Heartbroken :: my hacker story

On Wednesday, June 13 (just one day short of two weeks ago), in the late afternoon I received a text message from a friend telling me that my blog had been hacked.  Hacked?!  Yes, sure enough, I went to my blog and a page loaded with big letters telling the world that my site had been hacked by one mister Hellz-boy.  I’m sure he wasn’t born with that name, but perhaps his parents anticipated the demise of his integrity ahead of time.

What does one do when their site is hacked?!  I didn’t know!  Initially, I wasn’t aware of the extent because I believed it was only my WordPress blog at the time.  I couldn’t log into WordPress afterall, it made sense.  But then somehow I had the inclination to check my regular website and sure enough, same ugly page with the big ugly words again.  However, this gave me a super big clue that I needed to contact my website host because if both my blog and my website were hacked, it had to have happened through them.  And then with a little internet investigation, I found this is actually somewhat common for their servers to get hacked.

My website is through a company called Bludomain that caters mainly to photographers as a cost-effective option for really wonderful, polished websites that are completely customizable.  When I was looking for a website design, what they offered was a perfect fit.  For an additional fee, Bludomain will host the sites as well.  Kind of like one-stop-shopping for websites, which is really awesome for those of us that are less than techy.  And up until 2 weeks ago, my experience with them has been seamless.

What I found to be the first hurdle is that Bludomain is a small company and doesn’t have telephone customer service.  When I was  in a panic about what to do about my hacked site, not having the ability to talk to a live person who would reassure me that everything would be okay was torturous.  As if the uncertainty of it all and the feelings of violation weren’t enough, it just so happened on the day of the week when my blog receives the most traffic, as I am part of a 52 week blog circle project.  So, I had lots and lots of people clicking into my site (and potentially receiving a virus) and seeing the HellzBoy page.  I think I might have been having heart palpitations about it at a certain point.

I did my only option:  I filled out the online service ticket explaining my unnerving predicament.  Bludomain’s service request area shows their hours of operation to be standard business hours and being that it was 4pm-ish Pacific time, I wasn’t expecting a reply until the next day.  But to my surprise, someone responded fairly quickly with a message saying my service ticket was being pushed to the front and hopefully a resolution would not be far away.  Fantastic!  And sure enough, that evening my website was restored!  However, my blog wasn’t.  It was just a blank white page, which was much better than the hacker page, but I wanted my blog back up and running as soon as possible too.  I replied with a message thanking them for the quick restoration of my main website, but asked if there was a backup or quick fix for my blog as well.

Two days went by with no reply.  So I sent another message.  No reply.  Grr…  By this time, I was starting to experience the panic, distressed feeling again.  Were they not replying because there wasn’t a fix?  I wasn’t sure because no one was updating me.  So I created a new service ticket specifically for my blog issue.

Bludomain assured me in response that someone would look into it and get back to me.  Only no one did.  For days I waited, until I was fed up enough to send an annoyed message.  I wasn’t trying to be a jerk, and I actually wrote that–I just needed someone to help me!  I asked again if there was a backup of my blog so that it could easily be restored like my main website was.  At this point, I was thinking, “What horrible customer service!  If I’m that unimportant, perhaps I should find a new company!”  I received a reply within about a minute, asking me what the issue was.

Seriously?  If they had read my service ticket, they would have found in detail the issue at hand.  So explained again, emphasizing my distressed feelings with this taking over a week with very little to no attention and once again asked if there was a back up of my blog.  The next day, I received a message explaining my blog needed to be reindexed.  Reindexed?  What is that?  I wasn’t sure, but with how simple the person made it sound, I figured it would be quick and easy.  And perhaps it is, but when I logged into WordPress, everything was GONE.  As in everything, everything.  The extra WordPress software that manages my blog , all of it’s customization, and ALL of my content.  I felt like crying!  All that work and hours and hours of time, I couldn’t even imagine having to start over again.  I was thinking, “there must be a fix to this!”  So I messaged my tech support person about this issue of everything being gone and if they could please, please help me.  And of course I asked again, “Is there a backup of my blog?”

In the meantime, I starting putting my blog back together again– just so it wouldn’t be a blank wordpress site, but with the solid hope that my site could still be restored to the way it was.  I re-uploaded my blog software, the theme, and started re-customizing everything.  And then I re-imported all of my old content from my free (still intact) blog with Blogger.  So it looked mostly normal again, with the exception of 12 weeks of content missing.  But of course there was not reply from Bludomain…… for 2 days.  So I messaged again, basically begging them to help me.  And the same tech support person responded, “I visited your site, and everything looks fine.  Is something missing?”  Yes.  Missing.  12 weeks of content.  I stated that twice now.  But it was Friday afternoon and of course I didn’t receive a reply over the weekend (business hours and all), nor did I on Monday.  But on Tuesday, the tech support person messaged me saying that backups are only kept from the previous week and that they were checking to see when my last backup happened.  Later I received another message letting me know the backup had been applied.

So I hoped, and hoped for a miracle as I typed in my blog URL to see what happened.  And to my disappointment, it was just the same.

Bludomain only keeps backups from the previous week.  That seems reasonable enough, sites take up space after all!  But what really irks me is that had this issue been resolved from the very beginning–two weeks ago, I have the feeling that I would have all of my content and I would be SINGING Bludomain’s praises instead of dealing with this heartbroken feeling I have.  I realize that Bludomain is a small company that is constantly creating new websites for people and handling tech support issues from sites they currently host, but the way in which my specific issue was handled was completely negligent and unprofessional.  I don’t think anyone has actually even apologized for their lack of proper customer service or that my site was hacked in the first place through their server systems.  To hear, “We are so sorry this happened to you,or “we are doing all we can to resolve this issue as soon as possible,” would have been somewhat comforting, or to even receive timely replies would have been great too.  It would have helped me feel valued as a customer.  What happened instead was just completely opposite, and I am so severely disappointed.

You might ask, “Is it really that big of a deal, it’s only 12 weeks of content?” I actually feel fortunate I’ve only been using WordPress for 12 weeks before this happened (at this point, it’s the only upside), and that I didn’t lose more.  However, in that twelve weeks’ time, the things I wrote about were so incredibly dear to my heart, I actually have tears when I think about it all being gone forever.  I can’t get that back, nor the time or emotion it took to create it.  I can’t get back the comments from people who were truly touched by it either.  It’s just gone.  And it may seem melodramatic to some for me to respond so emotionally in this way, but I actually feel real loss from it.  All from a hacker–who did it just because he could–and a company who epically failed to save the day.

So as a recommendation, if you are a person who decides to give their business to Bludomain, take the extra step and host elsewhere.

And just so I don’t post without a picture, this one was from May 9th.  The theme was home and this is an image of my daughter and I reading a book that helped her understand that home is a feeling and not a place.  I also wrote about the difference of living in fear and living in safety and freedom.  It tugged at heart-strings.

This next image was from June 13th (the day of the hacking).  The woman in the image is the person who texted me letting me know about my site being hacked.   I’m only posting it because she was in the story and it’s really beautiful.  Okay, that’s all.  Must go to bed.

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