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#933: Securing WordPress, From the Tech Tails Archives, Dog Days of Summer

 
     
     
  It's Tuesday!  
   
 

It’s time for Tech Tail Tuesday! We have been cranking out this feature newsletter since the late 90’s. I spent some time this past week going over our archives and it’s hard to believe we have published almost one thousand issues of this publication. Looking back over the older issues it’s hard to believe we have only been publishing HTML versions since 2008—a time that feels like it was just days ago now that we are in 2015. Some of our early issues were fairly basic, but were still packed with valuable information…including the importance of backing up your data. Issue number twelve mentioned the importance of backing up your data and well over a decade later we are still stressing the importance of backups with all of our customers today! It’s also been fun to look back and see how excited we all were about what is now archaic in the technology world. The introduction of the G3 iBook, the G4 cube, the Titanium powerbook, the G5 tower and more! I remember when some of these early machines came into the Small Dog warehouse and it was like Christmas morning for us. We would all stand around the box and patiently (or not so patiently) wait for Don to open the box and reveal what was inside. Don would then parade around the building with the latest product and we would all be demanding and asking him for a chance to use it.

Apple and all the accessories that go along with these products really have come a long way from their predecessors. I remember helping customers to pick out the right QuickerTek Antenna to increase wifi range on their iBooks or talking customers through data transfers over the phone. While I am still helping customers with these tasks the processes have become incredibly efficient and intuitive for even the basic of users. I will admit though, I do not miss the complication these processes once had especially data transfers!

Thank you for reading!

Emily Dolloff
emily@smalldog.com

 
   
     
  Securing WordPress Installations  
   
 

August 2015 is actually a pretty big month for me. It marks 10 whole years of blogging. Back in 2005, I was using blogger.com. Originally created by Pyra Labs 1999, Google bought them and their blog service in 2003. Blogger blogs were primarily hosted by Google via subdomains. This meant you could have your very own blog with your own partially customizable URL for free and without having much technical knowledge. In 2005, that’s what I did. I think I may have been technically capable of hosting my own blog, but in 2005, I was just entering my senior year of high school so money wasn’t that plentiful.

I wrote for that blog continuously up until October of 2010, a few months after I graduated from college. By that time, my technical know-how had increased substantially. For two years, I created a handful of short-lived blogs before deciding that I wanted to restart a primary personal blog as I had done in 2005. This time though, I knew I could have my own domain and host the site myself.

There may be some hardcore web developers out there who write their own blogs manually via HTML, but it’s really not the norm. Most blogs are run by software you install on your server. For our own Small Dog blog, we use software called Textpattern. Other well known blogging software includes WordPress, Movable Type, Drupal, Joomla and TypePad.

For my purposes I installed WordPress. It’s free, widely used and has an extensive plugin library and community support. The wide use has a pretty substantial drawback though. WordPress is frequently the target of attacks and exploits. Every time I mention that I’m hosting WordPress on my server, Morgan, my fellow IT person here at Small Dog shakes his head and remarks about how many risks I’m taking.

I really love the software though, so how do you help protect yourself, your server, and your installation of WordPress? I recommend the following “musts”:

  • Updates – WordPress updates are pretty frequent at a rate of one or two a month. Plugin and theme updates may be more frequent depending on the plugin or theme. There’s no excuse not to keep on top of this and install those updates! WordPress makes it easy to install them right from the browser and it notifies you which things need updating.
  • Jetpack – Jetpack is an advanced plugin that offers lots of enhancements to WordPress and I would certainly suggest it for all those reasons, but it also offers enhanced security. You can whitelist IP addresses for logins and it offers a captcha system for additional security. Each time I log in I see how many malicious login attempts have been blocked. Answer: a lot.
  • Akismet – Akismet is a comment spam filter that works exceptionally well. If you’re a non-commercial blog, you can use it for free. It’s easy to install and configure and I’ve gotten literally 0 spam messages since installing it over a year ago.
  • Rublon two-factor authentication – Two-factor authentication is such a powerful tool to secure any login system. You can now add that power to your WordPress installation with this easy to install and configure plugin. This particular system uses email-based authentication, so you don’t even need a token system. There are other token-based two-factor authentication systems available though.

