Notebook: Those darned bots and other perils of the digital age

Wednesday morning started a little rough.

Readers of the Missoula Current logged on for the morning news, only to have our website redirect them to suspicious locations that came with warnings of malicious content.

We’re sorry for that.

When I logged on at 7 a.m., I was greeted with a list of email messages from concerned readers suggesting our site had been hacked. A few phone calls as well. Other members of our team had discovered the problem hours earlier.

In more than three years, this is the first time we’ve experienced this, though it has happened to nearly every newspaper with a digital presence at one point or another. I always suspected our day would come, I was just hoping it wouldn’t be today.

After confirming the problem, we contacted the Missoula company that handles the technical side of our site, and it responded quickly. The Missoula Current was back up by 9 a.m. and the good news is, we weren’t directly hacked.

Rather, it turned out to be a bot or virus or something of the sort that found a flaw in one of our plugins. It did its work from there.

In my early days of reporting, sometimes the press would break down or the delivery drivers couldn’t make it through the storm to toss the morning paper on the porch. I guess there’s an analogy in that – the modern version of the news delayed by an invisible bot that creeps its way around the equally invisible e-universe.

At any point, we wanted to thank our readers for pointing out the issue and for being patient while we got things back up. And thank you again for your continued support. We’re here for you and because of you, and we take pride in telling stories that matter each and every day.