Hacked websites happen every day. One of the biggest nightmares for a business owner is the day you discover your website has been hacked. Hacks come in all shapes and sizes, from denial-of-service attacks to the compromise of personal information. Any of these can be devastating to your business. Understanding why hacks happen and how to protect your company website will go a long way toward preserving your reputation.
Why Hackers Target Websites
Many times, hacks occur at random as a matter of opportunity. Hackers seek out websites that are easy to attack because of vulnerabilities found within that site’s code. They also seek out low-hanging fruit like weak passwords or unsecured sites. These hacks are the equivalent of a kid walking down the street checking to see who left their car unlocked. But what do hackers get out of the experience? Some of the most common rewards include:
- Financial gain
- Spreading malware
- Compromising your computer or network
- Social hacktivism
How You Find Out About It
It’s possible that your website could be hacked and you won’t know about it for some time. By the time you learn of the problem, the damage has been done. Sometimes you will get an alert about the hack in the form of a notification from Google or your hosting provider.
Google Search Console Message
This notice comes when you have linked your website to Google Search Console. It is helpful because it serves as an advance notice. Here are directions on connecting your site to the Google Search Console with the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin.
Notice in Google Chrome (red screen of doom)
This is the warning that shows up when someone tries to visit your site and Google has already flagged it as malicious. At this point, hopefully someone will call you up and tell you they saw this on your site.
“This site may be hacked” in Google Search Results Page
“This site may harm your computer” in Google Search Results Page
The above two examples are going to show up before anyone even visits your site. Sometimes the hacked text will also show up in the black text under the warning, spreading the hacker’s message before anyone even visits your site.
“Resource limit is reached” notice from website hosting company
(508 Server Response Code)
This one can be very deceptive. You may be led to believe that your website is having a surge in traffic because your blog is so awesome. If you site is compromised, the reality is that the hackers are using up all of your resources. If you have an economy, shared hosting provider, they may not even attempt to diagnose the hack, but “up sell” you on the need for more resources (I’ve seen this “up sell” scenario happen, it’s not pretty when a hack turns into root level access of your entire web server). Look into the cause of the 508 error before upgrading an already broken website.
Factors That Contribute to Vulnerabilities
Websites are a little like houseplants. You have to take care of them. Just like you wouldn’t simply plunk a houseplant down and not water it, you shouldn’t ignore your website either. You need to keep things updated and secure at all times. Some of the factors to address include:
- Poor personal computer security, such as weak or repeated passwords
- Email security
- Plugins and widgets that are not updated
- Exploits of application vulnerabilities
How You Can Protect Your WordPress Site
This is one case where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Nowhere is site security more important than when you’re trying to protect it from would-be hackers. These efforts include:
- Using strong passwords
- Limiting the number of admin users on your site
- Use SFTP or another means of secure file transfer.
- Keeping your WordPress site updated
- Utilizing a website monitoring service can also help to catch issues, often before they become a problem
- Have routine backups of your website
- At minimal, employ basic WordPress security measures.
What to Do if Your WordPress Site is Hacked
So let’s say that your worst business nightmare has come true and you’ve discovered your site has been hacked. Depending on the hack, there may be a fair amount of damage control you’ll have to do. And while you’re dealing with the public fallout, you’ll also want to take some steps to get your site back to normal:
- Back up your site – Before you start to tinker with code, perform a full backup of your site, in the event that something goes wrong and you have to start all over. (Regardless, stop reading and backup your site right now.)
- Identify suspicious code and links – Examine the code on your site and determine what doesn’t belong. You’ll have to understand the code of your site to be able to do this.
- Download hacked files and clean them – When you discover the hacked bits of code, you’ll have to remove that code from the affected files.
- Replace infected files on your site with the newly cleaned ones – Once you correct the affected code, you’ll want to re-upload the entire site.
- Rescan your site – There are online tools to scan your site, including Google’s Safe Browsing Checker, Google Search Console, and Sucuri.
- Resubmit your site – If you were flagged by a search engine or a security monitoring list (i.e. Norton, McAfee), you will need to resubmit your site for review and reclassification.
- Change ALL of your passwords – every password that has anything to do with your site (user accounts, database(s), FTP, etc.).
If all of that feels like a lot of effort or you don’t understand it, you may benefit from moving your site to a host that will monitor for and resolve issues in your website’s code.
Choosing a Proactive WordPress Website Host
How much is your website worth to your business? Even a small hack to your website can disrupt your business and damage customer relationships. WordPress hosting with Lieberman Technologies comes with monitoring for vulnerabilities and hacks, allowing you to focus on your core business. You’ll know your site is safe and secure because we keep an eye on it 24/7, acting upon vulnerabilities as they arise.
Not hosting your WordPress website with Lieberman Technologies? We can move your site to our WordPress hosting and secure it, cleaning up any hacks or vulnerabilities along the way. Standard items included in our WordPress hosting:
- Load-balancing to easily and automatically handle traffic spikes
- Backups of your database and file system
- Monitoring for updates to WordPress, themes, and plugins
- Installing available updates for WordPress, themes, and plugins
- WordPress performance enhancements
- WordPress security reinforcements
- Proactive supervision of daily activity on your site
- WordPress vulnerability monitoring
Partnering with a website host that provides security and monitoring of your WordPress site can be worth every penny you spend. Don’t let hackers ruin your business – let Lieberman Technology handle website hosting for you!