How Soon Would you Know if Your Website Was Hacked?

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What would be the worst way to find out your website has been hacked? For me it would be to hear it from a customer.

And worse still would be if they were furious because visiting my hacked website had caused their computer to be loaded up with malware.

This is not a good way to build good customer relationships and impress them with your website management skills!

No website will ever be 100% secure

But no website will ever be 100% secure against hackers.

I’ve said this many times: if someone wants to hack your website they will, eventually, get in. No website will ever be 100% secure and anyone who tells you they can make it so will be lying.

BalanceLook at the hacks on Yahoo, LinkedIn, the NHS, the Democratic Party, Sony and the other high-profile hacks if you want proof.

The best you can do is take all the precautions you can, balanced with the need to ensure the site performs its functions as quickly and efficiently as possible.

It is always a balance between security and functionality. So you must work on the basis that your site will be hacked at some point and be sure to have a recovery plan in place.

You need to be the first to know!

The earlier you find out your website has been hacked the better, because you can limit the collateral damage and get a fix in place as quickly as possible.

But how do you discover someone is either attacking or has successfully attacked your site in time to act quickly enough to minimise the collateral damage (and not find out from your customer)?

Woman checking with a magnifying glassThe first step is to check your website every day.

You need to become totally familiar with the appearance of your site and not just the home page – you need to know each of the different types of pages like the back of your hand.

Typically, I check the home page, a static page, a catalogue page, a category page and a post on all the sites I manage – every day.

When you are totally familiar with each type of page on your site it will be much easier to notice when something small has changed.

Here are some indicators that there’s a problem:

  1. The page load time is much slower than normal
  2. An unexpected white space has appeared at the top or bottom of the site
  3. A sidebar or other element of the site is out of place or missing
  4. There are visible markings that should not be there
  5. PHP warnings have appeared at the top of the page

These are all indications that something has gone wrong and you need to take a deeper look, or get a developer to take a look for you.

If it’s obvious that your site has been hacked or damaged beyond your skills to repair it, then the quickest solution is to delete the site entirely and restore the latest clean backup.

And this is why it’s so important that you check your site each day:

If you don’t know when your website was hacked you won’t know which backups are clean.

In addition to checking your website each day, you should install a security plugin that incorporates daily scans for malware. This plugin does that and more.

The scans run by Sucuri (with which that plugin works) look at the code on the site, rather than the appearance, and are able to spot code that has been altered or should not be there.

The responsibility involved in operating a website

Operating a website carries with it a responsibility to yourself, your site visitors and the Internet as a whole.

Mining for BitcoinsWebsites are usually hacked for a purpose – to enable the hacker to further their criminal activity. Simple defacement of websites is no longer what the hackers are after – it’s all about harnessing ‘assets’ that they can use to further their criminal plans.

Currently, one of the major reasons for hacking websites is to install crypto-mining software on them.

This, of course, means that the hacker is using your resources (your website, your server capacity and your good name) to enrich themselves by mining crypto currencies.

Further, they may be using your website to install crypto-mining software onto your visitors’ computers so they, too, can be made to mine cryptos.

So, again, the message is:

Check your website every day to ensure you discover as early as possible when it has been hacked.

You can do this both manually and by installing a good security plugin – one that does daily malware scans of your website.

And if you don’t have the time to do that monitoring yourself then I offer that service through my WordPress development agency. Click here for details of our security monitoring service.

Has your website been hacked? How did you recover? Do you need me to clarify anything? Leave a comment below.

Stay safe,

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WP Security Basics