Restoring a hacked website is not as easy as simply running antivirus on the website files and quarantining any infected files. I also doubt, as a small business owner, you have the skill to deal with the technical aspects of recovering from an attack. Therefore, in this post I will provide a step-by-step guide for a non-technical person on how to recover from a hacked website.
The steps in this guide are based on my own experience of having one of my business websites hacked, I hope you will not go through the same pain I did to recover from an attack but instead learn from my experience.
To recover as cheaply and quickly as possible from an attack on your business website you need to be pro-active and first run through the following tasks. These tasks, if completed, will make the recovery process so much easier – believe me.
Pre-Attack Step 1 – Back-ups!
This One Step Will Increase Your Chances of Recovery – Dramatically!
Question: is your website being backed-up?
Then stop reading this post, contact your hosting provider and get it organized ASAP.
Then stop reading this post, contact your hosting provider and confirm the following:
- How can you prove that my website is being backed-up?
- What is the process to revert my website to a back-up?
- How long will it take to revert to a back-up?
The absolute importance of having your website backed-up frequently (a minimum of weekly, preferably daily) becomes very apparent when you work out that the website is so infected that it’s cheaper and faster to revert to a back-up.
In the case of my business website being hacked, I was lucky enough to have backups – BUT – no one checked them! So the last 6 months of back-ups were corrupted and I had to revert to a 7-month old back-up causing additional costs to me in the form of refunds to contributors and advertisers.
Pre-Attack Step 2: Lock-In Technical Help
Now that we can tick-off the most important task in our recovery guide let’s look at some additional planning tasks.
I will assume that you don’t have the technical skill to recover your website from an attack. So, you will need a technical person to help you with recovery.
The “person” can be the hosting provider’s support team or a third-party person you know of. What is very important is that before you need them, sometimes at extremely quick notice, day or night depending on your SLA’s, is that they will respond quickly when required.
Hosting Provider Help
Check with your hosting provider first if they provide a service to help you recover from an attack. The reason why you should check with them first is that normally the hosting provider will have not only complete access to your website code and database, but also the webserver that is hosting your website.
Sometimes it’s the webserver that has been hacked first so that needs to be fixed first. A third-party such as your website’s developer or designer will not have “god” access to the webserver so you will waste time and money if you first engage third-party help only to find that you need to contact the hosting provider as well.
If the hosting provider does offer a recovery service, sometimes called “Incident Response”, then confirm the following with them:
- Is the service offered 24x7x365? Sometimes the service is only operational during their business hours, sometimes it costs a lot more to engage them outside of their normal business hours. Ensure you check with them on the availability and costs.
- How long does it take to respond? I have heard of some hosting providers providing a 24x7x365 call center but after business hours they only take a message and make you wait until normal business hours to act on anything!
- What are the contact details for the recovery service? If you can, get more than one contact channel – such email address, contact phone number, webpage form, pager number for example.
- What tasks can they offer to help with recovery? Will they revert to a back-up for you? Will they stop traffic to your site while the recovery process is running? Will they examine the website to see how the attack occurred and fixed anything they see as a vulnerability? Will they help you restore infected files?
Tip: having trust that your host providing will respond as promised when you need them is honorable – but not wise. I recommend that you ring their service out of hours and check that they at least respond.
In this post when I refer to “third-party help” I am referring to a person or small business that probably helped build the website and maybe “hosting” it on your behalf using their own account with a hosting provider. I am definitely not referring to a professional incident response organization that charges $500 per hour and can fly people in from around the world to be onsite hosting a “war room”.
To be honest I would much prefer getting help from the hosting provider directly as they are normally setup for responding to attacks, have robust SLAs and have an active and large support team. But if for some reason, you need to use a third-party then it’s vital that you have an understanding between the two of you what will be required in the case of an attack. Get the understanding down on paper too as often peoples recollection of who will do what in the middle of an attack will often change!
The same questions I presented above for a hosting provider applies to a third-party but additionally you will need to ensure you have at least one third-party back-up just in-case you cannot reach them or they can’t help.
When my website was hacked, I relied on my web developer who was a contractor based overseas, this was not a smart idea because he was on a month-long holiday when I reached his rather pissed-off wife at 2am their time. It was a major bummer that he did not tell me about his holiday – I think his wife will also agree.
Create the “Under Maintenance” Web Page
Design an “Under Maintenance” web page that will be displayed to your visitors instead of the hacked website. You do not want your website visitors to be at risk of any malicious code the attackers added to your website that is designed to attempt to compromise your visitor’s computers.
The original website that was attacked should be blocked from Internet visitors and only your IP address and the IP addresses of your technical support people should be allowed to access the hacked website.
