With something like 500 million blogs out there some of them are inevitably going to be compromised by hackers. If you find that your blog has been hacked the first step is to check whether the web hosting company that provides the blog platform has been hacked. If not, then you’re probably the victim of a specific attack. If so, there are a few simple things you can do to get you and up and running again… and to stop any future attacks.
Blogs are insanely popular. According to some estimates in February this year about 172 million Tumblr, 75.8 million WordPress and 1.3 million Technorati blogs were in existence. However, these are not even the most popular blogging sites. Apparently Blogger takes that accolade though it doesn’t publish figures. Given the huge number of blogs, something in the region of 500 million worldwide, it’s hardly surprising then that some of them are going to be targets for hackers.
In April last year, WordPress users across the world were targeted in a huge attack. Millions of websites and blogs were probed. The hackers were taking advantage of the fact that many people don’t take basic security precautions. The WordPress attack was something known as a brute force attack.
The hackers used a large network of compromised computers and servers, which they had already hacked, to create the attack in an attempt to login to the WordPress sites. Once logged in, the hacker could control the websites, which could then be used to launch further attacks.
Some of the WordPress sites were for small businesses, others personal blogs. Many people understandably ask why would my site be hacked, it’s not running e-commerce, there are no credit card details to steal; it doesn’t contain sensitive identity information?
The WordPress hackers weren’t looking for this type of information. They were aiming to create a botnet, which is a large network of compromised computers, used to launch attacks or distribute malware. Botnets make it harder for authorities to detect the hackers and also make attacks harder to stop.
They could also have been aiming to use compromised websites and blogs to store malware for attacking other computers. Hackers don’t want to use their own servers because the malware could easily be tracked back to them. So, they will hack a site and upload their malware to it. Then, when the hackers send out their spam, people may unwittingly be downloading malicious files from your website.
Another reason for hacking small websites and blogs is to explore and gain bragging rights. Young hackers will often do it to flex their skills or deface a blog to show to their friends what they can do.
And the fact is that small websites and blogs are vulnerable. Most of the people creating blogs aren’t security experts, and as in the case of the WordPress attack, many simply failed to upgrade.
So apart from shrieking in horror and throwing your hands in the air what should you do if you’re blog is hacked? Well, shrieking is probably the last thing you need to do because you can put it right.
1 – Check the web hosting company
The first step is to check with your web hoster whether they’ve been hacked. Hackers are unlikely to go after your site specifically rather they’ll aim for the web hoster because if they can penetrate those defences they’ll have access to many more sites than yours alone. So you need to email or call your web hoster and see if they’ve come under attack. If so, there’s not much you can do besides wait. It’s quite rare for a broad attack against a web hoster to wipe out data permanently, so your site should be back to normal within a relatively short time.
2 – Check the blog files
If you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of a specific attack, the damage could potentially be greater, but that said, it may only consist of a few files being changed that redirect you to a defaced page such as ‘You’ve been hacked.’ You can look at the blog’s file structure and see if anything is missing to establish whether there’s been any data loss. This is also a good time to think about backing up your blog site so you have all the original files.
3 – Restore
If the problem isn’t your web hosting company you’ll need to restore the site yourself, which is why it’s always useful to have a backup. If the page has been defaced it’s just a question of restoring the configuration files so your blog will be the same as before without any loss of content. A re-install of a WordPress blog, for instance, can be accomplished in just a few minutes.
4 – Make sure it’s secure
Once you’ve restored your blog it’s important to make sure that it is secure. The first step is to ensure you’re running the latest version of the platform that you are using. Updated versions are released quite regularly and you need to make sure that you apply all upgrades.
5 – Change passwords
There is the chance that the hack exposed your passwords or introduced hidden code to be used later by the hacker as a backdoor. As a result, you’ll need to change your passwords including the one you have with your web hoster. If you used the same password you use for other accounts, such as email, you’ll need to change those account passwords too.
6 – Run an antivirus scan
Importantly you will also need to run a malware scan on your PC using good antivirus software as well as making sure your firewall is active. It is possible that the hack was initiated by some form of malware, such as a Trojan, on your computer.
In conclusion, and as you’ve probably already figured out, the important thing is to have backups in place, so should you be unfortunate enough to be deliberately targeted you can restore your blog within a relatively short time frame. If not, the only way of trying to find any content that has been lost is to trawl through cached web pages. This will probably be time consuming and it may just put you off blogging which is probably what you don’t want.
How to backup a blog
People like blogging because it’s simple and easy. The blogging platforms out there just require a few points and clicks before you’re up and running. They certainly don’t require a PhD in computer science. This simplicity may actually put people off from backing up their blog because of the perception that it’s technical and difficult. It’s not, in fact, it’s quite straightforward. This article provides a few pointers to general blog backups.