How to Avoid the Deathly Hallows of Hackers Part 1

Those blood-curdling phantoms that worm their way into our systems are a web developer’s worst nightmare and they are on the rise!

Halloween has just passed and here at Brave Agency we love a good tradition so it’s only right that we continue with our annual Halloween themed blog post. In today’s special edition, we’ll be wandering into the dark unknown and mysterious world of the greatly feared hackers.

Anyone and everyone with an online presence are vulnerable to their wrath, including several multinational corporations. Sony, PlayStation, Talktalk, eBay, and even the US Government have all been targeted (multiple times, ask Assange).

In the UK, cyber attacks remain a top national security threat alongside terrorism; serious cyber attacks conducted on 8/10 large British companies cost the UK millions of pounds each year.

Research shows that over 30,000 websites are hacked every single day and that Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others blacklist 9,500 websites on a daily basis because they have been either maliciously infected or hacked.

But enough with the scare fest; it’s not all doom and gloom!

If you are a business owner that relies on your website to generate leads and your website is a critical part of your sales and marketing operation, there are measures you can take to keep the online vandals away and prevent a PR nightmare.

This series of blog posts aims to educate you on the various ways hackers can strike and next week we will divulge the key steps businesses can take to protect themselves.

So, what happens if you suffer an attack and your website has been hacked?

Malicious code is injected into your website

We have to remember that the single biggest motivation of a hacker is exploitation driven by financial gain. If they can infect a website which gets visited by 10,000 visitors a day, then they will also be able to infect a large proportion of those visitors who don’t have adequate PC or Mac security. Once they can infect the user’s machine, they can extort money, using techniques such as ransomware.

Your website gets blacklisted by Google

This is probably the worst side effect of being hacked. If Google detects malware on your website, it simply blacklists you. If you get blacklisted, when people try to visit your website they won’t be able to. Instead their website browser will know that Google have it currently blacklisted and they will receive a warning which looks something like the image below:

How_to_avoid_the_deathly_hallows_of_hackers

Your email gets blacklisted

This can probably be the most disruptive element of being hacked. If the server your website is hosted on gets hacked and the same server also hosts your email, an attacker can use your email address to send spam. If this happens, high volumes of spam will be detected as coming from your mail server and it will simply get blacklisted.

It is quite difficult to get delisted from popular spam blacklists and this disruption can take up to two weeks to resolve.

Your website needs cleaning up and ridding of any infection

Before you can get your website back up and running and delisted from Google, you need real expertise to work through your website code and find anything which looks untoward or malicious. This can take a long time to fix as hackers use all manner of techniques to weed their way into systems; with the intent of staying there for as long as possible. The techniques they use to disguise any code once installed are vast and sometimes very complex.

Malware Scanning

Malware is a shortened term to describe ‘malicious software’. This loosely describes any kind of software that has malicious intent. As already discussed, malware can be installed by hackers on to PCs and Macs to then monitor and track user activity, and then install more software and potentially extort money.

It is normally installed when unsuspecting people open a suspicious email attachment that is infected, however a number of other techniques are also used to deploy malware such as exploiting a website and using this as a method of infection.

So, to sum it all up…

Most of us go through life thinking, “It won’t ever happen to me”. As far as online and website security is concerned, that philosophy has been proven wrong time and time again.

Hackers, who are financially motivated, will stop at nothing, constantly searching for opportunities and vulnerabilities to exploit. By becoming more adept at crafting attacks and creating increasingly sophisticated wares, there has never been a better time to secure your website against these vandals.

Join us next week when we will discuss the multiple ways to avoid hackers.

Written byTony Conte

Founder and Owner of Brave Agency, an Integrated Agency transforming businesses through design, digital and marketing, helping you, our clients to get results by applying the right strategy.

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