Agree on an internal communications plan
One of the most annoying things support people deal with is clients constantly asking for updates on progress. I know of people who ring up support every 10 minutes asking for an update and don’t seem to realize that every time they do this the support person is taken away from fixing the issue.
Agree with the support team on when you will be updated by them with a progress report.
Pre-Attack Step 3: So, Who is Looking After Your Website?
In my line of business, I often provide professional advice to businesses who have had their website hacked. After my own website was hacked 7 years ago, I do have some good advice to offer 🙂
Often, I find there is confusion as to who is supposed to be looking after the website regarding maintenance.
Most of the time, with small business, there is an assumption by the business owner that the web developer who built the website is responsible for its upkeep. The web developer on the other hand believes it’s the clients responsibility.
This results in the website never having patches or security updates applied, which 9 times out of 10 is the reason why the website was hacked.
Make sure that there is a clear and detailed maintenance plan for the website in writing. Ensure that the person responsible for patching and general maintenance is defined within that documented plan and that the person has signed the document as a statement of understanding.
The detail should cover when patching is performed (normally monthly or if a critical security patch has been released that the website is patched within 7 days of the critical patches release), what happens if a patch fails to install (roll-back) and what software is covered by the patching agreement.
Tip: the maintenance plan should also record who is responsible for backups and define the back-up schedule.
Pre-Attack Step 4: Communication Plan
Create a communications plan that defines all the entities that should be alerted to the attack. This must include your clients, staff, business partners, and any external parties that legally you must inform such as applicable government departments.
If your website accepts credit cards as payment, regardless of whether the website directly accepts the credit card details or the customer is redirected to a payment gateway provider you must contact your acquiring bank and the applicable card brands ASAP.
If the media would be interested in the attack ensure you have a statement written up for them. The last thing you need is media ringing you while you’re having a panic attack and there is no pre-written statement to read off from.
Pre-Attack Step 5: Website Alternatives
If the recovery process for the website takes more than a few hours to resolve then you may need to think about alternatives especially if your clients rely on the website for something such as functionality or data. For example, if your website provides a service to allow clients to manage their email marketing or provides share-market data feeds, you may have SLAs to consider.
Depending on your business, alternatives could be standby websites, manual execution of tasks or leveraging off a competitor’s website under an agreement.
This all comes under business continuity planning but my advice in the context of a website attack is, if standing up a backup website is part of your BCP then first consider – whatever caused the attack on your primary website maybe also residing in your standby site such as an un-patched vulnerability. Its not smart standing up your secondary website only to find minutes later its hacked as well. Now you have two websites to clean up!
Okay, all pre-attack tasks have been completed. Let’s move to the steps I recommend taking if your website is hacked.
- Contact your primary technical support team that was setup in Pre-Attack Step 2: Lock-In Technical Help. Alert them to the website attack and ask them to display the “Under Maintenance” web page and lock down the hacked website to only be accessed by your IP address and their IP addresses. If you have followed my recommendations for setting up the support team you should know when they will contact you to provide a status update and what they will be able to do regarding recovery tasks.
- Run through your communications plan so you alert the required entities using your communication templates.
- Check that your mobile is fully charged so you don’t invoke Murphy’s Law and run out of battery at a critical point! Check that your email is working also as people will often emailed you regarding the state of your website.
- While you wait for the technical support team to attempt recovery of the website run through your BCP plan that we looked at in Pre-Attack Step 5: Website Alternatives. Depending on the severity of the attack you may be standing up your secondary website – ensure you are ready for this.
- If the technical support team do not contact you at the agreed update time then give them another 30 minutes as they may be at a critical juncture and would rather complete what they are doing. If they still have not contacted you after the 30-minute extension then contact them but don’t be too surprised if they do not answer – sometimes in the heat of the moment having absolute focus on fixing the issue is paramount.
- Hopefully the recovery is a success and your website is back up and running. If not, and the website cannot be recovered then you will probably have to revert to a back-up. This is when you thank me for reminding you to check that your website is backed up and the back-ups actually work. You’re welcome 🙂
- Now that your website is running again contact your technical support team for a debrief of the incident so you understand the following:
- What was the “thing” that allowed the attack to occur? Vulnerability? Weak passwords?
- Has the “thing” that allowed the attack to occur been fixed? If not then what is the plan to fix the “thing” and who is responsible for ensuring the “thing” is fixed. What is the timeline to fix the “thing”?
- Were there any lessons-learned? If so how can we improve of the response plan using the lessons-learned?
- Run through your communication plan updating the interested parties on the success of the recovery. You may want to provide some detail here regarding what steps were executed – this shows a professionalism in your ability to deal with an attack.
