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How to Detect and Fix a Web Site Hack

May 16 2012

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When you think about your site being hacked, you probably imagine an unmistakable notice, like a flashing screen with "HACKED" in large letters across the page. But in reality, you may not know that your web site has been hacked until much later on when a lot of damage has been done. Today's hackers are getting more sophisticated with the tools and methods they use to hack web sites. But knowing the signs and what to do in the event of a hack can help you to recover.

Signs That Your Site Has Been Hacked

There are actually a few ways to tell if your site's been hacked. Try Googling your site to see whether there is a message next to it other than the green light that everything is okay. If there is a warning beside your site, that's a surefire way to tell that something's up.

Another sign is when your antivirus program pops up with a warning when you try and visit your own site. Your site's visitors may have also been sending you message about errors or weird happenings when visiting your site. And these are too important to ignore, because in visiting your site, their own computers could be at risk as well.

Testing To Confirm a Hack

Several utilities are available that you can use to search through your site's files and find any malicious code. The Bing Malware Filter and McAfee Site Advisor are two of the more popular resources which pick out malicious activity on your site. Once you complete a scan using one of these resources, check by searching for your site using the Bing Malware Filter. Using this resource will filter any malicious sites automatically, making it much easier to tell if your site still contains threats.

Hack Confirmed: Now What?

Hopefully, you're still refraining from full-out panic. The next thing on your list, now that you've confirmed a hack is to either take a screen shot of your web site by hitting the 'print screen' button on your keyboard, firing up your image editing program, and pasting and saving the image to your computer. Do this with every page of your site that was visibly altered by hackers.

Next, you will want to try to see if you can still log into your site's control panel. If you can, set about changing your password right away. Log into your site via FTP with this new password, and upload your site's backup copy. If you cannot log into your control panel, you will have to contact your host to tell them this as soon as possible.

Notify Your Host

Remember those screen shots you took of your site? This is where the images you saved come in. Contact your site's host to tell them about your hack. Try to be as concise about the break-in, but as detailed as possible. Include your screen shots in the email, including new pages that were created by the intruders. Your host can then go through your site's logs to see how the hackers got in and whether any other damage occurred.

Preventing Future Hacks

Keeping all of the software on your site's hosting account updated will ensure that you can implement new patches and bug fixes immediately, and seal any holes through which hackers can enter.

Now that you've been hacked, you know how quickly it can happen. Ensure that hackers have a hard time getting to you again by changing your password once per month. Your password should be a strong one that you don't use elsewhere, consisting of both numbers and letters. Google 'free password generators' for many web-based options that will create a strong password for you.

Damage Control

Just because you've restored your site, doesn't mean that evidence of the hack has been completely erased. During the time that passed before you noticed the hack, your site could have been reported as malicious in several online locations. One of these is Stop Badware, which is a database of hacked sites. Search for your domain in this list of sites. If you find it, you will need to have it removed from the site, which involves applying for a review of your site.

Citations:

Guest author Jesse Schwarz has written a number of articles in the area of technology.  You can read more from Jesse at http://www.highspeed-internet-providers.com/high-speed-dsl-internet-providers.html.

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