Knowledge is good only if it is shared. As a new blogger, I had learned to change the Web template, and found out the tips, tricks, hacks, and tweaks of altering the Blogger template, customizing CSS, widgets, layout, blog design, inserting JavaScripts, HTML codes, Google AdSense, and other settings the hard way, through many trials and errors. For the purposes of this guide, I had started with the old Blogger “Minima” template. As I made the changes or learned something new, I had documented them. Before changing any template, please remember to save a copy of the current template. After editing the template, preview it, and save it when you are satisfied with the change. Hope this guide will help those who are finding the way around, just like me.

Search Tips for New Bloggers

We have extended our month-long vacation by a couple of days. We shall be posting articles the moment we return. We noticed that Google had updated the Page Ranks. New bloggers who have been waiting anxiously for this can check their blogs' Page Ranks. We have the PR checker link in our SEO Tools - Search Engine Optimization article.

The blog we created recently in Aug 2007, Blogger FAQ and Help, has also got its first Page Rank, a PR4. All our blogs are now ranked:-

Tips for New Bloggers - PR6
Business Fables and Management Lessons - PR4
Famous Motivational and Inspirational Quotes - PR4
Blogger FAQ and Help - PR4

Thanks to everyone for the support!

Sep 1, 2007

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Internet Security and Blogger Virus

The internet was abuzz with talk that site got hacked and was compromised. Blog owners suddenly found fake spam Posts in their Blogs which contained links to virus downloads and data mining sites. Some were faced with inexplicable web page load times and yet others noticed odd codes appearing in their templates. The natural reaction is to blame all these on the people responsible for the viral attacks, even though that might not be the case. In this article, we shall share with you some tips that we have learned on internet security and protection. This include the actions we can take to prevent or minimize the possibility of having Blogger blogs hacked or hijacked.

Is safe?

The article in BBC, Bloggers battered by viral storm, reported that the latest incidents were the work of a group of hackers who had been mounting attacks since January. They used spam messages posted on bogus sites or sent through email to trick users to download malicious programs. The links can sometimes be couched as Youtube links or digital greeting card links. Also, the email subjects contained informal internet jargon which led recipients to think that the mail came from their friends.

In an official response yesterday, Eric of the Blogger team had confirmed that “Blogger was not compromised. Instead, the blog posts are from bloggers whose machines were compromised by a Trojan horse. These bloggers had their mail2blogger email addresses in their computers' address books ... so when the malicious software spammed every address in their address book with its content, a copy of that email was posted to their blog.”

In short, the Blogger platform is safe and if any, the Blog owners should ensure that their own computers are checked and protected against malware. Where then does this leave us?

How the virus got into Blogs

Before we look at the preventive actions to take, we may want to know how these fake posts made their way into our Blogs. When you are logged into Blogger, you can see under Settings -> Email a “Mail-to-Blogger Address” feature. This enables you to post to your Blog by emailing the Post content to a mail-to-blogger address.

Internet Security and Blogger Virus

For those who have not used this feature, you can set up the address by entering a word or characters into the part in red. This will be the address to which posts can be sent.

If you have checked the “Publish” box, any message that is sent to this address will automatically get published in the Blog. If the “Publish” box is unchecked, the message will be saved and you have to log in to your Blogger account to publish it. The email subject heading will appear as the Title of the Blog Post.

Although this is a useful feature for people on the go, it is also one that can be exploited. All it takes is for anyone to post an email to this address and whatever is in that email will appear in your Blog. It is therefore imperative that this address remain secret and confidential and anybody who is not authorized to post on your Blog should not know about it.

The moment a virus takes root in your computer, it can send malicious posts to the email addresses saved in your system's address book. If the above email address is one of them, you will see the post in your Blog. Since your Blog is legitimate, your readers and friends may read the post and click some of the links thinking that you would not put harmful material on your Blog. Once they do that, their computers may inadvertently be infected with the malware and they in turn have malicious links appear in their own blogs, and the cycle continues.

Preventive Steps to ensure Blog Security

1. Scan Computer and Protect against Threats

This sounds obvious and yet there are many who do not see the need to protect their systems against viral threats. Some may find the scanning time long (stretches to an hour for a full scan) or do not have a habit of scanning their systems. Others may find it costly to pay for an anti-virus software license. Always consider the alternative – the risk of losing all your data or having to reformat your hard drive – and you would probably agree that a little effort goes a long way to ensure a peace of mind.

If you don't have an updated antivirus software installed in your computer, make it a point to scan your computer using one of the free online virus scanners, such as:-

a. Trend Micro Housecall
b. BitDefender Online Virus Scanner
c. Kaspersky Online Scanner
d. F-Secure Online Virus Scanner
e. Symantec Security Check

If you Google “online scanners”, you may see many sites which claim to provide free online virus scans. While many are authentic, there could well be a few which are not. Check them out if you'd like and stick to the tried-and-tested sites for future scans.

You can also download and install the free Google Pack and include the Norton Security Scan which eliminates viruses and the Spyware Doctor which removes spywares, adwares, trojans and keyloggers.

Another free software that we highly recommend is AVG Anti-Virus software. Go for the Free Edition. For a complete protection, install as well ZoneAlarm Firewall if you are not using your MS Windows Defender. These softwares update their programs and definitions regularly and the reviews on them have been very positive.

