Category Archives: blogging

My Phantom Followers – Who Are These People?

There are any number of ways to measure success for those of us who write for the Internet. The number of daily readers seems to be the key criteria most often used as a yardstick.   *

One would expect, that the addition of a substantial number of “followers” (the number of readers following blog posts and post comments), should impact a site’s number of daily reads/visits – in a positive way. I suspect that WordPress had that outcome in mind when, a year or so ago, it introduced a meshed WordPress follow system.

Ostensibly, there are some 8,000+ followers here – at least according to WordPress. And typically, this number bumps up at the rate of 10/12 daily.

Graphic: A slice of the Dash Board from today.

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So happy days, yeah? Maybe not.

The quandary:

Despite the exposure which one would expect should be gained by an additional 8,000+ followers – the number of daily readers here has gone down and, continues on this downward trend. A curious state of affairs, no?

This is a quick post simply to fill in some blank time (a rare commodity around here) – so, I won’t get into the mathematics of this puzzler. Suffice it to say (for the moment), that something stinks here. The real stinker is – are these people real, imaginary, spammers/scammers – or, the real McCoy  – a cybercriminal?

It’s illogical, at least to me, that a significant number of individuals would take the time to subscribe to a site and then, the majority mysteriously vanish – in most cases never to be heard from again. It’s kind of like throwing a party and nobody shows up.   Smile

I should point out that most new followers seem to have a WordPress connection – a blog, or a Gravatar. So, what’s underway here? What’s the scheme – or, is there one?

I’m more curious about this than I am confused. There’s not much to be confused about in terms of the mechanics. But, I’m more than a little confused at the lack of repeat visits from 8,000+ followers.

As Butch Cassidy remarked to the Sundance Kid, as they focused on their pursuers from a cliff top – “Who ARE these people”?

Me? I’m asking the same question.

Update: May 11, 2013.

Good friend (and very smart fellow) Michael Fisher, was kind enough to pass on the following link to an article – Beware the Followers Made of Spam – which proves beyond doubt, that this follower thing is not what it seems. It’s simply a new type of spam. The author has crafted a very funny article and still manages to make his point very cleverly. A highly recommended read.

Thanks Michael.

A quick outtake on numbers:    *

Numbers? Followers? It may surprise you to know that I have little or no interest, in either one. Numbers or followers, don’t make me a better IT professional. My self-esteem is not impacted by activity, or the lack of activity, on this site. I write here because it’s fun – as it should be.

You’ll not be surprised to know, I’m sure, that the pack that I hang with on the Net (almost all bloggers), hold a similar view. Despite a seemingly lack of concern for numbers, these bloggers run some of the most successful one person sites on the Web.

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Filed under blogging, Point of View, Writing

Free Sucuri SiteCheck – Find Out If Your Site Has Been Hacked

imageI recently posted a piece – Webmasters Struggle With Hacked Sites – A Commtouch, StopBadware Report – which read in part: “Recent statistics indicate (surprise, surprise) – cybercriminals are increasing their targeting of websites for identity theft, virus distribution, and spamming.

And, according to a newly released survey (Compromised Websites: An Owner’s Perspective), from Commtouch and StopBadware – in which webmasters were queried on their fight against hacking – almost half of the survey participants (who had been hacked), had no idea until they received a warning from their own computer’s protection technology.”

Since I use WordPress as my blogging platform, I rely on the security apparatus WordPress has in place to protect me from the various cyber criminal attack schemes currently in play. Still, I would be more than a little naive if I didn’t  consider the possibility that WordPress’ site security is vulnerable to hacking.

If a security developer’s web site can be hacked – and, many have been in the last year – including Panda Security in just the past few days*, it lends credence to the suggestion that any site can be hacked.

*Late Tuesday night, at least 35 public facing websites belonging to Panda Security were hacked and defaced by the LulzSec and Anonymous hacking groups. The defacement also posted multiple usernames and passwords associated with Panda Security employees.

Frankly, it absolutely infuriates me when I consider that the 4 years plus that I’ve put into writing and maintaining this Blog could, in little more than a moment, be destroyed by a single act of a cyber criminal. In my weaker moments, I have visions of lining these creeps up against the wall and being done with them.

