Category Archives: Worth A Look

Interesting e-mail exchange: HTML vs XHTML

It’s not really a wrestling match, but it is something of a face-off:


Email 1:
Dear Mr Noble:

I am writing a research paper on the difference between HTML and XHTML along with the advantages and disadvantages of the two. I am asking for your opinion because I have learned quite a bit about the languages reading your book HTML, XHTML & CSS for Dummies. From your bio in the book it seems you have a lot of experience and the book itself only proves that. So I was wondering, what is your opinion on HTML vs XHTML? Which is most efficient? Which is, in your opinion, the “best” and why?

Egad! We’ve Been Hacked

Wow! I hate to admit it, but we’ve found — and cleaned up — evidence of a WordPress-specific attack on this very Website recently. The signs showed up first in descriptive text about the site on Facebook, but then this morning we got word from one of our readers that active links to various payday loan sites were showing up through our home page. And sure enough when I went to “View Source” on that page, here’s what I found:

<p>Within the basic facts including payday cash than payday loanspaperless payday legal citizen of fraud or able to expedite the present valid source however there has <a href=”http://m*rtg*”></a> poor of bad credit borrowers who says it take on what faxless payday personal need some boast lower than average credit this occurs payday advance. Problems rarely check on it at cash advance <a href=”http://ch**” title=”cash advance”>cash advance</a> your will most needed. Low fee for school or worse payday loans <a href=”http://p*yd*” title=”payday loans”>payday loans</a> you gave the country.  …other similar text removed for brevity’s sake, asterisks added to URLs to prevent blockage or blacklisting…</p>

Jeff jumped up to the site and killed the offending injection into one of our primary header files that was causing the problem, and then turned up this fascinating article from Sucuri entitled “Common WordPress Malware Infections” from our friends and colleagues over at Smashing Magazine. We’ve put the Sucuri SiteCheck facility to good use to produce the following results report, too:

After some clean-up, a clean bill of health results.

After some scrubbing, a clean bill of health.

All of this information is presented to make some important points about web site security:
1. When you turn your platform over to a third party like WordPress you inherit all of its security weaknesses.
2. Keeping your site up to date includes keeping the platform up-to-date and secure, as well as the content.
3. Monitoring site security is easier to do that I originally thought, but also more important than I had thought as well (I have no trouble understanding why site operators pay for multiple daily security checks to limit exposure to exploits should they occur).

If they can hack us, they can probably hack you, too, so you’ll want to take steps to prevent such things from happening. Be sure to talk to your service provider about how they secure your environment, and ask them what steps you must take to help secure your website, too. To do otherwise risks embarrassing inclusions of unwanted content on your web pages (which is what happened to us) as a sort of “best case of the worst case.” But it could also result in users downloading malware when they access your pages, which in turn will either cause them to stop visiting your site (bad enough already) or make search engines like Google or Bing blacklist your URLs as malware infected (if you can’t show up in the engine’s search results, potential visitors can’t find you, which is an instant “kiss of death” for modern websites and thus a “worst case of the worst case” scenario).


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