We all dread the experience and hope to never have to face it. You go to your website expecting to see your company information or ecommerce products but instead find it defaced. Or you try to log into the admin end of your website and are unable to. Even worse, you realize that someone has gained access to your company emails and used it to send out spam. You now have a hacked website. Suddenly, the realization begins to dawn on you; the sensitive company information they have access to. Or the loss in sales and customer trust, and the time and finances it will take to build them again. Or how to get off Google or Microsoft’s blacklisted websites. While it is something nobody wants to experience, the truth is so many organizations and businesses deal with it daily. In this post, we will take an in-depth look at what to do if your website gets hacked. We will also share ways to know if your website has been hacked and possible reasons it was hacked. While restoring a hacked website can sometimes be a difficult process, it is possible to recover from and prevent.
As you most certainly know, we currently live in the age of information technology. Among other things, this means that our daily lives run on some form of technology of the other. Seemingly simple things like working remotely or ordering an Uber involve a shockingly significant amount of data processes. As a businessperson, you’ve probably realized its endless opportunities and taken advantage with a website and social media presence. However, now that you have a website, Facebook, and Instagram page, what’s next? The fact that you have a website does not automatically mean you will get customers to buy your products. Additional effort must be put into maintenance and marketing strategies to get your products or services out there. We believe this is why most businesses are rarely able to make the most of their websites and social media presence. As a matter of fact, more websites get hacked due to lack of maintenance than all other reasons combined.
Before moving on, here are some related posts you might find equally relevant to the subject:
- Seven Things to Know Before Starting an Ecommerce Business
- Ten Legitimate Ways to Make Money Online
- Top Ten Benefits of having a Website for your Small Business
- How to Build an Online Presence for your Company
- Seven Useful Tips on How to Grow your Business Online
- Five Ways to Prepare your Business to Scale Up
- Five ways to increase your Web Traffic
- How to choose the Right Domain Name for your Website
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In the next section, we will share a few practical ways to know if your website has been hacked.
How to Know if your Website has been Hacked
Not knowing that your website has been hacked is possibly one of the worst things that can happen for a website owner. As you can imagine, this means the hackers will have free access into the website and its data without recourse. It also compounds whatever problems have occurred because they will continue for a while.
Here are some useful signs to know and practical ways to check if your website has been hacked:
- Website Redirects: If your visit your website and it automatically redirects to an unknown or unsavory website, you’ve probably been hacked. In such cases, the hackers gained access to your webhosting account and redirected your website traffic to theirs. In most cases, this can be resolved by checking your domain name redirects or contacting your webhost about the issue. It is also strongly advised that you confirm that your webhost admin email is correct and change your passwords.
- Inability to Log to your Website Admin: In this case, it could be that the hacker gained access to your website admin and changed your login details. To resolve this issue, you can regain access to your website admin from your webhost and reset your password. Additionally, it’s also advised that you review your website’s admin users and remove unfamiliar or unauthorized accounts.
- Very Slow Website Speed: In some cases, if you try to access your website and it takes a minute or two to load, it could also be hacked. In such cases, the hacker may be using your webhost’s bandwidth and other resources for nefarious purposes. In such situations, contacting your webhost and identifying the CPU processes that are slowing down your website may be helpful.
- You get Blacklisted by Google, Yahoo, Bing or other Search Engines: When this happens, website visitors will generally get a warning from their browser that your website is unsafe. If this happens, it certainly means you’ve been hacked. It also means Google or the Search Engine is taking active steps to prevent people from reaching your website. One way to check if you’ve been blacklisted by Google is to visit their Safe Browsing Site Status page. It will immediately let you know if you’ve been blacklisted. To get off a Search Engine’s blacklist, you must first fix the issue and then inform them of the fix. They will then review your website again and notify you via email if you’ve been removed from the blacklist.
- Spam Adverts and Popups: If you notice that you have unauthorized or unsavory adverts on your website, you’ve probably been hacked. In such cases, the hacker may have gained access to your website through an outdated theme or plugin. To fix the issue, you would need to update your themes, plugins, website CMS and scan your website.
- Strange looking Code on your Website Pages: Sometimes, when a website is hacked, the code gets displayed in the header or footer of your website. If you notice odd looking and unfamiliar code on your website, you’ve probably been hacked.
- Modified Website Files: If you notice that your website files have been changed without permission, you may have been hacked. Files for your website plugins, themes and CMS usually change after an update. However, if you notice that they have been changed without your direct input, you should take a closer look at what was changed. Usually, resetting the changed file may fix the issue. However, it may be a symptom of even bigger problems.
Possible Reasons why your Website may have been Hacked
A website could get hacked for any number of reasons. However, like we said earlier, the most common reason why is because of poor maintenance. If your website has been hacked, it’s a good idea to try to find out why it was hacked. Doing so could be helpful in ensuring that it doesn’t happen again.
