In Nov 09 we had what we thought was a hack, but later found out was technically a virus.

For our CRM users, this was a fairly minor inconvenience – no data was lost, and all core functions remained online with the exception of document uploading for a few days.

Looking back, I wanted to post about a few wins, losses, and resources that may be of help.

First, I can’t overstate the importance of keeping code updated. Our malware trojan was installed through an outdated wordpress that was just a few versions old – but enough to pose an easy target. Once that blog was compromised, my personal PC (XP) became infected, as I disregarded the warnings in an attempt to eradicate the virus.

Overall, this cost me over $2,000 in programmer time and lost work, 100+ hours of my own time, and was a huge hassle. It’s much, much easier to _keep_ a hacker or virus out than to eradicate them… in my case, I wiped my XP, and installed Linux on my home office’s servers. Fortunately, pretty much everything was backed up, important contacts were on our own hosted CRM and thus online, all docs were on the fabulous and free Google Docs – so it could have been worse.

Here are my top 10 security tips for Emergency Prevention:

  1. Use a hosted CRM. Yeah, ok, it’s totally self-serving.. but if your PC / mac / phone goes up in smoke, the last thing you want is sales coming to a standstill. I’m a computer tech-head and I still got it – these days, I’d say it strikes everyone sometime, and when it does, online CRM means… you’ll hardly feel it. In my case, I wiped my laptop and installed the virtually virus-proof linux on it, and was back in business within an hour.
  2. If you have multiple computers, run different operating systems. While it’s convenient to network several XP machines, it’s safer to connect a mac, PC, or Linux – and if one machine is infected, it sure makes things easier to always have another computer handy to download drivers, search for information on how to do something, etc. If you have internet on your phone, that can help search for info, but obviously won’t help much with drivers or bootable CD’s i.e. repartitioning your hard drive.
  3. Know who to call. I had to become much more security-savvy, simply because I didn’t have someone to call, and if I had, I would have gladly paid $1,000+ to have someone just make the problem go away. For our website clients that we host, we charge extra over some $3 hosting accounts… but when emergency strikes, we’ve got you covered. While GoDaddy is great, they’ll leave you high and dry should someone hack your site, and it’ll cost you far more in the long run to remove it than worrying about a few dollars a month. Think of a full service website maintenance agreement as insurance. If you have a website that has any traffic, you are virtually guaranteed to become a target… and the bigger you get, the more of a target you become.
  4. Stripe Your Data. There’s a type of hard drive setup used in servers called a RAID, but frankly, it’s more of a leftover from old days when hard drives weren’t as reliable. I prefer having duplicate data on completely different computers, ideally, in different locations, as human error or virus infection are the two most likely sources of data problems – and a RAID won’t fix either of those. Instead, you want periodic backups to a drive that you can access. Having data in multiple locations i.e. photos on flickr, docs on Google Docs also provides another form of security, since those managed services (including SwiftCRM!) are heavily monitored and well maintained.
  5. Investigate before going into Panic Mode. Frankly, I could have saved myself a lot of time and money had I done more research, but who knew? Who has ever heard of a port-sniffing, FTP monitoring virus? Google “Gumblar” and you’ll see I’m not alone – it’s been an extremely effective virus, even affecting the White House. Www.StopBadWare.ORG is a fabulous free source of knowledge and experience. If you’re having problems, just google for the symptoms and it may lead you to the source of the problem and how to deal with it effectively, without guessing and/or wasting a lot of time and money.

Now that we’re fully back online (after cleaning up some collateral damage to our own site – i.e. restoring our own sales demos and blogs), we’re making a lot of important changes to software, hardware, and human systems. We now have ever more backup methods, tighter security for programmers and designers and our own staff, and overall better resistance across the board to any e-warfare.

As always, we appreciate your business and look forward to serving you.