But, the reality is much different, of course. So, it’s incumbent upon me to ensure that visitors to this site are protected (imperfect as that might be), from the nasties which cybercriminals can load onto a site.

There’s no foolproof solution but, one measure which I employ frequently is taking advantage of a free service offered by Sucuri Security – which, quickly scans for the most common threats as illustrated in the following screen capture.

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Additionally, all links within the site are scanned. The following screen shot shows a small representation of the hundreds of links which were scanned.

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If you’re a blogger or a site owner, I suggest that you take advantage of this free service so that you can check if your site has been compromised. It’s one more tool in the fight against the increasing threats posed by cyber criminal gangs.

Scan your website free.

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Filed under Anti-Malware Tools, blogging, Cyber Crime, Don't Get Hacked, Online Malware Scanners

Tom Sanders SEO – A Bottom Feeding Specialist

imageOver the last 60 days or so, comment spam here has taken a huge jump. Not a big deal you might suppose – after all, with one or two clicks the damn stuff can be deleted. With 400 or more spam comments every day, I find that deletion is the only sane solution. Taking as little as 10 seconds to peruse each spam comment, would add roughly one hour of unproductive activity to an already full day.

So, the solution to this aggravation is simple enough (or, so it seems) – but, the downside to hitting the “Empty Spam” button is an increased risk of seemingly ignoring a reader’s comment which has been spam trapped. In terms of “blogging sins” – ignoring a reader’s comment, ranks well up on the list of grievous offenses.

The screen capture shown below (taken from my blog’s Dashboard several weeks ago), shows 259 spam comments awaiting moderation.

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I have little doubt, that trapped within these fake comments (such as the one shown below), were bona fide readers’ comments which (as they normally do), would have expanded the scope of the relevant article. The power of reader comments to enhance, and round out an article, is a key feature of blogging in my estimation.

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Which brings me to Tom Sanders (if that’s his real name). Tom is in the business of pissing people off. Tom, like so many of his competitors in the search engine optimization (SEO) business, is an unethical twit – a parasitic ignoramus who is content to feed off, and potentially damage, the works of others.

Sanders, and others like him, ignore the impact their SEO schemes (as illustrated in the following email dated October 13), are likely to have on web content providers. Slimy, sleazy practices, such as this, inevitably lead to an onslaught of spam email which the content provider is then forced to deal with.

Tom Sanders tom193@seo-service.com to me (show details 6:32 AM (47 minutes ago)

Hi,

My name is Tom and I am a link builder. I sell blog comment links for website owners at low price.

Blog comment links can help you in a number of ways. Here are three major advantages:

– Increase link and IP popularity
– Direct traffic to your site
– Higher rankings in search engines

I can do thousands of blog comment links for your site in a couple of days, and they get indexed very fast. If you would like more details about my offer, or would like to ask me anything you’d like regarding this matter, then feel free to reply with a YES.

Best regards,
Tom

Normally, I wouldn’t bother writing an article on what might be perceived to be a “so what” internal issue. Except, my good buddy Michael F., questioned me this morning as to whether I was knowingly rejecting his comments. Which, immediately raised the question – “how many other readers have encountered the same ‘rejection’ issue?”

If you have commented here, and then failed to receive an acknowledgement from me, please accept my apology. Tom Sanders (in reality, just another cyber criminal), and his leech-like SEO industry operatives, have created a bottleneck in the free flow of reader comments. Another obstacle to overcome – created by the marginal morons who slither through the Internet.

Just a passing note – There are bloggers (known to me), who regularly post “edited” spam comments passed off as legitimate comments. Sleeping with the enemy just about covers that. You (and you know who you are), need to give your head a shake.

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15 Comments

Filed under blogging, Comment Spam, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, Opinion, Point of View, SEO, spam

Blog Basics for Brisbanites: How to Set Up a Blog with Your Own Domain Name

Blogging can be used to support your image professionally, or just like a diary of your life for purely personal reasons. This article looks at setting up your own blog, choosing domain names, and then changing your blog over to your very own web address. Your blog can be up and running in no time, and you will be surprised at how professional it will look.

