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tagDiv Newspaper Contains Malware

Thousands of bloggers and publishers around the world had a grim wake-up call after tagDiv Newspaper theme accidentally activated its “kill all humans” feature and high-jacked sites that had it installed – unfortunately, that includes Tarmac Life.

What actually happened?

tagDiv Newspaper support forum flooded with complaints
tagDiv Newspaper support forum flooded with complaints.

Sites all over the world began reporting tagDiv Newspaper theme taking down and locking up their sites due to unpaid license fees. Turns out that tagDiv Newspaper theme includes a secret and hidden function that allows the theme’s builders to take over any site that has it installed whenever they want and replace the site’s original content with whatever they find more suitable.

Whilst the background to this function appears to be a noble fight against software piracy, it is also a daunting thought for many of the over 111,000+ tagDiv Newspaper theme license holders.

Why is it not just a glitch?

The glitch is that this function inside the tagDiv Newspaper theme activated in error and that’s fine; computers do weird and wonderful things all the time. The problem, however, is that this function exists in the tagDiv Newspaper theme in the first place!

What site owner in their right mind would knowingly think it might be a good idea or reasonable to give their theme developer the ability to lock down your site whenever they want? It’s not just a case of not worrying about it as long as the bills are paid; that kind of power is not dished out easily and I’d like to meet the person who’d knowingly agree to include such an override to their life’s work. So, of course, the coders at tagDiv opted to hide their little backdoor. Unfortunately for them, that door has just flung wide open.

tagDiv Newspaper is a cyber security risk

Whilst the tagDiv Newspaper WordPress theme makes it really easy to create a great looking news blog, the fact that they hide these kinds of functions in their product is highly questionable. Even if tagDiv’s directors would never exercise the power they hold over the sites that use their code, it doesn’t mean that some clever clogs North Korean hacker type wouldn’t now worm their hands onto this feature and make use of it just because they can.

Even if the North Koreans don’t get there, all it takes is one disgruntled tagDiv employee or contractor to decide to have some fun.

This makes tagDiv Newspaper theme an unacceptable proposition for us at Tarmac Life and we’ve removed every element of tagDiv Newspaper off our site.

Anger at tagDiv Newspaper Spills Over

Angry posts on tagDiv Newspaper forum
Not a fun day to be a tagDiv Newspaper theme support person

tagDiv Newspaper theme’s support forum is a lively place right now. Bloggers, writers and webmasters from all over the world have crowded in there to seek help and vent their anger. Unfortunately, help is thin on the ground as the solution offered by tagDiv Newspaper theme support team doesn’t actually work, but they keep copy and pasting the same advice over and over again and their customers are growing angry. It’s a tagDiv Newspaper Masterclass of how not to deal with a crisis… and this is a crisis for tagDiv. It remains to be seen if their upcoming boilerplate apology and promise that it will never happen again will be enough to regain the trust of the world’s digital publishers.

But Tarmac Life Looks Weird!

Yes it does. We have replaced the tagDiv Newspaper theme with something different. Something faster. Something better in every way. Unfortunately, we weren’t planning to replace tagDiv Newspaper anytime soon, but were forced to do it at zero notice and that has caused no end of rendering errors and problems.

After 3 hours of completely offline as a victim of tagDiv Newspaper theme’s malware attack, at least we’re once again back online and we’ll keep fixing all the broken furniture through the upcoming days and weeks.

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3 Responses

  1. Finally, thanks God there is an article about this stupid practice of newspapers by tagdiv. You should tip this story to The Verge, Engadget…

  2. There is an update that came out a few hours ago. It fixes things.
    Most themes that have a code you put to register will have some kind of element to do this.

    Yes, miscommunications do occur.

    This post you wrote could be libel. Accusations without proof.

    1. Hi Jack and thanks for your comment. I’m glad tagDiv has fixed the problem. It’s not just themes; I’d say most paid plugins have built-in piracy protection that stops new updates if foul play is suspected. I’ve never come across them taking over the whole site. As for the post being libelous, that’d be for the courts to decide. We have freedom of speech and freedom of press here in New Zealand and we define malware as something that intentionally causes harm to the target system and a bug is something that does so unintentionally. On this occasion, it appears there was a “bug” that initiated the “malware” to activate. The purpose of this malware was to take down and lock the host site; That was its purpose and intention. This is “harmful” to the host sites that were taken down. Therefore, this was either a case of a “software bug” initiating the activation of “malware” on the host system or – if there was no bug – malware was activated intentionally.

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