We Were Hacked!

20-12-2021

Wednesday 8 December 2021 started like any other day for Admin, an early morning start to see what needed to be done on www.LetsCallBull.com update any images that were blurry, sort any typos, check for any dodgy content uploads… you know the normal Admin stuff.

In fact, the day started with a sea of blue across the front page, a VERY unusual state of affairs but quite serene.  As a lot of people have picked up there is a themeon LCB blue = TRUE  (aaah, all relaxing and calm) and red = BULL (I’m raging and about to go bang) this is across the whole website but is most prominent on the articles that have been uploaded. 

So wow what a great start to the day lots of TRUE articles and good vibes, had the world really changed that much? Were the tabloids and influencers really being honest? Had Photoshop and all the Instagram Filters stopped working?

In short, the answers to the above were no, no and a very gut-wrenching NO.  After deeper investigation it turned out all 31,728 unique articles that had been uploaded on to the site over the last 4 ½ years were suddenly ALL showing as TRUE.

That’s right every Photoshop fail, Love Island relationship, Kardashian / Jenner Instagram post, transfer rumour and political promise were all suddenly TRUE, all of the literally millions of visitors and ‘Callers’ votes had been wiped out in a single swipe.  Either we had a catastrophic database failure or worse still…. We’d been hacked!

Hacked

To explain how the site works in a bit more detail, every time a user votes TRUE the database gets 1 vote added and 1 score point added, if the vote is BULL it gets 1 vote added and 10 score points.  It then divides the total number of points the article has by the total number of votes and if the score is less than 5 the article is classed as TRUE and if it’s over 5 it is classed as BULL

Obviously further investigation was needed so logged in as Admin I jumping back a few days in www.LetsCallBull.com history and (as shown in the image below) dug into the article headed “Love Island’s Molly Smith shows off the results of her recent boob job….” (hey don’t judge it was the first article on that Admin page).  The answer I was given was impossible, it showed 53 Votes and Total Ratings of 1, this is not possible even if everyone had voted as TRUE the minimum Total Ratings would be 53 (each vote for TRUE = 1 point x 53 votes = 53) before this hack happened the Total Ratings number was 449 (449 / 53 = 8.47 which is higher than 5 and therefore should be a BULL call)

Back End Scoring

After looking into the database closer ALL the votes were still being shown as there but every single article only had a single score point.  It was devastating and made a mockery of all the time and effort everyone had put in to www.LetsCallBull.com over the years and made the site instantly unviable and totally uncredible.

For any hope of putting things right and reclaiming all the hard work and time that our ‘Callers’ had put in I needed to work out…

1: How it had happened

2: How to fix it.

3: How to prevent it from happening again.

4: Find out who did it

The findings were…

1: How it had happened:  After hours of investigation and cPanelinterrogation  (our site management platform) it appeared that a serious breach had unintentionally been created by a genuinely innocent user (for obvious security and privacy reasons I can’t go in to details).  It could genuinely been any user at any time in the last 4 ½ years doing what has been done thousands of times before on the site, but this time due to one slightly different element it started a chain of events that opened a backdoor to the site and a 3rd party had then gained access to the source code of the site and effectively wiped out all credibility that it had. 

2: How to fix it:  In theory this was devastating and in mid melt down I have to say I walked away took a deep breath and looked at the options.  None of which were pretty but I decided the most credible one was not to try and un-hack the hack as that could have created further complications, it was simply to roll back to the last back up of the site (it is backed up VERY regularly luckily).  This was the most straight forward route, but it sure as heck was not straight forward and took about half a day of faffing with iomart (our chosen host server provider) to get this actioned.  It also meant that we lost 10 articles that had been uploaded and all the comments and votes that they had, luckily they were re-uploaded so were not lost for ever.

3: How to prevent it from happening again: This is the reason the blog was not uploaded on 08.12.2021 as work needed to be done to make sure that this breach was closed and not allowed to be re-used.  "If it’s online it is hackable" as we have shown time and time again via the plethora of articles covering it on the site (ironic huh?) but we are pretty confident that that particular problem has been patched out.

4: Find out who did it:  Frustratingly this is something we will never know, the IP that appears to have accessed the site was obviously via a VPN that was shielding the original source (maybe bounced multiple times to make sure it stays out of sight).  If I were a conspiracy theory nut I would be looking at the previous days articles for clues as LCB had had a pop at a few controversial / high profile articles such as….

The Beijing Winter Olympics https://bit.ly/3q66gIC

Beijing Olympics

 Yet another Kardashian ‘advert’ https://bit.ly/3e96SHP 

KK

 The Omicron Corvid variant https://bit.ly/3yHIab9

Omicron

But let’s be honest with 31,728 articles out there at the time (now coming up to 32,000) there are quite a few people out there who are probably not too happy that we are ‘Getting To The Truth’ and outing all the #FakeNews out there so it could be one of thousands of people for just as many reasons.

So, to conclude what did we learn from this? Well “if it’s online it can get hacked” and that we are hopefully doing the right thing here and getting to people who don’t want the truth out there as it doesn’t suit their agenda so THANK YOU to all our ‘Callers’ who upload, vote and comment as it is making a difference!

Maxwell Signature

Maxwell

Chief Admin

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