t long after we got him that Beth began bringing him to the Kutz home, a nursing home where she was an activity assistant. We had bought Grace for this purpose. She proved to be too rambunctious. George with no tail and small stature fit in with the wheel chairs. He quickly adopted several residents as his own.

A year after Beth left the Kutz home, I remember going to visit the Kutz home with George and how he took off down a long hall peeling into an open doorway to see a particular resident referred to as “mom.” He certainly knew his way around there.

It wasn’t long after we got him that we started him in Elaine Brooks obedience school. Beth was already started with Grace and I assumed Grace’s lessons and Beth started anew with George. Simply said, he was a fast learner and caught up to Grace easily. It wasn’t long before our Thursday nights were spent going in circles in the classroom practicing heels, recalls, sits, swings etc etc.

I remember one night we were doing a rather involved exercise where the dog goes out to a point, turns around to view his owner and sits. The owner raises either the right or left arm to point at a jump and immediately drops the arm. The dog runs to the jump, jumps and comes straight to the owner, sitting in front of them. The swing command is given and the dog goes behind his owner and comes around the left where he sits.

George did this great. So good that one night, Beth was busy yakking away with Elaine and George proceeded to do the exercise without her. He didn’t have enough patience to wait for her talk. He was good that way. We jumped into competitions soon after and he picked up 2nd, 3rd, and 4th places easily. He qualified for his AKC CD in 3 trials. It took Gracie 5 trials.

One trial, during the down stay, another dog got up and went to George and proceeded to smell his ears. George laid there sphinx like, never taking his eyes off Beth.

Other dog school stories…

In 2003 George received his AKC CD. There were 275 corgis in the USA getting this award this year. (only 6 pyrs!)

George was deadly afraid of Mandy, Elaine’s daughter.

George impressed my Father in law Ed with his smarts. One day after moving in to Ravine Road, I was setting up the TV in the family room and needed some tape just out of reach. I pointed and said “take it!” George jumped on the task. The look on Ed’s face was one of amazement. He even said something to the point that a dog like that could be useful to a plumber.

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Beth started working at Stonegates, as the Activity Director, 10 years ago. George would have been 1-1/2 at the time. He was never part of the package when Beth was hired, but Beth started to bring him in a couple of days a week. It wasn’t long before he was every day. Beth’s response to her boss was he just followed her to the car and jumped in! He’s been there every day that Beth has worked since.

When Beth had her hysterectomy surgery, the residents asked my mother if George could come in while Beth was recuperating at home.

My mother would call him “pogo,” my dad’s dog’s name. It was very special to me and my brothers that Mom got a daily visit from my dog.

He use to sleep upside down in the hallways with his 4 paws in the air. Little ladies would say from their walkers “look, a dead dog!”

There was one woman who didn’t like George and would stomp her walker down at him. George would literally walk circles around her keeping a 10 foot radius.

Many times I’ve seen a little lady point at George and say “that’s my dog!” To you, madam, I have some overdue vet bills.

If you ever needed to find Beth, you just needed to look down the hall to find George. He would wait outside a door for hours awaiting her return.

George was run over at Stonegates one day as Beth and he walked from the car to the door. Apparently a mason with a large pickup truck drove quickly through the lot, not noticing him. George, true to his cattle breeding, tucked and rolled right under. After a scary ride to the vet, he fully recovered. I don’t think the workman was ever invited back to Stonegates.

On days that Beth wouldn’t be home or work, I’d take George to work with me. Lunch for him those days would be a child’s roast beef Arby’s sandwich, hold the roll, don’t need the lettuce. We’d go and park somewhere and have lunch. Christ Church, Brandywine Creek park, anywhere we could sit outside and eat. Sometimes if it was lousy weather we’d just sit somewhere in my car and I’d give him pieces of roast beef while I ate my sandwich.

He had a special pink ball that he would guard while falling asleep in the hallway outside my office. He also had a bean bag “silvon” doll that he would throw around in the air. I always thought it appropriate.

George was the perfect road dog. Comfortable at any speed. However he had certain places on the way home where he always jumped up to check the surroundings.

The chime of a seatbelt not fastened will always remind me of him riding along with me.

In my old Jeep when Beth and I would go somewhere with him, he’d be delegated to the back seat. He would put his front legs up on the center console and stare straight ahead. If you looked at him, he’d stoically ignore you, even looking the other way. However, as soon as you looked forward, he’d look at you perhaps thinking “what the hell was that about?”

Nowadays when I drive him home, he makes himself comfortable in the front seat, resting his head on the console so he can look up at you and so you can take your right hand and scratch his back.

The vet.

I’ve never seen a dog vibrate so hard, so nervous, that hair would fly off his back.

George had a beautiful black nose till a reaction to a nasal Bordetella vaccination killed a bunch of cells and caused it to have a light gray center. I blamed the vet and the manufacturer for this. They both concurred it was a possibility, still cost me $200.

