Here are simple signs that a website has been hacked. You don’t need to hire a security expert to unveil for you. Unfortunately, a hacked website can happen to anyone who is not paying attention or publishing security patches regularly.
The times when hacking attacks were unusual and only happened to big companies are over. Instead, hacking private and small or medium-sized companies has become a lucrative environment for many people with sufficient IT knowledge.
This is why having a hacked website is an issue facing almost everybody in the modern world. But, unfortunately, often companies and even modern websites managers recognize the problem when it’s already too late, and valuable data (or even money) is lost.
We want to show you how you can detect that your website has been hacked or suspicious activities and what you can do to prevent such vulnerabilities.
Table of contents
- The Browser Alerts You About The Hack
- Your Hosting Provider Takes The Site Offline
- Customers Contact You
- Google Flags Your Website
- The Site is Loading Slower than Usual
- Your E-Mails Are Sent to Spam
- Your Website Is Used for Unwanted Redirects or Advertisements
- Simple Steps on How Can I Avoid These Problems
The Browser Alerts You About The Hack
Your website or the browser might show signals of suspicious activities or warning screens indicating that the website has been victim to, i.e., a phishing attack. In this case, it’s best to assess the problem immediately and try to tackle it before your users uncover the issue.
Phishing attacks are social engineering scams where criminals impersonate legitimate organizations through email, text messages, advertisements, or other means to steal sensitive information. They are attempting to steal personal information, credit cards information, social security numbers, email accounts, bank accounts… You get the drift.
A best practice is to establish a plan for these events that contains the following measures:
- Save and shut down the website.
- Restore the website from backup
- Carry out a forensic investigation on the safety and security issues
Your Hosting Provider Takes The Site Offline
Often you don’t notice that you’ve been hacked, but your provider will know. Either your customers have contacted them or have their own IT security service monitoring all the websites provided. Unfortunately, they often take down your site without prior warning.
This can destroy trust on both ends of your value chain, your customers, and the service provider. As soon as you notice your site has been taken down, get in touch with your service provider and inform your users timely.
Customers Contact You
If you’re lucky, your customers won’t directly contact your website provider but rather call you up or use the contact form on your website.
Of course, this means that these users are unhappy with your website, but it also shows that they have enough trust in you to fix the issue.
And this is your time to re-earn that trust. Show them support and try to get to the bottom of that particular problem. As a result, you might find security breaches (malicious code or malicious activities) you would have never known about.
Google Flags Your Website
Google, or any other search engine, is continuously checking up on the websites they are displaying. So if they see unusual patterns or noteworthy changes, they may exclude your website from being shown in search results.
In some cases, they just put a flag on your links saying, “This site may be hacked” or “This site may harm your computer,” that appears in internet searches.
This is why it is essential to look at your Google Search Console regularly. Or try to search for your website every once in a while so that you find these unattractive links before your customers, suppliers, service providers, or other business partners.
The Site is Loading Slower than Usual
If you feel like your website is taking unusually long to load, this might be because of higher activity on the site or the whole server.
Malware could be using your server’s resources. So if your website takes twice as long (or even longer) to load than usual, these are warning signs, and you might want to double-check for unusual or malicious activity or harmful software on your server.
Your E-Mails Are Sent to Spam
The number of respondents to your latest newsletter was uncommonly low?
It could be because your e-mails are sent to the spam folder of your customer.
When hackers send lists of spam emails via your website, your website may be put on the blacklist by your email provider, so always follow up on your marketing activities.
Your Website Is Used for Unwanted Redirects or Advertisements
This could be a sign that your website might be compromised due to a Cross-Site-Scripting (XSS) attack.
Hackers and bad actors try to earn money through ads on targeted sites or send your customers to a competitor’s website. Like unwanted redirects, hackers could try to profit by hosting paid pop-up ads through your website.
Visiting your website regularly may lead to finding the problem early and give you peace of mind.
Simple Steps on How Can I Avoid These Problems
Visit Your Website as Often as Possible.
Continuously checking up on your website makes it more likely that you are the first “user” to notice something odd.
Of course, you shouldn’t be browsing through each page each day, but you can check your loading time every day, for example (and your colleagues can, too).
Listen to Customer Feedback.
Many companies document customer feedback through an integrated CRM system that shows them what customers did and didn’t like about their service or product.
Adding some questions on IT security or whether or not the customers noticed something uncommon could help you find existing problems with your website.
Investigate Unexpected Traffic Spikes
Usually, a peak in traffic is something great. If ad impressions generate your revenue on your website, you should be happy about higher visitor counts.
But look at your analytics with caution and figure out where your traffic is coming from, particularly if there is no reason your traffic is increasing (for example, because marketing campaigns and traffic increases are chronically separated). This could be a common sign of a hacking attempt, and these visits should be monitored.
Use Automated Security Scanners.
You have way better stuff to do than checking up on your website or justifying whether or not your traffic is coming from your latest advertisement or unethical hackers.
There are cheap and straightforward security software solutions that monitor your website continuously and send you a notification if they find vulnerabilities. Our advice is to run an initial vulnerability assessment and regularly scan for malicious software, attack attempts, and other security threats.
For more information on securing your company and measures that anyone can use, you can also check out our whitepaper “Security Best Practices”!