Cleaning Code-injection Malware on Thanksgiving Long Weekend

I just finished removing a code-injected malware that blacklisted a website with security providers like Google and Symantec, and it had to be on this Thanksgiving Long Weekend. Nothing makes me more sick that having to deal with this type of cleanup but it has to be done. Our whole household is already sick with cough and flu so this adds to the fun.

I noticed the infection by constant emails from my service provider that my quota was getting exceeded. I know the site is popular but couldn’t be that popular. When I tried to get to the site using Google Chrome browser, I received a ominous red splash screen letting me know that there is malware on the site and that I should only continue if I understood the risks. Fortunately, I had the site registered with Google Webmaster Tools and was able to get a sample of the suspicious code injection. I also ran
http://killmalware.com/, http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/aminsolutions.com, and http://sitecheck.sucuri.net/ against the website to advise me what other sites see as a baseline prior to cleaning up the malware. This is what I had to do, without too much detail so that the hackers aren’t wise to the exact solutions:

  • Put the site into maintenance mode, displaying a friendly reminder to clients that this is scheduled;
  • If using CMS, update the platform to the latest version, including all security patches;
  • Register the website with Google Webmaster Tools to have it tell you what and possibly where the code-injection malware is on the site;
  • Search the web site’s file system for the sample malware code snippet returned by Google Webmaster Tools. Sometimes, it is easier to use Notepad++ to search through contents of every file so do this after downloading a copy of the entire web site locally to your computer. If hosted on the cloud, use your favorite FTP client like CoreFTP to download the contents;
  • After finding the code-injected malware, remove the malicious code;
  • Make sure you prevent future code-injections by following Google’s write-up here https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/3024344. Specifically look for malicious code that’s obfuscated to avoid detection, e.g. eval (base64 decode);
  • Get Google Webmaster Tools to re-review the site to ensure the malware has been removed. Make sure you configure the preferences to email you of any future malware attacks on the site;
  • Run http://killmalware.com/, http://www.siteadvisor.com/sites/aminsolutions.com, and http://sitecheck.sucuri.net/ against the website to ensure it passes all the tests.
  • After tests pass, deactivate maintenance mode on the website to open it back up to customers.

Gobble gobble gobble. That’s how you serve this turkey to dinner.

What to do when Web Reputation Filters block your Websites

I was surprised to see the pop up message below when querying some of my websites at Best buy. The Web Reputation Filters used there says that my websites hosted on 10.179.104.111 are controlled by group or individual known to be malicious. I was blocked from opening my website. This isn’t good and I thought about doing the following to mitigate this serious outage.

1) Contact my web hosting provider to explain that their Web servers are on a bad block of IP addresses and let them sort it out with Web Reputation Filters.
2) Ask my web provider to move me to more reputed web servers on different IP blocks.
3) Contact Best buy support and ask them to unblock the IP or domain used by my provider, or have them fix the WBRS rating assigned to my provider ‘s domain.
4) Make immediate WordPress backups of my websites and start shopping around for different and reputable web hosting providers.

I haven’t decided yet but am leaning towards option 4. Your thoughts?

 

IT Support – Do You Need It?

This is a guest post written by Muhammad Azam and he is known for his expertise in technology and IT support and solutions. If you are searching for reliable Manchester IT services or IT solutions for your business then read his blogs.


Businesses always need better ways to reduce their operational costs, without compromising the effectiveness or quality of work that is being done. Businesses today are driven by profit and every decision that is made is for increasing the profits and to make better use of company’s resources. In this era, new and unique ways are being developed to help businesses overcome hurdles and reduce the running cost of the businesses. Outsourcing of operations is one of the most unique and most reliable ways to do so because with the help of this method, a business can easily reduce its work force and the cost associated with employing such a work force.

Whether it is the finance department or the IT department, services are being outsourced to companies all over the world that can provide reliable and effective services for a very low cost. However, outsourcing IT services to overseas companies is not an option many businesses explore because there are limitations when it comes to outsourcing IT services. This is the main reason why businesses are forced to hire managed IT services that are situated in their area or city. Hiring a local professional IT company is a far better option as compared to an overseas IT support company because the services provided by IT support companies often requires visits to the business location, especially when a problem arises that cannot be taken care of remotely.

