Prepare for a relaxing summer.
Summer’s on its way and while some community groups move into high gear, others are winding down and taking a break. Paid staff and volunteers may shut up shop for a few weeks, the office may be closed, the normal order of business may be suspended.
But the Internet never sleeps: the web site is still available 24 hours a day, emails continue to arrive, and spammers just keep pumping out garbage that clogs up the works.
Although spammers are a nuisance in general, they can do real damage on unattended websites and email boxes. Before shutting up shop for a few weeks it’s a good idea to work through a short checklist of arrangements.
Locate all the relevant passwords, settings and contact information for your website and email services. Store these in a safe place, known to all committee members.
If your unattended email boxes overflow with spam, or your website is successfully defaced or attacked by porn spammers you don’t want to have to wait for the one person who ‘knows about the site’ to get back from several weeks on a remote beach.
If there’s an emergency that would see your group taking extraordinary action (think Boxing Day tsunami) you don’t want to be unable to update your Home Page because only one person knows how to make things happen on the website and she’s out of contact in Outer Uzbekistan.
Consider finding a volunteer or paying a temporary worker for a few hours over the summer to monitor email systems, website comment forms, online forums and so on. Their job would be to check emails regularly and look in on the site, especially any parts where the general public can add information, for example Contact forms, notices or forums. If they find spam their job would be to remove it.
CommunityNet Aotearoa recently suffered an attack from scripted submissions to the Notices section. Luckily all submissions have to be approved before they go live and we were able to delete the hundreds of spam notices that arrived daily. As they accumulated though, it became difficult to identify genuine notices amongst the ‘noise’. Imagine returning from three weeks holiday to thousands of junk items, and having to spend literally hours sorting through the mess.
Similarly, there were recently hundreds and hundreds of spam messages sent to the Panui mailing list address. Again, it took some time to delete the mess. Over a period of a couple of weeks this could amount to thousands and thousands of emails, that can cause a mailbox to exceed its limit and prevent genuine messages from getting through.
Spammers use scripts to send dozens, hundreds and even thousands of messages every hour. When you suffer an attack it can create havoc.
Add a prominent notice to your Home Page about holiday services. Is the office closed for a while, or open less often? Are there any emergency numbers the public should have access to?
There. It’s a short checklist, but it’s worth considering these points. Have a great summer.
Written for and reproduced from CommunityNet Aotearoa Panui, December 2006. This article may have been modified from the original.