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Happy That You're Using Wordpress for Your Website? So Are the Hackers!

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While hacking continues to be the hot topic of the day in political news, for those of us in the web development business, it's been top of mind for decades. 

Because hack attempts are almost as certain as death and taxes, everyone who takes security seriously maintains vigilance and takes care to make it more difficult for hackers to find a way to get into their websites or email. They use strong passwords, hardened firewalls, and solid security compliance standards that keep their web site platforms constantly updated. In so doing, they minimize their chance of having miscreants steal valuable personal or customer information, or take control of their digital presence to launch trojans and viruses on other computers, email accounts and networks.

As a web development leader, our mission has been to protect our client sites and email accounts from near constant hack attempts for decades. 

So we all laughed when we heard that one of the email accounts that was hacked in the recent election was vulnerable because the password was "password." But we found it ironic that many of those who laughed at that lack of concern for security still run their websites on WordPress.

WordPress is an open-source blogging tool that uses plug-ins to extend its capabilities and provide much of the functionality that content management systems like Drupal, Joomla! and Concrete5 or e-commerce platforms like Magento have had all along. Even though its back-end administrative UX is not very user-friendly, thousands of $48 themes and $15 plug-ins are available to provide small businesses, freelance designers and small agencies to create good-looking, but generic low-cost websites. That combination has allowed Wordpress to grow to host 27% of all the websites in the world.

It has also contributed to it becoming the most hacked platform on the web.

Hardly a week goes by without news stories reporting another phishing scam going viral. Hackers create bots to scour the web, identify thousands of hackable sites, then create fake bank, branded customer service or eCommerce login pages on those sites. They then use the mail program on those servers to send out millions of emails luring unsuspecting recipients to those pages to enter personal or credit card information where it's harvested and used for criminal purposes.

According to a 2016 study done by a leading website security analysis firm*, 78 percent of those hacked websites ran on WordPress. Joomla! was a distant second with 14%, 5% were running on Magento, 2% ran on Drupal. Concrete5 didn't even show up. 

Trivera requires that whenever a client of ours insists that we build their site on Wordpress (usually against our recommendation) that they have a service agreement that assures that we'll apply security patches immediately upon their release. Because we've learned from history, that agreement always also includes support provisions for mitigating hack attacks.

Whenever  I check my spam folder to make sure a legitimate email hasn't ended up there, I find several emails that have been sent by a WordPress site attempting to get me to go there and either enter my information or get infected by a trojan. Just last week, I found two more, which provided me with the impetus for this blog. One was running an older version of Wordpress with a widely known vulnerability (see image below).
 

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Example of a falsely-branded email sent from a hacked un-patched Wordpress site with a link to a that same site that autoforwards to another site that, without anti-virus protection would have infected my computer with a virus, torjan or ransomware.

But it's not just old, non-updated versions of WordPress with well-known vulnerabilities that are being hacked. The other email I received last week sent me to a hacked WordPress site running the most current version available at the time. Hackers had found and exploited a vulnerability before Wordpress even had a chance to identify and send a patch to close the vulnerability.

 

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Example of a falsely-branded email sent from a hacked totally current  Wordpress site with a link to a that same site that autoforwards to another site that, without anti-virus protection would have infected my computer with a virus, torjan or ransomware.


With WordPress, the question is not whether your site will get hacked, but when it will get hacked.

Smart marketers and business owners spend more to hire developers with a greater sensibility for security build their websites using content management systems…like Concrete5, Magento, Joomla! And Drupal…that have a much lower risk of being hacked. It will cost more, but avoiding the legal, reputational and financial damage to your business and your brand when your site has been found responsibe for the theft of visitor information makes it an investment worth the price.  

*Sucuri Website Hacked Report 2016 Q1

Trivera turns 21!

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Having been in business 21 years has allowed us to celebrate several birthdays with a look back at how far we've come. But 21 is symbolic of the entry into of adulthood and typically marks the beginning of a new level of maturity and accountability. And so, we're using this milestone to look forward.