IT problems can arise at any time of the day or night and sometimes, it requires the presence of the IT professional on location to ensure hardware related issues are taken care of, if there are any. When you are thinking about hiring an IT support company, there are a few questions that you must answer in order to ensure that you are making the right decision for your business. Justifying the decision of hiring an IT support company is the most important thing because for this, you need to identify the reasons and their arguments as to why hiring an IT support company is the best course of action for your business. This is done before the managers start working the numbers and figure out if this option really is cost effective and reliable or not.

One of the most important questions to be answered is that, does hiring an IT support company directly contributes in the growth of your business, in the short-run and in the long run? If the services offered by an IT support company are not suitable for your business and if you think that, you will end up spending more than the budgeted amount on this decision, then it is obvious that the decision of hiring an IT support company is not in the best interests of the business. However, this is a rare case because the cost of running an in-house IT department is often far greater than the cost of hiring an IT support company. Although, this might be true for large enterprises, but same can be said about small business that are looking for reliable IT services.

Not Interested in Custom and Free Hosing (Not a Typo)

I received this email from an Internet Service Provider that offers free hosting. I used their free hosting service from before and had been happy with the uptime and throughput. Helpdesk was also very responsive. My only complaint is with their email correspondence. They obviously use email templates for their email campaigns but the spelling mistakes are rampant and it reflects very badly on the company from my perspective. I firmly believe that client correspondence is very important and must be professional free from grammatic and spelling errors.

Here is the body of the email that I received:

I definitely do not want any ‘continued custom .. free hosing’. Don’t want to get hosed, LMFAO. It’s an honest mistake but they need to spend more time proof-reading their correspondence before hitting the SEND button. Just saying.

Six iPhone Apps That Could Save You On Your Voice Plan

My friend recently told me about how he had to pay for overage fees on his iPhone 3G data plan in the past two months. He mentioned that because of this, he was going to try and save on both voice and 3G data plan by going offline whenever there is WIFI coverage. I thought it made perfect sense because in the normal course of a business week, he would have WIFI connectivity when he is in the office and when he gets home. Doing this would allow him to reduce his monthly limit from 1GB to 500MB.

In addition to the 3G data plan savings, he also said he can further save on long distance voice plan charges. He downloaded a few iPhone apps that he could use without using up any airtime. As long as he has WIFI or is connected to 3G, these apps will allow him to avoid using precious phone airtime:

MagicJack
This app let’s you call to any phone, as long as you already have the MagicJack hardware plugged in at home. Free calls in Canada and in the US.

netTalk
Can call anyone, including non-netTalk users and it’s free in Canada and in the US. My friend says this is his favorite so far.

UWewe
Registration is based on a real phone number. Allows you to call other UWewe users for free or any phone all over the world at a discount. The best thing about this is that you have 20 minutes of free calls per day, my friend says.

Viber
Lets you make free phone calls anywhere in the world and send text messages to anyone who also has the application installed. The username is your telephone number so it makes it easy to call anyone who also has the app installed. http://helpme.viber.com/index.php?/Knowledgebase/Article/View/18

Weixin
Allows users to send and receive instant text and voice messages for free, to other Weixin users. http://chineseculture.about.com/b/2012/02/04/wei-xin-app-gaining-popularity-in-china.htm

Skype
Use this to talk to other Skype users for free, but discounted to any phone. Very popular because it’s so cheap.

I haven’t actually used any of these iPhone apps. What’s your take on any of the 6 listed here?

Joining a Toastmasters Club Is A Must

I have started attending the Toastmasters club at the downtown S.U.C.C.E.S.S. office called “Talk for Success Toastmasters” as a guest. It was started by my neighbor Suddhodan and the sessions have been helpful so far. It is held on Wednesdays from noon to 1PM and I’m petrified everytime I attend. Stage fright is the hardest thing to conquer I think but I know I have to get over it. I have yet to take on some of the roles like time keeper, table topic evaluator, speaker, etc and to be honest, I’m not looking forward to it.

