They’re out there. You don’t want to encounter one, but hackers are all over the internet. They strike fast and hard, and you may not even know it. If your website is hacked, the consequences could be dire for you and your company. You could lose valuable data, including customer information. Google may blacklist your website, which will hurt your reputation and revenue. To protect yourself and your business against threats to your site’s security, make sure you know what to look for. Here are some signs that suggest your site has been hacked.
1. Your site is receiving more traffic than usual.
If you’re receiving a lot more traffic than usual, but the increase doesn’t seem to line up with anything you’ve done differently (no new product launch, no sale, no press coverage), then something may be amiss.
Pay attention to who’s showing up on your site and how they got there. If the traffic is not from your usual audience (i.e., if most of it consists of Internet users from countries where you typically don’t see a lot of traffic), or if it’s landing on obscure pages on your site via unknown sources, this could be an indication that something’s not right.
Don’t overlook the obvious. If all that extra traffic isn’t converting into sales or creating any visible impact on your business–but your marketing spend is increasing–there might be a problem with your website security.
2. Your site doesn’t open properly.
If your website was hacked it may not open in the usual manner. Instead:
• You see a 404 page
• You see a blank page.
• You get a message that your site is down for maintenance.
• You get a message on your site that it has been hacked.
• Your website takes too long to respond.
• Your site displays an unexpected error message.
• You can access your back end without entering a password.
All of these are signs of possible hacking. Don’t ignore them.
3. The content on your website has changed without your knowledge.
Another sign your website has been hacked is that your site has changed and you didn’t change it. This is one of the most obvious signals of a potential security breach. If you find the language on your site suddenly changed or if you see links to competing websites you’ve never seen before, it’s likely someone has made changes to your website without your permission.
You might also start seeing popups. Perhaps you’ve always been careful not to allow popups on your website–but suddenly, they’re everywhere. Or maybe there’s another noticeable change to the way your site looks or functions, such as links appearing where they shouldn’t, or downloads being offered at the wrong time or place.
4. You get a malware notification from Google.
Here’s another red flag. Google alerts you about malware on your site. This is an obvious giveaway. If Google returns a malware notification when visitors come to your site, it means Google has found something malicious on your site and blocked access to it. If you see a red warning message when you search for your own website, it means Google has detected malware (malicious software). This does not necessarily mean you or anyone else was recently hacked. This is just an automated warning from Google based on what it sees now–and if people who visit your site see that warning, they’re unlikely to continue browsing it.
5. You’re receiving emails about unfamiliar activity.
If you’re not monitoring your website regularly, you may not notice something amiss with it. Therefore, hackers could go undetected for months. Check your site’s activity every day, so that if there are signs of suspicious activity, you can act immediately.
If you receive an email like this, log into your account to see what’s going on. Don’t click on the link though, as it could be a scam. Go directly to your hosting site. Be sure to contact your web hosting provider right away if you suspect a problem or have received a warning email! They can help identify how hacking occurred, how serious it was, what you need to do, and more. In many cases, they can also help protect your site in the future by pinning down potential areas of weakness such as outdated software or incorrect file permissions.
Other signs that suggest your website has been hacked:
• Suspicious admin account activity
• Suspicious account privileges
• Suspicious administrator usernames
• Unusual or suspicious error messages
• Suspected backdoor or malicious files
• You start getting complaints from customers about spam emails from your company.
• Your website starts behaving oddly, such as redirecting visitors to another site or automatically downloading files when people try to access it.
The Bottom Line:
What should you do if you suspect your site has been hacked? Monitor your website for signs of hacking, and act immediately if you suspect a problem
Don’t ignore it. Not dealing with a potential hack is the worst thing you can do if you suspect a problem with your website. Even though you may want to turn a blind eye, that’s the last thing you should do. Hackers can do real damage to your site and business if they aren’t stopped quickly. Many hacks are designed to stay undetected for as long as possible, so they can continue to wreak havoc.
Many companies try to hide their hacks because they feel ashamed or worried about losing customer trust once people learn about their security breach or malware infection. However, covering up a problem will only worsen things in the end. Be honest and open with your customers; let them know what has happened and how you plan on fixing it before hackers take advantage of your site and visitors further. When we build websites for clients here at stoqd, we implement the most trusted host for your website, as well as put strong security measures in place from day 1. If you’d like to learn more about how we can build a beautiful new website for you, please tell us more about your project here.