The Sorry Tale Of A Hacked Website – Or How I’ve Wasted Three Days And Counting Trying To Sort It Out!

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Just a starting point, this isn’t this particular website, it’s about another one of my sites. Now sadly just a holding page, until I’ve stopped being cross about it!

I’m writing this so that hopefully you won’t experience the same.

I’m writing about a WordPress site, with an SSL Certificate, hosted by Bluehost with a product called ‘Sitelock’ Some of this blog is a rant about Bluehost – honestly, think twice about going with them. You might also read it and think ” surely she should have known that?” Well, I’m pretty IT literate and not complacent about data security in any way. It still happened to me though. I also have top level security on my Mac, so knew I hadn’t been hacked in that way either.

Last week, I received what I thought was a phishing email from an IT security company. It said that my site was being used to scam people in the Philippines. It was essentially hosting a fake bank login page. My initial thought was ” b*llshit” and I promptly deleted the email.

A couple of hours later, I received an email from Bluehost, saying that my website appeared to have been hacked and I needed to deal with it quickly. Surely not I thought. I have ‘ Sitelock’ to protect it, Jetpack on WordPress and also an SSL certificate as an added bonus. I then started my first of many online chats with Bluehost. No exaggeration, I’ve spent 8-10 hours on online chats with them since it happened. Most of them making little sense, being full of misinformation. The initial email told me that my Bluehost hosting account was suspended.

So, chat number one, Bluehost confirmed that my site had been hacked and had a load of malware on it. They couldn’t tell me how or when it had happened. I asked them what to do, they said they’d put a file in my file manager called ” malware.txt” and that I needed to delete the files. I asked them if everything would be ” ok” once I’d done that, they said “yes”

In I went and deleted the files. Now, as I said, I’m ok with technology but it wasn’t crystal clear what I needed to do. The malware.txt file was difficult to read and I then had to locate every file on the document, within the directories and delete them. I did it. But, it wasn’t easy.

Having deleted the files, I had another torturous online chat with Bluehost where they confirmed that all was well and my account was now active.

Woo-hoo! Only it wasn’t….. That afternoon, I’d been sending emails via the connected email account. I was receiving emails and my outbox was clear. All looked fine. But guess what, despite showing as ‘ sent’ my emails weren’t sending at all! Cue a rather miffed potential new client who was waiting for a proposal and even more hassle for me. Another online chat with Bluehost showed that yet more malware was on the website. I said, ” more since this morning?” Apparently so. I’ve missed a bit here. I’d gone and changed all my passwords in the meantime, so I can only think that it was always there or the hackers were pretty efficient.

So, I went through the deleting files process again. Only this time, Bluehost had a solution. It seems that the ‘ Sitelock’ that I’d purchased in good faith last year, is pretty useless. The only way to protect my site properly was to upgrade. To their ‘ Prevent’ package – at a whopping £500 a year. Having just renewed my hosting with Bluehost (mistake) there was no way I was paying that. So, I asked what my other options where. Just Sitelock apparently…. The Bluehost chat person advised that I’d be ok with Sitelock ‘ Fix’ at still a hefty £100, which I paid.

Fast-forward a few days and lo and behold, I get an email from Sitelock saying my site isn’t secure. I query it and they tell me that according to their records, I only had the very basic protection. Hmmm, ” you’re mistaken” I told them. I’ve paid for ” Fix” via Bluehost. Apparently not….. Then, and this is no exaggeration, I spent an hour chatting with Bluehost who said I had paid, then another chat with Sitelock, who said I hadn’t. At which point, I lost my sh*t with them both via a series of social media direct messages! Ultimately, it was agreed I had paid. Sitelock ” Fix” however is also not a full solution. It doesn’t include a firewall for the website. I have one by the way, from another source. I asked Bluehost why they were insisting on pushing a solution that isn’t really a solution? They weren’t up for answering that.

