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What to do if your website has been hacked?

posted by: FraudWatch International date: Mar 30, 2016 category: All, Phishing comments: 0

In a previous blog article, we discussed the Google Safe Browsing service that Google provides, which blacklists URLs for websites that contain malware or phishing content. This is a great feature that helps to protect users from visiting malicious websites.

But, what if your website ends up on the blacklist? How do you remove it, so that customers can visit your site without getting a warning message that it is a potentially dangerous website?

Why has my website been blacklisted?

Google perform regular scans of the internet to update their search results pages and also to check for websites that may contain malware or phishing (or spam) content. Cyber-criminals are always on the lookout for websites with vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Generally, these hackers are after some financial gain and they hide their malicious content within legitimate websites.

You might be using a plug-in on your website that has security flaws, which the hacker then uses to gain access to your website and add their own content. They might hide malicious content on your website which could be malware, phishing or both. This content is generally used to target the customers of large organisations (such as banks) but, in some cases its purpose might be to target your customer base.

How can I tell if my website has been hacked?

If Google finds a website that has been compromised (hacked), they will blacklist it, so that web browsers are aware of the potential threat. They will also add a warning message to their search results pages and try to contact the site owner via email.

59_What to do if your website has been hacked_exampleFigure 1– Example of “hacked website” message in Google search results

You may also be contacted by a customer who has received a suspicious email, or seen the warning message in their browser when they have visited your website.

Google provides a useful YouTube video, explaining how and why your webpage may have been hacked:

 

As an example, the company Sucuri provides a free website Malware scan service that anyone can use to detect whether their website may be infected or not.

59_What to do if your website has been hacked_Sucuri-site-check

Figure 2- Example of a Sucuri scan result

 

How to fix my website?

As the website owner, you need to take steps to fix your website content and any security flaws before it can be removed from the blacklist.

You can do this one of two ways:

  • Do it yourself
  • Get help from specialists

Do It Yourself

You can use Google’s Search Console to assist in fixing your hacked website. You will need to create a Google Search Console account, however, this free tool provides a great deal of website analysis to help you to find out what you need to fix.

IMPORTANT! Only use the Search Console tool if you have experience in editing websites and are “tech savvy”. If your website is not cleaned properly, the hackers will still have access to it and may do further damage. Also, without proper web editing knowledge, you may accidentally delete something that breaks your website.

For those experienced in web editing, the following website provides some useful information on how to use the Good Search Console tool: How to use Google Search Console.

Get help from specialists

If you are not “tech savvy”, you need to contact web specialists to clean up your website and remove it from the blacklist.

You should follow these steps:

  • Contact your web hosting provider as soon as possible.
  • If someone set up the website for you, call them and see if they can help.
  • If your website belongs to an organisation with an IT department, they may be able to assist.
  • Pay a professional (web designer/security expert) to fix your website.

Please note: Simply deleting folders is not going to fix the problem. You need to understand how the hackers got into your website in the first place.

What to do once your website is fixed

Once your website has been cleaned of all phishing and malware content, you will need to contact Google and Request a Review of your website. As we mentioned earlier, if you are not experienced in web editing, you will need to bring in the experts to manage this process for you.

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