Did That Email Really Come From your Bank?

I'm going to side step coding for just a minute today, to talk about those who USE code in scam spam links. 

Are you one of the 1000s of people who got an email stating your banking email had changed?

But you don't recall asking for this change or logging in to make it? 

Be careful not to fall in the trap of updating that email or logging into your account because you got this email.

There are steps you can take to assess each email for validity; here is one of the most important to know and practice.  

Hover your mouse over the proposed link. (careful not to click the link in following this process)

In this case, the link labelled as royalbank.com is sending you to http: //immuinsa.org/sg7cz3.php, most definitely not the place you want to go to. The URL itself is a giant red flag. 

As usual, the site offering this link is a hacked site, phishing for your credentials.

It will look like 2 drops of water like your normal banking site, but without the https: (secure) link. 

Seeing an email with a banking logo should not make you comfortable enough to click any link in that email without checking.

If in doubt, go to your normal banking site, by not using the link in this email but by your own methods.

In the case of RBC, the actual secure link is https://www.rbcroyalbank.com.

FREE Stats at Your Fingertips

My site is a blogging site ...with lots of photos. I've been blogging for nearly 10 years on this site and have always been curious about statistics and visitors.

In the beginning, the simple "Visitor counter" at the bottom of each page gave some idea of the popularity of the site. While that was a nice "overview" it didn't give me any insights of the visitors. Then, that same number of visitors exploded, and I was very happy.

For a while.

Then I found out that "bots" from Google, Bing, Yandex and countless others corrupted my visitor count. Big time. It was nice to see that the search engines were getting interested in my site, but not that they were counted as regular visitors.

I started to look for other solutions to get information about my visitors.

At first, I tried doing that by programming it myself. That was not a big success and the site started to feel sluggish and slow. Exit homemade programming.

Then, Google started with Google Analytics and that seemed like a very good solution.

I got information even of the countries where my visitors came from! Cool! But Google has a reputation of "selling" my info or at least catering ads to my "needs". In my searches using google, ads started to pop up that had absolutely no meaning to me but as it turned out, they had more meaning to my visitors I tried to look at.

That was a big no-no to me, I wanted to get statistics, not a better way to get served any ads.

So, I ditched Google Analytics for a different program.

This time, all the stats were hosted on my own hosting space, without any interference of the search engines. The program was called Piwik. It required a second domain name (a free subdomain also worked) and the stats were amazing. Even Realtime stats were possible. Follow your visitors while they are looking at your site, what could be better?

Well, performance could have been better. When I was checking my stats, the site slowed down to a crawl and the recording of the stats was also slowing down my site.

It was not a problem of the site or even the stats software, it was more a question of WHO was doing the stats to begin with.

As it was, my own homemade solution, Google Analytics and Piwik all had that same issue. The site traffic was intercepted to be recorded during the visitor's time on my site.

Then I looked in my cPanel here on Coolcom
and saw something unobtrusive, easy to miss.

It was called Webalizer. It was not activated by default and it did "nothing". Until I activated this. It turned out to be a fairly basic but informative set of graphs that represented my traffic on my site.

Webalizer is a service that is run by Apache, the service that serves your website to your visitors. No interference with your site or visitors to capture the activity. Apache (as used by Coolcom) already has to do the job of recording and serving pages, so no extra time is being used to create your stats.

The stats are derived from the server logs, logging is a must for all web servers around the world.

So, once I activated Webalizer, the numbers started to show up.

First, a simple graph representing an overview of my visitors, how many bytes they had been served, how many pages and of course, how many visitors in the period.

A table representing the numbers themselves underneath it.

I clicked the name of the month in that table and a world of information was revealed. 

The interesting part was the third section of that table, with the error codes and how many times they were triggered. Code 200 - OK is the most common if your site is working properly. The 300 series is of little interest for now, but the 400 series is interesting to say the least.

401 - Unauthorized was issued 11 times here, meaning 11 attempts were made to get to a private part of the site. All were refused access. The firewall I installed on my site is working great to thwart unauthorized access attempts.

404 - Not Found should be of more concern. Until I saw that the pages requested indeed did not exist. Requests for a shopping page, a contact for and other "standard" pages. They simply don't exist on this site and are a frequent access vector for attacks on mostly every site in the world. Trying to get to those standardly named URLs gave a 404-Not Found error on my site. And rightly so.
Normally I would be concerned with the 500 error, but I am not doing live programming on this site, so this is again the work of hackers or bots trying to do something this site was not made for.

A little below this you have the "Hourly Usage" graph and table.

Now there is something interesting... It shows when during the day there are the most visitors. As it turns out, my site has 3 "spikes" in visitors, around 8am, 1pm and 9pm. These times are in server times for Winnipeg.

So, my blog is being read constantly during the day, with extra people reading it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So now I know that publishing a new post should be done earlier in the morning or prefreable somewhere around 1am to make sure my visitors have fresh content for breakfast.

A little below that, you get the Entry and Exit pages.

This part shows where your visitors arrive on your site and from which page they leave. The "no URL" or "/" is the front page of the site. Does that mean nobody reads the articles? Not necessarily, they can read all kinds of pages and posts, then go back to the front page and leave.

The last part of these stats shows where the visitors come from. Well, more or less. Since the server is not doing any IP lookup, it guesses where the user came from based on ISP information. Unfortunately, most ISPs use a .com as their domain so they are all listed as "Commercial" as was the original intention of the .com extension.

So, there you have it.

A simple, fairly basic statistics program, right in your cPanel and without straining your website and the visitors' experience.

Webalizer is there for you. Should you need more, then other programs like Piwik or Google Analytics may be required. In the meantime, Webalizer demands no modification of your site's contents, unlike all the others.

Check out those stats and make your decisions for posting based upon them.

So you logged into your site and found out your php version is outdated.

Change hosting provider?

Nahhhh. That's a knee-jerk reaction instilled by many forums and FAQs on the internet.

Php has been around for nearly two decades now and constantly receives updates. In the past, a hosting company simply updated the php version running on their servers and everything would be alright. Users and website owners never really found out about it.

