8 Essential Steps to Recover a Hacked Website
When you find out your website is hacked, it’s understandable that you’d begin to panic. But it’s much better to plan and take action immediately to get back to your website as soon as possible. In this article, we’ll cover some steps you shouldn’t forget to do while recovering your hacked website.
What happens if a website is hacked?
If you unfortunately get your website hacked, the consequences aren’t only the loss of control of your website. The impact of a hacked website can range from minor inconveniences, if you’re lucky, to significant financial losses and, at worst, a damaged reputation.
One of the effects of a hacked website is that the hacker can cause potential data loss or alter your data to their advantage. Hackers may gain unauthorized access to sensitive information for your web users and admins. They can use that information for identity theft. They can do all sorts of fraudulent activities with that vital data.
Your hacked website can also become a platform for spreading malware or launching attacks on other websites or users. If this happens, your website visitors’ info is at risk, and it will tarnish your reputation as a website owner.
Signs your website is at risk
Now that you know what could happen if your website gets hacked, it’s good to be vigilant and see whether it is currently at risk. By recognizing these signs early on, you can take the necessary steps to protect your website.
One clear indication that your website is at risk is if you notice any unauthorized changes or modifications to your site’s content or design. Some unauthorized changes in layout that you should look into would be:
- unusual pop-ups
- redirects to suspicious websites
- the appearance of unfamiliar links
- suspicious ads
These alterations can be from hackers seeking to exploit your website’s security vulnerabilities.
Another sign that your website may be at risk is a sudden decrease in performance or slow loading times.
Hackers often inject malicious code into websites, significantly impacting their functionality and speed. If you notice a significant drop in user experience or an increase in error messages, it is essential to investigate the root cause promptly.
Also, pay attention to customer or user feedback. It could indicate a security breach if you receive reports from users or customers about unusual activities on your site, such as unauthorized transactions or spam emails originating from your domain.
Regularly monitoring your website’s traffic patterns can also help identify potential risks. Unusual spikes in traffic from unfamiliar locations or an excessive number of failed login attempts could signal an ongoing attack on your site.
One other good indicator that your site is compromised would be based on how search engines describe your website. If you find that search engines have flagged your site with warnings such as “This site may harm your computer” or “This site may have been hacked,” it is crucial not to ignore them as they indicate a high level of risk.
If your website shows these signs and you confirm that your website is hacked, then here are some essential steps to help you recover your compromised site:
1. Assess the damage
The first thing you need to do is check whether you still have access to the website. In the best-case scenario, if you still have access to it, you should start assessing all your site’s possible compromised entry points.
Change your website admin passwords, your email passwords directly, and so on. Then, check just how much of your site took damage from this attack.
Ideally, it would be best to look for the primary source of the hacker’s origin so that you can close off their access to your site. Once you’re sure the hacker has no control over anything, you can assess the damage in peace.
2. Put the site in maintenance mode
You don’t want other people interacting with your compromised website yet, so it’s best to put it in maintenance mode as soon as possible.
When your site is in maintenance mode, you temporarily remove your compromised website from public access, minimizing further damage and potential risk. By displaying a maintenance page instead, you can inform visitors that your site is undergoing necessary repairs and will be back up soon.
While it’s under maintenance, you can then focus on thoroughly investigating the security breach and address any vulnerabilities that may have contributed to the hack. It allows you to conduct a comprehensive audit of your website’s files, plugins, themes, and databases without the interference of live traffic.
3. Notify your hosting company
For additional help, you can notify your hosting company that your website has been hacked. They can help you clean up your site from that attack and check if other websites on their server have been hacked. If you don’t know, they might be able to guide you on what to do with your compromised website.
It would help if you also were doing your work to protect your website. You can even hire external help if you need it.
4. Restore from a backup
If you cannot completely restore your website while removing the malware from your website, you can always restore your data from a backup. Again, you can ask your hosting company since they may have website backups. That way, you get an uncompromised version of your website.
You should have already used a backup plugin for your website to access your website backups from there.
5. Reset your passwords
Once you’re sure the hacker cannot access your admin accounts, solidify that by resetting your website’s administrative account password. This account holds significant control over the entire site, making it a prime target for hackers.
Other passwords that you should be resetting would be other accounts associated with your website like:
- email accounts linked to your domain or hosting provider
- FTP (File Transfer Protocol) credentials used for file management on the server
- third-party services integrated with your website
- social media profile passwords
Don’t forget to prompt users of your website to reset their account passwords if you have an e-commerce platform or membership system on your site. That way, your customers’ data remains secure and prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information.
6. Clean up your website
If you’re lucky, maybe it’s just one stray plugin that caused the malware, and you can uninstall it, and you’re okay. Sometimes, though, your hacked site code will need a fine-toothed comb to sift through it and remove malicious code if the hacker thoroughly compromised it.
However, if you don’t have coding experience, you might not know what you’re doing, so it’s best to get a professional to help you.
7. Reinstall plugins and themes
According to Sytian Productions web design in the Philippines, once you’re sure the website is clean, you can reinstall your plugins and themes. Just ensure these plugins are not compromised and come from a reputable place.
This opportunity is a great time to start looking at the plugins you have on your website and trying to minimize their number as much as you can. Ideally, you shouldn’t have more than 20 of them at once.8. Reinforce website securityAfter experiencing the harrowing tales of having a website hacked, you should now care more about your website security. Now is the time to start investing more in reinforcing your website protection.Getting security-focused plugins is a great start, but having a web app firewall or WAF will significantly help.
Having a plan and not panicking is essential when you have a hacked website. Hopefully, with the help of the steps outlined above, you shouldn’t feel too panicked about how to get your website back. You can take practical actions to put your website on the right track again.