Getting rid of the hacked files and spam links wasn’t the end of it
Dreamhost notified me that the load on my server was excessive and they’d disabled StorageMojo.

Yikes! Had I been hacked again? DDOS attack? What?

Building the correct mental model
In short order I brought up my SFTP client, my tracking site, the Dreamhost webpanel and my son on chat. He had me toss a new index.html file into the site folder to let people know that the problem was getting addressed.

On to problem solving
It took a while to figure it out because I’d never seen it before.

The load was coming from Google referrals for charming search terms that I’m going to misspell on purpose in hopes of not attracting similar traffic:

  • download sh*mail
  • downlode free 1ndian s3x movies
  • pharmasuitical affiliate prom0
  • 0rgish/behe*ding
  • h1nd1 p0rn m0v1es

*Lots* of pee-oh-rn requests for many different ethnic types. Some things are universal – at least among guys.

There were no hacked files still on StorageMojo – I’d gotten them all last week and they were still gone. But the tracking site was referring to them, so for a while I thought they were there but that for some reason I couldn’t see them.

But then my son checked what happened when someone tried to go to the spam links. The site was delivering a “system error” message – not the static 404 page I’d expect – so the site wasn’t delivering the spam content and it really was gone. Presumably processing for the “system error” page created much of the extra overhead Dreamhost was seeing.

For a while StorageMojo was getting thousands of hits an hour from these Google referrals. At some point Google must have crawled the site again, saw the content was no longer there, and stopped referring people.

Not a moment too soon!

So what was this all about?
My son hypothesized:

This looks like a two-step scheme…step one is that they hacked your site and got all those bad SEO files uploaded. Step two is to send lots of fake Google traffic through your site to increase PageRank.

Then I went one step further and checked out one of the spam pages that Google had cached. In big bright colors it told me that my XP system was infected with viruses and I should download their *free* virus scanner.

Whoa, scary. Except I’m on a Mac.

Botnet recruitment? I don’t know.

The StorageMojo take
I’ve made a number of changes to tighten up StorageMojo. As I was researching this I found that there are many security “folk remedies” out there, but very little on what the high priority issues are.

Keeping software up to date seems to be the critical success factor – and sad to say, I’d been lax. In addition to keeping current I’m now checking my site files more often among other changes.

Hopefully these requests will tail off as Google stops referring people. And StorageMojo can go back to being a quiet little site.

Thank you for your patience.

Comments welcome, of course.