The first thing you need to understand about hackers and distributors of malware on the internet, is that it can happen to basically anyone. There is no target to large or small. And hackers aren’t even necessarily (or likely) after information specific to your site or your business. Hackers hack because they can. If you leave them an opening, they will find it. This isn’t a scare tactic, just a fact of how they operate.
For most hackers, their malicious activities are part of a business or scheme that they are running, and what seems to you like a personal assault on your hard work, reputation and livelihood is actually a sophisticated and largely automated procedure that probably has nothing to do with you.
For those of you who have experienced a hacked or infected site (or might be experiencing it right now) I am so sorry. I feel your pain. For those who have never had this particular curse thrust upon them, let me tell you from experience, it can be a living nightmare. And for those whose sites are acting a bit funny and aren’t sure whether or not their site has been hacked – read on to see the signs, consequences, and how platforms like Squarespace and Shopify become more valuable than ever in these situtations.
One of the most common and surefire ways to tell that your site has been hacked is if you have lost access to it. This can range from a subtle loss of access to a blatant, blaring, in-your-face alarm.
On the more subtle side, you may go to log into your admin panel of a CMS platform like Wordpress and find that your password doesn’t work anymore, even though you are like 90% sure you didn’t change it.
A more obvious situation, though still potentially difficult to notice, is if some or all of your website’s visitors are being redirected to some other site that isn’t yours when they type in or search for your URL.
Even more obvious still is when you try to go to the site and your browser blocks it because it has been identified as malicious or infected. This also might result in search engines marking the site as spam. Even if your browser fails to catch the site infection, you might attempt to go to your site to find that it is just gone. Missing. Vanished into thin air. Or perhaps you’ve received a notice from your hosting service saying that the have detected a hack or infection and have quarantined your site until the issue has been resolved.
Whatever the reason, the result is that you and your visitors can no longer access your site, meaning that it isn’t doing you or your business much good.
While totally losing access to your site may seem like the worst thing to ever happen, it actually may be a more preferable way to have a hack go down. At least then you become alerted to the situation and can take necessary steps to resolve it.
For hackers, they’d actually much prefer that their activities go unnoticed for as long as possible, so it is much more common for less noticeable changes or attacks to be made on your site.
One common tactic is to replace content on your site with content that benefits the hacker’s business. This could mean trading out your images for ads, or adding or replacing links on your site which redirect to other sites. They might even auto-link certain keywords on your site.
Another common bit of added content are unauthorized pop-up ads for content that you definitely wouldn’t be advertising by choice.
Hiding in Plain Sight
The worst kind of malware is the kind that doesn’t show itself at all, but rather just hangs out in the background of your code, doing its nefarious deeds.
What’s the point of this kind of malware? Well, usually hackers will plant it there to steal information which they will then sell for a profit. This could be IP addresses, email addresses, customer information or even banking and financial information.
Hackers also like to create backdoors and bugs which can be used by them at a later time and might not ever show themselves unless you go looking, but could make your site unwittingly part of a scam or another hack.
Why Its Bad
You might think it is unnecessary for me to explain why having a website that is hacked or infected with malware is a bad thing. After all, many of the consequences can be quite obvious. If your site goes down, is redirecting people away from where you want them to go or is serving up unauthorized content, that is clearly not a good situation.
Often though, there are negative consequences to having a hacked site that you might not be aware of. Your site can get blacklisted by search engines, which can be difficult to undo.
Your SEO efforts can also take a huge hit. All the hard work that you’ve done to build up your position in search rankings can get reversed and take a long time to rebuild. Your analytics will likely also become unusable for a while, which can become its own difficult and frustrating knot to untangle.
Most significantly though, you will lose trust in any customers or site visitors who are affected. No matter how forgiving your visitors are, it will certainly take a while before they look at your site the same way again.
Why Squarespace and Shopify are Different
Squarespace and Shopify both operate controlled hosting environments, which are more secure and make infiltration by hackers far less likely. Unlike Wordpress, updates are automatic, and they handle all security measures and patching of vulnerabilities from top to bottom.
If somehow your site still does end up getting hacked, Squarespace and Shopify have support teams that can handle it, and will fix it. No need to dig through code yourself, install additional software or hire an outside security consultant to clean up the mess. It’s just one less thing to worry about, and to give both you and your customers peace of mind. Plus, for those of us who create content and are engaged in an active SEO strategy, it is reassurance that all of that hard work isn’t going to get flushed down the drain thanks to a hack.
Having your website hacked can range from being a real headache to a significant threat to your business. No matter what company you use for hosting or what platform you use to build your website and manage your content, there is no such thing as a completely hack-proof site. Make sure you stay vigilant about web security while you can, before you have a giant mess to clean up. And for the best peace of mind, go with a service like Squarespace or Shopify that will have your back when you run into a hacking or malware situation.
Want to learn about how making the switch to a Squarespace or Shopify website can benefit your business? Contact us today.