Well done for reading the entire post! If you implement the recommendations I have provided you will definitely be in a very strong position to deal with a website attack.
Finally, I think you will agree that the pre-attack tasks if implemented, make dealing with an attack so much more controlled and chances of a successful recovery much higher than thinking your website will never be hacked.
How Compliant is your Small Business?
Operating a small business doesn’t mean you can be complacent with how you’re protecting customer data and the prevention of the real threat of credit card theft.
Hacking gangs are alive and well hence the tightening of data protection rules in the western world including the European Union’s GDPR.
So there’s two major compliances to work on immediately if you’ve not done so already. Doing the basics to ensure your business is in compliance with data protection laws including the GDPR even if you’re not in Europe is a must-do and here’s how you can get started if you’ve not done it already.
Every website collecting email addresses and more, need to comply with the requirements for protecting customer data. There’s more that’s needed too see (Website policies) further on in this article.
There is also a pressing concern for all businesses, eCommerce and particularly those in the retail sector to commit to PCI compliance. You might be wondering what it is and is your operation too small to be bothered with it right now.
A really good explanation of what PCI DSS is and why any business transactions using credit cards needs to comply can be found in this article on BusinessBlogs.
Smaller businesses can do a self assessment and why you might sigh with relief, don’t get too comfortable, you’ll still need to know exactly how to do a PCI self assessment and how to get set up so when your business grows it’s got everything in place for external assessments.
PCI and Networks
The real difficulty lies in understanding how sensitive data moves along your network which is a must for assessment. The wireless LANs and other connectivity points like USBs and bluetooth can be penetrated hence they need to be monitored and secure. This is where a PCI compliant specialist comes into their own not only for your self assessment but also when using external PCI auditors for your compliance.
Earlier on we mentioned protection of customer data and laws like GDPR.
Any business with a website that collects customer data can not avoid the basics website features that allow for transparency of how customer data is collected, utilised and shared with privacy and cookies policies.
This really is the norm now and it’s the entry level for all websites so all website developers will implement it, so it’s just the older sites and the Do-it-yourself crowd who need to be aware of the requirements.
Website visitor expectation is they’ll see the pop up that asks for acceptance of re. your website cookies policy and they’ll take the necessary action. Without it, your business is not perceived as being secure and visitors may take no further action i.e. they’ll exit your site.
All websites should also be using the SSL (HTTPS), and be mobile ready. Plus have all the bells and whistles in place to manage customer data collection and management for protection of customer data.
Ignorance is not bliss and it will be hurting your business if your website is not on top of it’s compliance requirements. Get curious, find out what you need to know and when you need to take action to keep the hackers out and the visitors in.
Why Shopping Cart Abandonment?
Shopping cart abandonment is not decreasing. Buyers add stuff to their shopping cart, however exit without finishing the purchase. The term ‘buyer’s remorse‘ needs to coined another way to describe why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts.
Relinquishment is an electronic business term used to portray a condition wherein a visitor on a page leaves that page before completing the pined for movement. Occurrences of betraying, are the place shopping cart abandonment happens the most! The reasons change from site to site and they’re explained well in the infographic created by Fullestop. We’ve added it to this post for you.
Web business destinations attempt to decrease their cart abandonment rate; however it’s a losing battle with a high level of customers still slipping past. Honestly, shopping case surrender rates if all else fails are actually rising. Business Insider reports that $4.6 trillion worth of stock was left in spurned trucks in 2016, up from $4.2 trillion out of 2013.
Reasons behind Shopping Cart Abandonment
For the retail part, these were the most widely recognized explanations behind the surrender:
• 34% were ‘quite recently looking’ i.e. not prepared to purchase.
• 23% had an issue with transportation.
• 18% needed to look at costs.
• 15% chose to purchase in-store.
• 6% relinquished because of an absence of instalment alternatives.
• 4% encountered a specialized issue.
Distinctive edifications have been offered trying to state why buyers leave shopping bushels. Most, by far, of the reasons, take after the ones in this present reality shopping process. The basic enlightenments behind shopping wicker container betraying have been seen as:
Perplexity with astound costs: in the far-fetched event that it’s not clear how to influence a purchase and you to leave your prospects with no other individual, expecting that “they’ll appreciate it”, you’re in for an epic dissatisfaction. Correspondingly, if they are out of the blue given some extra costs that they didn’t expect, you were showing the portal yourself.
Alert or secure site: An alert about the website can without much effort change over into fear. The starting point for a business is website security and assuring customers the website is safe and secure and this includes their shopping cart and when it comes to credit card data, what information is requested from purchasers.
