How to protect your website from malware – Security guide

According to Sophos labs, 30,000 websites on average are hacked every single day with malware, trojans and viruses.

Malware can cause loss of data, expose your sensitive customer information, affect your visitors and can even cause physical damage to systems.

We have gathered an outline for you to help you understand what malware is and how it can not just attack your systems but affect them in the worst possible way. 

In this guide, we will also talk about some of the ways you can use it to protect yourself and your computer and what to do if you face a malware attack. 

So let’s get right into the details and start!

What is malware, and why should you be concerned about it?

In simple terms, malware refers to malicious software created to cause notable damage to various devices like mobile phones and computers without the owners’ consent. It is designed and used to breach other systems. It is a collective term used for all types of malware like viruses, worms, and trojans. 

The intruders, commonly known as hackers, operate to cause destruction and access information present on the devices. 

Usually, malware is designed to get some financial gain or get access to personal information. By seeking access to all the personal information, the cybercriminal can be sold all the data further to some other criminal for various ‘purposes.’ 

Since they can earn a lot from it, they keep carrying out these criminal activities and are continuously able to make money through their malicious ways. 

There are multiple ways that a business can get affected by malware, this includes opening up the attachments sent by an infected person, clicking on a link that seems exciting but is the one that downloads a virus on the system. It also includes clicking on ads and banners on a website, poor security configurations or out of date software or 3rd party libraries with known vulnerabilities.

Example of a malware

An example of malware is the ILOVEYOU virus, which was the primary source of a lot of damage caused in 2009. The ILOVEYOU virus began changing the names of all the files in the device under the attack to ‘iloveyou’ just until the system crashed. 

In today’s time, however, there has been an increase in the number of hackers who have used destructive malware for their malicious acts and have caused severe damage. 

Different types of malware 

The different types of malware can be categorized in different ways, and one of the ways is how it spreads in the system. Various words are used, like a virus, trojan, and even worm, categorized as malware. 

There are only slight differences that separate them from each other. 

Worm

A worm is a type of malware software that stands alone and can spread itself from one computer to another after it reproduces itself. 

Virus

A virus, in simple terms, is just a piece of computer code that smartly inserts itself into the code of another program that stands alone. It then makes the program take malicious actions and starts spreading itself. 

Trojan

A trojan is different from a virus and a worm. It does not replicate itself, but it camouflages itself into something that a user needs. The user is then tricked into activating it, causing damage to the system and the speed simultaneously.

Spyware

Spyware does not harm the computers, but it follows all the moves made by the user. Spyware tends to attach itself with executable files, so when you download and install it, it takes over complete control of your computer. 

Spyware can track anything ranging from passwords to any financial information present on the system. 

Adware

Adwares are very common. You must have seen them in the form of pop-ads or the windows that cannot be closed. A good thing about adware is that it does not steal the user’s data, but it does make them click on fraudulent ads. It also tends to slow down the computers by stealing all the bandwidth significantly.

Scareware

Scareware does look like adware, but its goal is different than adware. Scareware works to trick the user into buying software that they do not need. The most common situation is when the scareware ad shows that we have a virus on our computer, and it is essential to buy and download particular software to get rid of it. 

Ransomware

We can understand ransomware by observing the movies that we have seen related to hackers. As the name suggests, it works on Ransome. So when it enters our computer, it starts to encrypt all our files and then holds all the information as a hostage until the user is forced to pay to set it free and decrypt all the files. 

Apart from this, malware software can be installed ‘manually’ on the systems by the attacker or by physically gaining access to the computer, or even by getting the administrator access rights. 

Steps to protect yourself from malware

Look at the following mentioned steps and know-how to protect your systems and your data from malware. 

Keep servers and software updated

Out of date software, plugins and 3rd party libraries are the leading cause of infections. Protect your business by keeping these updated all the time.

Monitor your website 24/7

Hexometer.com provides 24/7 website monitoring alerting you as soon as downtime is detected (usually the first sign of an intrusion). But that’s not all, Hexometer performs daily security checks on your domain to check for security best practices, cross check your IP addresses against centralised blacklists, assess the validity of your SSL and check your homepage for any known malicious links.

Use double validation of data

Another way to save yourself is to apply the way of double validation of data. Using both browser and server-side validation, which requires both browser and server-side, there is a chance to block the malware from entering your systems at all.  

