Nobody creates a website without a good reason. Likely, you rely on your website to drive engagement with your business — or maybe your website is your business, selling your products to online customers. Regardless of why you built a website, it is important that your site remains functional into the future.
However, too many websites are victimized by hackers without their owners or managers recognizing the threat. In recent years, cybercriminals have become subtler in their attacks, so your website might be spreading malware to site visitors without your knowledge. It is critical that you become familiar with the signs and symptoms of a compromised website and do everything in your power to eliminate malware, backdoor access and other issues before your business is affected.
11 Signs of a Compromised Website
Anyone of the following signs is a good indication that something is amiss with your website, but more than one is almost a guarantee that your site has been hacked. Without further ado, here’s what to watch out for on your website:
- Customer complaints. If customers are claiming to be victims of fraud after visiting your site, you should believe them and work to win their trust back with a clean website and reparations.
- Browser warning messages. In navigating to your website, if your browser displays warnings like “The site ahead contains malware” or “Are you sure you want to go there?” you might want to investigate these claims. It’s important to note that some malware might produce fake browser warnings, which are also worrisome.
- SPAM emails. When emails sent from @yourdomain.com go right into your audience’s SPAM folder, Google (or other browsers/email clients) might know something about your website that you don’t. However, this could also be a bad neighbour block on your IP address, so you should contact your host before you take other steps.
- Slowness. An extremely slow website could be an indication that hackers are using your servers to perform nefarious deeds, but it could also be a sign of poor optimization.
- Unfamiliar errors. You should check your error logs frequently to ensure your website UX is positive. If you find errors with unfamiliar file paths, you might have some inauthentic code worth scrubbing.
- New admin users. New admin, database and FTP users are a sure-fire sign that hackers have gotten in and taken control of your site.
- Modified files. Often, hackers with access will immediately modify core system files to run malicious code, send malicious emails and perform other despicable tasks. Thus, if you notice recent modifications — such as odd file names, server-side scripts and files in upload directories, you probably need to clean your site.
- Pop-up ads. Unless you haven’t changed your website since 2003, your site shouldn’t have pop-up ads. Consequently, if some start appearing, your website is likely compromised.
- Redirection. Sometimes, hackers will redirect visitors from your site to a hacked site. Though your website is relatively unscathed, it is impossible to reach through normal means, so you should treat it as essentially hacked.
- Traffic spikes. By now, you should know that your business probably isn’t going to become an overnight success. Therefore, if your Web traffic spikes — especially on pages that shouldn’t exist — your site is probably infiltrated.
As soon as you suspect that your website is hacked, you should begin treating it as such. This means taking the following three steps to clean your site of any malware or unwanted access and protecting your site from future attacks.
Step 1: Disable access to your site
This is a temporary measure to prevent more customers from becoming victims of fraud or malware attack. While you sort out your hacking problem, you should put up a page telling users that you are performing website maintenance and to check back soon.
Step 2: Install website protection software
You can’t root out the source of your website hack without help. Website protection software will create additional barriers through which attackers need to jump to reach valuable data and permissions. You should research your website security tool options; the best solutions offer plenty of evidence of their success, like these SiteLock reviews. You should be certain that your software provides the services you need, like malware scans and removal, various types of monitoring, Web firewalls and more.
Step 3: Run a website scan
Once your desired tool is installed, you should immediately work to counteract the existing problems on your site. At the very least, this includes running a virus scan to detect corruption across your site. Once you have identified and eradicated all issues, you can re-open your site and continue business as usual — as long as you maintain tight website security into the future.