How to restore a hacked website
Sadly, there are many intelligent, talented people who could be using their talents to make the world a better place but, instead, have chosen to use their computer skills to harm others. Just because you may not have a huge website or voice controversial opinions does NOT mean you are safe from the predations of these misfits. I have a garden site that strives to add beauty and the harmony of nature into people’s lives with gardening and landscape design. I figured I was way beyond the interest of a hacker. And just to be sure, I followed the usual protection procedures of security words and general web safety measures. Still, last week I brought up my site only to find myself locked out by a hideous screen of red and black with hate messages scrawled all over it. I’d been hacked. And I was only one of thousands of small sites to be hacked daily. Here are a few steps I have since learned to restore your website in the event it is hacked, and to keep it as safe as possible from future attacks.
- Try not to panic. It is deeply disturbing to see your hard work invaded and perverted. But you are not helpless.
- Go to your latest backup, whether it is on your computer, the cloud or at your host (the latter will probably charge you a fee for accessing the backup of your website.)
- You will need to delete your entire website. In my case I use FileZilla for FTP. It is incredibly hard to press the button that will remove all your work, but harden your heart; you have no choice.
- Once your site is removed, you need to upload your earlier version.
- NOTE: if you are savvy with computers, you can selectively clean up just the damaged folders and files on your server. For less sophisticated folks like me, I simply removed the whole public_html file.
- Even once your site is back, you are not done. You are just as vulnerable to a return or new attack as you were before, so beef up your security.
- Make sure you are using the latest version of all platforms, programs and plugins. Older versions offer weaknesses that invite hacking.
- Change your password. The best passwords are based on words or names that are NOT part of your life. Password hacking programs have become incredibly sophisticated. Good passwords do not directly relate to you, have punctuation inserted, are long and are likely not going to be easy to remember – even for you! Make your password HARD to hack, even if it is inconvenient to remember.
- Add more safety to your site. There are many plugins that can make your site more secure. One site with good suggestions is Solostream. You can also connect with a good website consultant to customize your site for better security.
I cannot stress how important it is to regularly copy your website to a secure location. It can be on your computer or elsewhere (not on email). Had I not backed up my site the week before it would have taken me weeks or months to get my site back up-to-date. I was lucky in that my data was not affected. Keep a full backup on hand, even if it is time-consuming. Should you find your site hacked one day, you will thank yourself many times over.
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