Today, that is a little different, or I should say VERY different. Many programs and

CMS today use specific functions of a specific php version. Updating php without saying anything would potentially deactivate or even destroy many websites.

Other CMS alert you that they prefer a newer version of php by placing banners in their administration section of the site.

So what can a hosting company like Coolcom do about this?

Well, we install multiple versions of php that can run any website in its preferred version.

If your site requires php 5.6 (the lowest we can go nowadays) then you have nothing to do. It's the default version for any site.

If your website prefers something more robust and modern, then simply go into your cPanel and find the "Multiphp Manager"

There you can select the individual php version for each of your websites.

Going from php5.6 to a php 7.1 will have some benefits as well, php7 requires less memory to run, leaving more for your website to use, resulting in a faster website and user experience overall.

However, if you experience issues with your site, going from a nasty message on all pages to an outright "White page of death", don't panic.

Go back into your cPanel and change it to a lower version of php and check again.

If your site suns only on php5.6, don't worry, we are not going to remove it for some time to come. However, it will be a good idea to start looking for upgrades to your system. Php5.6 will not be supported and around for much longer.

Could it be hacked? Absolutely!

Let’s first see if that site is really hacked or if there something else going on. Here are some signs something may be amiss:

  • You get returned emails by the boat load saying “Couldn’t be delivered” (knowing that you never sent those emails out).
  • People contact you about weird behaviour on your site, like being redirected to a different site, by clicking on a link.
  • People telling you that they see “Chinese” characters on your site.
  • Google placing a red screen in their browser when you navigate to your site

Usually that’s where "suspicions” end and surety begins, your site was hacked [insert devil/sad/crying/angry smiley here, depending on your temper of the moment]

Apart from the google warning that your site may be hacked or untrustworthy, there are still a few things you need to check. When your site displays apparently normally for you, press Ctrl+U in Google Chrome or Right Click + View Source in FireFox.

Take a good look at the “code” on that new page and see if there is anything that shouldn’t be there, AT ALL. Links to foreign websites, scripts that shouldn’t be there, images that are declared with 0x0 pixel dimensions. All those things are suspicious until proven otherwise. Note that I go from guilty to innocent here, unlike the laws in our country.

If you still can’t discern anything wrong, it might be time to give us at Coolcom a shout and ask for a quick look. A quick look doesn’t cost anything (unless requested unreasonably often) and will give you a definitive answer to your hacking question.

Should your site be hacked, then we have multiple options available. We can restore it to a previous version from a few weeks ago (max 8 weeks) or we can clean it up by hand. Cleaning it by hand it a labour intensive operation and fairly costly.

However, some hacks may have been in place long ago (more than 8 weeks) and may never have been activated until recently. In those cases, a clean-up or a restoration of one of your own backups can be considered, as our backups may already contain the hack.

Signs that don't necessarily mean your site is hacked but should be checked over:

  • You're getting a lot of spam suddenly. Are your spam filters set up properly?
  • People complaining you sent them inappropriate emails. Did you get “subscribed” to inappropriate websites?
  • You are suddenly blocked from sending email to a gmail or AOL address, claiming you sent them too many emails. Did you keep your email password to yourself?

Here at Coolcom we can check out the pipes of your email and clean them out if necessary.

Again, this is a labour intensive and time consuming operation. Fees may be required for us to do it completely.

  • Getting spammed heavily is not necessarily a sign of being hacked.
  • Getting complaints about your site not doing what it is supposed to is.

Before things get worse and your business suffers from it, drop us a line in the helpdesk explaining the symptoms and we will check it out.

By now, General Flash would have been demoted to Private 5th class Flash, and soon he will be dishonourably dismissed from the ranks altogether.

Flash has gone through different hands and stages. Starting in 1995 it was called SmartSketch and was destined to be used on the then budding technology of “Pen Computing”. When Pen Computing didn’t take off, SmartSketch was reworked and rebranded as FutureSplash Animator. FutureWave was acquired by Macromedia in 1996. Macromedia renamed FutureSplash to Flash. Flash belonged to Macromedia, until Macromedia itself was acquired by Adobe in 2005. Adobe continued to improve Flash by adding many features. One of the most noteworthy would be the addition of ActionScript, allowing programmers to write complete programs inside Flash.

It was one of the most beloved platforms to create animations for the web as well as for standalone applications. In 1999, I was pressed by my fellow programmers to learn and use Flash for my websites and Multimedia applications for my clients. I was a bit hesitant then, and have remained to be so. In my (then) opinion, mixing graphics and programming could lead to catastrophic results, even more so if the programming language was insufficiently defined. My friends slowly abandoned their use of Flash over the years.

In 2010, Steve Jobs announced that Flash was no longer allowed on Apple products, citing abysmal security as one reason. By then, Flash had received way too many security patches to be reasonably considered secure. Not a month went by without a critical Flash security update. As I have stated in other articles here, security has become a nightmare to handle for programming languages. Memory mismanagement due to corrupt(ed) graphics was all too common. My initial doubts about Flash seemed to have become a reality after all.

Since 2010, the popularity of Flash has declined.

The security-patch frequency however has not. Up to a point where even Microsoft was issuing security patches for Adobe Flash. It’s nice to see that rival companies help each other out in times of crisis, right? Well, this time Flash applications were putting Microsoft servers at risk of being hacked. That was a bit too much to accept for Microsoft and they fixed it. Microsoft also started their own flavour of Flash called Silverlight. But that is another sad story.

Flash continued to be popular in the Eastern countries like Russia and Ukraine. Not a website in sight without some kind of Flash animation or game.

Then it came to mind that all those animations, ads and games in Flash might have some security as well as privacy issues. And with that discovery came another series of critical Flash updates.

In 2015, HTML5 came on the market with built-in audio and video capabilities. Flash video was then slowly abandoned by sites like Youtube that beforehand converted everything to Flash video. Now they use different formats that are exclusively used for video (no embedded programming possible) and prefer to use HTML5. Today’s browsers have HTML5 integrated so it all works smoothly. Without the need for Flash or Flashplayer.

