On RSS Feeds and Email Hackers

One of the things I wanted to discover about the blogging process was: How to set up an RSS feed from my blog to my website. The blog has a link to the website, but I also wanted to have my blog headlines available on the website, in the event a reader happened to that location first.

An RSS feed will make whatever is available on my blog site also available on my website, immediately, as soon as I post something. It’s another way of making it easy for readers. If someone is at all interested in your content, it should be a rewarding experience, easy to go from one place to another. I don’t know about you, but whenever someone is trying to interest me, and I find the site confusing, or unfriendly, it’s a deal-breaker.

I didn’t know much about RSS, and was prepared for a struggle. Sometimes the things you think will be difficult, aren’t. That’s always refreshing. I started with the software I use to build my website. It is hosted by Yahoo and I used their Yahoo Sitebuilder. Sure enough, there was a how-to about it.

RSS, which stands for Really Simple Syndication, (no, really, it does) distributes your blog headlines and as much content as you want, and presents it in a list. A reader interested in that content can then click the link and go directly to the blog post.

The first step is to identify the feed source. I use WordPress to host my blog, so I then went to WordPress.com to find out about that and it’s the URL of the blog with “/feed/” appended to it. http://www.nameofyourblog.com/feed/.

The second step is to convert the feed. This means finding a site that will create a snippet of JavaScript that you can insert directly into your website HTML. This might sound high tech, but it isn’t really. There were three options: Feedroll, RSS to JavaScript and RSS-Info.com. I chose the second, because I am familiar with JavaScript. It asked for my feed source file name from above, and then I could configure my feed however I wanted. How many items in the list, how many characters of text in each item, things like that. I took the defaults except I chose to display only ten items, and only the first 300 characters of each item. I inserted the name of my feed file and clicked the Generate JavaScript button, which is at the bottom of this screen (not shown).

It created the following JavaScript:

This looks like gobbledygook if you aren’t familiar with HTML but all it did was insert the name of my file, and the options I chose along with the defaults already there, into tags which the browser understands.

It worked the first time. Here is my new page:

That’s the good news about my week.

The bad news is, I had one of my email accounts hacked.

Sometimes, I do things that aren’t smart and I don’t know why I continue to do things that aren’t smart. I allowed my account to be hacked, because I had an email from a person I trusted, but the email wasn’t really from that person. So now people on my contact list are receiving emails that look like they came from me, but didn’t.

When I realized I had been compromised, I quick changed my password. But it is possible that the Bad Ass Spammers (BAS) already had my contact list and had stored those addresses. I don’t know for sure, and it seems as if that was the case because at least two emails went out after I had changed my password.

I have googled this problem until my eyes hurt, but have not really found a solution.

This is an embarrassing thing to have happen to me, because I am in a line of work where I am supposed to know about this stuff, enough at least that I don’t fall prey to BAS.

I ran a full virus scan. I doubt that will do anything, because the emails were sent at a time when my laptop was not turned on. But just in case, what can it hurt? And besides I learned some other good stuff when I did that. Like how to turn off startup programs so the machine boots up faster. That was a nice extra benefit.

I changed my password again. I had previously changed it to one I had used before, so just in case, I changed it to one I had never used. This, too, might not do anything, but can’t hurt.

Third, I deleted everyone in my contact list, except for myself, at another email address, and one from a friend of mine who I knew was no longer using that address and from whom I would get a Mail Delivery error. Then I will know if they are accessing my contact list real time, or using a stored one. This won’t work if they have already stored the addresses, and in fact, if I were a BAS, I guess that’s what I’d do.

Fourth, if none of this works, I am going to call Yahoo, since that’s where the email account is and see if there is anything they can tell me.

I may end up deactivating these accounts, and that may not even work.

The people who do this are ruthless, and cruel, and – what’s the point? We all know what kinds of people they are, they can make more money by being dishonest than they can by any legitimate means. The Bernie Madoffs of the computer industry.

I don’t excuse myself for being sucked in. I just wish it wasn’t necessary to be quite so vigilant.

1 thought on “On RSS Feeds and Email Hackers

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