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Corralling New Gators

Written by Sean Valant

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

One of the great things about the web-hosting industry is the rather fortunate circumstance of virtually constant growth.  More and more people are taking their lives or businesses online every day.  Additionally, those already online are often ever-expanding their online presence.  A direct result of that is the necessity for us, as one of the leading providers of web hosting, to locate and hire more and more qualified people to support all of the above.  This is certainly a great opportunity, but it can also be somewhat problematic.

Although it would be great if a never-ending stream of qualified individuals would parade through our office doors each day, that simply isn’t the reality.  We have a recruiting department which endeavors to locate people with the correct skills to join us here at The Gator in a variety of available positions.  We often need to dispatch a highly-trained SWAT team of sorts from the swamp here out into the real world in hopes of returning to the fold with some new potential Gators.

Often the missions these aforementioned SWAT(swamp?) teams find themselves at are recruitment events of sorts.  Armed with a very nice tablecloth and often some nice HostGator swag to give out, they go forth into the world in search of qualified candidates:

 

At a recent event, there were HostGator koozies and squishy stress-relief Snappys to be had by anyone able to correctly guess the number of “Gator Eyes” hermetically sealed within a state-of-the-art containment device (hint: there were 499):

 

Another obstacle faced by those who came face-to-face with our recruiters was the much-dreaded “Gator Replication Station,” whereby the hopefuls endeavored to create gators of their own using the materials provided.  Those who successfully replicated gators in the most creative way won HostGator t-shirts and plush Snappys:

 

Certainly the goal is to locate and hire new Gators, but we do try to have as much fun at these events as possible.  The moral of the story though is that we are always on the lookout for new Gators and invite you to apply to come work with us!

HostGator is a great place to work, with many official (and unofficial) perks aside from those indicated on the website.  For example, on the day this blog was written, we had mobile masseuses roaming the office providing free massages to everyone at their desks while they worked.

We certainly appreciate the opportunity to hire individuals with some web-hosting experience, it’s true that the basics of what one needs to know to break into this industry are rather minimal and can be learned by virtually anyone.  Even if you are a complete novice, Google will be happy to teach you about FTP, Email Clients (SMTP, POP3, IMAP), DNS (MX, CNAME, A RECORD) and basic troubleshooting (ping, trace route).  Also, if you have an aptitude or experience providing excellent customer service, then you’re halfway there!

Consider a career with HostGator; we’d like to hear from you!

Malware Monday

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, July 9th, 2012

If you are reading this on the day it was posted (Monday, July 9th, 2012), then you are likely not a victim of Malware Monday.  Far from being as feared as something like the dreaded Y2K situation, Malware Monday revolves around a piece of malicious software known as DNSChanger and the efforts involved in the mitigation and ultimate ridding of this specific piece of malware.

DNSChanger functions on a couple of different fronts, though the fundamental result of infection would be an inability to connect to your ISP.  It reportedly will also prevent your Operating System from downloading updates that would detect and prevent the malware from functioning.

Back in 2007, the creators of DNSChanger began using the trojan to redirect internet traffic to sites containing paid advertisements, resulting in illegal profit for its creators.  Since then, the hackers evolved the malware to execute various other tasks on the infected machines.  The FBI became involved and those responsible were caught and arrested late last year.  Initially, the FBI wanted to shut down the servers that were being used by the hackers to control the infected computers, however it was determined that such action would have resulted in the infected machines immediately becoming unable to connect to the Internet.

The resulting decision was to implement a transitional system whereby the servers in question could be taken down without resulting in the infected machines from losing their Internet connectivity.  The plug was pulled on that transitional system this morning around 12:01am, at which point anyone with an infected computer would need to rid their machine of the malware in order to re-connect to the Internet.

So, if you are reading this on Monday, July 9th, you were unaffected.  If you were affected, then you’re likely seeing this at a later date and I’d like to welcome you back to the Internet (we missed you!) and invite you to regularly scan your computer(s) for any malicious software using any number of free or paid applications available today.

