We at CharlesWorks are often asked by our web clients if their site is protected from malware and getting hacked. They also want to know if there site IS hacked, whether there be a charge to fix it.
The totally hack-proof website
The totally hack proof website has no access to it. So it’s not connected to the Internet. No one can view it. Such a website doesn’t sound like its of much use if no one can see it.
So, let’s agree that it is unrealistic to believe that a publicly accessible website can be totally hack-proof. Any website that is accessible via the public Internet is consistently subjected to attempts to break into it. Believe it or not, that’s the norm as opposed to the anomaly.
That being said, however, there ARE things you can do to mitigate website hacks. I have to stress the word mitigate here. Mitigation is defined as the action of reducing the severity, seriousness, or painfulness of something.
Site hacks are based on odds
My goal here is to simply remind you of what you most likely already know: that we can reduce the probability – the odds – of your site being hacked. We at CharlesWorks want that probability to be so low that it hopefully it doesn’t ever happen to you.
The major hacking causes
I have been operating CharlesWorks since 1998. In my experience, there appear to be two major reasons why sites get hacked:
- The access credentials/passwords have been compromised.
- The software that operates them wasn’t kept up to date.
Lets take a look at each of these below.
Compromised Access Credentials
Compromised passwords and bad actors gaining access to website login credentials is the major reason we see sites hacked. Think about this in terms of your car. You could have alarms on it. But if you make a copy of your car key and give it to someone, they can do whatever they like with the car. Whether its a drive along the beach or to rob a bank, your car is theirs to use with the key you gave them. Credentials – log in and passwords – work pretty much the same way.
CharlesWorks has many clients who want to be able to do things themselves. We are strong proponents of doing it yourself when it’s feasible and convenient. This is especially true for adding posts or page materials. It also makes sense when making other changes or modifications to your site. It is, after all, YOUR website.
However, many people fall prey to phishing schemes. Directly or indirectly, they usually end up tricked into giving out their website access credentials (as well as credentials to everything else they own). This is especially true if your email account is hacked and the hackers are able to access emails containing your website’s (and other) login credentials.
This problem is exacerbated if you have shared your website’s administrative or other access with others. Think of your emails containing various authorizations or login information as a potential weak link in a chain. If you have shared that information with others you have now created more weak links. This increases the odds of a potential compromise.
One of the best ways to mitigate these situations is to change your site’s access passwords so they are different than those possibly stored in your emails. And, to hope that anyone you may have shared your website access with has done the same.
Obviously, should site access be gained in such a manner, it would be your burden to have the site restored. I’ll expound upon this a little more at the end of this article.
Out of Date Security/Software Updates
Malware and virus protection on home computers operates a little differently than the same types of protection on servers. Website servers operate in the publicly accessible Internet. This results in many more entry points for potential issues. There are a number of very standard server protections available (which we utilize here at CharlesWorks).
After bad actors getting (or guessing) your passwords, the next major reason sites get hacked surrounds unapplied security updates and other software update issues. At CharlesWorks we mitigate such issues by running anti-malware software on our servers. Also, WordPress sites hosted on our servers are kept up to date automatically via automatic updating of the WordPress core as well as automatic updating of the the website’s plugins and themes.
There are literally thousands of individual pieces of software that must work in unison to operate most websites. These are developed by many more thousands of developers around the world. Unfortunately, no company can guarantee that a website will never get hacked. They can only mitigate security compromises and hope against the worst.
Restoring your Website
Regardless of which of the two situations above may have led to your website’s issues, your website will most likely need to be restored. That’s because after a bad actor or a hack back doors into the site will most likely have been installed for the bad actors to gain access again.
Many Internet companies claim to have automatic backups. In most of those, those backups are accessible to the user in their account. If the account is hacked, how safe do you suppose that is?
Some Internet companies delete and account upon a website being hacked. In those cases I have seen many left with no website or backup as a result.
What I believe is most important regarding this topic is the manner in which our WordPress sites are backed up every day for 30 days. Our backups are made to separate servers – external to those your the site operates on. For security reasons, the site administrators do not have access to these backups. So even with a site administrator’s compromised passwords there is no access to the backups. With these backups we can usually restore an average site in about 10-30 minutes if it needs restoring. And we can go back as far back as 30 days. We would only bill our web client for the 10-30 minutes (again – for an average website) which results in only a minor charge to restore it. Note that some websites are extremely large and require much more time to restore but these are very rare).
In my experience running CharlesWorks since 1998, we’ve built and handled more than 5,000 websites. At this point in time, I do not recall the last time a website we built and totally maintained was hacked (unfortunately I recall several instances of sites maintained by others that failed to ensure the site was updated and/or had their passwords compromised).
Sites getting hacked for out of date software happens far less frequently (if at all) when security updates are kept up to date and bad actors are kept out.
I hope this helps you understand a little more about this topic.
Here we are at the 4th of July of 2021 already! The loss of life suffered in 2020 was horrendous. Yet there are people who still do not think in terms of helping their fellow citizens – and themselves – by being vaccinated. The vaccine misinformation mills are in full production.