  • Get Started With WordPress. WordPress is by far the easiest. Go to their main website and set up your account. WordPress has many additional features which you can explore as you get used to manipulating your site. You could host your site yourself with their software but the best way is just to let them handle everything. You will choose the easiest option in the beginning. This will mean the whole thing is for free. The reason why they can do this is because they will get the revenue from any adverts on your page.
  • Getting Your Own URL. After you have set up your account, you will see that the web address of your blog starts with WordPress in the name followed by your account. It is always better to have the URL of your own choice. All you need to do is look for a domain hosting company on the internet. There you can see if the domain name is available that you want. Once you have purchased the domain name, which normally costs around $10-12 a year, you will need to proceed to domain mapping.
  • Mapping to WordPress. WordPress has full instructions, which are not very difficult to follow. Essentially they give you a few lines of text to update your information stored on the servers of your domain name. Your company that supplied you with the domain name will give you a log-in location where you can update your information. Once this has been completed, you return to WordPress.
  • Adding URL in WordPress. Inside your WordPress account, you will see a tab in the settings section of your account. Go to the domain names setting, and enter in your new domain name. This will update instantly and now if you type in your domain name, or your original WordPress domain name, you will see your blog.
  • Take it Step by Step. This is not as complicated as it sounds. Many people get a little lost or confused when they are trying something new on their computer, and the internet, because they don’t stop to read what is on the screen in front of them.
  • If You Are Having Trouble. Never panic, help is only a few minutes away. There are plenty of online IT services Brisbane, that can help you walk through any of these steps. If you think you don’t need that kind of help, you can always start with the help guide on WordPress.

This whole process should take about 15 minutes. Just remember to pay for your domain name and any support service with secure payment systems. Never give any supplier your full credit or debit card details.

Guest article from Sachin.

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Filed under blogging, Blogging Tips, Freeware, Interconnectivity, Social Blogging, WordPress

WordPress.com Hacked (Again)

imageAnytime a users email account, or web site gets hacked, it’s seemingly always the user’s fault – never the service provider’s fault. Or so we’re led to believe – full transparency is rarely a strong point of Internet service providers.

So, I’ll climb on the Kudos bandwagon, (with some reservations), and congratulate WordPress for coming clean on yesterday’s low-level server hack.

From WordPress

Tough note to communicate today: Automattic had a low-level (root) break-in to several of our servers, and potentially anything on those servers could have been revealed.

Our investigation into this matter is ongoing and will take time to complete. As I said above, we’ve taken comprehensive steps to prevent an incident like this from occurring again.

It’s not my intent to castigate WordPress, but they don’t get away entirely free. Looking back to June of last year, following a hack in one of my Gmail accounts, I made the following points.

………………. I am certain of this – ANY website, or service, can be hacked.

What I find very annoying is, Gmail, WordPress, and others, simply refuse to acknowledge, that vulnerabilities exist in their systems – especially WordPress.

Listen up WordPress – if the Pentagon can be hacked, and it has been, frequently, then WordPress is definitely NOT invulnerable to hacking – despite your assurances to the contrary.

If you run a WordPress.com site, here’s Matt Mullenweg’s advice:

Based on what we’ve found, we don’t have any specific suggestions for our users beyond reiterating these security fundamentals:

  • Use a strong password, meaning something random with numbers and punctuation.
  • Use different passwords for different sites.
  • If you have used the same password on different sites, switch it to something more secure.

I’ll throw in my own unvarnished advice: If you use the Internet, expect to be attacked – on all fronts.

In the past, when I’ve taken issue with WordPress (always based on their self declared invincibility to hacking), I’ve dealt with several reader comments which attempted to make the point that perhaps I was an ungrateful cur – after all, WordPress provides a free service. The reality is somewhat different.

My association with WordPress is the very definition of a symbiotic relationship – they provide the service free – I provide good content – they advertise based on my content – they make $$$$$$ – lots of $$$$$$.