2. Configure Mail-to-Blogger Address

If you see a need to post to your blog via email, or think that others know your mail-to-blogger address, go back to Settings -> Email and pick/change the address into something that nobody can easily guess. Since the intent of this function is to have posts published without having to log in to Blogger, ticking the “Publish” option makes sense. After saving the Settings, go back to your email software e.g., Outlook Express, Eudora. Remove that mail-to-blogger address from the address book. By making no mention of it anywhere, even if the virus sends out mail to all the addresses in the address book, nothing will be sent to your Blog.

3. Create different email and login addresses

Out of convenience, many people stick to one name for all their logins, emails and signatures. For example, they may have these:-

blog name:
login name:
email address given to readers:
user: myname

If people are bent on hacking your Blog, it is easy for them to figure out what your login name is and use programs to crack your password. When you create your next blog, consider assigning different names or not using your actual name:-

blog name:
login name:
email address given to readers:
user: screenname

4. Set browser security

In Internet Explorer -> Tools -> Internet Options, set the Security level for Internet zone to Medium-High or High. Also, in the later versions, you can turn on the Automatic Website Checking feature in the Phishing Filter settings.

If you are using Firefox, go to Tools -> Add-ons and click the “Get Extensions” link. Look for a popular extension called “NoScript”. What it does is to block JavaScripts and executable files and only allows those that you trust. It makes surfing the net a lot safer, and lessens the chance of unintentionally running malicious scripts.

5. Use third party scripts with care

JavaScripts make our websites dynamic and vibrant, but malicious scripts can cause a great deal of harm. In our eagerness to place nice-looking widgets and interactivity into our sites, we sometimes overlook the fact that third party service providers are not always trustworthy. Some domains last a few days, just enough for the hijacker to place downloadable widget scripts on the sites and to back out of the domain purchase after the cooling-off period. Blogs can also list harmful scripts, some of them blindly copied from other sites while others intentionally created to trick readers.

For instance, you may come across an application that you like and are given a code to place into your template. This code typically contains a link to a file ending with .js extension. When your Blog page is loaded, this script is retrieved from the site where the file is stored and it runs in the background. Some prudent Blog owners do take the trouble to go through the script language and ascertain that there is nothing wrong with it. However, because the file is hosted in that provider's server, if they should decide to change it later and throw in something extra, you would have unknowingly introduced that into your Blog.

For the same reason, we have cautioned readers against downloading ready-made and customized templates from unknown or untested sources. Since not all of us are technical experts, we may not notice an undesirable script hidden somewhere in the template. Hence, for our guides such as the three columns template guides, we prefer to show you how to DIY and customize your own template. In this way, you know what goes into it and can easily reverse the change in future.

6. Watch what we say or write

We thought we should add this. Many of these people either do it for the challenge or out of spite. Just as wearing skimpy clothes invites unnecessary attention and opening our door invites thieves, words and actions can give hackers the excuse to compromise your site. Observe basic courtesy and net etiquette. Be modest about your site. Every site can be the target of hijacks, including ours; no site is invulnerable.

What to do if Blog is hacked?

Despite all the security and preventive steps, if the day should come when the Blog contents disappear, the first thing to do is to scan the computer for viruses and malware. Do not login to your email or other accounts since this might open up more doors for the virus. Once the system is completely scanned and rendered safe, you may login to your Dashboard and view the Settings. Take note of the information that has been altered.

It is also possible that you are unable to login because the password has been changed, or that the Blog and Blog Posts are deleted. Write to the Blogger Support Team using another email account. Give them as much details as possible and allow them time to investigate the cause. Since Google servers would have backed up our data, it should be possible for them to reinstate your Blog upon proof of ownership.

Where the contents cannot be entirely retrieved, you may have to re-create the Blog. In moments like this, you would appreciate the importance of keeping backups of the template source codes and saving copies of the articles you have written.

Further reading:-

As mentioned, if the Blog page load takes longer than usual, it is not necessarily caused by a virus. could be experiencing a downtime, or the external sites where information is retrieved from may be causing the delay. This usually happens when we put a number of third party applications and widgets into our site, such as advertising services, gadgets and scripts. Our article on Faster Web Page Load Time explains how you can check the page load time and improve the speed.

© Tips for New Bloggers

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chingkkay said...

hi all, you can use avg anti virus 7.5 its very useful,i'm also using that.

BlogmasterPg said...

You are nominated in my Blog day ! on retard... but nominated...

skandy said...

This post scared the shit out of me!
Which is the best way to easily backup the full content of my blog?

By the way: after this useful warning I decided to put the html link of this site on my blog. Yor rock!!!

Samrat said...

very nice info brother.....


Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this! I was getting worried about my blog... it's good to know the blogger site wasn't hacked or something.

Lynette said...

Hi, I am really concerned because someone stole my name and the title/description of my blog at to like to a site which tries to force you download a virus! I found this out by doing a search on my name last night and one of the links came up as
"Siegel Original Art by Lynette Clay. ORIGINAL PHOTOS, DIGITAL
ARTPAINTINGS, AND..."(all this is at the top of my blog expect the
word 'Siegel')
and the link at the bottom is: clothe sexidude com/topic/lynette
[found on Windows Live]

I have no idea who clothe sexidude is! :o

I clicked on this link because I had never heard of "Siegel" or
"clothe sexidude"! What came up was a black video screen with my
name and apparently a porn movie was going to start playing if I
downloaded some active X thing. Of course I didn't dl it and kept clicking x but couldn't get away from that window. I had to
restart my computer to get out of it. I did ask someone in the google help area and was informed it is a virus. How do I remove my name/blog title and description from this porn/virus link?! I don't click on porn and my blog is only about my artwork. Thanks so much for any help with this! Lynette