Unknown Kadath

Example of a WordPress Website Hack Attack

Posted on December 9th, 2014 by James Litten

Example of a WordPress Website Hack Attack

Clients with WordPress sites often come to me with questions like ‘How did my site get hacked? How did this spam get sent from my server? How did this phishing page that looks like a PayPal login get buried deep within my website?’

If you are using WordPress and have not upgraded it to at least version 4.0 then your website is probably already compromised. Contact me if you have questions.

A Description of the Hack Attack

If the WordPress blog has not been updated for awhile, the hacking technique that I have seen most often uses this procedure…

  1. The attacker posts a comment on one of your blog posts that contains a special combination of characters that hides the malicious payload code using base64 encoding.
  2. The hidden code relies on an older version of WordPress being used like version 3.5 for example. In these older versions, there are tricks that have been found. These tricks fool the safeguards that try to prevent scripts from being inserted into comments. It is done using a carefully crafted combination of characters that are misinterpreted as shortcodes, HTML and text in a way that allows access to the mouseover javascript event.

    TIP: KEEP WORDPRESS UPDATED TO THE LATEST VERSION


  3. When the mouseover is triggered by someone logged in as an administrator, any malicious code in the comment is executed as if the adminstrator executed it.

Let’s Hack a WordPress Blog

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Alarmism and Super Intelligent AI Vs Humans

Posted on November 2nd, 2014 by James Litten

Lately there has been significant growth in the trend that we should be hastily preparing for the apocalypse that will occur when machines become ‘super intelligent’.

I see a huge hole in this argument that is not getting the attention that it should and could directly contribute to forcing an apocalyptic outcome.

The concern is based on a concept that has been discussed for decades. In 1965 I. J. Good wrote…
“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make.”

He went on to help Kubrik create the character HAL in 2001 a Space Odyssey. His work for the military during a difficult time in the history of humanity most certainly colored his outlook on things.

It is this gap between his statement on ultraintelligent machines and a supercomputer like HAL killing people where there seems to be a lack of discussion.

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UPDATED How To Fix: External Disk Drive Suddenly Became RAW

Posted on September 10th, 2014 by James Litten

UPDATED How To Fix: External Disk Drive Suddenly Became RAW

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

DID THIS POST HELP YOU RECOVER DATA ? Consider thanking me by clicking here.
Thanks,
James



It has been well over a year since last updating my post on ‘Recovering an external hard drive that has suddenly become RAW’ and there have been some significant changes.

  • PartedMagic is no longer free
  • Hard drives larger than 500GB have become commonplace
  • TestDisk has become even better
  • Many many many comments from people have been posted that show common problems that are not directly addressed by the original post.

So with all of that in mind, here is a revised version that hopefully addresses some of the shortomings of the post that was originally released in January of 2013.

A common and befuddling problem with computers is the sudden and seemingly inexplicable disappearance of an external hard drive that has been functioning properly. It can be a breathtaking experience to suddenly be told that your data, often irreplaceable pictures and documents, might be gone forever.

As with many similar situations in life the appropriate response is “Don’t panic”. When approached sensibly and carefully, the situation can be resolved and the data saved more times than not. Here we will look at the causes, fixes and preventative measures for instances involving external drives being used with Windows XP and Windows Vista/7/8.



Error Messages

Common error messages associated with the sudden inability to access an external hard disk drive.


Windows XP Windows 7
DO NOT FORMAT THE DRIVE


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Another HTML Game Using Only Web Standards

Posted on November 5th, 2013 by James Litten

Another HTML Game Using Only Web Standards


CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE GAME

Due to the interest in the previous post, I have created yet another slightly more complex game using only standard HTML, CSS and Javascript. There is a single CSS 3.0 3D transform to give a sense of perspective to the DIV containing the Lights Out style puzzle. Otherwise, it is all standard.

http://litten.com/etr2

Thank you to the many people who have played the first game and emailed me. I may make another larger game if time permits.

Credits for this game…
Music: Euphoric Atmosphere by MedalManiac
http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/554460

Artwork was created with Blender and Photoshop.
Thanks to tutor4u for some awesome Blender tutorials.
http://www.youtube.com/user/tutor4u

Thanks to Archive3D for some models and ideas.
http://archive3d.net/

Thanks to http://www.soundjay.com for some of the sound effects.

A further explanation of this game can be found in the previous post at…
http://html5.litten.com/an-html-game-using-only-web-standards/

An HTML Game Using Only Web Standards

Posted on October 18th, 2013 by James Litten

An HTML Game Using Only Web Standards


CLICK HERE TO PLAY THE GAME

Modern web browsers are fast and ubiquitous. As such, they have had to embrace standards that make web sites look and perform identically on all of them. It is a web developer’s dream come true, though we still find plenty to complain about. Fifteen years ago, I attempted to create simple games using web standards and it was a struggle every step of the way. Browser compatibility, Javascript performance and slow connections all conspired against my best efforts so I acquiesced and began using Flash to develop web based games. Now, as a hobbyist, I have returned to attempt this feat again. No plugins, no frameworks or libraries. Simply HTML, CSS and Javascript to create a game that plays well and works in all modern browsers on computers, phones, tablets, smart TVs and whatever else may have a browser on it.

