Here’s How Your Site Gets Hacked & How it Negatively Impacts Your Site Visitors

In 2013, according to Forbes contributor James Lyne, around 30,000 websites were hacked daily. Imagine how much more that number has increased since then!

Hence, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear about website hacking. Cyberattacks on websites are becoming quite the norm these days. Every now and then we come across news about websites getting attacked by different types of cyberattacks such as DoS (Denial of Service), hacked or breached, and financial information being compromised.

So, if you have questions about what happens when your site gets hacked, or if you’re someone who thinks your site might have been hacked, you’re reading the right article. Here, we’ll help you figure out whether or not your site has been hacked and what steps you need to take if it has been hacked.

Let’s find out what you need to do when your website gets hacked and what happens after that.

What to Do When Your Website Gets Hacked?

Things you should take care of once your site gets hacked are as follows:

Confirm that Your Site Is Hacked

Yes, if you think your website is hacked, the first thing you are supposed to do is confirm it. You can use free tools, such as the Google Transparency Report, where you need to enter your site’s name and check if there are any warning messages.

Often, we think the website is hacked, but it could be reacting in a certain way due to other issues like incompatibility of a plugin or something else. Therefore, it’s better to make sure it is hacked before jumping to any conclusions.

React to the Situation

Panicking won’t do any good nor does prolonging. On the contrary, the more you wait, the more damaging it becomes. Therefore, you should stay calm and react to it as early as possible while keeping in mind the essence of time.

Nonetheless, some of the steps we recommend you take without wasting time are:

1. Informing the Hosting Provider

Yes, first inform the hosting provider of your website. Then, reach out to the technical support team of your hosting provider and make them aware of it and ask if they can provide any assistance. The main reason behind informing them is that they can help you figure out the actual cause behind your site getting hacked.

Hosting providers also have other domains on their server, so they’ll be able to recognize what should be the next step you need to take before any further damage happens to your site or to other sites hosted on their server.

2. Change Passwords

Before you take any step, first change the passwords of all the necessary accounts—for example, users, admin, or any shared login used by the support team. Likewise, change the admin passwords of your hosting panel. And, make sure it meets all the necessary security measures needed to make your password strong.

3. Use Site Backup

Depending on what type of business and website yours is, it’s recommended to restore your website using an earlier backup that you had created. For example, if you’re using a backup tool like CodeGuard backup, you may have a backup of the site. You can choose the last clean backup and restore your website. Likewise, restoring your website using a backup you took earlier can be of great help.

4. Prevent Your Site from Being Accessed

Again, depending on the type of business you operate and your website, you can take a preventive measure like blocking your site visitors and other users from accessing your website until the issue is completely resolved.

So, until the hack is in effect, no one will be able to access your website, and it’ll help you mitigate further damage to your site users.

5. Technical Support Team

If you’ve hired a technical support team or you have someone who knows technical stuff, then it’s recommended that you seek their help. And, if possible, ask the support team to remove all the malicious content from your website and make it back to normal like how it was earlier before it was hacked.

Recover Your Hacked Site

Once you complete the above steps, it’s time to recover your site from the damages that have been done. To do so, you can follow the steps below.

Let’s get into the details…

1. Assessing the Damage

The severity of the damaged differs from one website to another. Therefore, you should figure out on your own about what happened and where the damage has occurred within your website. Look at it from all the perspectives and review your entire website. And, have an honest look at the damages occurred.

2. Clean Your Website

Go through all your website’s directories, look for any malicious code within it, and clean them while keeping your site offline. Make sure your website is inaccessible to your users until you complete this process.

Also, be careful with this process, and if you’re doing it manually, it’s recommended to avoid it if you don’t have the knowledge and experience in handling such issues. Instead, you should contact someone specialized in recovering a hacked website or the company who developed your website.

3. Clean the Database

Similar to how you cleaned all the folders and files of your website, take the same approach, and look through the entire database of your website. Again, look for any malicious data. If you find something suspicious, for example, any malicious user input or if a whole table is malicious, then it’s recommended to remove it.

4. Review Your Website

Once you clean all the files, folders, and databases, it’s time to review your website and see if any vulnerability is present within the site. Look through every corner of your site, along with all the installed plugins or extensions. Because, many times, unpatched plugins, pending updates, or third-party services that you’re using can be the reason.

5. If You Can, Put Your Site Back Online

If you’re confident enough that your website is ready to function correctly and it’s like how it was before it was hacked, it’s time to make your site live again and move forward.

