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So, you know what makes a trip to Hawaii extra fun? Having your website — your main source of income — hacked so that 500 pages indexed by Google contain offensive pharmaceutical ads!

Many months ago I received an email from a reader asking why there were Viagra ads on my site. I replied that there certainly weren’t any that I approved and asked where she saw them exactly. I never heard back so I forgot about it. Then, a few days before I left for Hawaii, a friend wrote me and told me that he too was seeing Viagra links on my site. He sent me screen shots and sure enough, there they were — generous offers for male enhancement drugs, inserted casually into sentences about catching a train in Bangkok or sailing through a caldera in Santorini. I tried not to panic as I called my server host and explained the issue. They assured me that he probably had a virus on his computer, as I couldn’t find any files in my public html folder with any offensive keywords. Full disclosure: I have no idea what that last sentence means.

So, the day after I arrived in Oahu — because timing is awesome — an advertiser ed me and told me she had to back out of our deal because my site was infected. At this point I decided to do a little research of my own. After an hour of confused and desperate internet searches using highly specific terms like “website broken HALP!?!1” I found a simple way to see which of my posts were infected with the Viagra keyword links. The result? Over five hundred individual posts and pages were hacked. Okay, so in one of those 500 posts I did legitimately write about Viagra — but it was kind of necessary in order to explain how exactly I was mistaken for a prostitute in Burma, okay? The rest were totally not me, I swear it.

Luckily, I have an amazing network of blog friends to reach out to in times of horror. My friend talked me off the edge and recommended a talented developer who would charge me reasonably and clean up the issue quickly. After a few hours of stubbornly trying to fix it myself (side note: HA HA HA) I gave in and handed the issue over the developer. That’s not to say the battle was over. I spent hours fretting and panicking and staring at my website willing it to heal itself, all hours that should have been spent enjoying my friends and my beautiful surroundings. This, my friends, is the glamorous side to blogging. Long frustrating phone calls with your server host, lost advertising deals, nights spent quite literally falling asleep in front of the computer (pictured here thanks to my highly entertained travel companion ). It’s not all free plane rides and comped hotel suites and parties at the Playboy Mansion, you know! (Just kidding. It is never those things. At least not for me).

A few weeks later now, and I will tentatively say that the problem seems to be solved. The hacked files have been scrubbed, Google has reindexed my pages, and I’m going to try to chase down that ad deal again. The good thing was, most readers actually never even saw the offending links thanks to anti-virus software or page caching or some other sort of coding magic. Full disclosure: I have no idea what that last sentence means. Again.

So, in conclusion I have two things to say. One is to the hackers: Screw you guys. I work really, really hard on this site and how dare you come in here and tear down my work, ruin my credibility, offend my readers, hold up my advertising and make Google mad at me. Google and I have been getting along great, why you be messing with us like that? Get a real job and seriously, God help anyone who actually buys genital related pharmaceuticals on the internet.

The second thing I have to say is to the web developer who saved my life website. , you are a computer genius and I bow down to you and your amazing magical skills with the inner workings of the interwebs.

I’m glad this is over, and I apologize deeply to any readers who were offended by anything they saw on this site. I look forward to getting back to normal and offending you all the old-fashioned way, with my failed humor, butchered metaphors and my inability to stop taking selfies.

This seems as good a time as any to say it again: Thanks for reading Meihoukai in Wanderland. I love you guys. And I pinky promise to never sell you male enhancement drugs.

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71 Comments...
  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    October 18 2012

    Yikes – I never saw anything, but that is horrible to have happen to you. What a nightmare. Glad you were able to get it fixed quickly!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Thanks Rika! Glad you never saw it, but I guess the secret is out now!

  • You are not alone, I had a similar incident in March. Someone managed to swipe my FTP password and uploaded untold Malware onto my site back in March. I was blacklisted from google and stumbleupon. Pain in the ass to fix and just an utter all-round nightmare.