George’s love of tennis balls and toys defined his life. He could take the sound out of a squeaky toy in under an hour. His teeth were worn square by the roughness of tennis balls. He did break one tooth because of rough play.

I taught him to drop the ball between my feet each time he returned a ball. When we first started, Beth lived with her kids at Riveria Lane in Holiday Hills. I would visit to play ball with George. If he returned it wrong I would completely turn around ignore him. I wouldn’t play tug of war, nor would I try to take it from his mouth. He learned to place it perfectly. However, he and I would argue over this. He’d put the ball down outside my toes and I’d point and say “here!” and he’d bark and I’d point and he’d bark again and eventually, he’d pick the ball up and place it right between my feet. Sometime he’d make a grudging gruff half bark. But he’d always do it. Sometimes if he figured out the angles, he’d come running back at you and drop the ball 5, 6 or even 10 feet out where it would roll right to your feet.

For 6 weeks after I got married, Beth, Grace and George lived at my house on 36th street. There was a field directly across the from the house where we would play. George had a deflated soccer ball to play with. No matter how close you were, or what angle you set up to kick this floppy thing, he could snatch it from the air from 3 feet in front of you and place it right in front of you to do it again. This is important. George knew what direction you were going to kick a ball by what direction your leg went back.

When he was young, he’d play ball with you for hours. I kid you not, hours!

My favorite thing to do some nights while watching tv was to lie on the floor with him and roll a ball to him from maybe 2 feet away. He would either kick it back with his stubby legs or give it a long tougue lick, rolling it back to you. Doing this with him so close was thrilling because of the smile he’d always give while playing.

The cats tormented George.

Mikey would attack him, riding him like a tiger. Pouching out from around corners. Sometimes, Mikey would just cuddle up to a very embarrassed George on a chair.

Bob wanted to be George’s friend. Although I’d seen Bob do that multi pop swing at George, Bob always wanted to lie next to George. Bob would try to head butt George in the yard where George would get very embarrassed and try to change directions to avoid it. Bob would pace along side George. Running up the walkway side by side.

George had smarts that amazed me. He knew the sound of my computer closing down and would be up and ready to move to the next destination. He would beat you back to the front door, up the stairs, to my office, to the tv. He had to be first.

George was the cause of my big back explosion of Nov/Dec 2009. When picking George up, you’d just need to squat down, slap your leg and he’d half hop up on your leg letting you pick him up properly. Important for a long back dog. In mid November, I almost dropped him, sacrificing my back over dropping him. I don’t blame him at all.

Squirrels!

Yell that loud to George and lead the way around the house to the bird feeder. You’d only need to get to the corner where he’d look up at you and with the word, go flying around the big tree to assault the squirrels (and doves and other birds) and send them all flying. Afterwards, he’d come “strutting” back to you as proud as he could be.

I remember several times where the leaves around the base of the big tree were too high or snow was deep and the mission failed. To this day I wonder what he would have done if he’d caught a squirrel.

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We’ve lost George. We’ve gained Henri. The world is painful sometimes with happy turns.

Ever get to a point that you say to yourself, where do I start? I write these on infrequent occasions to be able to go back and remember parts of my life. They’re usually the painful parts, but I need to remember all of these. It’s said that each time you recall a memory, you change it every so little. Sort of like the boy scouts game of whispering something to one person then they pass it on to another and another till it comes back all twisted. Your memory is just like that ‘cept this memory stuff never takes an outside lap. Each recall can twist and ruin the facts.

The end of August / beginning of September had us dealing with a corgi that could not stand up. He couldn’t successfully relieve himself in the yard without dropping back into his poop. Still he had his smile most days and frankly, this dog had so much love around him, imaging the end was just not possible. My memories of September were watching him trying to climb the steps in front of the house and how he’d start with a stretched out paw just reaching the step where he’d pull himself up. Then the hind leg would reach around and swing a few times till it hit. From there he’d pull himself through the door. There were plenty of times he’d get to that point and then sink straight backwards off the step. His determination was a testament to his strength. Each night I carried him up the stairs to bed and I got to give him a giant hug and kiss. Every morning, the same hug and kiss.

Sad sack

Around the beginning of the September it got bad. A trip to the vet for a session of prednisone turned into a runaround with the vet wanting to deal with a sudden burst of diarrhea. I got both drugs and we just put him on the pred for a week. Major recovery. He was doing great for a week or so. Then, Sept 22th he faded again. Still bad on the 23rd, bad on the 24th. I realized it was time to think about the end. That Wednesday, the 25th I called the vet to schedule something for the weekend. A problem. Our vet was available that night or not again until the following Monday. I did not want to go back to the previous vet. I made the decision for that night @ 7:15. The rest of the day was spent in the yard watching George sleep. At 5:00, the phone rang. The vet had to cancel as her daughter was in a traffic accident. We unhappily postponed till the next night with the other vet. But this was a happy turn.

