If your business depends on your online presence, then you are probably aware of the possibility of being hacked. Every day, tens of thousands of websites are hacked – malware is installed, sites are taken down, and businesses can be ruined. It’s the last thing you want to happen to your website because it can create an ongoing nightmare. For any online business, website security has to be a priority.
Different types of malware are notoriously silent, and in many cases you may not even realize your site has been compromised until it is far too late. It’s important to be able to detect the issue right away so you can react as quickly as possible.
Fortunately, there are telltale signs that your website is infected with malware that can act as giant warning alarms signaling that you need to do something.
11 Signs of Malware
Whenever a malware infection occurs, it’s important to move as quickly as possible. If you notice any of the following signs, time is of the essence, so act fast:
- Red screen
- Google Search Console security alert notification
- Your site is gone from the search results
- Your site is suddenly very slow and not functioning properly
- Your domain takes you to a different website
- Ads and popups appear all over your site
- Hosting company shuts down your website
- New administrative accounts have been created
- Random code at the bottom of your footer
- Emails going to spam
- Significant traffic spike
Malware attacks are not a death blow for a site, but they are a sign that you need better cybersecurity.
The Red Screen
Sometimes called the “Red Screen of Death,” a red warning page that your browser plasters onto the screen when you try to visit a web page on your site is a malware sign that cannot be missed. Any warning a web browser shows when trying to visit your domain is often a clear sign that something is wrong.
When search engines such as Google blacklist your site, most web browsers will show a warning that your site contains malware. If your site is delivering the red screen, it means that Google either detected a problem with your site or someone else reported a problem. In short, it means that somebody has found malicious code on your site and it needs to be dealt with.
This warning page typically stops customers from entering sensitive information, like credit card numbers, while you figure out what’s going on with your site. This helps to limit damage.
Google Search Console Notification
It’s handy to have your site registered in Google Search Console because if Google detects any reason that your site has been hacked, you will get a notification message. The message will include the suspected hack and the URLs affected, so this is a great tool to make use of.
Your Website is Gone
If you know your website is up and running properly, then a clear sign something is wrong would be the complete disappearance of your site altogether. Yes, instead of a red screen, in this case, a white screen is bad news. If your browser says that your website doesn’t exist, it may have been taken down by a hacker.
Just to be clear, a white screen is not always a sign that you have been hacked. If you have a website developer or designer who maintains your site, they may have just taken down the site to update some files.
However, it is something to pay attention to, and it could be a sign that a hacker has targeted your domain.
Your Site Isn’t Functioning Well
A possible sign of malware to be aware of is your site slowing to a crawl – and perhaps showing error messages. If you’re not experiencing a sudden uptick in traffic, then a slow website for no reason is likely a breach in your data. Many cybercriminals employ stolen servers to carry out a phishing attack and send out spam emails by the millions. This uses up the resources on your server and is very taxing on your server. It’s the reason why many hacked sites slow down substantially when they have been infiltrated.
Visit your site regularly and pay attention to load times.
Your Site Isn’t Your Site at All
If you visit your domain and you are redirected to a completely different website, this is a clear indication of a hack.
This situation occurs as a result of a redirect code, and it’s a way for hackers to steal traffic and generate revenue for themselves through their own malicious websites.
Ads and Popups Everywhere
If ads and popups are suddenly littering your site, this is a sign you’ve been infected. Many cybercriminals earn money from ad impressions, so they install their own ads on as many sites as possible. If you didn’t put those ads there, then a hacker likely did.
Your Hosting Company Shuts Your Website Down
Your web host company is scanning its servers regularly to make sure that malicious code isn’t being hosted on them. If they find malware or other evidence of a hack on your site, they will likely shut down your site before it spreads anywhere else. You’ll be notified that your account is suspended, and you’ll have to take the steps necessary to address it.
New Administrative Accounts
If you notice that there are new administrative accounts on your site, new database accounts, or FTP users that you did not create, that would be a very strong signal that a hacker has gained access to your site – and they have full access!
Code at the Bottom of Your Website
If your site is the victim of a hack, then you might see random code – letters and numbers – at the bottom of your website.
Why? If a hacker is unsuccessful in actually executing the commands they wanted, they may abandon the job. Of course, they are not ones to clean up afterwards, so unfinished code might be on your system (which is then displayed at the bottom of your page).
If you notice code like that at the bottom of your website, act immediately.
Your Emails are Going to Spam
Another telltale sign of a hack is if your legitimate emails you send regularly from your website domain start going to the spam folder. As mentioned earlier, hackers use stolen servers to send spam emails. When your domain is marked as unsafe, filters in email services like Gmail will start moving your messages immediately to spam.
This is another form of blacklisting, and you have to avoid it at all costs.
If you see a sudden traffic spike, especially on pages that don’t exist, this could be a sign of website malware. A hacker could send thousands of emails from your server with links to pages that they created. It’s a way of scamming a site that then benefits the hacker, and is a clear sign of a hack.
How to Remove Malware
While you do need to move quickly and take the situation very seriously, a hacked website is not the end of the world. With a few steps, you can ensure that your business recovers from a potentially lethal hack with as little damage done as possible.
SiteLock, a Sectigo Company, has a security tool called SiteLock 911 that quickly helps to repair sites that have already been hacked. The malware scanning tool will scan your site for malicious code and vulnerabilities, and then take care of the problem for you.
After the site is cleaned, it’s just a matter of changing your passwords, updating your website regularly, and if necessary, notifying Google that your site is clean now.
It’s then important to improve your website security moving forward to avoid this happening again in the future. SiteLock security features includes a website scanner that conducts daily, automated scans using the latest information on malware and database attacks. Through ongoing monitoring, the tool works to fix any website issues before they cause damage to your business.