What Happens if My Website Gets Hacked?
By Raeleen| 14 April 2022
Learn about the importance of cybersecurity, how to stay secure online, and what to do when your company website become a victim of hacking.
What are the Most Common Reasons for Website Hacking?
Hackers have different motivations for their attacks. Here are some of the most common reasons for website hacking.
Hackers steal sensitive information like credit card numbers, bank account names and numbers, addresses, and others.
They can use this information to outright steal from the account owners through bank transfers and misuse of credit cards. They can also sell stolen information on the dark web. Stolen personal information can be used to apply for loans or government benefits. Worse, some people may use another’s identity while committing other crimes.
Hackers may also lock the owner out of their website and demand a ransom or blackmail them in exchange for keeping silent about a piece of information.
Some hackers deface a website or launch attacks to prevent others from accessing a website because they want to make a point regarding a political, social, religious, or economic issue.
Some companies hire hackers to steal information about their competitors (trade secrets, intellectual property) to gain leverage or to damage the latter’s reputation.
Some hackers may be out for a personal vendetta against a company, organisation or person. Others may just want to do it for bragging rights.
The Importance of Cybersecurity for your Website
Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting computer systems, servers, and networks from malicious attacks by using various technologies, processes, or controls.
Ensuring website security should be a priority of every company. Here’s why.
Anyone can be a Target of Cyber Attacks
Don’t ever think that only big companies are targets for cyber attacks. Taking down a website of a big company may be lucrative. But it can be more challenging for hackers because big companies usually have robust security. Whereas, smaller ones are easier to attack and if a hacker can get into many small websites, they may get as many benefits as if they attacked one big website.
You Must Protect your Customers
Hackers often target the customers’ personal information such as their names and credit card numbers and use them for fraud.
Your customers entrusted their personal information to you. It is therefore your responsibility to ensure that their information is protected on your websites. If you haven’t done enough to protect your customers privacy you could be implicated.
Hackers are Getting Bolder
There’s been an uptick in cybercrimes in recent years. According to the Identity Theft Research Center, there has been a 17% increase in the reported number of data breaches in 2021 compared to 2020. They are also becoming more sophisticated, using different tactics and tools to try to get around the security measures of companies and individuals.
You can lose your data
If your website is not properly backed up, you can lose all your data during an attack. It will be very hard to rebuild your website without a backup. It will disrupt your business not only because of the website downtime but also because your company will now put your time, energy, and resources into recovering your data.
Your reputation is at stake
You will lose the trust of your customers if your company becomes a victim of a cyber attack especially if their data become exposed or if your website is down for a long time.
You can lose revenue
Hackers may find a way to access your finances or they may demand a ransom in exchange for returning your access to your data. You may also see a drop in your revenue when your customers lose their trust in your company. Or your website may be offline for a significant’ period of time while you deal with the attack and you will lose many customers and transactions during this downtime.
It is more costly to recover from a cyberattack than to prevent one
Cyber attacks on your website can result in disruption of your business, direct financial loss, damage to your reputation, and loss of clients. In addition, you may also have to pay for remediation to affected third parties and legal fees in certain situations.
These are on top of the costs of hiring a company or professionals to clean up your website, recover your lost data, and get it back up and working again.
How to Avoid Getting Hacked by Staying Secure Online
Here are some tips to secure your website.
Educate your employees about cybersecurity
- Anyone who has access to your website and your computers should be made aware of phishing, smishing, and other types of social engineering hacks that aim to trick users into giving their login credentials.
- Teach them about the importance of creating a strong and unique password for their accounts. A strong password has a mix of characters (uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols), contains at least eight characters, and do not contain names of family members, birthdays, and common substitutions (0 for the letter O etc).
- Warn them about physical cyberattacks so that they won’t fall into them. An example of this is when someone plants an infected USB drive in the lobby or near the office in the hopes that an employee will pick it up and stick it in the work computer. Another example is when someone tailgates an employee so they can have access to the computers and servers.
Secure your devices
Your computers can be an entry point for a cyber attack. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent that.