So think about this: Exactly who benefits when we don’t vaccinate? When more of us are ill and can’t work, the economy suffers. There is no way the government wants that. They want us to all work so they can collect taxes from our labor. Enemies of America benefit when we don’t vaccinate. Who benefits when we do? We all benefit. The economy will return to normal – as will our lives.
At CharlesWorks we all chose to be vaccinated. Each of us employed here cares about ourselves and our clients. So when you make an appointment with us in person you can at least rest assured we have taken steps indicating we care about you.
The CharlesWorks policy is that the COVID unvaccinated need not apply. That is one of the many ways we show we care about others.
Vaccination will help us return to normalcy. It is a small thing to do. It is the patriotic thing to do. It is the right thing to do.
Sometimes in a WordPress website an issue develops where when loading images into media library, only a blank thumbnail shows. It appears a space is created in the database for the picture but there is no content in it.
After testing compatibility of plugins, themes, php, etc., the problem persisted.
To resolve this, one can navigate here logged into WordPress as an administrator:
Go to Dashboard > Settings > Media
Make sure the correct default file path is showing there. When troubleshooting this issue on a site that was unable to upload media files, the file path was shown as:
Note that the “username” and “thedomainname.com” in the above and below path examples will be the Linux username and the actual site domain name respectively that you are troubleshooting.
When this path was removed, the image file upload worked normally again and the problem appeared to be solved.
Possible Reasoning or Causes
In the DirectAdmin path structure, there are two places the website’s servable coding (like WordPress or HTML sites or Joomla, etc.) might be stored:
The “public_html” folder is where DirectAdmin normally places the website’s code (again, referring to all the files and programs that make up the actual WordPress or HTML or Joomla site’s coding, etc.).
The “private_html” folder is where DirectAdmin normally tries to place the website’s code when its content is encrypted. That’s why there is an option in DirectAdmin’s site control panel that allows one to “Use a symbolic link from private_html to public_html”. This option allows for using the same data in http and https.
The suspicion here is that a setting got changed or an update occurred causing the WordPress system to use the private_html setting when the site resides in public_html. Removing the file path from the settings forced WordPress to use where the system actually defaulted to – which cleared the problem.
We may never know how the setting actually got bunged up, but it is an easy fix once it is.
Something many folks overlook is occasionally checking their website’s functionality. I recommend doing this every couple weeks, but at minimum once a month.
Most websites and the servers they are on are subjected to ongoing software updates. Unless you are paying an additional fee for maintenance checks, it’s normal for things to occasionally break due to updates.
Most website owners are not paying additional fees for such maintenance. This means you really need to take the time to check:
– that the site appears to work properly
– that your hours of operation are correct
– that any website forms are working
– that email addresses are correct
The site operation and forms are most susceptible to software updates. If you have a good web developer, the fixes will happen quickly and it will not cost you too much.
Website maintenance should be thought of like automotive maintenance. We get oil changes. We get inspections. We even make modifications and do repairs to keep our vehicle operating the way we want. And our older vehicles can cost more to upkeep – just like older websites. As websites age, more work needs to be done to keep them secure and working as originally intended.
So check your site every now and then to keep things working and have the correct information out there!
Engagement, in military terms, is described as a fight or battle between armed forces. In web terms, engagement could be thought of as the process of getting an idea across to accomplish a goal.
There are a couple major goals with websites, as I see it. One is to simply share information. Another is to sell products. Make no mistake about it – whether you are selling widgets or ice-cream or trying to increase your congregation – the goal is the essentially the same – getting people engaged.
The first, sharing information, definitely is a precursor to the second. I’d like to focus on the second here.
Websites that are more engaging with their visitors will encourage more sales. With that in mind, it follows that engagement is a result of information and aesthetics.
Aesthetics costs for a website can vary greatly. Graphic design can be time consuming. This equates to higher labor costs. Information in written form, however, is usually the least expensive part of website development. Text can usually be pasted into web pages. This is not usually as labor intensive. Having more information in text format on a website usually equates to more exposure to the public. This is because website visitors can arrive using search engines. And the search engines find your site based upon pertinent content – mostly text.
In a nutshell, if you want an engaging website – which will increase your probability of success on the web – make sure there is plenty of information in text form on it. Search engines will help get folks there and your aesthetics can do the rest.
Most of us think “hit and run” refers to a car accident. We’ve been using that phrase in the web world since starting this business in 1998.
Most of our web clients have been victimized by website hit and runs. That’s where a web developer hits you up for the cost of building your website and – if you’re lucky enough to have them complete the project – they run.
The main reason is because that initial developer really doesn’t have a robust grasp of the website development field. They stop being responsive to you because they simply don’t know how to modify or alter their work. This usually happens because they used quick templates that they simply don’t know how to adjust or modify.
In most cases I’ve seen, these so-called web developers are part timers doing a little web work on the side. They may provide what seems like a fantastic deal at the time – but leave you high and dry when the time comes that you need changes made to your website.
Although there are no guarantees you’ll never experience this – there are a few things you can check on. First of all see if they are a legitimate business. You can check this and other factors at https://cwcorner.com and in the upper right corner hit the magnifying glass and type “legitimate” and hit enter.
Don’t be the victim of a hit and run – you can minimize it happening to you by checking the potential web developer out before getting involved with them.