Here are some of the most common reasons why a website can get hacked:
- Not Updating your Content Management System: Regardless of whether you use WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or any other CMS, updating regularly is almost compulsory. This is because when core vulnerabilities are found and fixed, hackers try to take advantage of them. Of course, such attacks are only successful on websites that have not been updated to the latest version.
- Incorrect File Permissions: File permissions are read, write, and edit rules set on the web server of your webhost. Having incorrect file permissions or changing them without proper research could give unauthorized persons access to your website files. With the right permissions, they can add code or change existing files to access your website admin account.
- Using Weak Passwords: Using weak passwords like “password” or “1234567” can be an other reason why a website gets hacked. Usually, its recommended that you use passwords with uppercase, lowercase, numerical and special characters. It’s also recommended that the password be at least eight characters long and not be a dictionary word.
- Outdated Themes and Plugins: Another common reason why websites get hacked is because they have outdated themes and plugins. It’s interesting to note that even when a plugin or theme is not in use, it should still be updated. An alternative would be to remove unused themes and plugins so they don’t create a vulnerability hackers can use.
- Insecure Web Hosting: Sometimes, websites get hacked because of security flaws with their Web hosting company. Therefore, webhosts must be selected after detailed research and inquiries.
What to Do if your Website gets Hacked
What do you do when you notice that your website has been hacked? How do you reduce its impact on your business and customers and get things back to normal?
In this section, we’ve listed some tangible steps anyone can take to recover from a hacked website.
- Contact your Web Host: In practically every scenario, the first thing to do when you notice a hack is to contact your webhosting company. Unless you host your website on your personal servers, this should be your first step. This is because your webhost can take immediate steps to fix and access the extent of damage that’s been done. Additionally, it notifies them in advance if the hacker attempts to take over your webhosting account and lock you out. Finally, some webhosts may be able to fix a hacked website by restoring it from their secure backups.
- Assess the damage: Next, it is equally important to assess the damage that’s been done or that will be done before its resolved. This is also necessary so appropriate stakeholders such as customers and staff can be notified of the breach. Generally, it is good business policy to inform customers and staff and clarify how the hack is being fixed.
- Restore from a previous Backup: In some cases, your IT team or webhost may have a clean backup of your website from before the hack. If so, you can restore your website back from the backup and perform necessary updates to prevent a recurrence. In other cases, you may need to pay your webhost for their secure backup of your website. Either way, this is usually the fastest way to begin fixing a hacked website.
- Change Passwords: Most often, when a website is hacked, the hacker will immediately create a secondary access point to the website. In some cases, they may create multiple ways to regain entry after the hack is identified. With such a hacked website, the trick is finding all unauthorized access points and blocking them. This of course would include changing login passwords and removing any new profiles created. Administrative emails would also need to be checked in case email forwarding was activated by the hacker.
- Update Plugins and Themes: After restoring your website from a previous backup, updates would need to be performed for outdated plugins and themes. The most updated versions of a plugin or theme are generally the least susceptible to hacking attempts.
- Install an Intrusion Detection System: Even if your website is not hacked, you can be sure that hackers will frequently try to find vulnerabilities. An intrusion detection system notifies you of hacking attempts and vulnerability checks being performed so you are aware. This includes attempts like brute force attacks, XSS, DDOS, etc. In addition, such security plugins check website files against original files to find unauthorized changes. They also identify the most common website vulnerabilities and help patch them to prevent a hack. Useful security plugins that perform these services include Wordfence, iThemes, WPMU Defender, etc. While they all have paid versions, their free versions are usually quite sufficient to scan and protect a website.
- Create a Maintenance Schedule: The final step on our list is to create a maintenance schedule for your website. This will ensure that your website CMS, Themes and Plugins are always kept up to date. One way to do this is to set aside a time every week when you review your website for updates. Another easier option is to hire a web design company to perform those updates for you.
When was the last time you updated your website CMS, Themes and Plugins? Does your website have any of the symptoms of being hacked? At Innovate Design Studios, we perform web design and maintenance services and would be glad to review your website. In fact, if you contact us today, we will perform a free evaluation of your website. On the other hand, have you had a hacked website in the past? How did you resolve it? Feel free to share your experiences with us in our comments section at the end of this post. As always, we would love to hear from you.
Today’s Funny Quote
Our funny quote for today is by Marilyn Monroe, the American Actress and Singer. She said:
Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.
What do you think of her quote? Let us know in the comments section at the end of this post. We would love to hear from you.
Did you know that Innovate Today is a part of Innovate Design Studios Ltd? We are a web design company that provide premium web design, website maintenance and graphics services. If you’d like to know more about the service we provide, feel free to check out our Services page. On the other hand, if you’d like to get a free, no obligation quote for your web design project, contact us to submit a quote request.
Have a great week ahead and we will see you again later in the week with more inspiring posts.
Innovate Design Studios creates innovative web design solutions that provide you with a secure, custom designed web presence that promotes your business and generates revenue and exposure.