The year ahead will be marked by the successful transformation of the ideal Trivera client relationships, as they evolve from exclusively website-based project work to deeper, more strategic ongoing digital marketing partnerships. That change began last year with the addition of new team members with skill sets in branding, integrated digital and inbound marketing strategies. It has continued with the development of a new, transformational 12 month process, one that begins with brand discovery and strategy development, and continues with tactical plans to strengthen every aspect of our clients' digital marketing efforts with constant monitoring, analysis and improvement. That new process is appropriately named "Evolve."

In addition to the new process, we've also deepened the strengths we've been known for for the past 21 years. Trivera's team now has greater depth in the areas of organic SEO, PPC and Social Media. We've also added Magento and Concrete5 certification to our credentials to back up our significant experience developing websites in both platforms.

While we're growing by addition, we are also maturing by subtraction. Over the next year, we'll be continuing our efforts to transition much of our hosting operation from our own data center to fully managed third party operations that specialize in Magento and Concrete5 hosting and 24/7 support. That effort will allow us to focus our own internal resources on the quality and management of the sites and applications we've developed, and less on the equipment, environment and security necessary for their operation.

Our client list will also continue its shift from smaller limited "website-only" engagements to one of fewer, but larger, deeper, long term ones that take advantage of all Trivera has to offer.

Watch for our own new trivera.com website to launch in February. The site will communicate our new direction and highlight more of our new client success stories while still preserving the archival information resources we've developed over decades of digital marketing leadership.

Over the past 21 years, how we've used the internet to support our businesses and organizations has evolved. What was once referred to as "Cyberspace," "the world wide web," the "CB radio of the 90's," the "information superhighway," the "dotcom boom"...and crash...the "new economy," have all evolved to become simply an integral part of every person's...and every business'...daily life. We're proud that we've been able to evolve with it and help hundreds of businesses leverage the power of digital marketing we knew existed when we opened for business on January 16, 1996.

About Tom Snyder

Tom Snyder - TriveraTom Snyder, founder, president and CEO of Trivera, a 20 year old strategic digital marketing firm, with offices in suburban Milwaukee.  Tom has been blogging since 1998, sharing the insight gained from helping businesses and organizations re-inforce their brands by taking full advantage of digital and Web technology as powerful tactics in their marketing and communications strategy.

 

Why I (and Our Clients) Love the Concrete5 CMS

by Serene Mireles, Web Design/Front-end Development Specialist

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Concrete5 is a powerful open source content management system (CMS). I started using concrete5 (C5) when I first came to Trivera a year ago. Previously, I worked with proprietary CMSs and other open source platforms that have a steep learning curve. Not C5. Concrete5 is user friendly for content editors, developers, and designers. I’m not the only designer who loves concrete5—it was the winner of the CMS Critic Award for Best CMS for Designers of 2015.

Here are a few of its many features:

  • In-context editing and a Microsoft Word-like content editor. All page edits are done on the page itself once you are logged in and in edit mode. No more filling out web forms and guessing where the information will end up on the page. 
     
  • Mobile Optimized & Responsive. Your website will look good on any screen size or device. 
     
  • Easy to set up and use right out of the box. You don’t need to purchase any extensions to achieve the look or functionality you want. 
     
  • Forms and Surveys. Easily created in few simple steps without any code. 
     
  • Developer Community. There is an active concrete5 community where you can get support from hundreds of other developers in the forums. 
     
  • Scalability and Extendability. Hundreds of add-ons (eCommerce, inventory management, customer management, fulfillment, the list goes on and on) make it possible for your site to do nearly anything you can think of.


