Hacker Surge of 2016

A dramatic change has taken place in the world of web design following the vicious and relentless hacker surge of 2016.

2017 www vulnerability points

Our graphic illustrates the worldwide web connections and security vulnerability points involving hardware and software.

Besides a design, web developers must advise small business clients about security awareness, strategy, and action plans.

No site is immune. It is a mistake to think “hackers will not target small sites like mine”. The exact opposite is true.

Most want to be parasites hiding on your server. They can’t be traced, and use your site as a shipping point for malware.

Here’s What Happened in 2016

I had recovered a few hacked sites over the years. It happens, yet the hacker surge of 2016 affected 40% of my clients!

More client sites were hacked in 2016 than the previous 15 years combined. Worldwide hacks in 2016 averaged 37,000/day.

In response, I spent over 1000 hours in 2016 developing a strategy to deter hackers, and quickly recover hacked websites.

The security plan on 20+ sites since August 2016 works. Sites are protected, yet log files show 100% are being attacked!

Hacking will continue to surge in 2017 for all chip devices like smartphones, home security systems, and even smart tvs.

Security Awareness for the Future

The key to avoiding a hacking event is security awareness for the future, and on an individual basis, not just business.

Prevent hacks? No one is immune. The challenge developing my security plan was avoiding the high cost of security staff.

For my clients, what is different is having a security firewall and event logs to detect any malicious files or edits.

Manual recovery averages 15 hours. Daily monitoring with the security system is instantaneous with recovery in 5 minutes!

This cost effective solution for small business owners provides recovery without hiring a fulltime security professional.

Footnote: The hacker surge of 2016 was an unbelievable wakeup call, and the hacker attacks in 2017 will likely continue.

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Posted in advice, mobile, news

Beware of Email Scams

2016 is historic for a staggering increase in website hacking, yet site owners need to beware of email scams.

fake fedex email scam graphic

Your online business or personal security may be at risk if you unwittingly open email and download malware.

The illustration shown is a marked up copy of an actual email I received that points out 4 red flags as shown:

1. Country code .za is S Africa
2. Malware hidden in .zip folder
3. “Customer”, not your name
4. Instructions state “Download”

Any one of those 4 clues should raise suspicion, so don’t act out of curiosity without a closer inspection.

Actual Client Experience

What could go wrong? Here’s an actual client experience. Their customer called to say expect project photos.

As they hung up an email arrived. All they noticed was a zip folder, then downloaded, unzipped, and opened it.

They clicked the document. It was a hacker’s payload of ransomware that instantly locked up their computer.

The customer was not a hacker. The timing was mere coincidence. It took over a week and long hours to recover.

Final Tip: Be suspicious of any zip folder, yet be aware that online or email links can lead to disaster, too.

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Facebook Hacked or Impersonated

Please review our Facebook Hacked or Impersonated tutorial before you panic over fake Facebook duplicate friend requests.

hacked or impersonated on facebook graphic

Know the Difference

Were You Hacked or Impersonated? If “hacked” they would have access including your password and changed it, then be posting on your wall. You’d be locked out.

If someone created a new account and “impersonated” you, borrowing photos and a copy of your friends list to send new friend requests, then your wall is safe.

Facebook Impersonator Report Tutorial

Easy Fix: Go to the fake account, click the three dots in the lower right of the cover photo (to the right of the Message option), and then select “Report”.

Follow the step-by-step instructions to report the impersonator. Facebook security acts VERY quickly. The impersonator account is usually gone within minutes!

In the past only the owner could file a report. Now anyone can. Got a duplicate friend request? Use the above steps to report someone impersonating a friend.

Footnote if Truly Hacked

If you cannot log in to your Facebook account, and see posts you didn’t create, you probably were hacked. It’s rare. Visit Facebook help files for a solution.

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WordPress Dominates CMS Platforms

Trends in web development choices for a Content Management System indicate WordPress dominates all CMS platforms.

2016 cms platform trends top 5

2016 CMS Platform Trends Top 5

Source Credit: w3techs.com CMS Trend Report

Our 2016 graphic extracted from w3techs.com shows that non-CMS continues to drop as users choose CMS to manage content.

A CMS, or Content Management System, allows website owners to easily add, edit, or delete content without advanced skills.

Our top 5 graphic leaves out the minor 10.7%, yet at 26.3% of CMS platform installs, WordPress is 59% of all CMS choices.

In 2016 WordPress represents 1 in 4 of all websites, 6 out of 10 CMS sites, and nearly 10x the installs of #2 CMS Joomla.

