One thing I know for sure is you don’t want your website to be hacked. Trust me, I’m talking from experience.
These unfriendly visitors can infiltrate your website, steal valuable information, damage your reputation and cripple your well-oiled online sales and marketing machine.
Let me tell you about my experience as a web entrepreneur who woke up one day to find my website had been banned by Google. To my horror, my beloved revenue generator had been repurposed into a virus distributor.
It all started when I went into my website trying to figure out why sales had been so low for the past few days. I logged into Google AdWords and found my account had been banned. I’d been accused of being a spammer, the absolute worst title you can give to a friendly web marketing guy like me. Google, you must be joking, right?
I typed my product name into Google to see if my website was still showing up as the top search result and indeed it was. However, there was a little note underneath the link saying: “This website may be hacked.” I knew this was bad, but I didn’t yet understand I was on the highway to hell.
My 100% web business was shut down and I didn’t know how to fix it. I’m a pretty good online marketer, but I’m no computer doctor.
Being unable to fix the problem myself, I hired a technical consultant.
I was fortunate enough to find a skilled team who was able to start working on the case right away. The first step was to see if restoring a back-up would solve the problem. It didn’t. The virus had contaminated the server as well, as it often does.
The team then started decontaminating every file on my website as well as the files on the server. This process took hours and after little sleep that night, they announced that my website was cured.
I called Google in the morning to let them know the website was clean and they could trust it again. They said their engineers would look into it and let us know in the next 24 hours. That evening I got an email from Google saying something to the effect “Nice try, but your site is still as dirty as can be.”
Rats! I had to ask for help again. Luckily my cleaning crew was still available. So they spent another night cleaning the systems even deeper, finding help online and searching for back-doors that could spread the virus again after the clean-up.
The next morning I called Google again, with the self-confidence of a guy who had just climbed Everest twice because he forgot his camera at the top the first time.
Once again, Google said the engineers would look at it and let me know. I decided to use the downtime to plan how we would make up the lost time and get sales back to where they belong. That night, Google’s verdict came like a stab, “No dice!”
After 10 days of painstaking work, we finally found the culprit. The hacker had infiltrated my AdWords account and inserted a link that re-infected my website as soon as someone clicked on one of my ads.
This was a super sophisticated attack on a website that held no value to the hacker other than the retransmission of a complex spamming scheme. What my website was about didn’t matter. In fact, it could have been your website for all the hackers cared.
So what did I learn from this experience?
With all the help, I was able to resolve the crisis. Many others aren’t so fortunate. Some of the clients I’ve worked with needed to scrap their website and start over. This means months of lost revenue and opportunities and thousands of dollars for a new website.
We all hear and read about horror stories of big companies being hacked and having client personal data stolen. You may think it only happens to them, but think again. Small and mid-size companies are targeted for various reasons, often unrelated to the business itself.
While you can’t prevent a skilled and determined hacker from attacking your website, chances are your website is simply one among millions they could attack. If you make it difficult to crack your website, the hackers may decide to move on instead.
They’ll choose the path of least resistance. By applying the measures mentioned above, you minimize the chances the path leads to your website and your wallet.
An article by Philippe Desjardins