Part I: Signs and Symptoms of a Hacked Website Audit
Is your website showing error messages? Is it becoming slower and slower? Did you find new admin users that you don’t recognize? Does Google Chrome or any other browser show warning messages to your website visitors?
If the answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above signs, that means your website has been hacked, and you need to repair your hacked website immediately. If you don’t act fast and fix your website, there might be long-term consequences and even heavy fines to pay.
Nowadays, websites are a core part of any business with their own KPI’s and have very complex sales and marketing strategies that bring millions of dollars in revenue. Websites handle everything from e-Commerce transactions to customer-sensitive information, marketing, and everything in between. Even
though websites play a huge role in multimillion-dollar transactions, one would think that website security would be the #1 priority of any business owner’s mind, but it is not.
Millions of websites are hacked every day due to very weak passwords and security systems. WordPress sites are targeted more often than any other CMS because they are more popular.
Contact the experts that can save and repair hacked websites. We are highly experienced in website repair, WordPress website development, website optimization and can fix your website in a matter of hours. We have accumulated years of experience helping website owners identify and repair hacked websites.
If you are a victim of a cybercrime, don’t worry! We are here to help you and have put together a guide that will explain the primary signs and symptoms of a hacked website and how to repair your hacked website.
Important: This guide is not meant to be an all-encompassing guide that covers all the signs and all the strategies that hackers use when training to infiltrate your website, but by reading and following our guidelines, it should help address 70% of the most common issues that website owners face on a hacked website.
- The first part of the guide will bring light to the classic signs that can indicate that your site has been hacked.
As mentioned above, this guide will cover the spectrum of signs and issues that hackers leave behind after they have hacked your website.
- The second part of this guide will reveal the needed steps to bring back the website online safely.
Important: For the more complex and technical issues, always work with a professional when handling website repair issues. A professional can fix a hacked website while saving the online and offline reputation.
1. The Homepage and Other Pages Look Inconsistent & Different
Repair Hacked Website Pro Needed!
This is a classic sign of a hacked website that needs repair immediately. Like I said earlier, some signs are easy to see right from the start, and others are more difficult to spot.
When the homepage is full of ads and banners that send users, especially to illegal and adult websites or any other kind of sites that you do not have any business relationship with, it is a clear sign that you have been hacked. Cybercriminals may also change your homepage to sell their products.
Of course, there can be many other types of content on your homepage that can destroy or affect your reputation. Sometimes the homepage is fine, but other pages of your website might have been hacked. In this case, FIX YOUR WEBSITE NOW!
2. The Hosting Provider has Taken the Hacked Site Offline
You might say: Need To Fix My Website Now!
Web hosting providers sometimes scan their servers and infrastructure for harmful and dangerous code like malware. When any suspicious code is found, the hacked website is suspended and taken offline to ensure that the infection is not spread to other websites on the server.
The hosting providers might notify the owner of the hacked website via email about the deactivation or suspension of the website.
Read the official report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. U.S. Department of Commerce for more information on the subject. Here is a link to the paper Stop badware. Web Hosting Provider Liability for Malicious content
3. Can’t Log In to the Admin Panel
The first step that hackers take after breaking a website is to change the login credentials so no one can access the backend of the site. Basically, cybercriminals kick you out of your own house.
Although this might be the first step a hacker takes after hacking a website, it’s not the most obvious for a website owner. This is the reason why it is no 3. in our list.
If you are unable to login into your account or your account doesn’t exist, it is a classic sign of a hacked website.
Tip: There are a few different ways to regain control of your account.
- If your site is based on WordPress and is hacked, tools like phpMyAdmin or Adminer are often made available via your hosting provider. You can log into your database directly, thus avoiding your WordPress administration screen, and reset your user in the wp_users user’s table.
- If you don’t want to mess with password hashes or can’t figure it out, update the email in the wp_users table and go back to the Login Screen, click forgot password, and wait for the email. More info here.
4. Google Marked the Site As Not Secure
Websites With Issues needs service
Being blacklisted by Google is horrible and can have many harmful consequences. One of them is that your domain may never recover from this penalty, leading to the loss of your online revenue and clients. Can you imagine a huge site like Amazon taking such a huge kick? What would it do to its reputation?!
Google prioritizes user experience, satisfaction, and safety above all else. The Google bot scans websites for malware, and if it happens to find any malware on your site, a warning message will display, marking your site as not secure.
The search engine displays an error message for the hacked website, and the browser suggests leaving the site. In this case, the only thing to do is contact a professional to repair your hacked website.
5. Google Search Console Warns About Malware Infection
Google Search Console sends a message saying your website is hacked or has malware. You need to fix your website before it gets penalized by Google and gets blacklisted.