Gators Make Science

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The 2012 Transit of Venus occurred on June 5th.  At the HostGator office in Houston, one of our Admins set up a telescope outside of the building in order to observe the phenomenon, pinhole-camera style, as a small dot projected onto a piece of paper taped within a large box via which we could safely peer at the sun.  Another Admin showed up with some welder’s glass, which allowed us to look directly at the sun and see Venus, as a tiny dot traveling between Earth and the Sun.  Both methods of observation were quite impressive.

The transit is a predictable celestial phenomenon that occurs in pairs, eight years apart.  This happened most recently in June of 1997 and 2004 and will not happen again until December of 2117 and 2125.  Essentially, if you missed it live and in person this time, you will not have another opportunity within your lifetime.

The images below show the telescope pointing towards the Sun and into the lightbox and then the view from within the lightbox, where Venus is clearly visible as a black dot near the upper right-hand corner of the larger circle.

Scammers, Stop Scamming!

Written by Sean Valant

Monday, June 4th, 2012

It is no secret that the web hosting industry is the target of a lot of fraudsters, scammers, spammers and various run-of-the-mill riffraff.  The anonymity that the Internet can provide seems to be far too fertile of ground for those simply looking to take advantage.  It would be fantastic if everyone was always honest and never attempted to proverbially hoodwink those that are either more honest or less naive than themselves.  However, the world we live in is one in which many things simply cannot, and should not, be taken at face value.

Fortunately, the Internet is also an excellent tool for exposing various scams and raising awareness such that less people are prone to being taken advantage of; the pyramid schemes that Grandma fell for (it’s true, she did; ask her about it) via snail-mail back in the day are simply not possible these days.  So, schemes and scams have evolved.  As HostGator has grown over the years, we have become a larger and larger target for scammers.

We like to think these days that it’s pretty hard to get one over on us, we’re pretty sharp cookies with pretty keen eyes.  This wasn’t always necessarily true.  The scam that I am about to describe to you, when it was first perpetuated on us, did initially cost us about $20,000.  We were ultimately reimbursed these funds, but lesson learned!

In it’s most simple form, the scam works like this: Scammy McScammer targets a business or an individual and engages in the act of purchasing an item from them.  Let’s say the item in question costs $500.  Scammy will then send a check via FedEx or Priority USPS for $700 and contact the seller to inform them that they either “accidentally” or for some other made-up reason sent a check that was greater than the amount due and request that the balance be returned to them, in some way convincing the target that they should go ahead and send the amount prior to the initial check actually clearing… because it won’t.  The target sends the scammer a good check, which the scammer promptly cashes.  The fake check of course bounces and the scammer then has the target’s money.  Where does the scammer get these fake checks?  Anyone can easily purchase check-making software from virtually any office supply store and begin printing checks, be they for legitimate or illegitimate purposes.  If you have ever seen the movie Catch Me If You Can, it’s basically a modern day version of that scenario.

Where does HostGator fit into this scam?  We definitely didn’t receive fake checks and then mindlessly send out real ones.  What happened was scammers made fake HostGator checks (with real account and routing numbers) and sent those to their targets.  There are now multiple safeguards in effect to prevent this from ever being successful, so please don’t use this blog post as a how-to for beginning your scamming career.  We do receive about a dozen fake checks each month that are used in an attempt to scam an innocent individual or business.

The most recent attempt to utilize this scam involved a $2,850 check and the request to purchase a $100 Toyota Tundra factory stereo on Craigslist.  Essentially, the scammer said “here’s a $2,850 check, please deposit it into your ATM and take out the cash, keep an extra $100 for your trouble and send the rest to me via Western Union.”  Seriously.  If you’d like to see the actual email, click here.

The intended target of this scam smelled a rat and contacted us, as is what most often happens in these cases.  We now have not only the email that I shared with you, but also the original check and even the USPS envelope that was used by the scammer.  We also have a very healthy relationship with various levels of law enforcement.

Do not let yourself fall victim to an Internet scammer!  If something seems too good to be true, then it is.  If something seems like a scam, it is.  Don’t fall prey and don’t hand your hard-earned money over to any two-bit trickster.  Notify the proper authorities and let’s put criminals where they belong.

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