GUIDE

Website Hacked? Here’s what to do.

Website Hacked? Here’s what to do.

Have you had your website hacked? The first thing to remember is you’re not alone. According to Forbes, around 30,000 sites are hacked every day. Some techies even lightheartedly joke that having your website hacked at least means people are noticing it!

Such flippancy won’t be of any comfort to you if you’re experiencing the sinking feeling that comes with discovering your site is unexpectedly down due to a hack or a Distributed Denial of Service (DDos) attack.

So let’s assume you’re reading this because you’ve had your website hacked. Perhaps you’ve discovered it’s been replaced with a malicious page, or you’ve heard about a problem from a customer or your web hosting provider? In this article, I’ll take you through what to do next.

Website hacked? How to fix it.

1. Don’t panic!

Panic is a natural reaction to having your website hacked, but remember that based on statistics there are probably 29,999 other people dealing with the same thing at the same time.

It’s really crucial to act carefully and methodically at times like these. Taking action in a rush could make things worse. The chances are that you’ll need to employ some research skills and work with your web host to get things back to normal, and so you might as well make your peace with the fact that sorting things out is going to take a little time.

Keeping it together when you deal with your web host will also make them far more inclined to help you than if you flip into “unhinged mode!”

2. Establish whether customers are impacted

The next thing to do is work out how bad things are. If your website is hacked but it’s “only” a small blog that doesn’t process financial transactions or customer data, things really aren’t that bad. This isn’t to belittle the fact that you still have a time-consuming muddle on your hands, but the world won’t end if your site disappears for a day or two.

If your website is part of your business, it’s all rather more serious. If you hold customer data, you’ll need to ascertain quickly if there’s been a data breach as part of the hack. If so, you may have some legal issues to contend with. If your website is part of your customer service or sales processes, you’ll need to take some steps to inform your customers, and potentially establish alternative ways to process orders, so you don’t lose money during the fixing process.

Website customers

Social media can be helpful here; Internet users are used to site outages from even the biggest companies, and are often surprisingly forgiving if they are kept informed. It’s poor communication that can really rile them.

3. Consider your restore options

If you’ve used a company like WP-Engine for your web hosting you may really be in luck, because they take regular snapshots of your site. It may even be possible to simply roll back to a version of the website from before the hack happened.

If you don’t have this kind of backup system in place, it’s still worth talking to your hosting firm about restore possibilities. If you DO have it in place, you should still follow the other steps in this article, just in case any vulnerabilities remain on your site.

4. Work with your Web host

Web hosting companies vary considerably in how helpful they are when you’ve had your website hacked. This is why we thoroughly test out the customer service side of things when we carry out our web hosting reviews.

On a personal level, I’ve had really good experiences with Dreamhost when I’ve had sites hacked. They provide specific information on the files affected and do a lot to help, including rescanning your site once you think it’s fixed to confirm you’ve not missed anything.

As alluded to above, now is a good time to work in partnership with your host, and not the time to play the blame game. You’ll want your site back up and they’ll want to remove hacked files from their servers – as such, you ARE both on the same team.

5. Check, check and check again

Once you’ve worked with your host to get everything back up and running and finally see your site back online, the natural instinct is to want to get everything rapidly back to normal – and perhaps jump on Twitter and tell your customers everything is fine again.

Now’s the time to slow down a little, and check thoroughly that everything is working properly. Check every page of your site and all the functionality. Now is not the time to jump the gun and assume everything’s fixed. If necessary, ask your hosting company to check one last time that everything looks right from their perspective too.

6. Contact Google if necessary

Sometimes when your website is hacked, Google will quickly notice and put up one of their “This site may be hacked” messages. If this has happened to you, you’ll need to contact them to recheck your site so the warning is removed and the site can return to the search listings.

Google reconsideration request

You’ll find details on following that process here.

7. Work to reduce the chances of having your website hacked in the future

First off, change every single password related to your site, and make sure you use complex passwords. There are usually numerous hosting-related passwords to think about including FTP logins, control panel credentials, and WordPress logins – and you MUST change them all.

Then, it’s time to think about what you can do to minimize the chance of having your website hacked again. One thing you can do is look at CloudFlare’s security services that can be easily integrated with many hosting packages and provide lots of extra security. You may also wish to reconsider any security scanning or backup extras offered by your host that could make recovery quicker and easier next time.

If you’ve yet to choose a host for your website, check out our detailed hosting reviews.

IMAGE CREDITS: Pixabay, Picserver


Published on: April 29,2016.
Ben was a geek long before "geek chic," learning the ropes on BBC Micros, before moving on to Atari STs and IBM compatibles. He was "online" using a 1200bps modem before the Internet was even a thing. Now, after two decades in the industry, he writes about technology for various publications, operates a few websites of his own, and runs a bespoke IT consultancy based in London.

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