Most often, this message will contain details of the suspect URLs and possible solutions. As mentioned above, Google’s main purpose is to deliver its users the best content on the web. If this mission is not done well, Google can lose millions of dollars in revenue, and other search engines like Bing or Duck can take over as the no.1 dominant search engine on the market. So, it is in Google’s best interest to meet the searcher internet and provide safe and relevant results.
6. Customers’ Credit Cards Are Being Hacked
Cyber attackers use targeted attacks that prey on weak security systems, especially e-commerce sites, to steal and sell on the black market as much sensitive information as possible. If you are using a Content Management System like Shopify, Magento, WordPress, or any other CMS, always be vigilant and have a professional team handle your internal and external website security systems. This is the only proper and safe way to prevent your website from being hacked.
Another essential thing to keep in mind related to website security is to regularly backup your website. By doing this, even if your website is hacked, you will still have the original information stored safely and ready to be put back up online.
7. Decline In Traffic Due To Hacked Website
Repair your hacked website and save your rankings. The web is like a jungle, and, like in any jungle, one wrong step can be fatal. The same principle applies in the cyber world if your website gets hacked and you can’t repair it fast. Otherwise, this can mean a considerable loss in website traffic. Your competitors will take full advantage of it and outrank you, which means a loss in revenue.
A site that has been hacked can also have many unauthorized links and web pages created with no relevance to the theme and content of the site. This will hurt rankings, and you will see a decline in your website traffic very quickly.
An excellent way to check for a hacked website is by looking in Google Search Console’s indexing section for any indexed pages that you have not created.
8. Ranking For Random Keywords
This sign is harder to spot because not everyone knows how to check which keywords their site is ranking for.
If your team knows to do so, they need to check regularly if your site is showing up in Google Search for random spammy keywords. Check Google Search Console, Google Analytics, SemRush, or any other keyword tracking tool linked to your website. If this happens, you can clearly say that your site has been hit and you need to repair your hacked website.
Part II: Hacked Website Repair Troubleshooting
Obligatory disclaimer: while these steps help you repair your hacked website, you might still need a professional’s assistance.
Now that you know the signs and symptoms of a hacked website, the next good thing to do is scan your website using:
- External remote scanners (Crawlers)
- Application-level scanners(Plugins)
No singular solution is the best approach but combined will improve your odds greatly.
In many instances, the source of the attack/infection begins on your local box (i.e., notebook, desktop, etc.…). Attackers are running trojans locally that allow them to sniff login access information to FTP or admin areas that will enable them to log in as the site owner. Besides scanning your website, you should also scan your local environment. Run a full anti-virus/malware scan on your local machine.
After you have scanned your site, the next step is to contact your hosting provider if you have one. In most cases, they can help with some technical issues and fix your website… if they have time. Many websites are hosted on a shared hosting plan, which can make the fixing process difficult. If this is the case for you, we recommend getting your site off-line immediately until you fix the website.
This prevents malicious code, malware, or any badware from being sent to users and prevents hackers from further abusing the system.
If you can’t take your site offline then at least return a 503 status code to prevent it from being crawled.
Hacked website repair is done by professionals.
After you have taken your site offline or have set a 503 status code, the next step is to figure out exactly what the hacker was after.
Were they looking for sensitive information?
Did they want to gain control of your site for other purposes?
Look for any modified or uploaded files on your web server.
Check your server logs for any suspicious activity, such as failed login attempts, command history (especially as root), unknown user accounts, etc.
Determine the scope of the problem—do you have other sites that may be affected?
Repairing a Hacked Website the Right Way
The best thing to do is to get hold of a professional to handle this issue. But sometimes, it is hard to get them to respond until you can get your team on the phone. The absolute best thing is to do a complete reinstall from a trusted source.
After this process, use the latest backup to restore your website and make sure that the backup is clean and malware.
Patch any software packages to the latest version. This includes weblog platforms, Content Management Systems, or any other type of third-party software installed.
Restoring your Online Presence
- The best way to get your website back online after the hacked repair process has been successfully finished is to follow the Webmaster Help Center guidelines.
- To avoid a Google penalty for any spammy links that hackers may have placed on your website, do a backlink audit and altogether remove any links added by the hackers.
Hacked Website Repair Guide Conclusion
In this era of internet crimes where hackers are working around the clock to steal sensitive information from websites, it is wise for every website owner to know the primary signs and symptoms of a hacked website and repair their hack site until the specialist takes over.
Imagine this guide, just like a First Aid Training course that can save your online reputation until the specialist arrives at the scene.