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Filed under blogging, Cyber Crime, Cyber Criminals, cybercrime, Internet Security Alerts, Opinion, Point of View, WordPress

Cybercrime 101 – Advertise On A Search Engine For Success

imageIf you want to enhance your chances of being a successful cyber scam artist/cybercrook, you need to; look the part and act the part, of a successful Internet business organization.

How hard is that? Not hard at all when you consider all you need to do is offer a product that appears genuine, and perhaps most importantly – advertise in readily available and trusted media.

So, if you want to succeed in the $105 BILLION “Internet shadow economy”, advertising your “product” on an Internet search engine, could be a major step in helping you reach your financial goals.

Why an Internet search engine? Well, if one were to poll a group of typical Internet users as to the safety and reliability of search engine results, including the pervasive ads that search engines sprout; there is little doubt that the answer would be positive. In a sense, search engines impart instant legitimacy.

Part of the process of offering a product that appears to be genuine, would include producing and promoting a Web site that instills confidence in those unlucky enough to click on your ad, such as the site pictured below for ErrorSmart.

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But, here’s what 2-Spyware.com has to say about ErrorSmart:

Error Smart is not an anti-spyware as it says but a smart new scam luring online for victims. Usually, ErrorSmart must be downloaded and installed manually from promoting website, but sometimes it is distributed by trojans. Error Smart is presented as reputable security tool, but the facts speak differently.

It compromises the system by disabling firewalls and other security applications. It displays large numbers of fabricated security reports that are partially true because Error Smart is able to download additional computer parasites on the infected computer.

On top of that, Lavasoft’s Ad-aware, sees ErrorSmart as a Rogue application as the following graphic indicates.

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But hold on! Given that search engine results can be manipulated, or worse (see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!” on this site), it’s reasonable to ask the question – why aren’t typical Internet users aware of this situation?

The simple answer is – search engines make little, or no effort, to educate their users in the risks involved in relying on advertisements appearing in their applications. As a consequence, the typical user I come into contact with believes search engine output to be untainted, and free of potential harmful exposure to malware.

A user looking for a review of ErrorSmart, for example, has a reasonably good chance of finding the following review:

ErrorSmart uses the industry’s most advanced error-resolution technology and puts it to work for you. By scanning your hard drive, analyzing the errors and correcting the problems, ErrorSmart can restore your system performance and increase startup speed by up to 70 percent.

Whether it’s incomplete uninstalls, failed installations, driver issues or spyware infections that are affecting your PC, ErrorSmart will rid you of your computer problems in just minutes.

However, the graphic below, illustrates WOT users’ reactions to this article.

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Fact: Consumer confidence in the strength and reliability of search engine results, particularly ads, is seriously misplaced.

ErrorSmart (the site pictured earlier), a “scareware/rogueware” application developed to mislead uninformed computer users’ into downloading and paying for the “full” version of this bogus software, based on the false positives generated by the application, has been “advertised” for months on a number of leading search engines.

If you think this is a one off, or an isolated incident, then you’ll be surprised to learn it’s not. For additional information on this issue see “Search Engine Results – Malware Heaven!”, on this site.

So will search engine providers address the issues described in this article? Sure – but only when consumers who are totally fed up with tainted search engine results finally force them to. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Writing articles like this is not without risk. For example, several years ago I wrote an article on an application – Finally Fast – considered by many to be less than it pretends to be. Google “Finally Fast scam” to see what I mean.

Recently, Ascentive, the developers behind Finally Fast, had their lawyers email me a letter in which they threatened to sue me for posting my unbiased views on their product. Since I live in Canada, where the courts are not sympathetic to lawsuits that are launched to intimidate and harass, this letter had little effect. Actually, I considered their threat a backhanded compliment!

Nevertheless, since Ascentive is well know for aggressive threats to sue – they even sued Google – “ The claimant, Ascentive,  a software producing corporation that, after some bad press, got kicked (“suspended”) out of Google’s organic search results & whose AdWords account got disabled, is now  suing  Google”, I did hand the email to my lawyer.

