This is a common question you might ask when your worst nightmare starts coming true. Why would a hacker attack my website? Rest assured, the chances of the attack being personal are slim to none. Hackers have underlying motives that have nothing to do with the content of your website. Hackers typically don’t care whether your website is a charity page for homeless puppies or a site with tons of cool merch for sale.
However, it’s hard not to feel targeted when a faceless identity has hacked into your website, causing chaos and turmoil. You feel stressed out, and like the situation is spinning out of your control. You feel personally attacked and wonder if there was a way to stop the attack from happening. You might even wonder if there’s any salvaging the wreckage that was your website.
It’s natural to wonder about these things after the breach of your website. After all, you worked hard to craft your website, building it from the ground up. You’ve watched your website grow and mature, and the destruction of this is upsetting to even the most hardened website owner.Thousands of sites are hacked daily, leading to stress and loss of revenue. Big websites, average websites, even tiny fledgling sites—they’re all hacked without discrimination.
To deal with these attacks, we must first ask, what motivates these hackers?
A Hacker’s Motivation
So, what is it that makes a hacker target a website? It has nothing to do with your website, what topics it covers or anything like that. In reality, hackers target the software your website uses to stay up and running. By hacking into this software, they can steal sensitive customer data or even take control of your WordPress website.
WordPress powers over 40% of all websites on the internet. A major reason for WordPress’s popularity is that it is a very secure platform to use to build anything from a blog to a large ecommerce webshop.
Unfortunately, with its increasing popularity, WordPress has also become a target for hackers. If a popular WordPress plugin has a serious vulnerability, a hacker potentially has the blueprints to take over hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites. Luckily, most plugin vulnerabilities are quickly patched by their developers.
By being able to get a hold of sensitive and private information, hackers can then sell it for an income or even hold the data ransom, essentially making people pay to get their information back in safe hands.
So, what’s the primary motivation of hackers?
To create cash flow for themselves.
The internet is a lucrative place that offers all walks of life the opportunity to generate a living wage. However, that doesn’t mean everybody goes about this in a legal, moralistic manner. A multitude of hackers are making high profits off of even the smallest website.
Money is all the motivation they need, but some enjoy the feeling of power they get when they successfully breach a website, but the vast majority are in the business solely for the cash.
Another motivation for a hacker to attack your website is to gain the benefits of SEO spam. SEO, or search engine optimization, is what search engines use to index, or rank, your website. By using certain keywords, placed strategically on your web pages and blog posts, you can help your website rank higher in Google searches. This will drive traffic to your website and can help you make a profit that’s worth your time.
Hackers know all about SEO, and they use it to their advantage. When your website has been compromised, hackers will install a backdoor into your website. This allows them to control your keywords and website content remotely. They will often redirect traffic from your website, funneling it straight to theirs, passing over yours completely.
This will leave your target audience confused and frustrated, destroying the reputation and credibility of your website. Your website visitors will often be redirected to sites that are obviously scams, and they’ll be hesitant to revisit your website in the future.
As if that weren’t bad enough, hackers who use this approach make your website look bad to search engines, not just fellow human beings. Your website will no longer look legitimate, and its ranking will quickly plummet. Without a high ranking in searches, your site will become one of the millions that never get more than a few hits per month.
A lot of hackers attack your website with the intention to infect it with malware. Malware is tiny bits of code that can be used to make malicious changes to your website. If your site becomes infected with malware, it is important to be alerted as soon as possible. Every minute that malware remains on your website, it is doing more damage to your website. The more damage that is done to your website, the longer it will take you to clean and restore your website. Unfortunately, the average time to detect a breach is 212 days. It is vital to check the health of your website by regularly scanning for malware. This is why it is critical to continually check the health of your website by scanning for malware.
Unfortunately, even after all of the malware is removed, the hackers could have left behind a backdoor. A hacker can use a backdoor to reinfect your website with malware. Stay vigilant after a breach, and if you notice any signs of reinfection, be sure to reach out to a hack repair specialist to patch your website correctly.
Malware-infected websites are sometimes even hooked up to massive botnets, which team up to attack other vulnerable websites, like a virus that won’t stop spreading.