Our clients love it too! Here’s what some of them have to say about concrete5:

“As a developer I've worked with numerous CMS solutions. Some have been cumbersome to manage, others are limited by a simplistic client interface. Concrete5 accomplishes the best balance between the two: it is both powerful and simple. A user-friendly interface lets editors manage site content with ease and minimal training. Developers can easily create themes, blocks, and add-ons to create a powerful, custom-tailored platform.” — Sean McMahon, MMSD

“We really like the flexibility and ease of changing evergreen content blocks with the stacks option. Certain aspects of our organization can change at a moment's notice, and we need to be able to update site-wide content in the fastest way possible. Stacks allow us to do that in the blink of an eye!” — Erik Bergstrom and Erin Donegan, Dental Associates

“Concrete5 allows me to turn a unique design into a dynamic, customizable site in a short amount of time and with no fuss. Unlike other CMS options, my designs are not bound by anything other than my own limitations or goals.” — Bilan Hockers, Potawatomi Hotel & Casino


If you’re not satisfied with your CMS, or if your website isn’t built with a CMS and you can’t update it yourself, it’s time to check out concrete5! Visit concrete5.org to learn more.
 

About Serene Mireles

serene01.jpgSerene Mireles is one of Team Trivera's Web design/Front End Development specialists. In her role, Serene uses her 18 years of digital design experience to build websites focused on user journeys to create ROI for our clients. Serene was the first developer in the world to be certified for Concrete5 version 7. 

A Shout-out to Trivera Client MMSD During Water Quality Month

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August is water quality month. Here at Trivera, we're observing the month by kicking off a new project for one of our newest clients, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. We've actually been working with MMSD since earlier this year, migrating all their web properties from an expensive proprietary Content Management System to Concrete5. We're well into the migration of milorganite.com, and are just now beginning to migrate the remaining MMSD brands: mmsd.com, Huntgreen, Basement Connection and Fresh Coast 740.

At Trivera, we start every client engagement with a brand discovery process. During MMSD's brand discovery, we learned some really interesting things about them and their commitment to the environment.
Did you know that MMSD:

  • Is responsible for water reclamation and flood management for about 1.1 million people
  • Serves 28 communities in the Greater Milwaukee area
  • Allows licensed hunters to use MMSD land during hunting season
  • Has been recycling nutrient-rich microbes from the city's water reclamation process into Milorganite, a natural fertilizer, since 1926
  • Is committed to meeting a goal of having a net 100 percent of its energy supplied from renewable resources 

Trivera's efforts are focused on making MMSD's digital marketing efforts both more successful and more efficient. Greater results for less money means MMSD can continue to be great stewards of our natural resources while also making them more efficient with their financial resources.

Trivera is honored to be partners with this high profile agency, working to support their efforts to improve the quality of our water. You can learn more about MMSD and milorganite in this video: 

Open Source: The Clear Choice for CMS Development

by Tom Snyder

My digital agency opened its doors in January of 1996. Back then, there were no proprietary Content Management Systems. Microsoft was still dismissing the notion of the web as a viable platform for business or e-commerce activity. If a website needed functionality, unless we could find something at Matt's Script Archive to accomplish the task, we built most of it from the ground up in Perl.slideshow01.jpg

As time went on, we simply continued to ride the open source path. We assembled a huge collection of functional applications we had built for client sites that could be added to and modified for new ones. Shopping carts, contact forms, opt-in email list managers, employment opportunity listings, content editors, slide shows, all built as open source using PHP.

A few years later came the emergence of Content Management Systems, which contained—as a package—many of the functional elements we previously had relied upon our own resources to create. Drupal, Joomla!, Wordpress, and others were emerging as the default new development platforms for most digital agencies who had followed the same path as ours.

Then came platforms like Magento and Concrete5, which began with a view to eventually evolve into enterprise solutions with a price tag designed to achieve profit motives. But the initial efforts of their foundational community editions were still fueled by the passion of development communities who helped to develop the core functionality. Along with them came a huge array of $5, $50, and $100 plugins and extensions to add custom functionality to meet almost any client needs. And because the open source model extended to those plug-ins and extensions, individual developers could make further modifications to meet even more demanding client requirements.

And all of this was designed to run on license-fee-free Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP operating systems running on low-overhead hardware.

The common thread was that all of these were—and still are—tools developed by people with a common purpose. That purpose was a desire to help the internet achieve its potential by providing individuals, businesses, and organizations with amazingly robust and fully functional, but still cost-effective, web presences.

