One of the biggest misconceptions that website owners have is to think that their site holds little interest or value to a hacker. That, however, is not the case. Every website hacked is an opportunity for a cybercriminal outfit to carry out a multitude of nefarious activities. While some are obvious, such as taking the site offline and sending you a ransom, others are designed to go on silently in the background. In these cases, the criminals don’t want you to know they’ve gained access to your site. There are clues, though, that you might be a victim of a silent attack and here are six to look out for.
1. Being locked out of your admin account
Access to an admin account gives a person complete control of a website. One of the first things hackers will want to do if they have gained that control is to prevent genuine admins from logging in. As a result, they’ll change the admin login credentials and the email address or phone number to which notifications are sent. This means you’ll find that your password doesn’t work anymore and that when you ask to reset it, you won’t receive an email or text message with a reset link.
Alternatively, the hacker might create a new admin account for themselves and remove your admin privileges. You’ll still be able to log in but might not realise that there are things you are no longer able to do. This would help the hacker pull the wool over your eyes for just a little longer.
2. Strange new user registrations
The vast majority of websites will only have a few users and these will mainly be employees of the company. One technique used by hackers is to register new admins and other users so that they can access the site in the same way that everyone else does.
A clear hint that your site has been hacked is if users are being added who you do not know, especially if they have been given admin, editorial or author privileges. If there are, the hacker must have gained administrative access to your website to create these. Those with editorial or author privileges might not have access to the admin area of the site, but they would be allowed to edit content and change URLs, etc.
3. Unusual analytics data
If you’re seeing unusual patterns in how much traffic you get, how visitors navigate through your website or increases in the numbers of people abandoning your site, these are all possible clues of being hacked.
Sudden traffic increases could arise if cybercriminals have hacked other websites and are redirecting users to yours. They are not doing this for your benefit, however. They’ve likely made changes to your site so that when redirected visitors arrive, they are either infected with malware or defrauded.
Hackers might also redirect visitors away from your site by changing one of your internal links to an external one. They may clone your site and take fraudulent payments from your customers or infect visitors’ devices with malware.
Do remember that there are lots of other reasons, besides hacking, why your analytics data might suddenly change.
4. Your homepage is redirected
Sometimes a hacker will try to steal your visitors by redirecting your website’s homepage. This would go beyond changing an internal link and mean that anyone clicking on a homepage link in Google or on an ad would be sent elsewhere. This might not simply be a clue that your website has been hacked but could potentially mean your hosting account has been infiltrated too.
Often this type of attack is done to websites where financial transactions are carried out and the redirected site will be an exact copy of yours. When visitors attempt to buy products from this site, their money, payment details and login credentials to your site will be stolen.
5. Your content has been changed
Hackers will change the content of websites for various reasons. Aside from adding or changing links, It’s not uncommon for hackers to act with a twisted sense of morality if they have an ethical issue with your business or the products you sell. Here, they might deface your content or add more subtle changes that are harder to discover but which portray your business in a less than positive light.
By looking at the list of pages and posts in your admin panel, you’ll be able to see when any of them were last updated. If these show changes have been made that you think are not yours, you should read the content carefully. If the content has been changed without your knowledge, you could have a hacker at work. It could also be a former employee with a grudge against the company who finds their user account hasn’t been deleted.
6. Browser warnings
Search engines are so sophisticated today that they can spot the majority of malicious websites and display warnings to users about visiting them. If you see one of these warnings when attempting to visit your own website, it’s a clear indication that the site has a security issue or that users are being redirected to a malicious site.
How your hosting can protect you against hacking
Although you need to put in security measures of your own to safeguard against hacking, such as using strong passwords and two-factor authentication, a good web host will also provide a wide range of security solutions to help keep your site protected. These will include strong firewalls, intrusion prevention and malware detection tools, spam filters, SSL certificates, data and email encryption, remote backups and so forth.
Hackers have subtle ways to take over websites for their own purposes, often with the aim of keeping the website owner unaware of what is taking place. Hopefully, the six clues mentioned here will help spot the signs of silent hacking.
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