Their membership benefits include books that clearly spell out the roles, etiquettes, and best practices. I have just attended two sessions and have already learned the following:

– Do not apologize and never say ‘sorry’. In previous public speaking engagements, I would apologize in advance at the start of the speech because I wasn’t a skilled speaker. This is apparently a no-no.
– Do not draw attention to your gap-fillers like ‘uhms’, ‘ahhs’, ‘you know’ , etc. This becomes apparent at Toastmasters clubs where someone is counting your gap-fillers. Just keep going.

It’s a very informal crowd and everyone is nice. You and I would probably rather go to the dentist for a root canal but joking aside, I welcome the challenge.

(Room 110, 28 Pender Street West, Vancouver | http://talk-for-success-toastmasters.wikispaces.com)

Using an external USB drive on your PS3 game console

I have just spent all day today trying to fix what could be mechanical issues on a 115GB Western Digital external USB drive. Every so often, I would hear that deathly clicking noise from the external hard drive and then lose connection to the contents of the drive. I fear that it’s life is numbered so I moved the contents to another location and low-level formatted the disk with hopes of getting more life out of it.

In order to use a USB drive with a Sony PS3 game console, it has to be formatted with FAT32 file system. Using the utilities that come with Windows XP SP3, I cannot format the entire drive with FAT32 using “format /fs:fat32″ because of FAT32 file system limitations. I searched around for a utility and found freeware SwissKnife. This software let me format the entire 115GB capacity.

After that, I tried to copy all the contents back to the extenal USB drive but I ran into roadblocks again. Using Windows Explorer, the copy would start but fail after a few minutes with an unrecognized sector error message. This only seems to happen with big files over 600MB. I had no issues copying small text files however, so I attributed the error to the FAT32 limitations in Windows rather that bad blocks in the drive. I dropped to a MSDOS command prompt and used XCOPY to copy the same big files that errored out, and I was able to complete the copy with no issues.

One final tip I learned from my Nick. Copy your videos and photos into folders named VIDEO and PICTURE respectively. Make sure it’s all in uppercase. Doing this will let you display the contents easily from your PS3 game console. Enjoy.

Completed a course at BCIT: Relational Database and SQL

Back in December 2011, I just completed a 12-week evening course COMP 1630 at BCIT in downtown Vancouver. This was a great course worth 5 credits, and delved into database design, architecture, a little systems analysis, and a lot of SQL syntax. We learned about Crow’s Foot Notation in building an initial requirements design before translating that into actual tables, columns, indices, contraints, etc. It helped strengthen what I already knew of database systems and look forward to taking database administrator-type courses this year.

Replacing Hard Disks in an Apple iMac

Jade replaced the hard disks on his Apple iMac last week and it was a non-issue replacing them with SSD drives. Here is his account of what took place:

“I ve had it. Opening up my IMac to replace the hard drive. Hope it works..installing ssd cause the original hard drive failed. Such a pain.”

“Dissecting the iMac.”

“Putting it back together. Cool that the screen is connected to the led via magnets.”

Photo credit Jade Amin

Why Do My Google Blogger Sites Rank Lower Than ISP-hosted Sites in Alexa.com?

I asked the following on a guest post by Chuck Rylant on ProBlogger.net, expecting to get some concrete answers to low Alexa.com ranking for my other websites. Just like Chuck, I personally think it’s because of the SEO tools available on self-installed WordPress websites that may not be available on Google’s Blogger. I am re-posting it here because I didn’t get the answer I was looking for and am hoping someone can help me out.

Here is the comment I made below, also linked here Guest Post by Chuck Rylant

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11/4/2011 at 1:26 am

I am also not a professional blogger and average around 2-3 posts a month on my computer blog http://www.aminsolutions.com and post more frequently on my personal weblog http://www.chromiloamin.com. I also use Alexa to see my progress but am currently stuck at 5 million on Alexa for the computer blog and 23 million for the personal weblog. It’s been at 23 million for a long time and won’t budge. I thought post frequency would improve my ranking. Is it because I use Google’s Blogger for the personal weblog while I use WordPress for the computer blog? I am thinking of porting my weblog to WordPress. Did you determine if this played any role at all in your research and roadmap? I am also trying to promote an e-book http://www.aminsolutions.com/book and am using these blogs for my platform.

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Do you know if there is a difference in the way Google Blogger websites rank in Alexa.com compared to ISP hosted websites?