Running A Coding Marathon
It all started New Years Day, 2013 when one of our readers emailed me to say that Google was warning him off visiting EV World due to the existence of 'malware' on the site that could infect his computer. He wanted to let me know.
I checked the site myself and didn't see any problems, so I shrugged it off that morning, hoping to catch this year's Rose Bowl Parade on the television. But a few hours later, I discovered that I too was being warned to stay away from my own website.
My reaction was immediate. WTF!
A quick Google of 'malware' led me to their Webmaster development tool website and the discovery that several -- thankfully -- non-critical sections of the site had somehow or another been compromised by malware. While I never did discover what it was, I quickly pulled those sections off the site: maybe the most important being the DIY section. Later it would turn out that it was through a security breach in that very section that not only resulted in the malware infestation, but opened the door to a serious hacker attack that would haunt me two weeks later.
Pulling all those infected files off the website also led to the recognition that over the more than a decade since launching EV World.com, the website had accumulated, like so many barnacles encrusting the hull of a ship; masses of now useless files and miles of code, literally tens of thousands of lines of it that weren't being used any longer as I had evolved the site over the next decade and half. While rooting out the infestation, I decided it was also time for a major housecleaning, so to speak. And while I was at it, I figured it was time to revamp the website graphically. EV World.com's look was now stale and dated. Redesigning its look would also enabled me to introduce a new organizational structure and a couple new features, while shelving those that were no longer all that useful or relevant.
In early January, I figured I'd gradually work on the site, setting a deadline for the rollout of March 1, 2013. Over the next week, I came up with a look that I liked, one inspired by the Fast Company website. I also wanted the site to work on tablet devices like my iPad, which it does very nicely.
What I also realized as I looked over the hundreds of files in the various directories on the server and in the database, was that EV World.com is also a treasure trove of images, audio files, video, text, and gigabytes of data, most of which has been pretty much inaccessible over the past few years. I was determined to find a way to make it more accessible: that's what ARCHIVES are about.
The introduction of HTML5, cascading style sheets, jquery, and many other really cool features add animation and life to a web site. I wanted to include those in a useful way, as well. I also wanted to eliminate the clutter on the site. I still need those pesky third-party advertising banners to make ends meet, but I could clean things up graphically.
My somewhat leisurely two month schedule was torpedoed by hackers who in the middle of the month hijacked my home page after having exploited that security breach in the DIY section. They didn't do any malicious damage, other than defacing the footer section of the home page; to what ends, I haven't a clue, but it's a bit disconcerting to have someone else controlling your business enterprise. Thankfully, a long time friend and colleague who hosts our EV World server, came up with a hack of his own that -- for the time being -- wrested control back from the hackers. In the meantime, we started hunting for the file that had enabled them to slip through our defenses. It turned out that there were at least a half dozen of them planted in various directories, adding fresh impetuous for a complete purge of the website.
Now I went into programming and graphic design overdrive, literally working from 6 AM (and one morning at 3 AM after discovering the hijack) until after 11 PM at night. Now my goal was to get the new site online by February 1st.
As you can see, I made the deadline, though I have sorely neglected getting out my weekly newsletter. I have been able to add new content, including the new URBAN MOBILITY and inFOCUS features. I am extremely pleased with the new design, but best of all, the number of error messages I now receive when a page fails is a fraction of fraction of what they were before the housecleaning. I am no longer overwhelmed by them, but can now take proactive steps to correct them.
So, in a way, the hackers did you and me a favor, but it's come at the loss of sleep, the re-inflammation of my carpel tunnel syndrome, and a battleship load of profanity, scaring my poor little Schnauzer to death more time than I care to count.
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