Type of game

Wanting to make this an enjoyable experience since I would be looking at the game countless times while developing and testing it, I chose a genre that I have always liked. Escape the room puzzles. My favorites have always been the ones developed in Japan by developers like Tesshi-e. You can find many more of these at JayIsGames.com/tag/escape.

Old school adventure game structure

Deep in my library there exists an old book titled The Book of Adventure Games. Published in 1984, it gave solutions to all of the popular computer adventure games of the early 80’s. These games showed a different screen depending on your actions or commands that you typed and this book had flowcharts showing how to get through the various screens to the successful conclusion of the game. An ‘escape the room’ puzzle works in a similar manner so I used this as an inspiration to create a flowchart of my game and have the player navigate through the screens by solving various puzzles and clicking navigation elements. Some simple animations are accomplished with a Javascript settimer command changing static scenes.

Art assets

For visuals, Blender was employed to create a 3d room with proper lighting and the ability to move the camera in order to capture the different views. Photoshop was used for the details.
Audio includes some music by Geoplex
http://www.newgrounds.com/audio/listen/517924
and sound effects from a collection of sound files that I have.

HTML DOM CSS and Javascript

The code simply creates a bunch of DIV layers that are displayed using absolute positioning in CSS depending on what the user should see as described in the master flowchart that I created. The DIVs are manipulated using Javascript to change the CSS settings for top and left of the DIV’s absolute positioning.

To make this work smoothly, the images must be preloaded. Positioning the DIVs with the images on them outside of the window (left: -500px; for example) did not always work so I hard coded a Javascript preloader function that assigns all of the images to an array that I subsequently do not use for anything else. It simply ensures that all images are preloaded and it works well in all browsers that I tested.

Browser Compatibility

Everything seems to work well except of course old versions of Internet Explorer (version 8 or older). The only code I added for browser compatability is the following which allowed me to turn off all the sound functions for older IE. It now runs fine but has no music or sound effects in the older browser.

// check for older Internet Explorer
var oldIE = false;
if (window.attachEvent && !window.addEventListener) {
    oldIE = true;
}

This way oldIE can be used to see if sound should be configured or not.

Different devices

So far we’ve successfully run the game on the following…

  • PC
  • IMac
  • Laptop
  • Iphone
  • Nook
  • Various Android phones and tablets
  • XBox360

Here is another link to the game. The code has not been minified or obfuscated and the art assets are in separate files so feel free to look around and let me know if you have any comments or suggestions.




How To Fix: External Disk Drive Suddenly Became RAW

Posted on May 1st, 2013 by James Litten

How To Fix: External Disk Drive Suddenly Became RAW

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

THIS POST IS OUTDATED
THERE IS AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS POST HERE
http://html5.litten.com/updated-how-to-fix-external-disk-drive-suddenly-became-raw/



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XP Won’t Boot :( Repair Series Part 1: POST and MBR Issues

Posted on April 11th, 2013 by James Litten

XP Won’t Boot πŸ™
Repair Series Part 1: POST and MBR Issues

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

Turning on your computer and having it not start is one of the worst experiences computer users can have. It is often mysterious and you are given little information as to what is wrong. Usually a cryptic blue screen error, a one line error like “Operating System Missing” or nothing at all. Just a blank screen that never does anything or just keeps restarting on its own in an endless loop. Every week I fix unbootable XP computers.

Even though the XP operating system has been off the market for years, it is still almost as common for me to repair as Windows 7 computers.

A lot of times when I do remote repairs (by phone, email or my private discussion board) the user does not have an XP disc and this complicates things further for them. Many laptops never came with an XP disc and often the user hasn’t needed the disc for years and if they had one, they have no idea where it may be stored.

Here are the errors I see most often and some tips on how to repair them.

We will be looking at Windows XP 32-bit using NTFS for the filesystem.

When you turn on the computer, its CPU begins to carry out the programming instructions contained in the basic input/output system (BIOS). The BIOS contains the code that starts the computer regardless of the operating system installed. The first set of startup instructions is the Power On Self Test (POST). The POST gets the computer ready for loading the operating system.


Power On Self Test (POST)
Performs initial hardware checks, such as determining the amount of memory present

Verifies that the devices needed to start an operating system, such as a hard disk, are present

Retrieves system configuration settings from nonvolatile memory, which is located on the motherboard

After the motherboard POST completes, add-on adapters that have their own firmware (for example, video and hard drive controllers) carry out internal diagnostic tests.