In 2017, Adobe declared the end of life for Flash for 2020, giving everybody enough time to convert mission critical Flash apps to other platforms.

Rest In Peace, Adobe Flash, you have had a long and troubled life, now it’s time to move on.

We’ve all heard it: Make you passwords complicated!

But do they really have to be like DeAR$312hgy-gFdr47?

Hmm.. was that last ? for the question, or part of the password? Even I can’t see what is what anymore.

Can they be simpler? Yes, they could.

But as outlined in another article, hacks have gone up by 32% in 2017 and the numbers for 2018 don’t seem to be much better. It’s no longer a question of IF you will get hacked, more like WHEN you will get hacked.

That’s a bleak prospect if you're doing business with your site. Finding it riddled with unwanted foreign characters or even worse (porn), and with no way to find how they did that, let alone why. The most likely culprit is your password.

At Coolcom, we often get requests to make a user’s cPanel password something like “Joey123” or "mittens2018" yet when we must respectfully decline it can indeed be a stress point.

Additionally, password control has been placed entirely in the hands of cPanel automation. 

  • “I can’t remember any complicated passwords!”
  • "I need to keep it simple"

These are common and also very understandable sentiments. 

So how complex is complex enough?

Generally, a password containing uppercase, lowercase, numbers AND signs is complex. As long as that would not be Abc-123, that remains too simple. So we use a tool for complexity called our brain and randomness of a keyboard. Oh, wait, as soon as we use our brain for this, it becomes predictable again, let’s switch off the brain and simply type some random characters on a keyboard. Twelve to fourteen character will take a computer about a century to find them all, so we should be ok.

If you've been using a less than secure (by current standards) login pair till now, cPanel will prompt you to update that before you can proceed. A simple request in the Helpdesk will settle the matter in minutes. We change your password and you’re off to the races again. Not so major after all.

To make things easier on you, however, we created a login button in your Client Centre that will log you in to cPanel even without the need for typing it. 

So really, all you ever need to remember is the info for logging into your Client Centre at COOLCOM :)

For convenience the username and password are also displayed in case of doubt, or if you need to give access to your cPanel but not to your account/financial info here on coolcom.com.

Should you prefer to have a memorable password and type that in every login, please don’t hesitate to let us know. If that password is indeed complex enough to pass the cPanel complexity test, we have no issues setting that.

As a reminder, your Server is set to blocks access after five (5) missed logins, so upon attempt number 4, we suggest coming to the Help Desk for some.. help. :) 

I wouldn’t say that your account is no longer hackable, but it becomes very hard to get in without your and our consent. As a result hacks via login to cPanel accounts have reduced by more than 85%. 

If your life is overwhelmed by the need for login after login, JoCool discusses her favorite password manager here


While there is some truth in the fact that as a shared hosting client you are on a server with limited resources, this is not often the reason for a slow site.

Take a look at my own site https://photo-bytes.com

The first posts on this site were horribly slow, back in 2010. Back then everything was slower, including the internet connections. But I was decidedly unhappy with the speed of my site. As it turned out, the images I was uploading were a "tad" on the voluminous side. 4-5MB per image, having 10 images on the front page. The site took a long time to load.

Getting in an individual post left the same impression of non-existent speed. So I did what every self respecting client would do: I went to yell at my hosting company. At the time, that was not with Coolcom, they told me to subscribe to a bigger, more expensive package. That would solve all my problems, they said. After an upgrade of the account (a mere click on a checkbox on their end) showed a slight increase in speed on my site. Hardly worth paying 80% more for.

So I called them again, and I got the same answer again: "Upgrade to a bigger package and everything will be smooth.". Since I had heard that before, I decided to check on the internet to see what could be done. There were lots of tips around on how to increase the speed on my site.

Fast forward to today.

I transferred my hosting to Coolcom. I still have my photography blogging site and I still post every week or so. But today that site is fast. Way faster than back in 2010.

In part that will be because the servers at Coolcom are faster. Yet something kept nagging me in the back of my head.

Would I be able to increase the speed again using some simple tactics? Absolutely. So I added my own (site-level) improvements and now the site is running fast.

So what needs to be done to help your site increase load time speed?

First off, the servers at Coolcom provide all kinds of speed increasing services. However, your site needs to take advantage of that. Joomla or Wordpress are great systems, but by default they do not use these services.

1. Ask for GZipped content delivery. That compresses the content before it arrives in a browser. Any browser today knows what to do with that and the increase in speed is immediate.

2. Next is to allow for browser-side caching. By default that is turned off. However, I like to fine-tune it on my end, making sure that only the content that needs to be cached is indeed cached. A shopping cart needs no caching at all, for example.

3. Then came the big change. All images must be compressed and posted at the size you want shown on your site. By simply uploading an image as is, the browser is forced to resize on the fly to deliver smaller images. Photoshop, GIMP, Lightroom etc are good at this, MS Paintbrush is not.

Serving the images at their final size is an immense boost in performance, more so than any other setting.

If you want to know what those settings are, here are mine:

In .htaccess (by now you should know that that file resides in the root of your site) I added this:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
# Compress HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Text, XML and fonts
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/vnd.ms-fontobject
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-otf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml

Header append Vary User-Agent

This compresses any files that need no changes, so not the content, just the static files served by your theme or template. This is the GZipped part of the optimization. Later I saw that Joomla implements this from inside the administration section, so I could remove this from the .htaccess file altogether. If you don't use Joomla, this might be required to get gzipped content to your visitors.

Now for the caching:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
ExpiresActive On
ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"

You can adjust the time you want to cache certain file types yourself. I find this one fits me perfectly.

A site that measures the improvements you make on your site is https://gtmetrix.com. The first grade your site will get is probably quite low. Adding the above tweaks will quickly improve the grade.

Don't try to get a full A for your site, there will always be things that can be better.

GTMetrix will penalize you for not optimizing a few image files that don't belong to you (template/theme images, logos etc) Don't sweat it, just concentrate on your own stuff.

