What? Why Would Someone Hack My Small Business Website?

Oliver Sild

This post was originally published by Oliver Sild on Medium and reposted here with his permission. If you like it, why not go over there and give him some ❤️?

The traditional media representation of a hacker

You are an entrepreneur, manager or a marketing pro responsible for the website in a company which is simply meant as a digital business card to introduce the company, its services, and the latest news. Not including any state secrets, right.. so why are they still doing this?

But then again.. once in a while you might encounter this kind of messages.

Making money (a lot of money).

Yes, even a small website hack can generate a substantial amount of money. Cyber criminals can make money with your compromised website by distributing malware, SEO spam, and even set up e-mail spam servers and phishing sites.
Money is obviously the most common motivation behind the attacks.

SEO Spam

Screenshot of a pharma-scam from an infected website.
Screenshot of a pharma-scam from an infected website.

This type of spam is making a lot of money. Injecting backlinks and spam to a legitimate sites remains one of the most profitable and popular types of website attacks.

After the website has been compromised, a malicious backdoor will be uploaded to the website which gives the attacker the ability to invisibly redirect your visitors to their scam sites any time they want.

Apart from generating money for the hacker, your website gets a penalty from search engines, which will ruin your SEO.

The scam has been traced back to organized crime syndicates operating in what is estimated to be a 431 billion dollar, and growing, market. Its scale, and the danger counterfeit drugs pose to the public health, prompted repeat action from FDA, Interpol, among others. — Incapsula


Malware sample from a hacked website.Malware sample from a hacked website.

It’s possible to have your operating system, browser, plugins, and applications exposed to exploits looking for vulnerabilities just by visiting an unsafe website. SophosLabs sees tens of thousands of new URLs every day containing drive-by downloads. — Sophoslabs

Yes, it’s the worst case scenario, but your website can be used to infect visitors with ransomware. Between 2014 and 2016 over 100 000 WordPress and Joomla! sites were redirecting visitors to the Neutrino Exploit Kit, which tried to penetrate the browser on the visitor’s computer and when being successful, infected the operating system with CryptXXX ransomware.

It’s also a billion dollar market: http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/security/ransomware-now-billion-dollar-year-crime-growing-n704646

It’s growing, too: according to the latest volume of the Internet Security Threat Report:

  • $1,077 = Average amount of money demanded per person in 2016
  • $294 = Average amount of money demanded per person in 2015

There are many other ways to make money with malware. For example, hacked websites can be connected into a large botnet, which then can be used to provide a DDoS service to attack other sites and web services.

And Then There Are These Guys…

Angry penguin on a Russian website.Angry penguin on a Russian website.

Vandals, script kiddies, defacers who test their skills and love to show it off on hacking forums and compete with the fanciest defacement. Luckily, these kinds of attacks are usually the easiest to detect and fix.

You can find defaced websites on mirror sites, where defacers actively post their new victims.

Here’s the reality! Do you know what they all have in common?

A robot waving its arms about

Attacks are automated! This is a critical element as there’s a common misconception on how attacks are being executed.

Here’s an Example of How Your Website Gets Hacked:

  1. Hacker with evil intentions begins with making a list of targets by country and special fingerprinting (Google Dorking). He can use (automated tools available) Google to find every website in the Czech Republic with the default WordPress page “Hello World” like this: site:.cz inurl:/hello-world/. See for yourself.

  2. Now, with the list of over 5000 WordPress sites, there are many possibilities. He could start fingerprinting (automated) specific vulnerable (oudated) software and try to bruteforce the admin account with different combinations (also automated).
    This is the step where he can already have the access to a lot of sites (most of the sites are not frequently updated and lack security measures).

  3. As the last step, it’s all about infecting and using the site as the attacker wishes (khm.. also automated).

Everything Is Automated – the Attacker Might Have Hacked Your Website without Ever Visiting the Site or Seeing It with Their Own Eyes.

And yes, you should worry about it! Keep in mind that similarly to the abandoned buildings that get freaky graffiti and tags in dark corners — it’s just a matter of time when your website will get defaced and infected with malware if you don’t have basic maintenance, security measures and proper monitoring in place.

Ok, ok.. But how big is the problem?

To find out, who better than Google to say what’s going on on the web:

Here’s what Google released on their blog at the end of march 2017:

We’ve seen an increase in the number of hacked sites by approximately 32% in 2016 compared to 2015. We don’t expect this trend to slow down. —Google

Since there is almost a 1/3 chance that your website is running on WordPress, you should already know that 2017 didn’t even start with a positive tone. Even WiFi routers can hack your website.

I won’t get into a lot of statistics here, but if you have a WordPress site, you can get some tips from my previous article.

Your website is the face of your company on the web, protect it!

Loved the article? Help us spread the awareness by sharing it and heading over to the Medium original to give it some love – there’s even a free website monitoring trial waiting for you there!

Stay safe!