Here we encounter our first common error. These are some of the variations of the text for this error…

  • Hard disk absent
  • Hard disk failed
  • Hard disk missing
  • Hard disk not found
  • Hard disk error
The following can also be an MBR error but first you need to make sure that the BIOS is seeing the hard drive correctly…
  • No Bootable Device Available
  • No Bootable Devices Found
  • Boot Device Not Found
  • Error Insert proper boot device
  • Reboot and select proper boot device error

Troubleshooting


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XP Won’t Boot :( Repair Series Part 2: Bootloader to Logon Issues

Posted on April 9th, 2013 by James Litten

XP Won’t Boot πŸ™
Repair Series Part 2: Bootloader to Logon Issues

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

In part 1 we went through the computer powering on, running the code in the BIOS, finding the MBR on the boot disk and using it to find the location of the boot partition on that disk. Now we continue from the point where the code in the boot sector is accessed.

The last thing the MBR does is to put the code from the first sector of the boot partition into memory and transfer control to it. Since all of this code is still being run in real mode and hasn’t switched into protected mode yet, you can encounter modified settings for viruses and malware. For example, the MBR could point to an infected or erroneous boot sector. Keep this in mind when investigating anomolies here.

The XP/NTFS boot sector and subsequent bootstrapping code is a very complex topic that is beyond the scope of this article. If like me, you enjoy that kind of stuff then check out this link for more info…
http://thestarman.pcministry.com/asm/mbr/NTFSBR.htm

The boot sector is in the partition’s Volume Boot Record (VBR). While the MBR exists at the first sector on the disk, the VBR is located at the first sector of the partition. The MBR determines which VBR is loaded. The VBR is similar to the MBR in the fact that it has a small program in it that is loaded into memory and run to start loading the boot loader which in turn allows you to choose which operating system to load. In our example we are talking about loading a single Windows XP 32-bit OS using an NTFS file system.
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XP Won’t Boot :( Repair Series Part 3: Blue Screen Errors at XP Boot

Posted on April 7th, 2013 by James Litten

XP Won’t Boot πŸ™
Repair Series Part 3: Blue Screen Errors at XP Boot

Diagnosing and fixing blue screen errors at boot in Windows XP is kind of heavy duty so I’m going to be less detailed on these as I only expect people with a deeper technical understanding and background to attempt to fix these.

Please note that this list is based on personal experience as a repair tech and not what I have read. When I researched these for this post, I noticed a lot of differences between what I had in my repair diary and what I found others reporting online so I stuck with what I know from experience so here is my disclaimer πŸ™‚

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

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XP Won’t Boot :( Repair Series Part 4: Recovery Console and Other Tools

Posted on April 6th, 2013 by James Litten

XP Won’t Boot πŸ™
Repair Series Part 4: Recovery Console and Other Tools

DISCLAIMER: These examples use techniques that I actually employ in the real world to deal with real problems. They might be wrong or dangerous. They might be inefficient. If you try them yourself, it might cause damage or irreparable loss. I take no responsibility for anything you do based on my examples or the information that I provide here.

These are the tools that I almost always use to repair unbootable Windows XP computers. If you have your XP CD or access to a working XP computer, they are all free.


Windows XP Recovery Console
Boot your computer from the Windows XP CD (see the manual for your computer for instructions on booting from a CD)

When the ‘Welcome to Setup’ screen appears, press the R button on your keyboard to start the Recovery Console.

The Recovery Console will start. If you have multiple Windows installations, it will list them, and you enter the number associated with the installation you want to work on and press enter. If you have just one Windows installation, type 1 and press enter.

You will then be prompted for the Administrator’s password. If there is no password, press enter. Otherwise type in the password and then press enter.

You will now see a C:\Windows> prompt and you can start using the Recovery Console.
You can find information on the available commands here…
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314058



Windows XP Recovery Console without a Windows XP CD

Automated Recovery CD Creator (ARCDC)
http://artellos.com/arcdc-page


PartedMagic
http://partedmagic.com/

PartedMagic Common Tools for XP Boot Repairs
TestDisk
Gparted
PhotoRec
chntpw
ddrescue
hexedit



MBR VBR analyzer
Nate’s MBR and Boot Sector Analyzer
http://www.aqfire.com/boot/

In depth information about the MBR and VBR
http://thestarman.pcministry.com/asm/mbr/Win2kmbr.htm
http://thestarman.pcministry.com/asm/mbr/NTFSBR.htm



Boot.ini resources
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/289022



Boot Disk for Virus/Malware scanning

Kaspersky Rescue Disk 10
http://support.kaspersky.com/viruses/rescuedisk
Has an update-able virus/malware scanner
File Manager
Registry Editor



Part 1: POST and MBR Issues

Part 2: Bootloader to Logon Issues

Part 3: Blue Screen Errors




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