Why CMS and Why WordPress

Owners of a new or exisiting site may wonder “Why CMS and why WordPress?” when evaluating a new platform for their website.

A CMS makes sense instead of paying each time your site requires an edit. The evidence above supports choosing WordPress.

This website was created using WordPress. With countless WordPress launches, a potential downside fact has become obvious.

Fact: Do not choose WordPress and then “launch and forget it” because its popularity makes it a prime target for hackers!

Just like your vehicle needs regular maintenance, you need to be active in the admin backend to maintain security updates.

Keeping WordPress Secure

Besides a strong admin password, keeping WordPress secure means logging on at least monthly to run newly released updates.

Nearly any website can be hacked if the value exceeds the time and cost to find a way in. Hackers prefer easier targets.

A launch and forget strategy because you don’t make changes often leaves you at risk to fall behind in security updates,

In 2016 it took 50 hours to recover a hacked website due to a weak password and failure to update. Updates take 5 minutes.

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Posted in advice, mobile, news, wordpress

Charity Support Page

A charity support page was added to our website to showcase charities that we actively support within a worldwide community.

kiva charity graphic Kiva Third World Lending – Kiva.org are a non-profit organization with a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty. They provide zero interest loans to persons who may not qualify for traditional financing.

lifeline charity graphic Lifeline Dog Rescue – In 2011 we created the website of Lifeline Dog Rescue, a dba of Central Florida Weimaraner & Dog Rescue, Inc., a 501c3 charity. They specialize in the Weimaraner breed, yet help all breeds including mixed.

gift card charity graphic Gift Cards for Homeless – Carrying $5 gift cards for homeless people has become a tradition since 2012. We select from local major fast food brands and give cards to panhandlers that we encounter on the city streets.

We encourage our clients and all small business owners to consider the benefits of paying forward and helping the less fortunate.

Visit our charity support page for more details.

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Responsive Web Design Launch

rapid response service van wrap design A Responsive Web Design website launched in 2015 for disaster restoration specialists Rapid Response Restoration of Cranston, RI.

Their mobile friendly site features a 2 column design, plus graphic art services that included a custom logo and artwork for print.

In addition, we did the vehicle wrap design in the photo shown, a brochure, business cards, and an outdoor trade show tent design.

Rapid Response Restoration offer restoration services in New England for insured property fire, flood, smoke, wind or mold damage.

Visit this link to Rapid Response Restoration to take a closer look at our design and the services they offer.

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Historic Day 21 April 2015

Google website key phrase ranking depends on alogrithms to score search position, and 21 April 2015 will be remembered as a historic day.

not mobile friendly steamroller graphic

Websites enjoying key phrases on Google page one may be surprised to find out they lost page one position to a mobile friendly competitor.

As illustrated in our graphic, the announced algorithm rollout for 21 April 2015 could mean some websites will be steamrolled over.

This change is historic in that most Google updates to their complicated algorithms are done quietly without any fanfare, or warning.

This one is different and a game changer. Google gave notice earlier this year that mobile friendly websites will get a boost in results.

“Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.” Source: Google Blog, Feb 25th, 2015

Importance of Mobile Friendly

In 2012 we predicted that website visitors on mobile devices would pass desktop users by 2015. That happened. Google noticed, too.

The majority of site visitors have gone mobile. Google rewards sites that provide a positive user experience by being mobile friendly.

Mobile visitors who must pinch to zoom in to read text, or scroll sideways to view content, will likely exit to a mobile friendly site.

Past updates were small tweaks every 2-3 months. Details were kept secret to keep an edge over search competitors. Many went unnoticed.

The update for mobile friendly was significant for being 1) announced in advance, 2) in great detail, and 3) with advice to be prepared.

The Time to Go Mobile is Now

Our business is custom mobile web design. It became our specialty in 2012. Our clients for new sites or upgrades are already prepared.

Past customers, or any small business owner, who feel their website is a one time investment and “good enough” as-is need to reconsider.

Since 2012, our advice has been: Go Mobile, Add Content, Get Social. A launch and forget website is not a positive experience strategy.

Congratulations, and thank you, to those clients who followed our advice to invest in mobile, add content, and join social media sites.

Need help? Now is the time to go mobile. Contact us today for a free no obligation evaluation of your website and social site strategy.

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Turning a Photo into a Portrait

Besides 20 years in web design, other experience includes graphic art expertise like turning an ordinary photo into a portrait.

before-after dog portrait photo collage

Before-After Dog Portrait Photo Collage

The before and after views in this photo collage include (top and bottom left) original photographs, and then edits for more professional portraits (top and bottom right).