A hacker might want to attack your website to hold it for ransom. Ransomware refers to when a hacker takes over your website and won’t release it back to you unless you pay them a hefty fee.The average downtime of a ransomware attack is 20 days. How much revenue would 20 days of NO sales cost you?
The average ransom that hackers are requesting has risen dramatically, from $294 in 2015 to over $541,000 in 2021. With these kinds of payouts, the online crime business isn’t slowing down. It’s becoming more and more critical to properly secure and protect your website as crime communities like this grow.
The Graffiti of the Internet
Some hackers might attack your website for a little fun. A hacking style that is less inherently evil is that of website defacers. These are typically kids or young adults just beginning to play around with their hacking skills. They do hacks like these as a way to practice and improve their skills.
When we talk about a website being defaced, think of graffiti. The attackers will completely alter your website appearance, sometimes in fun or wacky ways. Typical website defacers are doing their deeds for fun or as a way to show off. They’ll often post pictures of their misdeeds, trying to one-up each other to win the prize of best defacement.
The good news is, that this form of hacking is less dangerous for you to experience. Additionally, since it’s mostly teens and other amateur hackers performing the defacements, they’re easier to detect and remove from your website when compared to other forms of malware. They can typically be detected by scanners and removed quickly.
Hacking is Getting Easier Everyday
Nowadays, website hacking is almost all automated. Because of this, hackers can easily break into a large number of websites in virtually no time at all. Hackers use special tools that scan the internet, looking for known vulnerabilities. Having plugins or themes installed on your site with known vulnerabilities is like giving hackers the step-by-step instructions they need to break into your website. That is why it is so important to keep your plugins and themes updated.Having plugins or themes installed on your site with known vulnerabilities is like giving hackers the step by step instructions they need to break into your website.
Most steps in the infiltration process are now completely automated. Computer programs and code do the dirty work for the hackers, and they do it alarmingly fast. Particularly when it comes to Brute Force attacks on your WordPress login. Brute force attacks refer to a trial and error method used to discover username and password combinations in order to hack into a website.
Wannabe hackers now have access to pre-built tools that scour the internet for a WordPress website attack. These tools arm the hackers with a list of the most common combination of WordPress usernames and passwords they can use to brute force their way into a website. And with the use of these premade tools, knowing how to click a button is the only skill required to perform these types of attacks.
5 Quick Tips to Protect and Secure Your Website
Knowing how dangerous it can be if your website is compromised can be the catalyst you need to start implementing your WordPress security strategy. Here are 5 tips to get you started.
- Update Everything – Updates aren’t just for cool new features and bug fixes. Plugin and theme updates can include critical security patches for known vulnerabilities. Keep your site safe and updated.
- Use Two-Factor Authentication – In this blog post, New research: How effective is basic account hygiene at preventing hijacking, Google stated that using two-factor authentication can stop 100% of automated bot attacks. I like those odds. iThemes Security Pro makes it easy to add two-factor authentication to WordPress websites.
- Refuse Compromised Passwords – A data breach is typically a list of usernames, passwords, and often other personal data that was exposed after a site was compromised. Refusing to let your website’s users use passwords that have been known to be compromised can drastically increase the security of your site. You can easily refuse compromised passwords using iThemes Security Pro.
- Install Software From Trusted Sources – You should only install software that you get from WordPress.org, well-known commercial repositories, or directly from reputable developers. You will want to avoid “nulled” versions of commercial plugins because they can contain malicious code. It doesn’t matter how you lock down your WordPress site if you are the one installing malware.
- Add WordPress Security Logging – WordPress security logs provide detailed data and insights about activity on your WordPress website. If you know what to look for in your logs, you can quickly identify and stop malicious behavior on your site. Learn how to add WordPress security logs to your website.
It is perfectly normal to wonder why a hacker chose to attack your website. While hackers aren’t targeting you personally, they still have the motivation to attack your website. Whether it is SEO Spam or Ransomware, the motivation boils down to money. The good news is that with the right security measures the majority of WordPress hacks can be prevented.
Each week, the team at iThemes team publishes new WordPress tutorials and resources, including the Weekly WordPress Vulnerability Report. Since 2008, iThemes has been dedicated to helping you build, maintain, and secure WordPress sites for yourself or for clients. Our mission? Make People’s Lives Awesome.