The next morning, Thursday, I put George in the yard. I had the doors to my office open. Chloé was in the x-pen out front when I heard George’s bark. Thinking something was bothering him, I looked out, only to see him walking, abet awkwardly, across the yard. Barking at a neighbors dog. I canceled the appointment right them. His birthday was October 16th. I thought, we’re going to reach it!

Then, something dropped into our laps that could only be referred to as fate. As I headed out to play golf that Friday morning, I got an email.

Hi,
How are you? Hope you and your dog is doing well. We have a 3 year old neutered male Great Pyrenees available. He is housebroken, crate trained, obedience trained, well socialized, very friendly and has a lot of personality. He has also been trained toward his therapy dog certificate and has done some nose work. He gets along well with other dogs and cats. He also loves children. He does have a lot of energy and personality! We are looking for a good home for him. He is out of Pixie and Matsui. We are asking $400.00. Please let us know if you are interested.
Thanks
Karen Justin
Impyrial Pyrenees
www.impyrial.com

Ha! I thought and forwarded it on to my wife.

Well, that was the all she needed. Where is it? What’s its name? What’s it weight? What, where, when? And so on so the discussion was started. We thought, if and when George past, we wouldn’t be able to look at another corgi, never less buy another corgi. And Chloé? She’d eat the cat! She seemed to be dealing with separation stress poorly. My yes or no was dependent on getting a dog run built. I could do one pyr, not 2. I roped off the left of the yard through the rhododendrons and around the boulders. An estimate was put out for a dog run based on that. I said to my self, if it’s 4k no go, if it’s 3k no go. Above 2k was iffy. I finally got a number back. $1700 cash. The deal/dog was on.

We scheduled our visit to the kennel for October 3rd. It was a 3 hour plus road trip. Although Karen offered to meet half way, Beth and I, pry lovers, wanted to see the 20 pyrs she had on the property. I mean, who wouldn’t?

Old ones

Our new pup, named Mr. Darcy was a skinny tall lanky man. He greeted us in Karen’s office by jumping up to give us a kiss. We liked him immediately. He was the king of zen on the ride home. Sitting in the back with his head out the window he rode like he was being chauffeured. He would on occasion fall asleep while sitting.

Look who joined the family today!
This shot had over 6000 visits on Flickr.

We decided without any hesitation to rename him Henri.

Chloé greeted our new pup like we’d bought her a new best friend. Tail wags all around.

Henri was an absolute gentleman with George who had to check things out immediately.

It's all about the butt sniffing isn't it?

The next week or so, brought George around wonderfully. He rallied. He controlled the 2 pyrs like he owned the house. The first weekend while everyone was running around the house. I heard George barking in the TV room. Wondering what could be up, I ran to the room to find George had cornered the 2 big dogs. They were standing in the corner vaguely blinking like sheep while George sat in the middle of the room. They couldn’t get past him and he wasn’t going to let them. He was in his glory.

The dog run was built. October 16th came. George made his 15th birthday! The 3 dogs would sit together like a true pack. My office would sound like a steam engine convention with all the huff and puffing from those 2 running around.

The new dog run

Days went on. The pyrs would dig in the new dog run. We’d all walk around the yard and the pyrs would rope George with their leads. Everyone was happy.

Then, around Thursday, October 24th, George started to fade again. His breath was kicking bad. Getting him to eat was a matter of tempting him with treats, moist food and any other thing. Friday, Saturday was bad. On occasion he’d lift his head and look around. Sunday any water he drank he’d throw up. We decided that night it was the end. I spent some time drawing him in my sketch book. All in all, He was telling us he wanted to let go. Beth decided to stay home with him that Monday.

The next morning at 9:00 I made a call to the vet. After a bit of back and forth where the receptionist wouldn’t let us have an appointment till the next day. I finally pleaded “have the vet call me!” She said she’d have the vet call us back.

the call back

Just before 10:00, we got a call that the vet could see us at 10:30. I can’t tell you how saddened this made both of us. Our fawning over George would be done in 1/2 hour. It was too soon. Memories of having had the whole day with Gracie flashed through my mind. Never less, in 20 minutes, we were on our way. I was struck as to how I didn’t have any music attached to this event as I’d had with Grace. Beth insisted that George ride in her lap. I missed my chance to hold him but, he’s Beth’s dog and she was grieving hard.

Once at the vet (28lbs, down from 33lbs.) we were ushered to a room, that I’d spent many earlier vet visits with him. He just laid on his side on the towel we’d brought him in on. The vet came in and gave him a sedative. Then 20 minutes later she came in, shaved a bit of his heel (placed in a baggie for Beth) and administered the last shot.

My hand was on George’s chest the whole time. I felt him stop breathing. I felt his heart stop. Hardest moment of my life. And then, after mourning him for perhaps another 20 minutes, we just left him on the table and went home.

RIP George.

In the end, George made it 15 years and 2 weeks. He was the smartest dog I’ve ever known, but I’ll write about that someday too.

Godspeed little guy. We all loved you so much.

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