- All computers must run the latest version of the operating system and application software.
- All computers must be password-protected with strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
- All computers must have security software installed.
Protect your network
- Ensure your router’s firewall is enabled.
- Set up wireless encryption to stop other people from accessing your network.
- Set up an access list so that only authorised computers can access your network.
Get a reliable host
- Get a host that has an adequate infrastructure to protect their servers and networks, and your website. Ensure that their servers use at least PHP 7 and that they have up-to-date cPanel, MySQL or other database programs, and operating systems.
- As much as possible, get an enterprise-level hosting plan with a dedicated server and managed hosting. Cheap hosting plans are not ideal because your website will share resources with other websites. When one of the websites in the shared server gets infected, your website can be infected too. You can have an options which is still shared but the host will have an extra layer of security to prevent cross-contamination between websites.
Harden your content management system
- Keep your CMS up-to-date. Outdated CMS is usually an entry point for cyber attacks. Older CMS versions have known vulnerabilities that are exploited by hackers.
- Install only plugins/extensions and apps that are from reputable sources and keep them up-to-date.
- Change the default admin name.Install security plugins or apps to beef up the security of your website.
- Aside from educating your employees about passwords, enforce strong passwords from your end.Enable two-factor authentication for your websites.
- Follow the principle of least privilege. Give your users only sufficient access privileges to complete their tasks. There is no need for full admin privileges for those who are tasked to update the blogs or add products to your store.
- Limit log-in attempts per user to prevent brute-force attacks.
- Set up alerts for suspicious logins.
- Setup activity logs. An activity log is a record of all actions taken by every user on a given system to monitor who did what and when. Activity logs can help you quickly identify suspicious activities or harmful behaviour and do countermeasures right away. Likewise, an activity log can help you in troubleshooting. You can consult your activity log to see what happened before the issue first appeared and could help narrow down the causes of the problems that you are having.
- For WordPress users, follow the recommended security measures described here.
Use third-party security services
In addition to the above, you can use third-party security services to further beef your website security. Here are some of the services that you can avail of.
- Web Application Firewall. This is a type of firewall that filters and monitors traffic between web applications and the Internet to protect the former from cyber attacks. Some of the companies that offer WAF services include Sucuri, Cloudflare, and Amazon Web Services.
- Backup Services. It is best to have multiple backups of your website in case something goes wrong. Some hosting companies offer bundled backup services with their plan. However, having another backup that is located in another server or location is ideal. Some companies like BlogVault and Updraft offer backup services for websites.
- DDOS Protection Services. Distributed Denial of service attacks (DDoS) – DDoS attacks aim to overload a website’s server making the website inaccessible or inoperable. The most common form of DDoS attack is accomplished by using a botnet –a network of compromised computers(bots) to flood the target with internet traffic which overwhelms the system and prevents legit traffic from coming through. Companies like Cloudflare and Akamai offer DDOS protection services.
- Integrated solutions. Some companies like Sucuri and Malcare offer multiple security solutions like web application firewall, malware scans and removal, and other services bundled together in one package.
My Website Got Hacked. Now what?
Hackers are getting more sophisticated each day. Sometimes despite all our efforts, they get their way.
If ever your website gets hacked, your company should have an incident response plan to help minimise the effect of the cyberattack and help you recover as quickly as possible.
Here is a general response procedure that you can follow in case you’ve been attacked or suspect that you are being hacked.
Protect your business from potentially crippling cyber-attacks
You can’t afford to lose customers to a cyber attack. Find out how to protect your site with our Complete Guide to Website Security in 2022.
Website security should always be given top priority. There’s a lot at stake here: your reputation, your customers, your revenue, your intellectual property and trade secrets, and more. Your company must have security measures in place to avoid hacking incidents.
Be aware of possible entry points of security breaches. These include the users, your devices, your network, and your server/host. Knowing these will help you plan a course of action to minimise the risks of breaches. It is important to have an incident response plan in case of a cyberattack to be able to mitigate its effect and recover as quickly as possible.
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