Why are websites hacked? It’s not true that only top websites are hacked. Smaller websites and blogs are more vulnerable. This post takes a look at why websites are hacked, what to do if your blog is under Cyber Attack and how to prevent stealth attacks, hacking, and reduce risks.
Recently, we faced an attack that lasted for a couple of days. While the popular notion is that only huge corporate houses and government websites are the targets, the opposite also holds true. Smaller websites and blogs are targeted more… in an attempt to use them for larger attacks among other things.
Why are websites hacked?
Using websites for a larger attack
Just as some of us fear that the Internet of Things could be compromised to be used in DDoS attacks, websites all over the Internet can also be used by attackers to participate in launching a larger-scale attack. Compromising bank websites, corporate accounts, and government website hacking are some examples of large-scale attacks. Often the hackers do not have all the resources. They need a pretty huge number of Bots to process such large attacks, so they compromise smaller websites and keep them in their list until a large attack is planned.
Read: What is a Botnet attack.
Attackers compromise even a blank website
Hackers will compromise even a blank website or blog – to add to their list of resources. If you have built a website that uses something interactive like WordPress or Joomla, you are more prone to attacks compared to static websites.
Many plugins are used, when people use WordPress, for example. Since these plugins are interactive or based on scripts, they are used to launch a massive attack on websites with huge resources. Bandwidth etc. resources are less when it comes to smaller websites, but when we talk of sites like Amazon, the bandwidth is huge and thus, would be difficult to bring it down unless the hackers have an ample number of Bots to launch an attack as huge as to choke the service and bring it down. That’s one of the primary reasons why almost all websites are prone to hacking.
In short, Hackers have their bots crawling all over the Internet to find resources that will help them launch huge attacks. If you start a new website that employs different types of scripts, you will be added to the resource list of hackers within a month of your website launch. When the time comes, they compromise your website and use its resources for a major attack somewhere else.
Using your website resources for financial gains
Cybercrime is big! Many times, hackers will try to use your site to direct visitors to:
- Some other website that will pay commission to them or
- Look-alike websites that will steal your personal and financial information
All they need to do is to insert a link that you won’t know is present on your website. When search engines like Google crawl your site, it will index the malicious link and present it on the results page. If somebody uses that link, they will be directed to some other websites and hackers can make money out of that redirection.
The look-alike, spoof websites are more common as they benefit hackers more by providing them with your information. Once your information – such as email ID or credit card information – is with them, they’ll use it for personal gains.
Using websites to compromise your computer or network
Just as they insert a link into your website without your knowledge, they also use the technique of Drive-by-downloads for personal gains. They just need to alter some script on your website so that the users, who visit your website, download something without their knowledge. Such things can go undetected for long as you won’t have a clue that your site was compromised.
These undetected downloads – in turn – send users’ computer/network information to hackers. The information helps hackers to:
- Use user computer/network as bots for launching an attack somewhere
- Sell user information on places like Darknet for a price
Hacktivists compromise websites for social issues
Hacktivists are generally a group of hackers who think they are doing good to society by acting against websites that are against their group’s views. For example, Anonymous threatened Donald Trump after the latter made some remarks against a minority group in the US. I don’t know whether they actually defaced the presidential candidate’s website, but that threat was in the news for a long time. Hacktivists in countries at war, often deface each other’s government websites.
Read: Google Project Shield offers free DDoS protection to select websites.
Revenge Hacking and Competition
One of the common reasons for hacking websites is taking revenge or to bring down a competitor’s website so that the person/organization or competitor suffers loss. If your site is popular in a niche and there are plenty of others struggling, they will try to hack or hire a hacker to bring your site down so that users cannot access it for days and lose interest in it.
A DDoS attack, for example, hurts and adds stress to the site owner for a period of time. Most common thing is to bring it down and deface it so that the owner faces a loss of reputation. If there is a successful DDoS attack, chances are they might try to defame the website by inserting bad code that harms its visitors. But if you are prepared already, you shut down the site and fall back on a static mirror as soon as the DDoS starts.
Read: What is Domain Hijacking and how to recover a stolen domain name.
Building a reputation or sheer boredom
There may be some who may do it out of sheer boredom, and then there may be some who may hack a site to simply ‘build a reputation’ and brag about it in their community.
How to prevent hacking
There will always be attempts to compromise your site. But if you are prepared, you can prevent hacking by a good percentage. Think of the following as precautions that will help you:
- Use a good web firewall, such as Sucuri, to prevent and shut down the website as soon as an offensive is launched. And make sure that it is configured correctly.
- Since the most common method of hackers is to use your own scripts against you, keep only necessary scripts.
- Update your blogging software & plugins.
Plugins related to WordPress etc. are often updated, but website owners do not update the ones on their sites as they are unaware or scared to go for the update. They fear the website may be affected as a result. If you are using WordPress or Joomla, you should update the plugins regularly and if anything goes wrong – such as text alignment or something – contact a web designer to get it fixed.
Stay safe. Take these steps to protect & secure your WordPress site.
List of Services that can scan WordPress Malware?
There are many free (limited) and Professional (paid) services that can scan your WordPress website on-demand, or you can keep running it in the background. Here is the list of services you can consider:
- Security Ninja
- iThemes Security
Make sure to go through each, feature, and the pricing.