Creepy or unusual activity on your website can be alarming. Businesses that don’t routinely update or monitor their website are especially vulnerable to suspicious activity. However, it can happen to anyone. One day you may visit or login to your website and notice it loads content that is completely unfamiliar. We hate to say it, but… you’ve been hacked! (Insert jump scare.)

Unlike Jason or Micheal Myers’ favorite type of hacking, these hacks don’t include sharp objects. Be aware of these five spooky signs that your website could be hacked.

1. Ghastly Search Results

Search results with unfamiliar content or characters can be tricky to spot if you don’t often search for your own website.  Many times, customers or clients will bring bizarre content to your attention. You may find that when someone searches for your website, an unfamiliar page with a URL to your website appears. “But I didn’t make this page,” you may say to yourself. How did this get on your website?

Through a vulnerability, hackers can upload images, and documents or even create pages that aren’t noticeable on your physical website. Search engines, like Google, that regularly crawl (or scan) your site will document this new content in search results. Even after the spam pages or content are deleted, these results can linger on search engines until the pages are crawled again or organically drop off search results. Immediately take action to delete spam when you notice it. Then, patch up your site and make sure the hacker no longer has access to posting search engine optimization (SEO) spam.

2. Creepy Looking Text or Images Appear

On the other hand, a sudden appearance of new or incorrect text or images on live pages are easier to notice. Hackers can gain access to edit permissions through a vulnerable outdated plugin, broken access control, broken authentication, and more. Advanced bots are used to randomly insert links to other websites or even paragraphs of content into your website. This content and images not only cause havoc for search engines, but can also be embarrassing as they link to certain “pharmaceutical” or spammy websites.

Identifying all of the random content insertions can be overwhelming and time consuming. Scans are normally performed manually with a script or bot to search an entire website for spam insertions. In worst case scenarios, restoring a backup of your website could be your best choice to ensure the spam is caught and removed. Always patch your website to prevent more intrusions.

3. Scary Page Redirects

An often elusive hack is when your website starts to randomly redirect to an entirely different website. The lack of visual inconsistency makes it difficult to know where to fix the issue.

Redirections occur when website URLs are forwarded to different websites. For instance, a customer will type in your web address but be directed to a completely different page. Hackers insert these malicious redirects into your site to take advantage of your website traffic and generate results for their own gain or other more serious intent. Redirects are especially dangerous to your site when they are injected through site files. If you find that your website redirects to another, it’s best to contact your website designer or hosting provider as soon as possible.

4. Ghoulishly Missing Pages or Content

Mysterious 404 errors on your website? If pages suddenly go missing, they might have been deleted.

Vulnerabilities provide hackers with the opportunity to move pages to drafts, trash or even completely delete them. In some cases, hackers delete entire directories or completely remove websites. This is dangerous and very destructive, especially if you don’t have a backup copy of your site. Always routinely back up your website so you can be prepared for unexpected attacks.

5. Disappearing Users

Can’t log into the backend of your website? Does the ‘forgot password’ link tell you the email of this user does not exist? It could be possible that your user has been removed by a hacker!

Once hackers have complete access to your website, they can inject malware, backdoors, and viruses into your pages and server. They can also create user profiles and take full control by deleting all other administrators. Unless you have direct database access to the website, there are little options to recover your content.

It is sometimes possible to fully recover a website even if the hacker has created a profile. To remove them, you’ll need to manually create and then delete their user. You’ll also need to look for back door and file injections or viruses like we mentioned before. A complete vulnerability scan and sweep of the website will help ensure you haven’t missed any malicious malware or hidden code. If it is really bad, a restoring a backup of your website would be best recommended. Don’t forget to patch your site when finished.

A website hack can be scary. Be vigilant and routinely scan your website for vulnerabilities, or talk to your website host about security checks. At Vervocity, we offer 24/7 security monitoring and daily malware scans so our clients know they are always protected. If you happen to see any unusual activity or spooky signs on your website, give us a call at (217) 222-1451. We aren’t afraid of hackers!