Some of the improvements GTMetrix wants you to implement are CDN (Content Delivery Networks). If you have a million visitors a day (like Microsoft or Google) a CDN will be necessary, otherwise you can ignore that recommendation, but they do tank your grades for that.

So what did this do for me?

My site went from grades C and D (GTMetrix gives you 2 grades) to B and B, just by adding the caching. The GZip compression was requested in the Joomla Configuration (Server tab) on the site itself. No need to mess around with the .htaccess for that one.

If you want to check my site, you will see that for Compression I get an F. At first that sounds terrible. Until I looked at the individual recommendations.

"Losslessly compressing https://photo-bytes.com/images/356d6fa4-ebd7-4670-827b-f783aab5f347.jpg could save 22.0KiB (7% reduction)." Hardly worth fretting over.

So here you have the main culprits for slow sites. Bad image sizes, Caching and Compression.

Tinker around with these three and your site may have a quick boost in performance.

Good luck!

So, you find that your email is being rejected. At first you want to know why this is happening and try to send another email. After all, "services" are listening in everywhere and they may not like what they see, right?

Not so much.

More likely, your server is being used or abused by what is called a botnet. A botnet is a piece of programming that is waiting for instructions from elsewhere.

To make that more clear, it's like the butler waiting to be ordered to serve dinner. Spam in this case.

When this happens, indignation sets in and anger might even take over. The first kneejerk reaction is to cancel your hosting and move elsewhere. How dare they, that hosting company run insecure servers?

Going elsewhere is surely the best move of your career!

... Probably not ...

All hosting companies have to deal with so-called Blacklists, some are severe, others insignificant. The bigger the blacklist company, the more email recipient companies will listen to them.

Spamhaus and CBL are the top dogs in this arena. Send an email to an Outlook server and Outlook/Microsoft will first check if your IP is not listed with CBL or Spamhaus. If it is, your email will be sent back with a nasty error message stating that your email is not acceptable and comes from a non-reputable server.

Hence the knee-jerk reaction to change hosting on the spot.

Is that the right solution? Probably not. Your first reaction should be to go to your hosting company and show them that error message. They will them be alerted to the fact that something is going on.

On a shared hosting plan, you are sharing your server (and its unique IP address) with many others. You or (probably more accurate) someone else is running an infected website. In today's world, and infected iPhone, Android, tablet, PC or Mac can also be a culprit.

At that moment, a small light should start to shine. Perhaps it's not the hosting company with its "infected" server that is to blame.

Let's take a look at what the hosting company will do when they get your error message.

Big companies will simply blame you, the customer, for not running a tight ship and they claim they can do nothing. If that is the answer you get, indeed it is time to change hosting company.

Then you have the others (Coolcom is one of them).

They will start looking at your website first. If it is infected with something, they will tell you and should offer to help you out. This will often come with a cost, they don't work for nothing.

Their next step is to go and get their IP delisted from the blacklisting company. That may take a few hours, during which email may be severely impacted.

Companies like Spamhaus offer woefully little insight as to what or who is to blame. Partly because they can't see what is on a server, only what is coming out of it.

They will answer with something like this:

"This IP address was detected and listed 8 times in the past 28 days, and 1 times in the past 24 hours. The most recent detection was at Thu Apr 19 23:35:00 2018 UTC +/- 5 minutes"

So for having 8 times hit on a specific IP address they blacklist the server and disrupt normal business for all on that server. Not cool.

Their explanation then continues with:

"This IP address is infected with or NATing for an infection of "Eitest". This IP address is probably a web server where one or more virtual hosts have been infected using an exploit kit (eg: angler, empire, RIG) using EItest protocols to download, install and operate malicious code, such as gootkit, dreambot, ramnit, vawtrak, cryptXXX - infostealers, ransomware etc."

Also a nice statement, but with no substance. At this point the hosting company only knows that someone or something on their server is infected but doesn't know what it is or where it is.
In the case of a botnet, the culprit is not even active. A single call of the botnett per 24 hours can get the server blacklisted again.

Then the blacklist company seems to be more helpful. They propose tools like Windows Defender or Norton Power Eraser. Those are tools for individual machines, not for Linux powered shared hosting servers.

So we, the hosting companies, have also a quick reaction, close the firewall to that specific IP address that Spamhaus likes to use and we're good, right? Not so much.

"We strongly recommend that you DO NOT simply firewall off connections to the sinkhole IP address[es] given above. These IP address[es] are of sinkholes operated by malware researchers. In other words, they are "sensors" (only) run by "the good guys". The bot "thinks" its [sic] a command and control server run by the spambot operators but it isn't. It DOES NOT actually download anything, and is not a threat. If you firewall the sinkhole addresses, your IPs will remain infected, will still be able to connect to command and control servers under the botnet owner's control, and they will STILL be stealing your users/customers personal information, including banking information to the criminal bot operators."

However, blocking that specific IP address will result in an entry in the firewall logs and could pinpoint us to the real culprit.

So we put traps in place to see what is going on, log any activity from our server to the indicated Spamhaus IP address and wait.

Then wait some more, and some more.

As you can see from the first quote from Spamhaus, 8 times in 28 days, that's only twice a week! No way the hosting company will be getting someone to stare at a screen until something pops up. Hence the traps.

We run a script that tells us what is going on and where. In the end we find the account/website guilty of getting us blacklisted. Then steps are taken to clean up the mess and be open for business again.

So the name Spamhaus implies that it is all about spam... According to Spamhaus:

"Virtually all detections made by the CBL are of infections that do NOT leave any "tracks" for you to find in your mail server logs. This is even more important for the viruses described here - these detections are made on network-level detections of malicious behaviour and may NOT involve malicious email being sent."

So no email sent, and yet we as hosting companies end up on a blacklist that prohibits us from doing business. That is fundamentally wrong. While understandable from all sides, this is still a crappy situation. The hosting company can be out of business because one of its clients is sending out the wrong information or makes (unknowingly) the wrong connection to the internet.

That doesn't sound justified.

