A Step-By-Step Checklist For Identifying If Your Site Has Been Hacked

Source: Pixabay

Source: Pixabay

A Step-By-Step Checklist For Identifying If Your Site Has Been Hacked

The growth of the ecommerce industry means that many businesses use websites as the first point of contact with customers. For many businesses, a website is the principal means of driving sales. As such, it demands a degree of care, maintenance, and investment.

One of the things you’ll have to protect your website from is potential hacking. A website hack can render it completely useless. And with the sophistication of Black Hat techniques used by hackers, it is easier than ever before to get your website hacked.

There are a few different signs that should prompt a second look at your website’s security status. For instance, it may be the presence of spam content. Or maybe you can’t access your own WordPress site.

There are a lot more indicators that we will discuss as we go on with this blog. The point is, these indicators can go on to have deeper consequences.

A website hack can affect your website’s SEO rankings. Hackers can also install malware that redirects potential customers to a different site. When this happens, it also has the effect of slowing your website. If it’s a website in use by customer support, it may also affect quality assurance in call centers.

In the worst-case scenario, it may even get blacklisted by the king of search engines — Google.

However, it’s possible to get your website back. As you may have guessed, the faster you identify if your website has been hacked, the higher the chances of getting it back are.

To that end, we’ll be providing a step-back-step checklist to establish whether your website is hacked or safe. Let’s get into it!

Signs You Need a Checklist for Identifying if Your Site Has Been Hacked

Although a routine check of your website’s security is encouraged, there are a few indicators that mean you have to check for a website hack ASAP. These include:

  • Website pop-ups you didn’t create.
  • Your website pages redirect to an unfamiliar site
  • Spam links on your website
  • Spam advertisements that display illegal activities or adult content
  • Your website starts to rank for spam keywords
  • Visitors to your site get a “malware” warning.

If you are experiencing any of those issues with your website, follow this checklist to know for sure whether your website has been hacked.

Step 1: Check for Notification from Browsers, Hosting Providers, and More
Staying on top of notifications from your malware scanner, Google Search Console, and your hosting provider is a proactive approach to securing your website.

Notifications are also the fastest way to tell whether or not your site has been hacked. Alerts to check include:

Hosting Provider

Hosting providers will send an automatic notification if they think your website has been hacked. In fact, they may even take your website offline before sending you an email notification.

Therefore, if you are wondering what to do when your WordPress site is hacked, start by checking your inbox for emails from the hosting provider. If there’s nothing in there, you can also check your spam folder for a message.

Internet Browser

Web browsers such as Google Chrome can alert you about a website hack. Google Chrome displays a red screen and a message that labels the site as unsafe. So, if you think your website has been hacked, try to open it with Google Chrome.

Source: Irish Sun

Google Search Console

In today’s marketing-focused world, Google Search Console is often top of any list of effective performance management tools for your SEO analytics.

However, it’s also a great source of info about your website’s security. Depending on the settings you choose, Google Search Console may send notifications of security issues directly to your inbox.

Website Users

Although it’s your website, the most frequent users will be potential customers or your target audience. It is possible that they may alert you to possible security issues.

When you get messages of this nature from users, don’t ignore them. In fact, you should make it easy for your users to send you information of this nature. Here, a call management app can come in handy to make it as straightforward as possible for users to reach you.

Use a Malware Scanner

Malware scanners are a simple way to identify if your website has been hacked. They are a crucial tool to keep your website safe and secure.

Simply buy an efficient one, chalk it under operating expenses, and scan your website with it. You’ll get results in seconds. The added advantage of malware scanners is they can also pinpoint the source of any security leak.

Step 2: Using Google Search Console

If you don’t get notifications from Google Search Console, you can still use it to determine whether your website has security problems. As such, this tool is an important element of every website owner’s security toolkit.

Simply log into your Google Search Console, bypass the email verifier prompt, and then view the security report. Here’s a step-by-step to do that:

  • Log into the Google Search Console account
  • Navigate to the “Security & Manual Actions” button. It’s usually on the left-hand side of your screen
  • Click the button to bring up the report

Mostly, this report will summarize important sources of security issues like:

  • Deceptive sites
  • Phishing
  • URL injections
  • Code and content
  • Cross-site warnings
  • SQL Injection
  • Code Injection

If you have any of the issues above in the report, then your website has been hacked. You must act quickly by taking steps to restore your website’s safety.

Source: Google Search Console

Step 3: Take a Look at Your Website Files

Regardless of the class of VPS hosting, if you have rudimentary web development skills, then you can sift through your website file, .php, and .htaccess files to help you determine a compromise in website security.

If you don’t have a web development background, it’s not a good idea to go through those files. You won’t understand what to look for and may cause separate issues.

On the other hand, the best website builders also have the skillset to search for unsafe links and malicious code. They can look for recently created pages, too. Usually, hackers use these pages to hold spammy links.

It is easier to find malicious pages by looking through your website’s files. However, developers may find it harder to find malicious code. After all, it looks the same as regular code.

Step 4: Check Your SEO Rankings and Blacklist Status

If you use Google Chrome, you should know the “unsafe site” warning it displays when you visit certain sites. This is a sign that a particular website has been blacklisted by Google. Typically, Google does this when it has strong reasons to suspect a website compromise.

For instance, Google may put up this sign when it observes odd changes to your site. In most cases, these changes are in the form of new Black Hat links.

To confirm, simply search your website (site: domain.com) in the Google queries tab. If the site is hacked, there will be a statement stating “This site may be hacked”. This statement is usually a sign that Google has observed some form of phishing or malware activity.

Once you notice this, alert a dedicated team to restore your site. Of course, there will be a corresponding detailed report of what Google noticed on your Google Search Console dashboard.

Where your SEO ranking and any call center statistic you care to measure are concerned, Google blacklisting your website will count against you. With the search engine giants prioritizing user safety, search results won’t include compromised sites. Therefore, you will stop ranking for target keywords.

Source: ImgFlip

Steps to Fixing a Hacked Website

Using the checks above, you can identify whether your website has been hacked. If it is, it’s not the time to slack. You have to take quick steps to prevent website defacement. The best options include:

Working with an In-House Team

If you have a cybersecurity team, then you can reclaim your website with this in-house team. With a list of the best Slack alternatives: 7 affordable tools for small businesses, you can find ways to communicate the issue quickly.

Mostly, your cybersecurity team will take the website offline and analyze the situation.

The results of this analysis will determine whether they have the expertise to reverse the hack. Otherwise, you will have to explore the second option.

Outsourcing to an Experienced Cybersecurity Agency

If you don’t have the in-house skillset to fix this problem, outsource the issue quickly. A cybersecurity agency will be able to work with your hosting provider to find and delete malicious code.

This will restore your site’s safety status. Additionally, experienced cybersecurity agencies will be able to deploy protective measures to prevent the issue from happening again.

There are no two website hacks that occur in the same way. This is also why there’s no direct way to fix malware on your site. The eventual solution to the problem will depend on the type of hack./p>

The priority is that you start to fix the issue as soon as you discover it. If there’s a need to communicate the situation to your customers or website users, do it too.

Of Course, A Website Hack is Reversible

Your website getting compromised is not the end of the world. With an increase in the frequency of malicious attacks, there have been corresponding advancements in the world of cybersecurity.

You don’t have to be a web buff. You may not be able to differentiate between web hosting and domain names. Cybersecurity analysts and experts can save your website from a malicious attack, nonetheless. However, you first have to determine that your website is indeed compromised.

The checklist we discussed in the body of this blog is your guide to doing that. Act on it now!

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