I take responsibility for not having a 100% secure website. I honestly thought I did though. I also thought I’d been super careful with my security. I then remembered giving my WordPress login to someone once. Did I change my password after? I’m not 100% sure I did. Have they lost my data somehow? Did it fall into the wrong hands? I’m so careful with other people’s data. Have I been lazy with my own?

So, the moral of this story is: if like me, you do your own websites, check and double-check that you’re as secure as can be. Also, if you’re looking for hosting, please think twice about Bluehost. They’ve driven me crazy over these last few days and they’re keen to push Sitelock as the only security solution available.

Blimey, now to get back to work!

 

 

 

 

Farewell Brown Owl and Thank You

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Yesterday I heard the sad news that a family friend had died. Mrs G was my ‘Brown Owl’ during my time as a Girl Guide and I’ve got a lot of happy memories of our time together.

Growing-up as a chubby kid, I definitely lacked confidence in my own abilities. My default position was ( and sometimes still is) that if something didn’t go to plan that it was more to do with my appearance than any external factor. This was backed-up (in my head) by minor mishaps that I played over in my head, for years. A throwaway comment by a teacher about not fitting into a costume for a school play really hurt. Then there was the time that the other “big” girl in my class ‘bagged’ the only country dancing skirt with an elasticated waist and I had to try on the others, in front of my classmates knowing that they wouldn’t fasten-up. Add to this never fitting into anything from Tammy Girl properly and being called “fat” by any kid that I happened to annoy, and well, I’m sure you get the picture.

When I joined the Guides, Mrs G saw something in me and she took me under her wing. I was made a Patrol Leader when I was 11, much to the contempt of the older guides. That small amount of responsibility gave me huge amounts of confidence. When I was 12, I got the chance to travel to Europe with a ‘pack’ from Canada and it was incredible. Mrs G was on form throughout the holiday and was a force to be reckoned with! Such a strong woman. Her “girls” were number one and she made sure that we had the best. I remember her clearing a whole section of a cafe in Germany, so we could all sit together. Ushering confused-looking locals onto other tables!

Mrs G and I formed a tight allegiance. When at Guide Camp, she always looked out for me. There were secret stashes of chocolate, special treatment and always so much praise and affection. She encouraged me to actually lead and I soon took younger Guides and Brownies under my wing. I remember staying up late one night at camp, comforting a new recruit who was missing her mum. Mrs G just let me get on with it, but when everything had settled down I remember her handing me a cup of hot chocolate and saying ” what a fine young lady you are” – well, I think she said that. Mrs G had a strong, Scottish accent that she never lost, despite living in Macclesfield for years and years!

I got to 13/14 and discovered that I preferred hanging-out with my friends, obsessing over boys and Take That and I ditched the Guides. I saw Mrs G over the years and she was always so warm and caring. She remained a friend of my mum and I know that she was kept informed of all of my activities over the years.

I don’t think I ever said thank you to her but I always will be grateful. Fly high Mrs G. You will be missed.

I’m Feeling All Creative…..And I Love It

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I’ve just moved house. I’ll spare you the details, but it was horrendous! I’m almost unpacked and the broadband is up-and-running. It’s starting to feel like home. I used to live on a busy, main road. I now live on a quiet side street, overlooking the hills. I’m sleeping better already.

Every so often, a voice in my head says ” why don’t you write a book?” I have a few ideas, which I’ve pondered over the years, but I’ve never actually written a word. I’m not 100% sure I’ve got the talent or the imagination, but then again, I’ve read books that have been distinctly average. Could I be “average” too – and still get a book published?!

I love stories. I always have done. When I was younger, I’d devour books. One after another. I’d stay awake until the early hours, just to read the last page. I’d lost that love. Especially since I had my youngest child. His sleep habits (or lack of sleep habits) have definitely affected my cognitive abilities. Sometimes, I’d struggle to read a few sentences. I gave up reading for pleasure.