Overall, I’ve been very satisfied with WordPress and I like that it provides both ease of use but isn’t too hard to extend for a web developer like myself. If I wanted lots more customization, I might use something that leaned more towards a CMS (Content Management System) like Drupal or Joomla. For now though, WordPress suits me well and despite Morgan’s words of caution, I think I’ve secured my installation pretty well.

Happy blogging!

 
   
     
  From the Archives  
   
 

Tech Tails issue number 185, September 2003 featured an article on transferring data to your new mac, for the complete article visit our archives link here, but for now take a moment to revisit memory lane, though admittedly some of these steps and information are still both useful and applicable today.

Mac to Mac, or PC to Mac Transfer:

Direct Ethernet Connection If you have both computers in the same location, you may be able to use an Ethernet cable to connect both computers together and copy files between them. You may need an Ethernet crossover cable depending on which model Macintosh you own. This method has the advantage of being fast and being able to transfer any amount of data. Once connected by Ethernet, turn File Sharing on (Control Panel in OS 9, System Preferences in OS X). Once file sharing is active, share the contents of one of the hard drives. You’ll then need to connect to the shared drive as you would connect to a server.

Portable Hard Drive or Storage Device If your computer has either FireWire or USB, you can use a portable drive to transfer data. Portable FireWire drives provide the fastest transfer rate, and are widely available. However, unless the computer has a FireWire port, which is not as common on PC computers, you will not be able to use a portable FireWire hard drive. A portable USB hard drive can be used, but USB transfers can be slow.

Note: While the faster USB 2.0 standard is available on some PC computers, some Macintosh computers only work with USB 1.1.

CD Burner or Other Portable Media Creating a CD of the files on your computer is one of the easiest methods you can use to transfer any amount of data. This method provides the added benefit of creating a backup of your data.

Using portable ZIP, Jaz, magnetic optical (MO), or other forms of portable media, is similar to burning a CD. Also, as long as the media device can be used on both computers, this method provides an excellent way to transfer any amount of data.

Email For small amounts of data, such as word processing documents, pictures, or small application data files, using email to send data to yourself as an attachment is another option. However, if the data files are over 1 MB in size, or if you do not have a high-speed Internet connection, you should try other methods before using this one.

Note: Some Internet service providers (ISPs) place restrictions on how large email attachments can be, so you may not be able to use this method with large data files, even if you have a fast Internet connection.

iDisk If you have a .Mac account, you can use iDisk to transfer data. Since the iDisk is used through an Internet connection, using this method for large data files without a high-speed Internet connection takes a long time. You can also purchase various amounts of drive space on a yearly basis, which provides additional data storage flexibility.

OSX to OSX

Carbon Copy is a great utility to duplicate existing OS X volumes. Carbon Copy Cloner will retain file permissions and copy all of the hidden files.

PC to Mac Transfer:

Apple has made it really easy for PC users to switch to Macintosh. Move2Mac is a kit that includes software and a USB cable to connect from the PC’s USB port to the USB port on your new Mac. Detto technologies estimates that it will take approximately 15 Minutes to move 500 MB of data. The software allows you to select what folders and files to move. Move2Mac does not translate files or translate PC applications into Mac Applications. For instance, if you wanted to run Microsoft Office, you would need to get the Mac Compatible version. Most files will not require any conversion to operate in the Mac environment. The one major exception to this is Quicken. Quicken files need to be reformatted to be used on the Mac.

When transferring data, most of the information that you have created is stored in your home directory. This is in the Users directory at the root level of your hard drive. There are some files in your Library that will not transfer by hand. The files that you will want to get for sure from your (the tilde ~ character is a UNIX symbol for the home directory) ~/Library are Addresses, Application Support, Favorites, Fonts, iTunes, Mail (if you are using OS X Mail), Preferences, and Safari. There are other files in the Library folder at the root of your hard drive that you may want to move depending on your configuration.

 
   
     
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