The only solution we have against this behaviour is to remain as close as we can to our servers, monitor blacklisting and its possible causes and delist when allowed. Not all blacklist companies allow for delisting, an even worse situation of hostage taking in my opinion.

What can you do for yourself? Well, there are a few possibilities, but most come with a cost.

You can make sure that your website software is up to date and not hacked. If hacked, clean it up or replace it with a clean version of your site.

Clean up your email from garbage. Accounts that house Gigabytes of unused email are an easy playground for hackers and attackers.

Keep your personal machines and devices clean from infections. Here (and only here) is where Norton Power Eraser or Microsoft Defender will be useful. Personally I use Malwarebytes if I have a doubt that either of the previous programs left me with something undesirable.

At a cost, you can order your own personal IP address that won't be blacklisted if you do nothing wrong. Keeping everything clean is still mandatory.

Getting your own email IP means that only you are responsible for the email. If someone else has a spam problem and gets blacklisted, that won't affect you.

So here you have that beautiful website you paid dearly for 5 years ago. Until now it seems that it has done good for you, you got your contact requests, your forms filled and everything you asked for. But lately, things seem to have slowed down.

You take a good look at your site and see nothing wrong with it. Or isn't there?

Take a look at your site again, but this time using a tablet or a cellphone. No use doing it with your old Nokia 8210, those don't count anymore. No, just a regular Android or iPhone will do.

Now go and browse your own site. See something different?

You might notice that everything is tiny. Your images are tiny, the text is hardly readable... That may be only the first problem.

Another issue might be your contact forms, they will probably have been laid out using < table>< /table> tags and some of the fields are pushed off-screen. Rotate your device to a horizontal position and see if those fields come back.

If you are lucky, your site looks, well, different. The menu is gone, replaced by a "hamburger menu" or three horizontal lines, text is not in the same position, but everything is there. Some element might even be missing as they could not be resized or adapted to "device formats".

This latter case is more preferable than the former.

So what is going on?

A website that was coded five years ago will have used the language or HTML available at the time. Nothing was yet really done to accommodate the new display requirements. A good looking site should be looking good on a desktop! That's what we always heard.

Today, if your site is displaying everything on a page (or several pages) and cannot be rearranged, it is called "Fluid".

Fluid design was the rage about four years ago. It was the first response to a growing device market. CMSes like Joomla and Wordpress had to scramble to accommodate the new rules. Most did a good job and revised their display systems or templates. Template companies started to create alternative ways to display a web page.

Resizing images and tables was their first priority. It worked fine.

Then came the multitude of device resolutions. From basic iPhone to Retina displays, the chaos was complete.

There needed to be a "new" way of dealing with those devices. Apple decided that Flash animations were no longer going to run on its devices. Creating a website based on Flash was suddenly a big no-no.

Flashing banners with lots of images, sliders and slideshows became the rule. Today you can hardly come across a template or theme that doesn't have a slideshow of some kind. The sad part is that these slideshows do very poorly on anything else than a desktop.

Sizing them down to the bite sized display of the device makes them tiny and unattractive. Better get rid of them then.

And that is what "Responsive" layouts do. The resize what they can and hide what cannot be resized.

So what do you need to choose now for your website? Fluid/Liquid? Responsive?

All depends on what you want your site to do and what your intended public is today and tomorrow. Is your public getting to you on a desktop or on a device? Depending on the answer you may want to modernize your site. Sometimes it is as easy as updating your them or template, other times, well you may want to rethink your site and invest in a service that can redo your site.

Oh, if you do need advice, Coolcom is here for you to assess your needs. Just ask.

"I got your SSL cert, started to use it but my browser says my site is not secure?"

Ok, hold yer horses, sparky! Having a SSL cert is only part of the work to be secure.

As said earlier, Google wants all legitimate sites to be served over https and will enforce it with a big red label if it's not done properly. This is slated for July 2018.

So you got a SSL Cert from Coolcom but your browser still says that something is not secure?
You may have omitted a few steps.

Major CMS systems have built-in settings for you to make this easy.

If you have Joomla, go to your site /administrator and login with your admin account.
Then go to Global >Configuration. The Server tab will allow you to set HTTPS for None/Admin only/Entire site. Here's where you select "Entire site". Save and reload your site and you are under HTTPS.

For Wordpress the operation is similar, but you just have to specify that your site url is https:// instead of simply the site url
Go to Settings and set the Wordpress site url using https:// in front of it

That should take care of all the redirection issues for your site.

But what if you have a different system or even a hand-made HTML site? You're not out of luck, but the work may be a bit more intensive.

1. Go to the File Manager of your cPanel.

In the /public_html/ folder of your cPanel (where you store the files for your site) the should be a file called .htaccess. (the file starts with a . dot!)
If you can't see it, go to the Settings in the top right-hand side and check "Show hidden (dot) files"

If it is there, great. If not, you need to create it using "+File" in the toolbar of the file manager and name the file .htaccess

2. Now add the following code into it at the start of the file:

RewriteEngine On 
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R,L]

Simply copy this to the start of your .htaccess file and save it.

3. Go back to your site and your browser should give you the https version of your site.

That's it, usually.

Well, of course, there are always exceptions.

The browser shows https: and ... strikes it out saying that all is not fine. You have followed the above directions and it's not working. In some cases, images are missing from your pages and everything looks a mess.
Time to open a bottle of something, right? You can, but I'd wait a few minutes with that.

In your browser, you have a nice function that says "Show Source code" or "Show page source".
- In Google Chrome you can access that with CTRL+U.
- In Firefox, a right-click with your mouse and "View page source" and your good to go.

Whatever you do, you will end up with probably pages and pages of pure HTML code as well as some JavaScript. This is what a CMS does for you, but that's another matter.
- Now press CTRL+F for search/find and search for http:// decidedly without the s for secure.
- Anything that is a link saying href="http://.... can safely be ignored.
- However, images are your target here and you need to check the http:// string for anything inside a < img src="http://... tag.

If your CMS did not convert this to a secure link or image, you will need to do so yourself.
- Either Find the article in your admin part of the site and correct the link 
- Or replace http:// with https:// and you're done- or replace "http://" with "//" and you're done.
- In the last case the correct protocol will automatically be selected.