6. Contact & Make Affected Users Aware

Suppose you have additional domains and sub-domains and have been affected by the hack or the data breach. It becomes crucial that you make each affected user aware of the hack without any delay.

Strengthen Your Site to Prevent a Future Attack

Below are some steps you should consider to strengthen your website’s security, protect it from any future attacks and also prevent attacks.

1. Detect the Vulnerability

Go through each and every file folder and update all the plugins, extensions, and themes. Vulnerabilities are one of the significant reasons why a site gets hacked. Likewise, take all the necessary website security steps that help you strengthen your site, such as changing default database names, keeping solid passwords, etc.

2. Monitor Your Site & Keep It Clean

Constantly monitor your website and apply remediation steps as and when required. It’ll help you strengthen your site’s security. Likewise, keep an eye on all the activities happening on your site, so you’ll be able to figure out quickly if something fishy happens.

Update your installed plugins, extensions, themes, and third-party services you use on your website to the latest versions. Remove all unwanted and unused files, data, code, plugins, themes, and so on if you think you will not use them. If you don’t have good logs, internal controls, and dashboards, make sure you reinforce it to have a detailed view of all the potential threats.

3. Change Your Web Hosting Provider

Your hosting provider’s poor security can also be the reason why your site has been hacked. Therefore, if you have hosted your site on a local hosting provider due to the cheap subscription price or heavy discount offered by them, then it’s recommended that you change it with some other provider who doesn’t compromise quality over price.

For example, consider going with a service which is reputed and known for being a secure hosting provider and the one that is serious about its customers as well as reputation.

Here’s What Happens When Your Site Gets Hacked – Signs You Should Look for

Below are some common signs that you’ll see if your site is hacked:

  • You and your site visitors will start receiving warning messages whenever your website loads on a browser like Google Chrome, such as “The site ahead contains malware” or saying that your website may be hacked. An obvious sign is that Google Safe Browsing will blacklist your website.
  • You’ll receive a message from Google Search Console saying your site has malware or has been hacked. In other words, Google will send you an email to notify you that it has found malicious code or spam content within your site, showing that your site has been hacked.
  • Your hosting provider may disable your website.
  • Many times, your hosting provider limits resources towards your website rather than disabling it entirely. For instance, some outbound ports like 587, 465, 443, and 80 of your account may be blocked.
  • Your mails will go into spam folders directly as hackers often use malware on hacked websites to send spam emails to a massive list of people. Because of this, your mail will be considered spam, and email servers around the globe will blacklist your server and IP address.
  • You may receive complaints from your customers that their credit card details have been stolen after purchasing a product or service from your site.
  • Malicious and unidentified JavaScript will be found within your site that doesn’t serve any legit purpose to the site. Likewise, hackers may further steal critical information from your site using malicious scripts, such as login details, credit card details, and other necessary site data.
  • Without any reason, your site will slow and shows error messages. For example, a web page that usually loads within 3 seconds may take more than 10 seconds to load. In addition, you may find unexpected error messages within your error logs like:
  • PHP Notice: Undefined index: _upl in /home/xxxxxxxx/public_html/index.php on line 64
  • PHP Parse error: syntax error, unexpected ‘if’ (T_IF) in /home/xxxxxxxx/public_html/js/index.php on line 40
  • PHP Fatal error: require_once(): Failed opening required ‘/home/xxxxxxxx/public_html/js/shell.php
  • You may find that new admin users or FTP accounts have been created without your knowledge.
  • Core system files will be modified, and you may even find some suspicious-looking filenames and server-side scripts uploaded within your site directories.
  • Your site visitors will get bombarded with spammy popups and advertisements once the website opens. This happens due to an XSS (Cross-Site Scripting) attack or malicious code injection.
  • Your website will get redirected to a malicious website containing phishing pages and other malicious links that can further damage your site visitors.
  • You may encounter new pages on your site that weren’t there before, and you didn’t create.
  • Unknown malicious codes or redirection codes may be found within the .htaccess file.

Wrapping Up

There’s no doubt that once your website gets hacked, it damages your website and your reputation. But, it’s vital to understand that you should take the necessary steps to recover your website. Once you clear it, you should learn from the mistake and take proper precautions, so it doesn’t happen again. Finally, it would help if you move forward with a positive mindset that everything will be back to normal.

Likewise, here we’ve mentioned some of the things you can do when your website gets hacked, how to strengthen your website security, and how you can tell whether or not your site has been hacked. We hope it helps. Good luck!