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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Plan A Blog Deletion Or Renaming - Protect Yourself

Every month, we see a concern about content theft or impersonation, in Blogger Help Forum: Get Help with an Issue.
I deleted my blog last year! Now, I see it online again, using my name - but it's not in my dashboard!
or
I renamed my blog, last month! Somebody else is publishing it, this month!!
These former blog owners have discovered the unpleasant reality of never ending spammer activity.

URL recycling (a feature begged for, by many), plus blog content and feed caching (a reality, with most blogs), can lead to spammer harvesting and resurrection. And in some cases, to identity theft.

If you delete or rename your blog, you need to protect yourself - before the URL becomes available.

If you make your blog URL available - and you have post content distributed in your blog feed, and blog content cached by various search engines and similar services, your blog can be resurrected by a hackerspammer. It's a simple enough process, using an already developed infrastructure.

If you make the URL of your blog available, by either deleting or renaming your blog, a hacker can resurrect your blog under the current URL. Content, plus URL reputation, will yield $$$, with a properly resurrected blog.

  1. URL recovery.
  2. Content retrieval.
  3. Template / gadget recreation.

URL recovery.

Spammers use botnets to watch for newly available BlogSpot URLs. Newly available BlogSpot URLs - especially ones which contain English "words", are money, to a well established hackerspammer. Multilingual spammers may appreciate URLs containing non English "words".

Content retrieval.

Starting with a newly recovered URL, a spammer script, also running in a botnet, looks for blogs which published blog feeds. A blog feed contains post content, which can be re published to a recovered URL.

Template / gadget recreation.

Starting with a newly recovered URL, a spammer script, again running in a botnet, looks for cached blog content. Both gadgets, and templates, can be recovered or recreated, as easily as posts can be republished.

The finished product.

Taking a recovered URL, adding posts, a template, and some gadgets, a hackerspammer can easily recreate and resurrect your blog, that you made available by deleting or renaming. In some cases, you have blatant identity theft.

Your available recourse may be limited.

If the now lost blog used a FeedBurner feed for distribution, you may be able to recover the FeedBurner feed, and change the source. Besides that option, your possibilities are limited.

If you can identify yourself - and you can identify specific details in your (former) blog, you may be able to report a resurrected blog for impersonating you. If you published your blog anonymously - or successfully obscured your identity, identity theft may not be easily proved - even if a resurrected blog uses "your" real life details.

Some details may appear to you, possibly to your family and friends, maybe to any present or future employer, as "you". Proving actionable identity theft, to Google or to a judge, may not be an easy or pain free process.

In some cases, just the URL will be recovered - or maybe just the URL, plus the posts, may be added. Neither impersonation - or even content theft / DMCA violation - will be cut and dried, in all instances.

In some cases, plain old piracy may be the issue at hand - and in others, possibly blog hijacking, or even account enabled blog theft. The options enjoyed by a former blog owner may be limited, also.

Prevention is the best policy.

Before you delete or rename your blog, consider the issues. Both deleting content, and blocking URL recovery, is most effective. Minimise exposure - use a carefully planned script.

  • If you're going to make the URL available, delete and uncache content, before deleting or renaming the blog.
  • If you can't spend time deleting and uncaching content, make a stub blog immediately after you delete or rename the blog.
  • For best results, do both. Delete and uncache everything as possible while the blog is still published to the URL. Then immediately after deletion or renaming, make a stub blog.
  • Alternately, you can use the new option to "Delete permanently". If you do this, understand the permanent effects.

Do what you can - if you care about identity theft. It's your identity, and it's your life.

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Plan A Blog Deletion Or Renaming, Carefully

Dude, hit me with a comment!

dolorah said...

This was helpful - and disappointing. I did not know this could happen, and if I ever delete another blog, I will ask for help from my more knowledgeable friends.

Thanks for the information.