Perhaps it’s my new positive ‘vibe’ or maybe it’s just the passage of time but I can read again! Ok, I’ve not got hours to spend now, but it’s enough to just sneak ten minutes when I can.

So, writing. I’ve sketched-out a few characters and the plot. I know where it’s based and I’d say it’s a story of lives weaving together. A few events are based on stories I’ve heard from my family. Nothing contoversial. Just stories of life, love and fun. It could be absolute drivel. But, at least I’ll have created it myself.

Perhaps this house move is the fresh start that I’ve needed, without realising that I needed it. Who knows, I could be painting in my garden next! Well, that would be an event. Those that know me well are aware of my complete lack of artistic skills. I wasn’t allowed to do GCSE Art. That’s how bad things are!

I might have a book within me. Who knows? Let’s see.

 

Sarah x

 

Seriously, Stop It!

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I didn’t ” win” a client last week. A training client. Instead of learning with me, they’ve gone elsewhere. Shock, horror, ” get over it!” I hear you say…. I am over it. I am, but it’s got me thinking.

The client justified their decision clearly. Why should they pay me, when they can get training for free? Indeed. I offer primarily one-to-one and small group training. It’s bespoke. I listen to your needs and develop a plan around it. I have years of training experience too. This is why I charge a fee. My competitor is offering free group training. Generic training on ‘ social media for business.’

I understand the dilemma for a small business on ‘free vs fee’ but you need to consider what you’re trying to achieve. This competitor (god, it sounds like I’m seriously miffed!) is not running a digital marketing business. They offer social media management as a service. One look at their own social media tells me that they don’t have a grasp on the basics. Posts without images (come on!) Generic sales posts, repeatedly – no value for their followers. Offering training on social media for business shouldn’t be in their remit. My concern is that people receive their training, not get value from it and either walk away demoralised or then pursue other training options, having wasted time.

I know a fair bit about SEO and can put together a WordPress website. Would I offer training? No chance. I believe that a trainer has a responsibility to their client and also to the industry that we work in. There are enough charlatans about, believe me! Whether it’s offering free training (unless subsidised, what’s the motive?) social media management for dirt cheap prices, or ‘free’ websites – that aren’t free at all, there needs to be a shake-up. There is enough crap for a small business to navigate, without wasting time with poor marketing advice and services.

Is this a rant? Sort of. Am I perfect? Of course not. But, I wouldn’t dream of offering a service that I can’t deliver on.

 

 

 

When The Summer Holidays Are Just A Guilt-Fest

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I’m writing this in our lounge, laptop on my knee. Number one child is playing with her ‘little life pets’ whilst number two child is binge-watching CBeebies. It’s only a matter of time before one of them needs my attention. Hopefully, I’ll get 20 minutes or so to finish this blog! So far today, I’ve answered emails, taken two phone calls from clients, sent a proposal to a potential client and ensured that everyone whose social media accounts I manage, has had content go out.

I no longer do video calls when the kids are around. I did, but after the occasion when one kid accidentally turned off the TV and all hell broke loose, followed by the time when my youngest could be heard shouting ” mummy, wipe my bum” from the bathroom, I ditched that plan.

I can’t afford to pay for full-time childcare over the holidays for both children, so I’m managing with a combination of favours, late nights and just winging it. It’s not fun. I try and give the kids a few hours each day of undivided attention. No work, out of the house, 100% mummy but I’m struggling. I miss calls, respond late to emails and it all just makes me feel crap.

Being self-employed gives me so much freedom and most of the time, I love it. But currently, I wish I was out of the house each day. Earning a defined salary, having that comfort.  I wish that there was cheaper childcare available. A flexible workspace with a pay-as-you-go creche would be amazeballs! I wish I didn’t have this constant guilt hanging over me.

I re-launched my business in June and it’s been fab. This is my first real challenge. I’m not writing this to gain sympathy. I know so many people in this situation. I know there are people struggling more than I am. I just wanted to say that if you’re in the same pickle as I am, I hear you.