Hacked Site Diagnostics and Cleanup

One of the serious risks website owners are facing today is their site getting hacked. By hacking I mean unauthorised access to the site's hosting server with the purpose of modifying the code without the site owner's knowledge and approval.

Most frequent reasons why sites are getting hacked are:

  • Defacing the site as part of a hate campaign, digital extortion etc.
  • Unauthorised placement of links to 3rd party sites
  • Inserting malware to infect the site visitors
  • Creating parasite pages
  • Phishing etc.

Having a site hacked may mean not only temporary loss of traffic, but also loss of rankings, damage to the business' online reputation and putting your visitors at risk. It can completely destroy a business' successful online presence.

Sometimes Google detects the issue and will display a notification in Google Webmaster Tools account if a site is connected to one, or a warning in the SERPs where the site is ranking for potential visitors about security issues with the site. However, more often than not, these issues will go unnoticed by anyone including the site owner for a long time until the damage is done and the site is ruined.

Some of the signs that a site could have been possibly hacked include unusual activity in the server logs, traffic for unrelated queries, increased amount of pages, appearance of pages the site owner has never created. However, there may be cases when a hacker does not leave obvious traces of his activity. These cases are more difficult to identify.

When restoring a hacked site, it is important to make sure all the malicious code placed by hackers has been removed, otherwise you may be leaving a backdoor open and the hackers will be able to access the site again and do more harm. It is also important to get rid of the vulnerabilities that made accessing the server possible for the hackers: update the CMS to the latest secure version, remove vulnerable plugins, change the password on the server, etc. Sometimes a site owner may also have to deal with removing Google's security warning from the site's listings in the SERPs. In other cases, if a site had parasite pages created by a hacker, they might be link spammed to make them rank, possibly targeting spammy niches - hence the site owner might have to deal with cleaning up their own link profile as well to avoid a sitewide penalty.

If you suspect your site has been hacked and need help with diagnostics and/or cleanup, feel free to get in touch. For a flat fee of £200, I will cover all the basics and advise if you need any more extensive work done to get rid of the damage from the hack (e.g. link profile cleanup). The sooner you address the issue of a hacked site, the less damage you will likely have to deal with.

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