During this same time, several software companies used investment money to create expensive proprietary content management and e-commerce systems designed to run on operating systems and databases with enormous licensing fees, and requiring lots of expensive hardware. Total cost of implementation and ownership ran five to 10 times that of their open source counterparts.

For the mega-corporations with huge budgets that are used to spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on just about everything they do, and that believe no credible solution comes without an equally huge price tag, it provides the opportunity for lots of money to change hands.

That's fine if that's your business model. However, for a smaller digital agency, it's hard to start every web development project watching tens of thousands of dollars pass through from the client to the software companies just to create the development platform. That takes a lot of money off the table that could have been used to create more functionality, or pay for a year of post-launch support for inbound marketing and other enhancements.

Additionally, the open source model has always provided us with the flexibility and customization possibilities to always provide the client with a user experience and backend functionality that adapts to their specific needs and business model. Many closed source proprietary systems do just the opposite, forcing the business to accept the rules and functionality limits built into the system.

Smart digital agencies know that if providing value, return on investment, and total customization are all key components to their brand and value proposition, the open source model is, and has always been, the far better choice.

This article originally appeared at Opensoruce.com

Craig Schneider Joins Team Trivera

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Craig Schneider has joined TeamTrivera as a designer/front-end developer.

Craig is one of those guys who possesses the unique talent of being able to create awesome, intuitive, user-friendly website designs and then using frameworks and content management systems to turn them into fully functional websites. 
 
Craig comes aboard after a long tenure at Kalmbach publishing where most recently he was Interactive Art Director. In that role, he had been overseeing all of Kalmbach's digital properties including their 20 web sites and a team of 2 designers.  He has also been part of their Internet Strategic Development group and participated in the ideation and planning of their web-based products.
 
Craig was instrumental in leading Kalmbach into the Digital realm. On top of building the layouts and interactivity, he also worked with their in-house development team to build custom storefronts for 3 of their publications that had in-app purchases. And most recently, Craig helped lead them into responsive web design, moving 10 of their sites in that direction.  All of that experience has combined make him the perfect fit for our team.
 
When not working, Craig is an avid golfer, loves playing softball, outdoor recreation. Like the rest of the members of TeamTrivera he enjoys spending time with his family. He is also a loyal cheesehead who loves going to Packer, Badger, and Brewer games.
 
 

Scott Zsori Becomes Team Trivera's Newest Member

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Scott Zsori has joined Team Trivera as our newest back end developer.    

Scott first talked to us about coming here in 2002, but the stars weren't correctly aligned at the time. 12 years later, things finally worked out for him to come aboard as our newest back-end developer.

Scott has been working in the web as long as Trivera has, doing all of the same things, in the same languages and platforms as we do it. If it is needed for web development, he knows it, and knows it very well. But he also knows how to communicate highly technical concepts to non-technical people, making him perfect for his position at Trivera.
 
An example of just how smart Scott is: In his spare time, he created and is currently the president of TheTVDB.com, a site that contains an open database of television metadata used by thousands of websites and apps, including Plex, Kodi and some of the world's largest search engines.  While you might not be familiar with the site, you're probably actually a user of the data housed in it. The site's API is used by hundreds of thousands of people, gets 6 billion hits (yes, that billion with a B) and consumes 120TB of bandwidth monthly.
 
Even with all that he has free time! He enjoys spending time with his son and wife, playing video games like Dota 2 and Minecraft, cooking, debating politics, camping, swimming, and playing volleyball.  He loves the Green Bay Packers, his Kindle, his two dogs, a multitude of pond and aquarium fish, and dad jokes.  In high school he placed first in Wisconsin in his division in Academic Decathlon and was ranked in the top 50 Quake players in the world.  He's considered the best dad in the world by at least one first grader.

 

Trivera and Concrete5 Shine at Local CMS Showdown

Billed as a no-holds-barred Content Management System Showdown, a group of Milwaukee area developers met on May 10, at Bucketworks for a Web414 panel to discuss...and demonstrate...the comparative benefits and shortcomings of 6 major CMS platforms.

