The term “hacking” may be new to you unless you’re a computer geek. Hacking is the name to given to breaking into someone’s website by using malicious software. The hacker may just be trying to show how skilled he is at breaking through someone’s passwords or firewalls. But sometimes he means to do real harm to the website owner. We can’t be sure what motivated the hacker who trashed the shul website, this blog, on December 26. It is a lesson for all of us that computers are not completely fool proof and whenever you put something “out there” in cyberspace, it is vulnerable to attack.
My first hint that something was wrong actually came on December 26 when I started to get junk mail from our blog. Since I have software on the blog that filters filters out junk, I knew that something had stopped working. But it didn’t seem serious. I had family matters to attend to last week and decided I would look at it on the weekend. However, on Shabbos morning at shul, Joel informed me that the shul blog was “down”. This elevated my concern, and I began an investigation right after we finished Kiddush. Little did I know that I would be spending the rest of the day, New Year’s Eve, performing website maintenance.
I would compare this malicious mischief to having graffiti spray painted on your garage. The damage was not severe. The security provisions on our site held up pretty well. My guess is that it could have been much worse. By the time Saturday was over and 2012 had arrived, I had erased any evidence of the hacker’s graffiti. Then I started a series of security improvements in hopes of preventing it from happening again in the future. So, who are the hackers and what did they actually do? Based on the calling card they left behind, they are from Kosovo, Albania. Was the attack anti-Semitic? Apparently, yes. But not definitely. They didn’t post any anti-Semitic statements or racist remarks, but a link from their logo led to the graphic below. One could conclude that they surf the net looking for Jewish websites to disrupt. But maybe they also do this to Christian sites as well. I took a quick glance through the web in an attempt to find out who they are, and I saw an item indicating that they hacked a bank website somewhere in Eastern Europe. That’s as much as I know of them.
During the course of making the repairs, I learned that the best security against internet piracy is a strong password. So, as much as we like easy passwords like “carnegie123”, you need to abandon them and replace them with something longer and much more complicated. Yes, it’s a pain to have to keep track of them. OK, maybe it’s not a big deal if you’re just doing Facebook. But if you have your banking online and if you keep personal files online, having a strong password is important to protect your ass-ets.