Use a firewall

Use a firewall to protect yourself and your data and allow access through the ports that do not put your data in danger. 

Use different website security tools

As the name suggests, they are for internet security and are available in both paid and free versions. Go through all of the options you have, and then try making the best choice for yourself by choosing the security tool that best caters to your needs. 

Train your employees

Another essential thing to do is to train your employees. It is good to know how to fight when a problem regarding malware arises, but your employees should have this knowledge. Even if not advanced, then some basic. 

So, if they face a malware problem next time, they know how to respond to it accurately and save your data. 

Create timely backups of your data

Another smart thing to do is to create timely backups of your data. This helps to save it. So, even if malware attacks your system by chance, you would know you have a backup of all your data present somewhere safe with you.

Also, try creating a separate database server so you have multiple ways to protect your assets. Try cloud-based backup as well, so you have multiple backups at once. 

Restrict random updates on your websites

There are a lot of businesses that require continuous updates on their websites. Uploads from different systems can make the website more vulnerable than ever and increase the security risks. Do not allow these uploads from every system and check all the uploads before uploading them on the website. 

Maintain a password policy

This is one of the most potent ways to protect yourself from malware and anything that can harm your system. Ensuring a solid password policy needs to meet some of the standards to be applied to your systems.  

The password should be at least eight characters long with a capital letter, special and numerical characters. Avoid using words from the dictionary, and the longer the password, the stronger the security will be of your website. 

Creating a response plan for data breaches

There are chances that you have taken all the vital measures to protect your data, but still, the breach attempts turn out to be a success. In a case like this, the best thing to do is create a data breach response plan. The response plan should include server backups, audit logs, and even the IT support staff’s contact information. 

Adding on, try having an activity log system as well. The log system will help you track different data like login attempts, updates, coding changes, installations, and other important updates, which can eventually allow you to track down the point of entry of the malware.

Hopefully, with all the steps mentioned above, you will protect your systems from any kind of malware. Even even if you still get attacked by it, you will be able to protect your data and backups from being destroyed in the process. 

How to get rid of malware from an infected device?

You have to be quick to act in a situation like this. As soon as you realize that your website is infected with malware, be quick to take the relevant actions to remove it from the website. It is not easy to do, so you need to be very careful while doing it. 

Moreover, finding the malware source is also essential but looking for the cause of an infected website is no less than looking for a needle in a haystack. The situation becomes more challenging to handle if you do not have proper HTML and programming knowledge. 

Ensure that you hire a professional to help you in situations like these and reduce the chances of getting infected again very soon. It is essential to locate the malicious code, manage the malicious code and even identify the security gap to protect yourself. 

If your website or system does get infected by malware, then carry out the following steps until the problem is completely solved. 

  1. The first step is to deactivate your website to limit the damage and prevent it from spreading anymore. 
  2. The next step is to contact the web hoster as soon as possible and ask him the action that you should take next. 
  3. Make sure to check all the new accounts created recently, especially those you did not create. 
  4. Be quick to change all the passwords. This includes all the users and the ones used by administrators. 
  5. Sit with an expert and start shortlisting and identifying the harmful sources to check on the damage caused. 
  6. Immediately use different and effective malware tools to make sure that you clear your website from all sorts of malware and spam codes present. 
  7. Start using all the backups that you created on the cloud and drives as well. 
  8. Apply updates to all your servers, plugins and 3rd party libraries.
  9. To be on the safe side, it is better and recommended that you change the passwords again.

Key Takeaway

Your system, which is either a computer or any digital device, contains a lot of your private information that has a lot of value for you and needs to be kept protected. You need to take up all the necessary steps to ensure that your data and system are protected. 

The most important thing to learn here is that it does not matter how strong your system is; there is always a chance to be infected by malware. So, the best practice is to monitor 24/7, have a plan in place and react fast to recover and protect your systems and your websites from cyber attacks and hacking and keep your businesses secure at all times.

In case you get attacked by malware software, act smartly and take the necessary steps to minimize the damage caused. 


Catch website problems before they affect your customers

Every day your website can face an increasing range of threats. Server problems, slow landing pages, broken links, frustrating mobile experiences, embarrassing spelling mistakes, changing SEO rules, 3rd party services breaking, or security issues that put your business at risk. 

Hexometer is like having your own QA team, monitoring your entire website 24/7 for availability, performance, user experience, SEO, health and security problems so you can focus on your business. Now that’s peace of mind

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