I hate it when people with vacuous business models try to sap my web reputation and waste my time.
Earlier this week, Google sent me a friendly note with the subject line: “Removal from Google’s Index.” My first thought was that it was a scam or a phishing attempt. But no, after examining the links carefully and doing a couple web searches, it turned out to be legit.
A blog we host was running WordPress version 1.5. It’s not an active blog. It’s up for posterity, so we didn’t really care that it was several versions out of date. Unfortunately, that version of WordPress, and everything prior to 2.5.1 (I think), is exploitable.
In our case, it had been hacked to have hidden text links for run-of-the-mill spam links such as porn, pharmaceuticals, etc. In fact, the links appear to have changed a few times over the week or more that it had been compromised. Google noticed, and told us to get rid of the spam links or else it would be booted out of it’s search results.
So, upgrade WordPress we did. Overall, cleaning up the mess wasn’t too bad. It could have been worse.
The moral of this story? Do backups. Check for upgrades of software every once in a while (yeah right). And make sure that one or more of these email addresses work: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the addresses to which Google addressed the email.
My wish? That WordPress and other common web applications had a single line in their FAQ that said in 100% unambiguous language what was the minimum version of software that was free of exploits. I looked for several minutes to see if this blog, running WordPress 2.5.1 was ‘safe’. In the end, I couldn’t tell, so I decided to upgrade to 2.7 while I had all the files handy.