Update, Nov 2014: Since I wrote this blog post, I have ditched Jekyll and Octopress (mostly because of the pain of setting up Ruby, not because of those pieces of software themselves). This blog is still static, but is now generated using Pelican, a Python project.

The Problem

Last week I received an e-mail from the RSA Anti-Fraud Command Center. It related to my personal blog:

It appears that your website cmyers.net has been hacked by a fraudster. It is now hosting a phishing attack against RBC. Please remove the fraudulent folders/files as soon as possible and secure your website as it has been compromised. Please note that it is possible that the fraudulent content is embedded in your website’s legitimate files.


It turns out the claim was in fact true. There were new files in my wp-admin folder for my wordpress install. When I loaded these files in a browser, it looked like the home page for a bank.

I had been hacked.

Turns out it’s actually quite a common thing. WordPress is a common (and apparently quite easy) target for these types of hacks. It comes down to a combination of it’s popularity, lack of really security-centric design, and the fact that it’s written in PHP.

I considered a few options. Do I take the time to properly harden my PHP5 install and reinstall wordpress? Or do I change systems?

Enter Jekyll

My friend Andrew generates his blog using jekyll. Jekyll is a “simple, blog aware, static site generator.” It’s super-cool, check it out. However, unlike WordPress, it doesn’t have a bunch of built-in themes, or even a theme directory that I could find. You have to write your own CSS and HTML templates, which it uses to generate the site. But it generates an almost completely static site – the exception would be if you build in functionality for Disqus comments or put your Twitter roll in the sidebar.

If I was going to switch systems, static is what I was looking for. The resulting site is much faster than a WordPress site, and much more secure. But I didn’t have the time, knowledge, or creativity to create a theme from scratch, and porting my theme from WordPress would be a many hour project.

Enter Octopress

Then I received a tweet from my friend Julio that said to check out Octopress. It’s built on top of Jekyll with built-in support for great syntax highlighting, Disqus comments, social integration – everything I was looking for. And a great default theme, which I could use as a jumping point for my own. I was sold.

The rest is history. I’ll spell out the details in my next post.