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Why You Need to Update Your Website: A Cautionary Tale

News & Blog

Caution - update your website

In 2017, a devastating cyberattack called NotPetya brought not only power companies in Ukraine but also businesses around the world to their knees. Even though it appeared to be a ransomware attack, experts realized quickly that this was not motivated by money but by destruction.

Suddenly, international shipping giant Maersk could not direct cargo through its APM Terminals. They had almost 50,000 computers infected in 300 sites across more than 100 countries. Their losses as a result are estimated at over $300 million.

Merck was unable to manufacture life-saving medications or continue its research, reporting a loss of $1.3 billion.

Nuance Communications, who develop the popular Dragon software that provides speech-to-text capabilities, found that its medical transcription service was completely down, endangering patients in hospitals that use this service for doctors to dictate chart notes.

Even the UK’s National Health Service found itself in the dark.

All told, a White House assessment pegged the total financial losses worldwide at more than $10 billion for this NotPetya cyberattack. To be clear, that’s a 1 with ten zeros after it. It’s a lot of money.

NotPetya was traced to the developer of a small income tax program M.E.Doc, where the worm had been placed. There, investigators found three backdoors established by the infiltrators. One of them was on M.E.Doc’s web server, in its Content Management System (CMS).

It began with the hackers exploiting a vulnerability in the content management system of the company’s web server, the software it used for editing its website’s appearance. From there, the hackers had set up a “web shell” on the server, a kind of simple administration panel that acted as a foothold inside the computer, letting them install their own software on it at will.

From Sandworm, by Andy Greenberg, p. 210

In addition to spreading through the infected CMS at M.E.Doc, the NotPetya worm attacked primarily Windows workstations and servers that were not fully updated. It is always a pain in the neck when Windows or macOS interrupts your work for a reboot, but these updates can be the difference between keeping your company running or having all of your hard drives basically destroyed overnight.

One of our key capabilities at Web Teks is securely developing and hosting websites, including those using the popular CMSes Drupal and WordPress. In late 2019 and early 2020, we developed add-ons to our hosting packages that keep your content management system and any external add-ons or services fully up to date.

Our automated CMS update pipeline

  1. Applies the updates to your website in a separate environment, where they cannot affect your live website;
  2. Performs side-by-side visual tests of the most important pages on your website, to make sure that the updates have not introduced any visual issues;
  3. Can also perform functional testing via automated scripts, to confirm that the updates don’t break your most important website capabilities;
  4. Notifies you of any issues identified in these tests;
  5. Gives you a period for reviewing the updated website and approving the updates to go live;
  6. Can automatically deploy updates into production for you, if you prefer.

You don’t even have to hire us to develop or maintain your website to take advantage of this service. After we migrate your website from your current host to the best-in-class Pantheon platform, we can turn on your patching agreement. Then you can be confident that your website is up-to-date and secure. Web Teks offers other hosting add-ons as well, including a monthly report of broken links and accessibility scanning and improvement.

None of us want to be the next M.E.Doc. You don’t want your name in the global news because of a cyberattack, and Web Teks doesn’t either.

Let us help you take care of the Number One Most Important Thing for keeping your website secure: regularly updating the core CMS and any installed add-ons.

Contact us today if you need help or guidance on updating your website! The success of your business could be counting on it.

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