If there’s something you don’t want on your WordPress site, chances are that either you put it there while heavily medicated or someone else did. When developing a blog, the most basic steps are:
1) Launch a Blog
2) Write Content
At either one of these steps, it seems fairly unlikely that someone else could wheedle their way in and ruin your content. Oh but how you’re mistaken…
You’ve Been Tricked!
At the first step, launching the blog can come with some dangers of its own. The director of operations here at A Small Orange, Jen Lepp, experienced problems with her personal site when downloading a new theme named “Black Sapphire”. Creating a theme requires some time, effort, and creativity. Although safe themes are available from the Internet, you have to be wary of anything not found on the WordPress site.
Sadly, security issues popped up very suddenly for Jen. As soon as she downloaded the theme things started to get fishy. Frequently, the PHP files for a download are kept in a zipped file so they can be reviewed or changed, but in order to do so the files required a password. This is an immediate red flag. Obviously the creator of these files didn’t want you to change their code. Is this because they don’t want you to hinder your own user experience? Probably not. It’s most likely because they don’t want you to tamper with their corrupted files.
Despite the clandestine code, the files still upload and install normally. Although the website and all its content didn’t crash there was still an unexpected footer that served as an advertisement for cheapdrugs24.com. Besides being annoying, it’s illegal to advertise for an international drug retailer, especially since those companies are usually making sales by circumventing US law. Sadly the code for this footer is locked and encrypted so you can’t delete it, and this is just one of the who-knows-how-many international transgressions this theme was causing!
Another way for unwanted stuff to get on your WordPress site is through comments. Here someone can directly place bad things on your website. But why would anyone want to put stuff there? Spammers trying to increase their search engine ranking found that by posting their links in blog comments everywhere, they could make their site seem more popular. Once search engines became aware of this scam they adjusted their ranking system, but spammers still found that they could still get exposure this way.
So how do you deal with spam? Believe it or not, your web host can be a solution to this. Hosting companies often offer spam filters (but for a price), which can eliminate about 75% of all the bad things getting through. But since this requires checking every page request against thousands of signatures it can also slow down the computer. Web hosts do offer services that filter spam out of your comments, but you’ll have to pay for it with money and processing power.
WordPress also has some solutions for bloggers trying to avoid obnoxious comments. WordPress users deal with this problem so frequently that WordPress has developed a page to help you combat comment spam. In addition, WordPress has widely distributed the open source software Askimet so that their users can have some means of fighting off the obnoxious commenters. Although commenters can put things on your site you don’t want, you’re not alone in the fight.
The moral behind Jen’s story of installation is you have to be careful with WordPress plugins and accessories that don’t come directly from the WordPress site. Usually, WordPress will have directories of themes and plugins that link to other sites, which gives you a great deal of options. Also if the code for a site is unavailable for whatever reason, then it’s probably in your best interest to abort the installation.
As for wild and obnoxious blog commenters, I’ve written another article entitled “How to deal with Wild or Obnoxious Blog Commenters” that identifies the commenter archetypes, and gives a more in-depth way of understanding how to deal with them yourself. However, there are tools at your disposal, whether they be filters provided by your web host or plugins provided by WordPress. Either way bloggers versus spammers is a war that can be waged a in variety of different ways.