    Glad yours is all fixed now, A lot of people speak highly of Chris, so no surprise he fixed it. Dont let it put you off blogging!
    Neil Barnes (@packsandbunks) recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Don’t worry, nothing will put me off of oversharing my life on the internets, haha. I’m glad I caught it before I was blacklisted. Sorry to hear about that!

  • linda
    October 18 2012

    The first time I saw the “links” was around March. It popped up and made for an amusing comment. I don’t know who I mentioned it to (you or your mom) but I told Karen about it and she wasn’t getting them on her viewings, so I figured it was something on my computer. I just continued reading around it. But I am glad you got it fixed.

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Yikes, I didn’t know you saw them! Glad it didn’t put you off reading!

  • Savvy Scot
    October 18 2012

    Sorry to hear you were a victim Meihoukai! I second your question.. Who the heck actually buys these products?!?!
    Savvy Scot recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Based on the number of websites that are hacked, it must be a profitable business!

  • Meihoukaia Hart
    October 18 2012

    Whoa, what a nightmare! Glad you got a reasonably priced and highly skilled developer to fix it. I’m like you in that regard… If it’s over my head, I’d rather hire someone who is super knowledgable to do it. Otherwise, it wouldn’t get done!
    Meihoukaia Hart recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Yup, especially being here in Hawaii I didn’t want to waste any more time than I had to dealing with Viagra issues!

  • Olivia
    October 18 2012

    Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  • Chris Shaw
    October 18 2012

    I have to say those posts never showed up on my Mac. I don’t know if that helps, (I hope it might, but honestly, if the problem doesn’t involve six strings don’t take my advise here… ;>)

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Glad to hear it didn’t affect you! I think only a minority of readers saw it, it’s more a problem with search engines and such.

  • Kathryn Allen
    October 18 2012

    Dante needs to dig a sub-basement torture chamber for the jerks who have nothing better to do than create havoc on the Internet. Even without the evil-doers, we have enough technical nightmares!!

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Seriously, right? I have enough trouble just getting through the problems I create for myself. I don’t need anyone else making more for me!

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    October 18 2012

    That’s awful! I actually never saw anything but what a pain for you to have to go through that. I literally know nothing about programming so that would be such a nightmare.
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      I know a little about coding and such… but no where near enough to deal with this kind of problem!

  • Dani
    October 18 2012

    OMG, the exact same thing happened to us!! Can’t believe it. What a nightmare, right? And we also have to thank Chris for saving our site ๐Ÿ™‚ Glad to hear you’re back up and running!
    Dani recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Ugh, so sorry to hear you went through the same! How funny that Chris rescued us both! ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely glad it’s over.

  • Stephen Schreck
    October 18 2012

    That is rough! Glad it is fixed now though. My windows just got a nasty virus and is freaking out! Shame on hackers you guys are a pain.
    Stephen Schreck recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Part of the reason I’m a mac girl… couldn’t deal with the viruses all the time! Ugh.

  • wes
    October 18 2012

    Awkward. Just ordered three boxes thinking I had your endorsement.
    wes recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Wes you really slay me. I actually laughed out loud when I read this.

  • Gaelyn
    October 18 2012

    Don’t recall seeing these on your site. You really are funny enough without adding viagra ads. Glad it got fixed. I’d be clueless.
    Gaelyn recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 18 2012

      Thanks Gaelyn, I try to be humorous but sometimes I think it’s when it’s unintentional that I’m the funniest ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Heather
    October 18 2012

    Yes Miss Meihoukai that was the night you were supposed to having fun at the rented beach house! I couldn’t resist documenting the lack of fun you were having passed out in front of your computer ๐Ÿ™‚
    Heather recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      Haha hey, who says I wasn’t having fun? Just kidding. I was having horrible feverish Viagra dreams. Ick. PS — Go get a Gravatar so your lovely photo shows up when you comment on blogs!

