How to Find the Light When the Tunnel Keeps Getting Darker


As I was enjoying myself last week in the backyard, this blog was one of the thousands that were hacked. I didn’t take the issue seriously, thinking there was nothing for me to do.

Fast forward a few days and I get a serious threat warning from my virus protection program about my site.  That got my attention. My response to the situation was far from enlightened and peaceful. I went through four phases of reaction before I got things under control.

Curiosity: I wanted to understand what happened and why. I spent a long time online trying to figure out how to deal with it. I remained in a neutral state until I found out how much damage was done. Most of the files were plastered with hacking code.

Guilt and self blame: I felt guilty that I didn’t address the issue earlier when I was warned about it. I also started getting angry at myself for not taking precautions and backing up my data and system files. This didn’t help much and almost, without effort, I moved on to the next emotion

Frustration: I started feeling angry at the people who did this. I didn’t understand why someone would go through this to screw with other people’s sites and information. I felt I was needlessly wasting my time and energy.

Fear: Starting to work on fixing the issue, I got some stuff done right but in the process I screwed up other things. So my situation was heading from bad to better, to worse, to better then to worst—I wasn’t able to access the site at all. Fear set in and I started freaking out.

This is when I realized that I need to revise my approach in handling the problem.

What can you do when you keep digging yourself deeper?

After spending two days dealing with the hacking problem and my own mishaps, I can sum up the steps that eventually helped me get over myself and deal with the issue as follows:

1. Recognize that you have an issue.

Knowing that you have a problem, and choosing to deal with it is the first step.  You need to step up and be willing to take the necessary action. I learned this the hard way.

2. Avoid trying to understand why.

I wasted so much time trying to understand why people would hack into my site or other people’s work.  I will never know the real reason…I am not them.

This applies to a lot of things when we don’t understand why people do what they do. I don’t understand why people shoot each other, why people abuse spouses and children and why we damage our environment.  We don’t need to understand the whys of others; we can only focus on what we can do.

3. Go through the emotions.

It is normal to feel guilty and to blame yourself or others. With that comes a myriad of other feelings like anger, frustration and fear.

Allow the negativity to pass through you; don’t resist. Cry if you need to. Write about it. Or  simply sit, close your eyes and feel the emotion, imagining it passing through your body.

Suppressing the negative emotions doesn’t do you any good. It actually makes them stronger. This is one of the main culprits in making a situation worse.

4. Remember: things can be much worse.

I kept reminding myself that what I was going through was nothing in the larger scheme of things. I am alive after all and have the ability to deal with the situation.

Think of your worst nightmare when it comes to the issue you’re dealing with. Can you cope with that?

5. Do one thing at a time.

When faced with an unexpected problem, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. The best thing is to start dealing with one issue at a time.

In my case, most of the mess I made was because instead of focusing on removing the bad code, I started messing with plug-ins and other stuff that I didn’t need to deal with. In time,  I got the bad code removed then re-established the links, removed the plug-ins and so on.

6. Move a way from whatever you’re doing when things seem to get worse or you feel tired.

This is the most important and difficult thing to do.  It is hard to step away when you feel you made a bigger mess than the one you started with. You may not be able to resist the temptation to ride it out and keep going when you’re in the middle of a problem.

But trust me stepping away is the most effective thing you can do to move forward.

With time, your mind gets tired and even bored dealing with the same thing. You need a break. If you don’t take some time off, you are bound to make more mistakes or keep going in circles not accomplishing anything.

7. Go back to the issue with fresh eyes.

You will come with a pair of fresh eyes and a renewed focus. This is when you can tackle what is left of your problem with ease and a new perspective.

In my case I had to force myself to take a few breaks—I had to eat and sleep after all :). I solved all of my issues (without exception) after the breaks.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7.

Do the above two steps until you are done, even if it takes you days. Don’t think that you’re in a race against time. It doesn’t help; it only adds to your stress.

It took me a couple of days to deal with the hacking situation and that is fine. Things have a funny way of taking their time to get sorted out.

9. Determine what you can change.

Now that you have dealt with your situation, how can you do thing differently in the future to reduce the chances of the same problem happening again?  Notice that I said reduce and not eliminate.  Nothing you do is a 100% guarantee. If someone is set out to find a loophole, they will find one. Your role is to make it more difficult for the same problem to arise again.

After getting my site up and running again, I created a simple system to back-up my files. I also reset all of my passwords and removed all of the cookies.

10. Find the silver lining.

It is hard when you’re in the middle of painful situation to find the good in it. But once you’re done, take some time and reflect. We learn and grow from every experience.

I learned the importance of backing up databases and how to do it. I updated my  files, learned how deal with a hack attack…who would’ve thunk!

Everything we face in life is an experience. Some we enjoy and others not so much. The important thing is to remember is… it’s just another experience… it will pass.

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