There are also plugins for both Joomla and WordPress capable of doing this "more or less" but you might still end up with surprises. And in I.T. surprises are rarely good, trust me.

Once you have done everything, your site should show up with the coveted "Secure" label in your browser.

32% Rise in Hacks says Google

A while ago this Google Blog Post pointed out that the number of hacked websites is up 32% and still rising. That rise is not expected to end anytime soon.

There is always a "chance", that your website will be among them because what they want is your software; the site-matter is irrelevant. Hackers get more aggressive every day and when outdated web software is used, their work becomes easier by the minute.

According to Google, only 84% of the webmasters that asked Google to reconsider their listing after cleaning their sites, were approved.

61% of the webmasters that had a hacked site never even knew their site was hacked.

Why? What? How?

If you have a Google Webmaster account, Google sends out a warning if something is amiss with any sites added to this account. Keep in mind, submitting a site for indexing is not enough to keep your site safe. It must be within a Google Webmaster account. Now also remember that you will find out from Google because your site is gone. Using tools to prevent is always better than waiting for word from them. 

Google extensively talks about the redirection hacks as well as keyword hijacking. Obviously this is because Google pays out good money to people who put Google adverts on their sites. More traffic (legitimate or not) means more money. Multiply your traffic by hacking other people's site so they redirect to yours and Google will pay you more. Simple. Google doesn't like that and that is understandable.

So how do those pesky hackers get into your site? The list is fairly simple:

Compromised passwords
Hackers can use any server (including you Wi-Fi thermostat or lightbulb in your kids' rooms) to attack any website. Using a strong password is key. Keeping the hackers from trying in the first place is something we can do for you. Our recent newsletter to this effect meant that numerous websites were safe from this particular attack.

Missing Security updates
Your website is most often built using a framework called a CMS or Content Management System. These systems are very practical and allow you to concentrate on what you need to do with your website, not how to program it in languages you hardly know. The CMS systems need security updates, thousands of lines of code inevitably contain possibilities for hackers to get in. Closing those doors is the work of many developers and the patch is called a security update. Ignoring those updates puts your site at risk.

Insecure themes, templates and extensions
Here is where the line between safe and unsafe becomes blurry. While you may trust the website where you download a free theme or plugin, the site itself may have been compromised and malicious code may have been added to your product. When you install it on your site, all the hacker has to do is find your site. With thermostats and routers all over the world capable of doing the search, your site WILL come up. It's just a matter of time. Often hacks lay dormant for months before they are exploited. And when they are, it is often too late.

If you no longer use an extension for your site, or that beautiful theme that didn't deliver as promised, remove it from your site, anything a hacker can find to get in will be used. After all who is going to update a theme that is never used? The access to the files, however, will still be there. Might as well put up a sign to invite hackers in...

Social engineering
This is one where many people state that they are not vulnerable. You get an email saying that your package is ready for delivery; just click the link in the email to schedule for it. One click is all it takes to get you in trouble. If you have no packages waiting from anyone anywhere, you may not click the link. But if you do, the temptation is very often too great to resist and your site/computer/server etc is compromised.

Bad security policies
This part is more for the hosting company to enforce. Weak passwords like "password123" or "dumbledoreforever" are simply not safe. When such passwords exist, we at Coolcom can enforce the rule to update the password to something safer. You may not like the new "Fhdr$320-Ouch” password, but you'll have to live with it.

Data leaks
While you are uploading your files to our servers, in some cases, the file list of what you are uploading is there for anyone to see. If you create a folder on your hosting space to store files, make sure you add a file called "index.html" to it so that the file list cannot be returned to any visitor. The file can be created using the File Manager in your cPanel and it can be empty. All you need is the fact that it exists.

Sensitive URLs
If you don't want a search engine to access you files to index them (related to the point above), you will want to update your "robots.txt" file to reflect that. Honest search engines will abide by the rules; the not so honest ones will ignore the file and crunch your files anyway.

But once we get to the point where files on your hosting space should never be seen by anyone in the world, you may need to reconsider storing them on your server.

No Google Webmaster account?
We can add one for you. The fee is $39.00 (one time) and we add & verify your first site for you. 


Total: 0.00


It's Wordpress They're After

Even if a Wordpress Website is personal, hackers find it by way of searching for clues of life in the software itself. 

As of late the new hack is a system of "hammering attacks" on the Login Page (wp-login.php and xmlrpc.php) of Wordpress websites.

Once a bot starts on yours, it doesn't stop. The damage is imminent even if they never gain access.

Of course you could remove those files, but your site won't run properly. Setting permissions to 0000 is only a temporary solution. If applied to the files it cripples the site and when applied to the site it's unseen to all.

It sounds innocuous at first, but 1000's of attempts per minute over periods of 12-24 hours eventually causes a site to top out server resources; the result is that the site turns off. Sure it'll turn back on in a day or so but the bot tends to return.

Sadly, once a site is targeted.. it suffers constant grief. 

Such attacks have occurred to a few clients at COOLCOM and according to some google searches this is the number one growing issue with Wordpress Websites attacks. Left vulnerable to this kind of attack the expense of getting rid of the bot rises. 

The fees to recover a site and apply fixes once it has been targeted and brought down are upward of 50.00.

Not being found to begin with is the best defense. Here's how. 

We've tried several methods of deterrent with regard to this intrusion instance, and arrived at and tested what has turned out to be an excellent and relatively simple solution. Please take the time to apply this fix to your hosting account. Each Wordpress installation should have this procedure done. 

Your site should have a file called .htaccess. It is necessary for your site to run properly. Wordpress will have created one for you during the installation of the program, but fills it only with the bare minimum. You need to edit this file adding the following lines to the top: 

SetEnvIfNoCase User-Agent "Firefox/40.1" tool
Deny from env=tool

Once this is added the bot will be eluded. Your site is off the radar. 

If you are not sure how to do this, or have no htaccess file, our techs can do this for you.