The photographs of the dog shown were excellent as submitted by a dog rescue organization to illustrate an adoption listing.

However, both have a person’s hand reaching into view. One has a leash around the dog and extended to the left.

The goal is to eliminate elements in the photo that detract from keeping the focus on the dog ready for adoption.

Brief How-to Tutorial

The digital trick in all cases was using vector art software to create masks that actually cover parts to delete.

Next, the masks were used for clipping appropriate matching content to place over the originals to hide unwanted parts.

These pix were for Lifeline Dog Rescue in Central Florida. View results on the dog adoption listing for Zion.

Some web designers are just that, and some graphic artists dabble in web design. We happen to be experts in both.

Have a nice photograph that could use an edit to enhance the look? Maybe we can help.

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New Project Portfolio Update

time to go mobile graphic Several examples of custom mobile web design, or RWD Responsive Web Design, were added in a March 2015 new project portfolio update.

In addition, links to view live websites were added to each graphic to enhance the experience of site visitors using mobile or touch devices.

The new examples of custom mobile web design include a non-profit site redesign for Lifeline Dog Rescue plus two of my personal websites.

Each design is responsive and detects the screen size of site visitors and adapts content to fit the screen for a positive experience.

Less obvious, are the technical benefits included at no extra charge, and listed at the bottom of the project portfolio page as follows:

  • Client Top Logo Links to the Home Page
  • Phone Numbers Linked for Touch Devices
  • Email Address Cloaked to Avoid Spam
  • Automated Weekly Website dBase Backup
  • To Page Top Arrow on All Page Footers
  • Sites are Content Management Systems
  • All are mobile Responsive Web Designs*
  • Full Cross Browser Compatible Display
  • Bookmark Icons and Links on All Pages

*Note: With a Responsive Web Design you get one design or set of code that adapts to display well on mobile devices and desktop monitors. The drop down menu automatically converts to top navigation buttons when viewed on larger screens. Page content rearranges by screen size or turning from portrait to landscape view, yet text is legible on all devices without having to pinch to zoom.

The two personal websites in the rwd project portfolio update include a blog of stories written about Growin’ Up in Maine in the 1950’s and 1960’s, plus a family genealogy website.

The Maine stories include over 100 childhood experiences that “boomers” relate to. The genealogy site is nearly 1000 pages tracing my paternal line back to the year 1560.

While non-commercial, Lifeline Dog Rescue is an excellent example of a non-profit site, and the two personal sites show attractive examples with 100 to 1000 pages each.

Looking to go mobile? Half your site traffic is likely visiting with a mobile device as we predicted in 2012.

Call, text, or email us for a no obligation review of a new mobile site or redesign of an existing site.

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Embed Responsive YouTube Videos

This WordPress video plugin tutorial explores a solution to embed responsive YouTube videos that adapt and resize properly on mobile devices.

Here’s a responsive video example that took less than 60 seconds from plugin download to published post.

[responsive_youtube Q0nDQOrBx4A]

A positive user experience requires that site visitors see videos displayed the width of their screen whether held as portrait or landscape.

The WordPress platform as a content management system, or cms, provides free plugin tools that streamline web development time.

Choosing a Video Embed Plugin

I viewed many free WordPress plugins to embed video, yet not all remain compatible as the WordPress core files are revised and released.

Many in “embed video” search results were rated 5 stars, yet a nag message reported “Untested with your version of WordPress” (v4.1).

Through trial and error I discovered that some of those top rated plugins had complicated instructions, or simply failed.

Lesson learned. I scrolled down to find a compatible plugin. After testing several, my choice is the Responsive Video Light WordPress plugin.

Responsive Video Light Tutorial

The Responsive Video Light plugin is fast, plus easy to understand and implement.

Follow these simple steps to quickly embed responsive YouTube videos:

  1. From WordPress admin under Plugins, select “new”
  2. In the search box type “Responsive Video Light”
  3. Select it, and yes to download then activate
  4. Look in settings for the *short code to insert
  5. Open and edit your post or page for the video
  6. Insert the video short code to place the video
  7. Publish then view your responsive YouTube video

*Note: The shortcode for the example here was “responsive_youtube Q0nDQOrBx4A” except replace the quote marks with square bracket symbols.

If you didn’t already, test the video inserted above on your mobile device. It should adapt gracefully in portrait or landscape view.

Good luck with this tutorial to easily embed responsive YouTube videos in less than 60 seconds!

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Posted in advice, mobile, tutorial, video, wordpress
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