  • jim gates
    October 18 2012

    Hey, I came here looking for some viagra, and now I can’t find it. what gives??

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      Ha well luckily there are probably about 10 billion other websites offering!

  • Sarah Somewhere
    October 18 2012

    Ha! Wes’ comment made me laugh too. Maybe you SHOULD approach Viagra with all this free promotion you’re doing for them! Glad you got it sorted (I never saw anything and definitely would have told you, I have had trouble tweeting your posts but will try again now). Rock on AIW!

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      Aw, thanks Sarah! I saw your tweets, so maybe that was linked to the hack and is sorted now? Thanks for your support as always!

  • Amy
    October 19 2012

    This is terrifying โ€“ I had no idea hackers could do such awful things! Iโ€™m glad you came out (relatively) unscathed though; itโ€™s just a shame the people who did it canโ€™t be caught and punished.
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      There is certainly no justice on the internet!

  • Chris
    October 19 2012

    It’s good to hear not many people saw all those cleverly crafted links in your blog posts. I remember reading some as I fixed it and thought how damn clever these hackers have become.

    Glad I could get it all fixed up for you Meihoukai and crossing my fingers it never happens again.

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      Thank you again Chris for everything! Yes I’m glad most people didn’t see them, however I couldn’t either which I guess let the problem fester for a while, whoops!

  • Coco Marie
    October 20 2012

    OMG. I would freak out. I can’t even imagine this happening. Oh the joys of the blogging world. Happy it got sorted out!
    Coco Marie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      Thanks Coco, it was a nightmare and definitely not the fun side of blogging, ha.

  • Are you saying that wasn’t FDA approved?!? That explains the hair loss and the, um……yeah, maybe I won’t share that…

    But seriously, I’ve read warnings about this, but I didn’t know if it actually happened very often. I would be furious and I don’t even make any money from my site. I am definitely going to look for a plugin to backup my site immediately.
    Daniel McBane – Funny Travel Stories recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 20 2012

      I should be a lot more vigilant about backing up. This site is my baby, I can’t imagine loosing all my work!

  • Frank De Luyck
    October 22 2012

    Hey Meihoukai, first of all love your blog! So i am glad everything got sorted out again. I had exactly the same experience a few weeks back with my wordpress blog – on the “about page” a lot of offensive pharmaceutical ads showed up (friends as well alerted me to this). No clue how the hackers got access to my site, but could have been through spam comment? (no real clue though). End result was that I had to take site down, re-upload from back-up, basically spending a few days to get everything right again. On the positive side, this event gave me the chance to re-style the blog, put new theme, header, logo etc… to the better i hope ๐Ÿ™‚ To avoid re-occurence of the problem, i have since then changed password (of course), and switched off possibility to comment (ouch). Can you tell me how you handle (or avoid/filter out) spam comments?

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2012

      Hey Frank, thanks! I’m sorry to hear you had a similar experience. I simply use Akismet to filter my spam comments, seems to work great! I would rather close my blog than disable comments — they are my favorite part!

  • The nightmare of all website ownersโ€ฆ luckily, knock on wood, this never happened to me so far in 6 years of blogging and I really hope it stays that way!!! Now I know which I should keep in my favorites just in caseโ€ฆ
    Sebastian @ Off-The-Path.com recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2012

      Reading through these comments, it seems more and more common! I’ll knock wood for ya too that you don’t join the club…

  • Erica
    October 22 2012

    I couldn’t imagine being in your shoes – REALLY. Like, I would have flipped my life with how big our site is already!
    Erica recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2012

      Yeah, it was no walk in the park. Keep Chris in your virtual roladex!