Most electronic business purchasers are careful about revealing their own particular information, especially with respect to MasterCard inspirations driving interest. Purchasers are already nervous and it’s not long before they end up plainly suspicious especially if an overabundance of information is requested from them.
How To Protect Your Business From Cyber Attacks
There is no getting away from the fact that cybercriminals and hackers are everywhere these days. Business owners need to remain vigilant and take precautions if they don’t want to become the victims of crime. The information in this article will educate all readers about the basics of protecting their operations and ensuring information theft doesn’t occur. The last thing any entrepreneur wants is for a hacker to steal their customer payment details because that often results in bad press and a lot of headaches. With that in mind, use the advice below to ensure you leave no stone unturned when it comes to securing your company.
So how do hackers break into my website or computer network?
There are many ways in which hackers might attempt to breach your security tools and gain access to your website or office computer network. However, some methods are more common than others. In recent times, business owners report the following strategies when hacking attacks occur:
- The hacker will upload specialist tools to your website that allow them to create multiple backdoors. That means that if you identify the first vulnerability and fix it, the criminal can still gain access using a variety of different methods.
- Some online hackers will attempt to download all user accounts and then use specialist tools to break through password encryption. Alternatively, those criminals can just steal the contact information like email addresses before selling the data to spamming organisations.
Well, how do I stop that from happening?
Protecting your computer network:
You have lots of options on the table when it comes to protecting a computer network against hacking attacks. In most instances, it makes sense to build a relationship with an IT Support company that can offer assistance if the worst occurs. However, there are lots of preventative measures you can take in advance. Considering that, be sure to read the following information carefully and put the tips into action as soon as possible!
- Invest in digital and physical firewalls – You can get those items online for little money these days. Just be sure to conduct a lot of research and read reviews from other business owners before committing.
- Keep all software updated – Software developers release updated versions of their products all the time to help combat security vulnerabilities. If you don’t have the latest version of the program, you might expose your company to hackers.
- Provide employee security training – It’s vital to offer all employees training on the best practices for maintaining maximum security. For instance, business owners should ensure their workers never connect personal smartphones to the business network. Likewise, the team members should never access their social media accounts in the workplace. However they should follow an IT Security expert and learn from their views and news. That could create security concerns.
- Use strong and random passwords that contain numbers and letters – There are lots of random password tools that anyone can use if they want to ensure hackers can’t guess their way into the network. It’s worth investing in one of those programs as soon as possible.
- Don’t connect unknown devices to your computers – As mentioned a moment ago, connecting smartphones and other media to your computer network could create problems. If hackers already have access to that device, they will have no issue when it comes to penetrating your system.
- Encrypt all sensitive data or store it in the cloud – Cloud storage providers use some of the most advanced encryption tools and strategies possible. So, business owners shouldn’t have to worry too much if they keep their sensitive data secure using one of those services. However, it’s also vital that you encrypt information on your office network too!
- Never use unsecured WiFi networks – If you connect your computers to unsecured public networks, hackers can break into your system in a matter of sections. Indeed, there are low-cost computer programs that even teenagers could use to steal your information if you make that simple error.
Protecting your website:
Business owners also need to follow the correct strategies when it comes to ensuring their websites don’t become vulnerable to hacking attacks. The list of tips below will assist you in making sure your site has the most robust protections possible. Failure to implement the advice from this section will mean you stand a much higher chance of becoming a victim than those who pay attention.
- Keep all software, and website plugins up-to-date – Hackers will look to exploit the vulnerabilities that developers work hard to solve with their software and plug-in updates.
- Use complex passwords – Again, you can find programs that create random passwords without breaking the bank.
- Don’t allow users to upload files – Unless there is no alternative, allowing users to upload files is a recipe for disaster.
- Only use HTTPS to deliver private information (payment details, etc.)
- Use the best website security tools – There are new programs and plug-ins hitting the market every single day. So, business owners just need to keep abreast of the latest advancements and invest at the right time.
- Always use a secure online payment gateway – Consumers expect to see that little padlock in the left-hand cover of the address bar when they enter payment information. Ensuring the page is secure should help to protect against hacking attacks. However, it should also mean you miss out on fewer sales.
Now you know all the basics of protecting your business from cyber attacks; you just need to put that advice into action. There is no time to delay because criminals work around the clock to steal information and profit from their crimes. So, sit down with your most dedicated team members as soon as possible before discussing the matter and designing your strategy. As stated only a moment ago, sometimes company bosses will benefit from the expertise of professionals. With that in might, weigh all the pros and cons and then work out if you have enough money in your budget to pay for assistance. If you don’t, just follow the advice from tips post!
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