My lawyers advice to me, in decidedly unlawerly language was – “tell them to kiss your ass”.  He want on to explain that a “libel chill” lawsuit such as this, had little chance of being considered by the courts in this country.

Like most people I don’t react well to threats, so I did consider looking to the Blogger community for support on this and mounting a campaign, with the help of the community, to take up the gauntlet and spotlight Ascentive’s actions.

But, considering the number of hours that such a campaign would require, I took the easy way out and removed the article. However, if my daily workload should ever lighten – I may yet revisit my decision.

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Filed under blogging, cybercrime, Don't Get Scammed, Google, internet scams, Internet Security Alerts, scareware, Search Engines, Windows Tips and Tools

If You’re A Habitually Negative Blogger Then You’re On The Wrong Bus

imageUndoubtedly, fact based diversity of opinion is a good thing – particularly in the field of technological progress. But, intellectual negativism based on habitual skepticism, which is then propagated (often by a Blogger), as expert opinion, serves no one. Except perhaps, the practiced skeptic who’s driven by a need to criticize technological advancements he doesn’t quite understand.

Clearly, I’m no fan of those technologists, or Bloggers, who are addicted to negative thinking; those who take issue with technological achievements which have been overwhelmingly affirmed by the marketplace.

Recently, WordPress added a “Share” feature to its blogging platform, and in discussing this with fellow technologists (some are Bloggers), I was taken aback by the shortsightedness brought out in discussing the benefits of this new feature – for both Blog readers, and Bloggers.

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Common negative points of view expressed, included:

I would never get involved with Facebook (one of the “Share” buttons). Only losers use Facebook.

As it turns out, I’m not a Facebook user – but it’s hardly because I think only losers use Facebook. I very much doubt that the Half Billion users on this social network, consider themselves “losers”. Instead, it’s evident that Facebook users see the individual personal benefits a Facebook account provides.

From a personal perspective, Facebook presents too much of a risk to my online security; but I certainly recognize that there has been overwhelming acceptance of Facebook. Consequently, I find it difficult to listen to arguments that Facebook has no social relevancy. Or, that it’s populated by “losers.”

Only Twits use Twitter (another of the “Share” buttons).

I subscribe to Twitter, and I don’t recall ever being called a “Twit”. Some other unflattering names, I confess, – but not a “Twit”.  Mind you, I don’t tweet about what I had for breakfast, what time I went to bed, what I’m wearing today, or the inane “look at me” tweets, posted by celebrities like Demi Moore, or Ashton Kutcher.

But, I have no problem accepting that the social relevancy of Twitter is substantial. How the hell could a service with 165 Million registered users since it’s inception just two years ago, be anything but socially relevant, is beyond me.

I’ll cut to the chase here: Significantly, the addition of  the “Share” feature by WordPress has been very favorably received by most Bloggers, and most importantly – by readers. From a reader’s perspective the advantages are obvious – a “Share” feature allows users to easily share content which is important to them, through social networking sites, social content sites, email, and so on.

From a Blogger’s perspective – and I’m only relating my own personal experience – I’m delighted. In the time since WordPress added the “Share” feature, average daily reads here have increased by more than 20%. It’s rather obvious, that by making it easier for visitors to share my content, they do just that. It seems clear to me that WordPress has added value for both readers, and for me as a Blogger.

To those Blogging associates who see little, or no value, in marketplace affirmation of change, most particularly the WordPress “Share” button, I’ll remind you of this quotation from futurist Alvin Toffler (Future Shock) – “The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Writing this post, brought to mind an article in Newsweek Magazine I read many years ago, in which the author Clifford Stoll, took great exception to the idea that the Internet, and related technologies, had a viable future.

Since his predictive opinion was so dramatically off-target, I’ve partially reproduced that article here:

The Internet? Bah! (Hype alert: Why cyberspace isn’t, and will never be, nirvana.) February 27, 1995.

Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems.  Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher ……..

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping—just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obsolete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

The full article can be read here.

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Filed under blogging, FaceBook, Interconnectivity, Personal Perspective, Social Blogging, social networking, Twitter, Windows Tips and Tools