On 6th May I woke up to find out that my blog had disappeared off the face of the earth and I could not log into the back end. My immediate thoughts were “What the hell?” Then I came across an email from my host Afro Digital stating the following:
We are contacting you to inform you of a security issue which has been identified with your website. The issue could lead to your site being hacked.
Sh*t F**K I thought. I sent an email to my host asking what had happened to my site. His reply was ‘Your site has either been hacked or is in the process of being hacked.” I was in a complete loss as to what to do. I had about a zillion questions – when, where, how, why? I am not a techy so these words hacked meant a lot in theory but not so much in practice. How do I get erm, unhacked? It was also clear that my host was not about to offer any assistance. After re-reading his email it transpired that there had been a bug with Woothemes (the company that makes the theme that was used to created my site) it turns out that Woo had informed all their clients about this bug a week before to give them adequate time to update and prevent themselves from being hacked. I had received no such notification. I contacted my host asking why I had not been told about this – I had a template from WooThemes why was I not on their mailing list? His reply was that I was not a customer of WooThemes, they had no relationship with me and therefore no contact details hence the lack of contact.
Now I was puzzled. When I commissioned Afro Digital to design my site for the princely fee of £450 I assumed that this included the cost of the theme. No? Apparently not. The theme had been bought on behalf of Afro Digital on his account hence the lack of relationship between WooThemes and I. Ok so if Afro Digital was the main contact then why did he not pass the message on? This is where it gets interesting. According to my host – I did not have a maintenance contract with him (a maintenance contract where he updates my site and does back ups for a monthly fee) and therefore was not obligated to pass that information onto me. Instead what he had done was wait until 5th May around the time of the hacking to inform me of the issues with WooThemes and his fee (£150) for fixing the site. Needless to say I was furious and upset. Being hacked is a bit like being mugged or violated – one of those things that you never think will happen to you. Luckily I had a good friend who was able to rescue all my content but the design had been ruined and he had to build it from scratch.
The whole experience was very stressful and on the other hand enlightening. I learn that doing business with a friend is not always a good thing. Since setting up my site in 2007 I had been with blogger which had been perfect for a newbie blogger and not so techy lady but a few years down the line I felt that I needed something a bit more advanced. I met the owner of Afro Digital and I agreed to let him ‘design’ my site. I admit I was nervous about moving from Blogger to WordPress as the latter is a lot more complex and I was worried that I would not be able to maintain it. I expressed this to him on several occasions and he assured me that it would be fine and that WordPress is easy to pick up. He also threw in free hosting with the deal which on face value sounded like pretty good. The site launched last July and it went swimmingly well and then Afro Digital asked me if I wanted to take up his maintenance contract which was the same fee as my water rates bill. I declined. I would receive emails from Afro Digital informing me of minor errors of the site and additional functions that would benefit the site, telling me that he could fix it for a small fee. Again I declined. Eventually I sent him an email stating that as my site made very little money that I had no intention of spending anymore money on it and that I had a home to run. His reply was fair enough.
In a nutshell it turned out that Afro Digital’s ‘free’ hosting was a no frills service which came with no technical support. This meant that if anything went wrong with the site I would receive no help. I guess there is no such thing as a free lunch. After taking a look at my Control Panel my techy mate found out that my host had left it exposed which meant that anyone could have logged into the backend and deleted any of my files. Needless to say I moved my site pronto from Afro Digital and it is now in the safe hands of Tsohost. Do I feel very silly that I did not do my research properly so I knew that I should have registered an account with Woothemes and bought the theme in my name? Certainly, ignorance is not an excuse. Do I feel that I was taken advantage of by someone who I regarded as a friend. Most definitely.
Still all’s well that ends well. Thanks to this debacle I now know how to put a website together and I now have my own account with WooThemes who are actually pretty cool.
So no-one else has to go through the nightmare I experienced, I have put together a post on how to set up a website without having a nervous breakdown.