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Website Defacement: Why It Happens and 7 Ways To Prevent it.

Dan Fries 0

Every company understands the importance of having a website, but few understand the very real threat of website defacement. Website defacement is a frustrating yet common type of hack many website owners experience. Like graffiti on a bridge, cyber criminals like to find highly visible websites to leave their mark. The hacking often serves no other purpose than to leave a “calling card” displaying their skill. 

Small businesses who want to succeed after COVID-19 understand the importance of having a digital presence. However, they sometimes don’t pay attention to protecting themselves adequately. 

Although the act of website defacement seems senseless, it can have harmful effects on the website owner, especially if the website is business-related. Google detects instances of website defacement and acts quickly to blacklist said site from their search engine. The website will then stop ranking in search results and become effectively hidden from the public. 

Anyone can fall victim to a hack. For example, Twitter was recently hacked by a 17-year-old from Florida, who used his access to post messages on the accounts of Barack Obama, Elon Musk and Bill Gates, among others.

In this article, we will discuss seven ways that you can prevent website defacement from happening to you:

1 – Keep a backup of your files, especially your index.php or index.html files  

It’s important to repeatedly backup and keep copies of all your website’s files. This is an important step to secure your new website. Of highest importance is the file that serves as the entry point of your website, or the default page – the index file. It’s loaded every time a visitor tries to access something on your website. It’s also one of the most commonly hacked files in a website defacement, simply because it is connected to everything in your website. 

Remember, there are some website costs every online entrepreneur should be happy to pay, simply because of the return on investment provided by security. Many companies offer cloud-based backup services so you don’t have to worry about this ever again. 

They vary in price and level of services provided, so it’s best to do research and find the right fit for you and your company. A good backup service is scalable, so you can easily be accommodated by their software should your business explode with popularity!

2 – Install an automated website scanner 

Tons of user testing of different web designs and advanced programming concepts has revealed the best practices for how to create more dynamic web pages that attract consumers and can securely manage customer data on servers.

However, even the most dynamically created websites are not invulnerable, and to stay on the lookout for hackers who would attempt a defacement attack, you can opt for an automated website scanner. This will automatically scan your website for vulnerabilities and suspicious activities. Furthermore, it removes malware and spam as soon as it’s detected. 

3 – If your site is hacked, change all passwords immediately

Gaining access to a user account with privileges or guessing a password through social engineering is one of the most popular and easy methods of hacking. 

This is why it is highly recommended that your company use a password manager so you can ensure your passwords are always very complex, changed often and you don’t need to worry about anyone forgetting theirs or having to write it down! 

Writing down a password, especially if it’s in a document saved on the computer, is like asking to be hacked. With technology shaping the fourth industrial revolution for marketers, it’s important to have a digital presence, but we cannot forget this key element of online safety.

4 – Train your employees about how to stop phishing attacks

Be sure to train your employees about how phishing works and be mindful of opening up links from unknown senders. Cybercrime is steadily on the rise, especially in the past few months due to a general increase in internet usage due to global pandemic. More and more businesses are forced to work online, which is revealing which businesses are prepared and which aren’t. 

Protect your business from coronavirus malware and phishing attacks by teaching your employees to always double-check email addresses and never to open a link from an unknown sender (even if it’s a royal prince from Nigeria who needs your help with a money transfer).

5 – Update all themes and plugins

Very few of us are building a website from scratch, coding all the HTML ourselves. Most companies use a third party to build their website, which usually comes with an ample amount of plugins and themes. WordPress websites with six to ten plugins are twice as likely to be hacked as websites with no plug-ins.  

Always make sure to keep these up to date. The creators of these software are always on the lookout for potential vulnerabilities and discovered weak points, and they frequently update the software to strengthen them against these specific threats. 

If you don’t update them, you won’t be able to take advantage of the protection. The same goes with your computer. Those annoying alerts to update your software that require you to shut down your computer? Don’t ignore them.

6 – Practice the principle of least-privilege (POLP)

If you’re the type of business owner that is comfortable delegating work, that’s great. After all, there is nothing that will create failure for a business or harm employee productivity quicker than trying to take responsibilities for every task yourself. 

However, be sure to provide appropriate access to your employees or freelancers. Look into the different levels of privilege a user can have and try to tweak them so that only the functions that are absolutely necessary to their job description is included. 

7 – Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

As a small business, you are likely downloading and sending a lot of different mixed media files. It’s important to use a VPN to ensure that all these downloads aren’t coming with a virus to infect your computer. 

The most dependable VPN services use proven encryption protocols to encrypt all traffic and data through public networks. In an age of increasing internet surveillance and bombardments of targeted marketing ads, having privacy while online is more than just a protective measure. By using a VPN, you’ll encrypt all of your internet activity, making it extremely frustrating for a would-be hacker.

Conclusion

Hacking happens. Some of the most powerful, wealthy software companies, such as Twitter and Facebook, have fallen victim to cybercrime. However, there are many important steps we can take to protect our websites, and ways to recover quickly from an attack when it does happen. Hopefully, you’ve found this article useful in keeping your business a little safer from the cybercriminals that are always virtually among us.

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