How Not to Get Hacked or Lose Your Data

I was writing a lovely post about writing and community this morning. And then my plans changed and I spent five hours trying to fix one of my websites.

It was hacked.


And I have strong passwords. I’m careful.

To top it all this is the second stupid thing this week. I also lost a title page in my print on demand document (somehow) despite my three backup systems.

Yes, three. Yes, lost it.


I probably could have retrieved it, but it was faster to rebuild it because of the way my backups are set up. Duh on my part.


Things happen.

Hacks happen. And yes, I likely wasn’t as vigilant as I should have been in updating my plugins and themes. And I wasn’t as vigilant with making site backups as I should have been which meant I didn’t have an old pre-hacked version to go back to without losing a lot of content. And I probably could have changed my passwords more often.

Here’s what I’ve learned the hard way this week:

Don’t be lazy. Yeah, that’s the main takeaway! That and drink heavily to try and avoid a watermelon-sized headache in your frontal lobe that in a direct consequence from being lazy.

And yes, you might be saying, but I know this. Yes, and so do I. The funny thing is that knowing them and doing them seem to have a disconnect! So if you don’t do them, they aren’t able to keep you and your work safe.

Back up Tips

  1. Have more than one system in place. Ideally one on site and one off site. And have them as automatic as possible. In other words you save, it saves. It saves files. It saves documents. It saves settings. It saves photos. It saves contacts. I use TimeMachine (external networked drive in the basement) which I once used to revive my WHOLE computer to the way it had been an hour earlier after it glitched. MAJOR WHEW! It was like NOTHING has EVER happened.
  2. Back up often!!!!! If you run your own site–back it up. Even if you don’t run your own site you might be able to make backups of your files. And you know I will approve of that!
  3. Don’t cheap out. This is your work. Your livelihood. Having everything on your computer and losing it is like having your house burn down. Not cool.
  4. If you are going to make major changes to an important document don’t simply keep overwriting it. Make copies every hour or so.
  5. Keep older versions. Some ‘back ups’ like SugarSync (not a real back up system by the way, but it is handy) rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. When I use Scrivener it saves as soon as I stop typing. SugarSync sees the save and makes a new version–overwriting the old. Uh-oh! I can’t jump back in my work to where I was an hour ago.
  6. You can’t be too careful.
  7. Back up all devices. That includes your smart phone if you have one. What would you do if you lost your contacts? Major ouch.

How Not to Get Hacked

Don’t go online.

Okay, since that’s not so feasible. How about this massive list:

  1. Change your passwords frequently. I know, I know. It’s hard to remember your passwords as it is, so how about making a system where you use a system of letters and numbers and special characters as well as part of a word from the site or what you are doing on that site? Maybe you always start your password with a special character like * and then you use the first six letters of the website and capitalize the first one. And maybe you change i to 1 or e to 3 or f to 5 or o (oh) to 0 (zero). It’ll be harder to hack and easier for you to recall.
  2. Don’t use real words you’ll find in the dictionary. (Not a whole word anyway–see above for using letters as numbers as it makes your password way stronger.)
  3. Don’t use your user name as part of your password.
  4. Use some capital letters and some lowercase.
  5. Use numbers and special characters.
  6. Naturally, keep passwords safe and make sure you don’t check ‘remember me/remember my password’ on public access computers.
  7. Use a VPN (virtual private network) if you travel a lot. Public WiFi is a GREAT place to get sniffed. In other words, when you are on an open network that is an easy place for hackers to try and jump in and use that unlocked info streaming by and pluck it! My phone was hacked from a hotel WiFi network last November. Or so I assume otherwise the hack was pretty coincidental.
  8. Lock your WiFi network at home. Don’t know how to do that–Google it. It’ll be easier than you think. And if it looks hard, go on to the next tutorial until you find one that speaks your language. (Some are easier than others to comprehend.)
  9. Use a password safe (its an application) not a text file on your computer. It locks your passwords up–just don’t forget the password!
  10. Use different passwords. Don’t make them all the same–that’s why you use a system so you can remember them and a safe in case you can’t. ;)
  11. Passwords over 6 digits are stronger than 4–and 8 is even better.
  12. Get a good firewall on your computer and use it. Also keep it up to date. And do those updates for Microsoft and Adobe, etc., they are annoying, yes, but out of date software can pose a security threat.
  13. Be careful which websites you visit. A good (free) add on for Firefox is WOT (Web of Trust). When you Google nice things like this show up beside your search–circles. Green for go. Red for stay away–this site has been reported as evil.

    Web of Trust in action. Red Circle = do not go! Question mark means not sure.

  14. Watch for redirects and the little padlock symbol as well as an ‘s’ after ‘http’ for a URLs of sites where you are sharing private info such as your credit card.
  15. Update your website themes ALWAYS (ASAP) and delete the old themes you don’t use.
  16. Keep your website plugins up to date.
  17. Be careful what you download. Free isn’t always ‘free’ if you know what I mean.

Okay, so I’ve thrown some geekoid mumbo jumbo at you like VPN–if you are intrigued Google is your best friend. Just remember, use a secure Wifi connection, a firewall, and bullet proof shield.

I’ll see you next week for a tip on how to be a better writer. That is, if you aren’t afraid to go online.

Share your hacker scare stories or files you’ve lost in the comment section and we’ll all drink our woes away as a nice big community–hey, I had to get community in here somehow!

Help other writers and share this post by clicking to tweet: 17 Ways on How NOT to get hacked & 7 Back up Tips

Tagged with: backup tips, how not to get hacked, how to back up your work, how to create a strong password, how to save your writing
Posted in messages from Jean
2 comments on “How Not to Get Hacked or Lose Your Data
  1. Jemi Fraser says:

    Yikes! That’s a lot of work – saving it and having backups is great advice. Have to admit I don’t know all the techno stuff you spoke about – thank goodness for Google! :)

    • jeanoram says:

      It’s hard to imagine a world without Google! It satisfies so many of my curiosities. I have a problem and don’t know how to fix it? I Google it! :D It’s my best friend. <3

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