NaNoWriMo: After the Dust Has Settled…

First I’m going to to say this… I did not win NaNoWriMo this year, I did write 32,152 words that I would not have written otherwise though which is something I am proud of. For anyone who is interested here is a breakdown of how it went down:

I started fairly well, the reason I don’t have a word count on the first day was that I couldn’t access the NaNoWriMo website because it was so busy. About halfway through I hit the wall as it were, I had a few social events that got in the way and I got a seriously bad case of writers block.

My main issue was that I bit off more than I could chew with my story, I wanted to write something epic, filled with intrigue in a grim and perilous world, but I hadn’t planned enough for that kind of writing, I had a beginning and a vague concept for the world, but I didn’t have a middle or an end. Also looking at how the story was panning out it was going to be much much more than 50,000 words…

I think for NaNoWriMo your story has to slightly whimsical, and able to change at a moments notice. I do admit that I used the “A man bursts in with a gun” technique” once when I was at a complete loss for where to go.

Next year I will try something more within my comfort zone, and something where I can just go on a tangent when I need to without worrying about it destroying my whole world.

I read an article by Max Barry called 15 ways to write a novel on the 30th and I kind of agree with some of what he said, NaNoWriMo is a rubbish way to write a novel, it’s a great way to get you writing though, which I suppose can lead to writing a novel.

I’m a little disappointed I didn’t finish but I’m really glad I participated. I’m also glad that November is over and that I have my evenings back, it was really exhausting coming home everyday knowing that I had to spend the entire evening trying to get myself to write, I cancelled pretty much all of my social engagements and locked myself in a room for pretty much all of my spare time. Now I just feel weird for not writing, the closest sensation I’ve experienced is when I walked out of my final exam at university having spent months studying, I didn’t know what to do with myself, it was almost as if I’d forgotten what I did in the evenings before there was a NaNoWriMo…

Webarh? More like Web Aargh!

Earlier this weekend I got a Facebook message from a friend saying that my website was redirecting to a malware site. Thankfully I was near a computer and had a look at it, every page view was redirecting to a site that installed malware on your computer. Thankfully most browsers recognise this fact and present you with a warning page.

I did some hunting and it turns out I had been infected with webarh redirect virus (Also reffered to as funnysignage as it uses the same mode of attack), this virus has added the following  line to any index.php files it found:




Note the numbers at the end are just a random identifier, probably so that they can tell where it originated.

And it had also gone through pretty much every directory either replacing or adding a .htaccess file with the following content:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
RewriteRule ^(.*)?

For the non tech savvy the first bit tells your web browser to redirect to (Don’t go to that link, bad things will happen):


The other tells my web server to send all requests for ANY PAGES to that same URL. It’s a two pronged attack, if you have script blocking software on your browser the .htaccess file makes the server send you to the malware site, if your server ignores the .htaccess file, then there is a chance that the script will be work. Eitherway when you end up at that URL no doubt the website tries to exploit whatever vulnerabilities exist in your browser to install bad software on your computer.

I diligently deleted all the .htaccess files and removed the script line from every file I could find it in. I did a grep for over the entire website, and removed any references to it I could find, I even changed the ftp password on my site because I read that sometimes that’s how webarh infects your server. It looked like all was good for about 18 hours my site was back up and running and everything was hunky dory. At about midnight last night I got a text from someone else telling me  my site was broken again. I check and sure enough it was redirecting again, but only partially, some of the other domains I host in subdirectories of my web space were okay.

I’d heard that the webarh/funnysignage redirect sometimes puts back doors into your site, I didn’t have the time to look through every php file on my server which hosts 4 wordpress installs and a phpbb install so I took a deep breath and deleted everything… Most of my content was in the database, the only content that wordpress stores on disk is images and stuff you have uploaded. Of course I took a backup of the site beforehand just in case.

I’ve so far restored two of my wordpress blogs, and everything seems okay, I deleted an old version of phpMyAdmin I had lying about from before my service provider gave me direct access to the database. I’ve not deleted the phpBB install yet as that didn’t seem to be infected aside from the fact that the .htaccess file was causing everything to redirect to the malware site. So the next step would be to remove that too.

Fingers crossed it’s all looking good, if it happens again then I’m going to be a little more worried, either:

  • There is a backdoor in the SQL somewhere, then I’m really screwed.
  • There is a backdoor in phpBB, in which case I’ll have to reinstall that.
  • There is a virus on my computer which is picking up the the FTP password and using it to wreak havoc on my website…

I’m hoping that None of the above apply… And that I’ll be safe from here on out, I think that the root cause of this was the fact that one of my sites didn’t have the latest version of WordPress installed on it, my reasoning behind this is that WordPress recently released a security update that allowed code to be executed etc… I’d updated my main site but had forgotten to update the others.

I’d appreciate anyone who notices any issues on my website getting in touch with me to tell me so.