I got email this morning from a schoolteacher who shares links to my story structure article with her young students, telling me that the links out from my sidebar under the heading “Recently popular” were going to porn sites.

Although somewhat dubious, I went and checked immediately, and discovered that it was true. Ugh.

Those links were generated by a widget that (when it hasn’t been hacked) uses site traffic statistics to identify the most visited posts and pages on my site over the past week or so and link to them. It was still doing the first part—that is, the items under the heading were names of my recent high-traffic pages—but the links no longer went to my pages. Instead, they were going to porn sites.

I immediately removed the widget from my sidebar and disabled the plugin that provided it. I looked at other links on the site and didn’t see any similar problems elsewhere, so I’m hoping that was the extent of the hacking.

I also sent email to the guy behind the plugin, telling him about the problem and asking if there was any diagnostic information I can provide.

The stats package that I use also tracks outbound clicks, so I can see that a total of 4 clicks today went to one or another of those sites. I looked at stats for the past several days and didn’t see any other outbound clicks to illegitimate sites, so I’m hoping that (with the help of that teacher) I managed to nip this thing in the bud.

Apologies to anyone who got directed to one of those pages!

I’m still investigating, and will add an update if I learn anything further.

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