Gaaaahhhhhhh! There I was being typically lazy and in order to find something from my website I did what everyone does these days and just googled it. Kapow.. there I am, but wait, what is that little note from the almighty Google? "This site may be hacked", say what? How rude!
So I messaged Melissa Love who designed the site for me and is my font of knowledge on all things websites. I knew she was on holiday in France, so I just wanted to check if I should be worried about it. Bless her, she did put down the Vin Rouge and get her technical support straight on the case. And yes it turned out that the site had been hacked but it seemed to be a recent thing so not to worry too much.
Phew, right? Melissa's crack team of computer geeks went in, cleaned everything up and gave my site the all clear. They even sent me a site that I could go to to check Sucuri SiteCheck, I highly advise that you head over there and enter your url for a free scan. Except mine was still showing up with problems with Malware and Defacements. My good friend Google was still reading the site as hacked. So they cleaned it again, same thing, and again, same thing... you get the picture right? Turns out that the hacker had managed to hide some script in old files still on my server that would re execute the infection in a different place every time it was removed. What a pain!
Now luckily I had recently installed BlogVault. My site is massive and it was just too large for the plugin Back-up Buddy to cope with. I was aware that the site wasn't being backed-up properly even after adding space to dropbox just for it. Then I saw in Melissa's Facebook support group that she recommended installing BlogVault, it backs up all my sites in real time automatically in the background. Once installed I don't have to do a thing and at any time an up to date version of the site can be restored if needs be. BlogVault isn't free but as I now know, it is very much worth paying for.
So how else can we avoid our websites being hacked?
- Install Wordfence. It's a free plugin for wordpress that you will find by going to your site's dashboard, add new plugin and search for Wordfence. It will monitor the activity on your site and email you when anyone tries to log in or there is a problem. Now don't panic when you start to get alerts saying someone has been blocked after attempting to log in 20 times from Istanbul or wherever... that is just showing that it is doing it's job and in fact Wordfence will then block that attacker from all sites with the plugin installed, neat eh?
- Remove the Username Admin. Almost all hacks try to login with the username admin. The chances of them guessing your password may be slim but still, why give them 50% of the equation? If your current login is admin, then it's a little complicated to remove so bear with me. First up, log in as usual and add a new user ~ this will be your future login. Avoid just using your name too as this will be the next most popular attempt after admin. Make this new user an administrator and then log out. Log back in with the new username and password, make sure the password contains a combination of letters, numbers and symbols or even better use a password generator. Now that you are logged in go to users and hover over the admin user, you will now see a delete option under the name. Click this and when it asks if you wish to assign all the posts to another user then chose your new user. This is super important, otherwise all your existing posts will disappear.
- Stay on Top of Updates. It may not be the most thrilling of activities but you must do this. Most updates include actions to combat latest security issues. I'm not just talking about the WordPress updates either but all of your plugins. Most hacks find a way in through outdated plugins, mine turned out to be the Gravity Forms one so consider this your warning.
- Have a Firewall Installed. This is not something I know how to do but Melissa has her expert working on it. Whoever does it for you will need access to the C-Panel for your site so you need the details from your host company.
- Avoid AutoFill Forms on your site. Turns out that hackers are not usually teenage boys sitting in their bedrooms hacking random sites for fun. It's mostly done by automated bots trawling the web looking for ways to access sites in order to install malware and access your genuine users. So don't hand them a way in.
- Google Yourself. This is how I first discovered the problem and could get someone on it so quickly. Google is scanning your site all the time and it picks issues up fairly quickly.
Finally, if you do check your site and discover a problem, don't panic. There is plenty of help out there. The WP Fix It guys are amazing and a ticket costs just $39. They specialise in removing hacks and will have it sorted in no time.