Please request this patch at the Support Desk

A nominal fee of 9.50 is charged per website. (if you have more than 5 sites, let us know, we can assemble a custom quote). 

If you don't host at COOLCOM we can still apply this fix.

Please request this patch for your Wordpress site at the Support Desk

We would additionally need your site FTP or cPanel info, please include this on your Secure Ticket.

A nominal fee of 14.50 is charged per website. (if you have more than 5 sites, let us know, we can assemble a custom quote). 

Finally, a CMS for Photographers

You are a serious photographer intent on showing your work to the world. The only problem you have is that you don’t have a website that does your work or service as a photographer justice.

You have tried online services like Flickr or Facebook, but they don’t really fit the bill. Not only don’t they attract clients, these services do not offer checkout mechanisms to allow your clients to pay for your work. You have tried Wordpress, but it offers way more than you need, Joomla or Drupal are too complicated. After that, you have mostly given up or given in to money hungry subscription services.

As a photographer myself, I have worked through a lot of CMS to find what would work and what wouldn’t. Years ago, I set up my blog site using Joomla. I kinda stuck with that. After more than 5000 pictures posted and over 500 blog posts, it’s not easy to switch.

Then came the opportunity to start something new and independent from my blog, and with it a possibility to check out the “new” kids on the block. A quick search in Google learned that most of the portfolio sites are not really sites that let you keep everything. The most referenced CMSes for photography that come up are:

  • Zenfolio
  • Wix
  • Weebly
  • Smugmug
  • Photoshelter
  • Koken
  • Carbonmade
  • Folio websites (wordpress template)
  • Format

Of those CMS listed, only one stands out that leaves me keep my pictures and doesn’t hold my site “ransom”. Most of these are online services that require a monthly or yearly subscription to keep your site online. On top of that, anything uploaded is usually only available through specialised interfaces, excluding FTP. While FTP is not my favourite file management, it does allow me to upload/download or remove something completely from my account. Most of them also do not allow you to tinker with CSS or add some extra functionality without extra payment.

Koken is the one of my choice for a photography site. It can be added to your existing hosting account with Coolcom at no extra cost. Koken is a free download from http://koken.me . Like many systems, there are free extras and paid extras you can add to your site. Social Media integration is, ehhhm, integrated. All you have to do it add the required links and they will show up on your site. Upload your images and your site is already mostly underway. Uploading can be done using the integrated file manager, but that’s like all online file managers, I don’t like them. The point that sold me to Koken is that they have an Adobe Lightroom plugin as well. Uploading photos is now done using collections inside Lightroom. You can create them in Lightroom and they will show up on your site. No need to even login to it.

But Koken can do much more than simply show a bunch of pictures. Plugins (free and paid) can extend the functionality of your site considerably. A (paid) plugin for a cart checkout will allow your visitors to pay for your work before downloading it.

Extra templates can modify the look and feel of your site, again there are free and paid options available.

Writing articles in Koken is a breeze, adding pictures from your site to that is a matter of seconds.

Here is what others have to say about Koken (you will find this on many of those “top 10 sites” as their only description) :

“As it is by itself, Koken is a strong contender for gaining the loyal clientele of the most demanding photographers, designers, and other creatives. Koken’s desktop-like interface makes it easy to upload and manage both images and videos. The CMS also allows you to add content from Flickr, Instagram, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and Twitter. Koken also has a publish services plugin for Lightroom.”

We have very well developed basic and custom installations of this software, the kind where we do all the configurations for you. 


Till the end of October, Give us a shout in the Help Desk and we will install the basic version at no charge. It's also listed our EVENT Calendar for the rest of October!



Henk von Pickartz uses Joomla here: https://photo-bytes.com and Koken here: https://borealpursuits.ca


So, you want a form for visitors to contact you... Normally I would say, "Use the form module that comes with your CMS". But as it turns out, you're not using a CMS. You are using the html code your webmaster (or whoever played that role for a while for you) gave you. Your site looks fine, but modifying it is kind of a hassle. And now you want that form.

You have two choices, start using a CMS like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal, or try and adapt your site with some php, html, css and some more stuff. After all, there are enough ideas out there on the Internet.

And that's where the trouble starts. You have no idea which of the solutions presented on the web is the best suited for you.

The basic form of a form (no pun intended) looks like this:

<form method="post" action="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">
Your Name <input type="text" name="yourname">
<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Send my details">

This is the simplest form out there. BUT it's also the most cumbersome to keep up with.

- The first thing that will show to everyone on the Internet is your email address that follows the mailto: tag.

- It also shows bots (short for robots) and hackers that there is an email ready to be spammed.

Not exactly the intended result, right? So it's off to the races for a different solution, all the while your email is "out there" and still gets spammed to hell and back. You can trash that email address, it's never going to be useful again.

Lesson learned.

Now you are looking for a php solution, way safer. It's also a fair step more complicated. In this scenario, the form will send its information to a php script instead of directly to your email address. It will give you the opportunity to filter out the stuff you don't want to see. Designer handbags at a fraction of the cost comes to mind (other stuff too, but let's keep this post family friendly).
Now we need a form and a script that treats the form data, checks it out and then sends it off as an email. Preferably that script should also check for unwanted entries.

Now there is one positive note about bots on the internet. They're dumb.

They can't interpret text, they don't know how to count and they don't know when to stop filling forms.

Let's let that sink in for a moment.

Imagine a form with 3 fields: Name, email and "interest"

A bot would fill these out and post the form, causing it to go to you with dummy information. Now let's add a fourth field called "secret". The bot will now also fill in the "secret" field. Now the script comes into play. It should only email your the form data if that "secret" has nothing in it (remember that the bots usually fills in everything). Now only the human filled forms go to your email.

That's one way of doing it. Here's another.

Insteas of relying on a secret field, why not have a visible, human field instead? For example that field called "result" would get a label like "How much is three plus seven?". The scrip would then have to check if the answer entered is "ten" (for those who didn't understand) or "10". For php that is easy to do, the humans can make that calculation fairly easily, but bots cannot. It's a simple solution that does not rely on crooked images of words, numbers or nonsensical texts, I always find those hard to read and get them wrong half of the time. So much for calling myself "human".

