Google Tips for Webmasters: Hacked Websites 101

If your website has been hacked recently, chances are that you have given up on anything remotely web related and are holding on to reality by the frailest of threads! Trust me when I tell you that your problem isn’t as impossible as it seems. Many people go through exactly what you are going through to come out triumphant and a lot wiser at the other end.

Websites hacks come in a lot of different types. When you have figured out for sure that your website was hacked, it is time to figure out how this was accomplished. Once you have figured out how it was hacked, learn how to restore the website to its former glory days.

Google is the key to your success no matter what your online endeavors are. So it is important to listen to whatever the gurus at Google have to say about hacked websites and their recovery. Aimed specifically at webmasters, Google can help in site clean-up as well prevention of similar attacks in the future. Well, in one of the posts on their blog, they inform us of the two most common ways in which hacking attacks can affect websites.

It is imperative that webmasters have this information so they can get on to the cleaning of their hacked sites quickly and effectively. You should be listed and verified in the Webmaster Tools for your website. This is important as Google will send you a message stating that there is something wrong with your website and even provide URL examples of pages that are causing trouble. This can be instrumental in identifying the hacking process as it is taking place. If your site has only been configured to distribute malware, Google will identify this in the search results, labeling your website with a notification stating “This site may harm your computer”. The Webmaster Tools section will let you know of any additional information on this matter.

There are two major ways in which  hackers can compromise the integrity of your website:

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Content Injection

Sometimes it happens so that hackers leave your hacked site apparently intact. They just get in to your systems and leave seemingly innocuous links leading to their own websites. This is done to fool search engines into returning higher results for their websites, a malicious way of adding backlinks, if you will. They can even manipulate the website in such a way that the additional links are only visible to the search engines and their crawlers.
If Google detects any content injection action at your website, a message will promptly be

sent to your Webmaster tools account with all the important info.

But if you expect something fishy way before, then use the Fetch as Google tool to see the content returned by your website to Google. Scrutinize thoroughly the .php files templates, and any active CMS plug-ins for any malicious activity.

The hacker may also add additional pages to the site. This is particularly dangerous as these pages may be used to fool your websites users into providing valuable personal and financial information. This is called Phishing. Malware is another threat posed by the hackers. It is malicious code hidden in scripts or iFrames that can attack any computer that views your site.

In fact, any malicious software that is designed specifically with the aim to harm a computer or a network is called malware. So, you can include viruses, worms, spyware and Trojans into the list as well. And if you are really unlucky, the hackers may take full control over the administrative responsibilities of your hacked website, using it for their nasty ambitions.

Google says that if you see your site flagged but there isn’t any explanation for it by the Webmaster Tools, hold on to your horses and wait for more than 24 hours for the details. And chances are that you will be encountering a malware warning!

User Redirection

Hackers can also use your website and redirect any visitors to their own malicious sites. They can program the redirection so that only users from a certain location or those coming from smart phones or search engines are redirected to their website. Try accessing your website via a search engine redirection, through a mobile phone and by typing the address directly in the bar. If there is any difference in where you end up, chances are that your website has already been subjected to hacking.

This end I accomplished by altering server configuration file. Apache users will do good to check out the .htaccess files. This information contained within these files is used to dish out different content to different users. So check your server files periodically for any amended or modified content.

Another way of redirecting visitors is by injecting the source code of your website with a JavaScript written for this very purpose. This will most probably contain terms like eval, decode or escape and seem completely innocent.

Cleanup and Prevention

Once your site has been hacked, it is important to do everything in your power to keep this from happening again. Hackers are vengeful people. Once they see that all their handiwork is destroyed and your website is flourishing and thriving again, they will be back with far worse than before. So it is important to take preventive measures along with the cleanup efforts.

Google has all the important tools and information that can help you with the cleaning and recovery efforts. Also, don’t forget to visit their Malware and Hacked sites forums for problem specific advice throughout your recovery efforts. Always keep your website up to date with all the latest security and software patches. Google’s Webmaster tools can let you know what part of your website is being indexed. Keep a look out on the logs for this so you know promptly if anything weird is going on with your site.

And once all is said and done, your website is up and running again, it’s time to get in touch with Google again. Let them know that your website is ready and that any red flags about it should be lifted. Do this by submitting a reconsideration request. And they have reviewed your website thoroughly; any warning labels will be removed.


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