Trivera VP of Business Development and Client Strategy Chris Remington invited Trivera customer Chris Graham from Potawatomi Bingo Casino to tag team the presentation on the capabilities of Concrete5. Among the contenders were ModX, Wordpress, Sitecor, Drupal and Joomla!. While the other presentations focused on developer-focused feature sets and perecentage of market, Trivera's approach focused on the client experience.

While no CMS "won," the fact that, with a depth of experience in Concrete5, Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla!, Digitalus and Expression Engine, Trivera is able to dig deep to discover every client's needs and create a web presence in the CMS that makes the most sense for them.

See the presentation here (cue in to 51:00 to see the Trivera Concrete5 Demo):

Potawatomi Bingo Casino Bets on Trivera and Concrete5

Potawatomi Bingo Casino is one of the most state-of-the-art gaming facilities in the Midwest. So it would only make sense for their new site to be built on one of the web’s most comprehensive, state-of-the-art development platforms. An all new version of Paysbig.com, the website for Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, built on the Concrete5 development platform, was launched by Trivera Interactive on December 13, 2010.

The project began with the strategic decision by the Casino to empower the managers of the many business units to update their own areas of the site with a tool that could balance power with ease of use. While Trivera has worked with several different content management systems, concrete5 was mutually determined to be the best choice for Potawatomi Bingo Casino’s new site. A relative newcomer to the CMS arena, concrete5’s array of powerful plug-ins, extensions and add-ons, plus an extremely user-friendly administrative interface made it an obvious choice.

The new website is not the first major initiative undertaken by Milwaukee’s Trivera Interactive for Potawatomi Bingo Casino since becoming their primary web and interactive services partner early in 2010. The relationship began with a migration of all of the Casino's web assets to Trivera’s world-class hosting center. Trivera has also migrated and updated other online systems used by the Casino.

While Trivera has developed hundreds of complex web-based applications for clients over their 15 years in business, with dozens built using various content management systems, the new Potawatomi Bingo Casino site was their most ambitious site to date created using concrete5. The wide and varying business units within the Casino include several restaurants,  entertainment venues, bingo hall, off-track betting room, table games and slot machines. Trivera’s decision to use concrete5 to be the platform to bring all those business units to the website proved to be the right one as the project launched, fully functioning on the originally scheduled launch date, on time, on scope and on budget.

Potawatomi’s web administrator Christopher Graham says: “I really am amazed how the Trivera team was able to take my mock-ups and bring them to life. Also, I was thrilled with their feedback, communication and forward thinking."

Trivera President Tom Snyder added: “It’s amazing to see what happens when incredible talent, a proven process, powerful tools, mutual respect and hard work all come together.

About Potawatomi Bingo Casino:

Located at 1721 West Canal Street, Milwaukee, WI, Potawatomi Bingo Casino is the Midwest's number one entertainment destination. With nearly 100 table games, 3,100 slot machines, 1,350-seat Bingo Hall, Poker Room and Off-Track Betting Room, the Casino offers thrilling action 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Casino also has a 500-seat theater that features world-class entertainment and five unique restaurants including, The Buffet, Dream Dance Steak, The Fire Pit Sports Bar & Grill, Menomonee Valley Food Court and RuYi. For more information, visit paysbig.com.

About Trivera:

Located in the historic Menomonee Falls Mill building in suburban Milwaukee, WI, Trivera Interactive is one of the region’s oldest and most respected Web development, e-commerce and marketing firms. Since 1996, focusing first on website design and development, and branching out into email marketing, search engine optimization and Social Media, Trivera has been helping businesses and organizations all over the world use its unique combination of smart design and creative technology to leverage the web as a powerful brand reinforcing tool. Trivera clients include General Mitchell International Airport, Usinger’s Famous Sausage, Frabill, RegalWare Worldwide, ZBB Energy and dozens of other local, regional and national businesses and organizations.