  • Ayngelina
    October 22 2012

    I work with Chris too, he is fantastic. I have learned it is so much better to just let him do the work than to try to figure it out myself.
    Ayngelina recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2012

      Lesson definitely learned! I was just being stubborn at first, but what a waste of time to try to do it myself.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    October 22 2012

    Ugh, such a pain in the a$$! I recently had a similar trouble, where some readers were getting a “virus! attacked” alert from my site, and others weren’t. It turns out it was a Russian hacker who had gotten into WP, and WPEngine fixed it for me after a few days.
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 23 2012

      Ugh, stupid hackers! How could you tell they were from Russia?

  • Emily in Chile
    October 23 2012

    What a nightmare! I think I would have just closed down the blog and given up, but I’m very glad you took a more proactive approach.
    Emily in Chile recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 24 2012

      The will to survive a blog hack is inspiring ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure you’d get through as well!

  • Maki | Moon River Travels
    October 25 2012

    Oh, maaannnn. This is every blogger’s/website owner’s worst nightmare! Hackers scare me. Where do they get the voodoo to ruin people’s work like that?! HOW RUDE! I’m glad everything is back to normal!
    Maki | Moon River Travels recently posted..

  • Kent @ NVR
    October 25 2012

    That sucks! Now you’ve got me a bit paranoid. I can’t understand how that kind of thing happens.

    BTW – We’ll always love you – Viagra or not.
    Kent @ NVR recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 26 2012

      Awwww, thanks guys ๐Ÿ™‚ I love you too!

  • Federico
    October 26 2012

    Hmmm…several popular travel blogs have been hacked lately..good thing yours is back and running.
    Federico recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 26 2012

      It does seem to be a bit of an epidemic, if these comments are to be believed! Ugh!

  • Pete
    October 27 2012

    We’ve had Chris on our team for close to a year now and his monthly plans to monitor your WP and updates is easily worth it. It gives us the peace of mind to focus on what goes into our site, not what makes it run. Happy to hear you got your site all cleaned up.
    Pete recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 29 2012

      I’m glad I’m in one of the greatest secrets of travel blogging now ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks Chris!

  • Abby
    October 27 2012

    Chris is the best!! Omg I can’t believe you went through that. That is awful. So glad you wrote about it!!!!
    Abby recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 29 2012

      Thanks Abby, it was actually cathartic to write and now I’m laughing when I read it back. Glad its over though!

  • Fidel
    October 29 2012

    I never saw the links, but I mostly viewed your website from my gov’t computer, lol. But if people know you, they wouldn’t have been offended any way, maybe just annoyed. It would just have reminded me of walking around Sukhumvit, seeing all the pill and pleasure toy dealers.
    Glad you got the issue fixed. I’ll have to keep the link to Chris’ website just in case.
    Fidel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      October 29 2012

      Ha, well I worried that maybe some readers might not know about the world of hacking and might just think I was a skeezy sell out! So that was partly the point of this post!

  • You poor thing! I’m so so so sorry that you had to go through that, I would have had a total panic attack. Chris is amaaaaazing!!!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      November 24 2012

      It was awful! But I’m so happy to say IT’S OVER! And now I have a great web developer ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Graeme Voigt
    August 10 2013

    OUCH!

    That sucks bad!
    Is your website Wordpress based? If so, there’s plenty of awesome plugins out there that you can add to help add some extra layers of security! Just Google around and see what you can find, if not, check this out:

    I hope this helps and those bastards leave you alone!

    Take it easy!
    Graeme Voigt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 10 2013

      Hey Graeme, yup I am Wordpress based. I work with the guy I mentioned in this post now to keep my site safe and he’s done all kinds of updates and installs ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for the tip though! Let’s hope they stay away now…

  • Damon and Jo
    January 26 2015

    Well on the bright side, you learned more about website security…I guess? That sucks…and just reminds me of the time my email got hacked while giving a speech and VIAGRA coming up while I was doing my speech. LMAO.

    Oh…memories.

    • Meihoukai
      January 28 2015

      Ha, that sounds entertaining! Yes, this was quite the lesson learned. The very hard way! (No pun intended.)