Friday, September 1, 2017
These are troubled times. Parts of our country may be reeling from the blows of devastating storms, but that is not all that is troubling our part of the world. When so much strife and dissension seem to be tearing at the very fabric of our culture, it seems the time is ripe for an enemy to come in like a flood, as well.
I was surprised yesterday morning, as I took a look at this blog's stats, to see a radical shift in the numbers of readers over the previous day. Not only was the count higher, but the origin of the hits had a curious detail: for every one person landing at my site yesterday from my home country (the United States), it was matched by two and a half hits from Russia.
Not that I suddenly have developed a fan base in the former U.S.S.R.—in fact, I rarely write about any family heritage from that part of the world. What I suspect is more likely is that these are hacker attempts or bots repeatedly accessing the same address. Who knows what the reason might be. It certainly isn't a keen interest in non-Russian genealogy.
Later that same day, I was reading a post on another website, totally unrelated to genealogy. (I do, contrary to all appearances, have a life with interests outside the realm of genealogy.) What was interesting to see was that every time I clicked through to another page on that nonprofit, non-commercial site, it would open up another web page, totally unrelated to the first site, either urging me to buy something or "click here" because I had just won something. Need it be said that site has been hacked?
That, of course, got me to thinking: what if this site were likewise hijacked? Could that happen and the owner of the site not know it? Apparently yes, for that other website—the domain of a nonprofit foundation—is certainly a victim of such an act.
Hopefully, if such a thing were to occur to this site, I'd hope you, as a reader, would be kind enough to tip me off in a comment—and, of course, I'll need to do likewise for the site where I first spotted such a trespass.
Of course, there are many other difficulties facing online usage right now. The storm in Houston impacting the FamilyTreeDNA office and lab—and, by extension, the lab utilized by MyHeritage—has caused the company to turn off their servers, as power went out in the area. They had backup generators, but those were specifically dedicated to keep the lab and DNA samples safe, not to any computer-based customer services like order confirmations. Just doing my routine checks for matches on their website showed the result: the website responds much more slowly than usual, and the telltale date of "most recent" matches is frozen in time at August 26.
Such devastation in Houston seems inconceivable—except for all the photos and film footage testifying to the alarming turn of events. And yet, even there can be seen troublesome signs of those who wish to prey on others' misfortunes. Along with a list of places where help can be sent, an ABC News item provided tips for avoiding scammers as people rush to help with their heartfelt donations.
It is so easy, in our genealogical world, to assume others would be just like we are—willing to help, to share, to encourage, rather than to take advantage of—but sadly, that is not always the case. The best path to take is the one that is uplifting, taking action that will make a positive difference. Yet at the same time, the necessity is to keep our eyes open and understand not everyone feels the same way—not even in times like these.