So let's take a look at the required elements for this contact email form.

1 - we need a form on our site
2 - we need a php script that does the following:
2.1 Accept data from the form
2.2 Check the data for validity
2.2.1 If the data is invalid set an eror message
2.2.2 If the data is valid send out the email and set a success message
2.2.3 Return to the form with the message

Instead of returning to the form after success, we can go to a Thank-you page or something similar. 


NOTE: If you want to use this form - download all 4 necessary files here.
That way you will not "catch a code" from this page ;) 


Let's start with the form itself. (remember to use the clean code in this download)

This is a very basic form or page, for clarity purposes there are no CSS (styles) or any other visual improvements.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<meta charset="UTF-8">
<form name="emailform" method="post" action="mailform.php" >
<p>Firstname <input type="text" name="firstname"></p>
<p>Lastname <input type="text" name="lastname"></p>
<p>Your email <input type="text" name="email"></p>
<p>Your message<textarea name="message"></textarea> </p>
<p>How much is three times seven? <input type="text" name="secret"></p>
<p><input type="submit" name="submitbtn" value="Submit!"></p>

Until here, nothing special all the fields are self explanatory with the exception perhaps of the <form action="mailform.php" tag.
The action="xxxx" tells the html form what to look for when the submit button is pressed.

It should also be noted that your email is NOT in the form code and is NOT available to spambots roaming the internet.

So let's take a look at that mailform.php file (clean code download)

<?php // this tells the server to treat this file as a php script and not as standard text
// first get all of the submitted fields

// now go and check the response to the secret question

// check if this is the right answer
if ($answer <> 21) { // wrong answer! get out of here
header("Location: error.html");
die(); // this will stop execution of this script. No email will even be prepared after this line
// if we got here, everything is good and we should treat the form as valid

// set your own email here, that's where the form contents will go
$to = "This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.";
// then set a standard subject to your liking
$subject = "your specific subject";

// this is the message body of the email
$message = "
<p>Some text for your incoming email</p>

// this will take all the submitted fields and put them in your email body
foreach ($fields as $key=>$value) {
$message .= "<tr><td>$key</td><td>$value</td></tr>";
$message.= "</table>";
$message .= "

// Always set content-type when sending HTML email, if you don't your email will look weird
$headers = "MIME-Version: 1.0" . "\r\n";
$headers .= "Content-type:text/html;charset=UTF-8" . "\r\n";

// More headers
$headers .= 'From: <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>' . "\r\n"; // on Coolcom servers this must be a valid email account in your cPanel account. Forwarders are not allowed
//$headers .= 'Cc: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.' . "\r\n";

// use php to send the email with the form information to you

// now redirect to a thank-you page or any other page you like
header("Location: thanks.html");

This script has two separate ways out.

Either you go to the thanks.html file or you go to the error.html file. So here are the two files, very simple, nothing special in them.

thanks.html (clean code download)

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<meta charset="UTF-8">
<title>Thank you</title>
Thank you for your request, we will be contacting you shortly.

error.html (clean code download)

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en">
<meta charset="UTF-8">
Your calculation skills have proven to be insufficient, please try again!

The combination of these 4 files, if you include a thanks and error page makes your web form fairly resistant to spam and you can enjoy the contact requests from your site. It should be noted that this system is a very simple system and that many more improvement can be added.

When you search online for “php” there are tons of pages coming up with the most diverse types of answers. Basically after that search you should know everything what there is to know about php, right?


Php started out as a simple scripting tool to make web pages display things that you could not do with simple html, like showing date and time on your home page. Quickly after that, the power of php made that one could do a lot more than make your Personal Home Page more interesting. The scripting language turned out to be a powerhouse with unlimited possibilities.

Combined with a database like MySQL or MariaDB, php is capable of retrieving results from those databases, do operations on the results and display a pretty version of these results. Php is embedded into your HTML and as such doesn't need lots of code and a master's degree to write that code. Php is fairly simple to write, but can become as complex as you like or need it. Of course, if your website consists of one or two pages of html and a few lines of php in there, you don't really care what version you have or how safe or hackable your php becomes over time.

Where it all began

Php version 1 in 1994 was called Personal Home Page Tools. In 1995 the source code was released to the public as maintaining the code had already become more than the creator of php had anticipated.

Php3 was the first version that resembles the code as it is today. Php 5 was first released in 2004 and has seen many updates over time. During that time, the internet climate had changed radically. Countries with hackers in their employ made it their goal to make sites using php to do their bidding by altering the php code of the sites.

Once a vulnerability had been identified and fixed, a new release of php then became available. The last of the php5 series was php 5.6.30. That version is still active on many servers today.

The Latest and Fastest

The latest, fastest and shiniest version of php, however, is php 7.1 today. It contains the latest protections and fixes against embedded malware. However, to make things safer, older coding styles had to be sacrificed for the security to be effective.
Companies like Coolcom today offers a possibility to run either php5.6.30 or a php7 version. You can change that easily in your cPanel.

About getting the latest PHP

Today's sites no longer use simple php code, but a complex code library, using a mix of php, JavaScript, Jquery, XML and many more bits and pieces. The result of those libraries are what is called CMS systems, or Content Management Systems.
Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress are a few examples of many of the CMS'es out there. All rely on a specific version of php and may not run on a more recent version. If your site runs on one of the 3 big ones (Joomla, Drupal or Wordpress), support for php7 is already there and all you have to do is switch it in your cPanel. If you have older extensions for those systems, you may experience issues ranging from Notices popping up on your pages to outright failure of the site. If that is the case, simply switch back to the previous version of php and you're back in business.

Php7 has an extended range of protections against hacking as well as a serious increase in speed. Since php3, many libraries were added and many of them were not optimized. Optimizing them often meant a total rewrite of the code to make it faster and more secure.

If you want your site to run on the faster, more secure php7 and don't see the option in your cPanel with Coolcom, just post a ticket and we can move you to a server that does have it.

Hit the Help Desk