There’s a lot of things we humans dread. Taxes, Mondays, death with a capital D, to name a few. As WordPress website owners, the worst comes down to a broken or suspended website.
Imagine that one fine day you open your website, and this appears:
“This account has been suspended. Contact your hosting provider for more information.”
What does this mean? Well, you are about to find out exactly what a web host suspension is, and what you can do about it.
What is Web Host Suspension?
Let’s start with your website: A website resides on web hosts. If a web host is a house, instead of storing clothes or furniture, you store your posts, comments and images. Now if the landlord doesn’t let you get in, you won’t be able to access your house, A.K.A. your website. Likewise when your hosting provider suspends your account, it has temporarily taken your website offline.
Why is My Website Suspended?
You call up your hosting provider, and you are astounded to learn your website has been hacked and infected with malware. Web hosting providers host millions of websites and are in a unique position to detect compromised websites even before the website owners realize they were hacked.
Depending on the following questions, you can find out why your website was a victim of suspension:
Is your Website on Shared Web Hosting?
Web hosting services need to be careful, especially if you are on shared hosting. You probably already know that shared hosting means many websites reside on the same server. Malware can spread and infect websites within the same shared hosting. Hosting providers are following the philosophy of “Don’t let one bad apple spoil the rest.”
Is your Website on Dedicated Web Hosting?
If your site is individually hosted, web hosts are trying to protect your site visitors. Just like Google, web hosts play an important role in safeguarding the internet. Google has taken up the responsibility of providing a safe online experience for its users. Googlebot crawls across your website looking for malware, which leads to your hacked website being blacklisted. They could be victims of Phishing or Pharma attack, which could spread to your visitors.
Are you seeing “Danger: Malware Ahead!” message on your site? Learn how to remove the Google Blacklist Warning here.
Similarly, web hosting providers detect compromised websites.
It is known that a hacker attacks every 39 seconds. In all likelihood, malware is infecting your website. In several cases we came across, website owners didn’t even know there is malware on their site, until they are forced to deal with the consequences.
What are the Effects of getting Hacked?
When you get hacked, it is a downward spiral, just like the Domino Effect.
- Your website content is affected when hackers have access to your files or tables. It can display ads for illegal drugs like Viagra.
- They can send out spam mails from your server or execute DDOS attacks. Sometimes hackers lock down the website for ransom.
- Visitors might get infected because of downloading a infected PDF.
- Google blacklists your site. Now your SEO is affected and any future visitors will be informed of your website’s lack of security.
- Your website reputation will suffer and so will your revenue.
Web Hosts also come into the picture when you are hacked.
What do Web Hosts do When your Site is Hacked?
Premium web hosts first issue a warning before actually suspending your site. Website owners can use this warning as a cautionary measure, and get their sites scanned and cleaned immediately. Typically, however, web hosts just send an email to the website owner containing the following details:
Our Abuse department has received a report regarding phishing content being hosted on an account under your control. We have disabled site access for your account to prevent further complaints, and have provided a list of the reported content… In order to remove the restrictions we’ve placed, you must resolve the security issue and remove what malicious content was listed.
Depending on the type of your website, you could be facing many problems because of your web host suspending your site.
What are the Effects of Suspension?
You could be in the middle of running an advertising campaign which could end with visitors just bouncing off 403 Error page. You could be holding off angry customers who don’t see the products or services you promised them.
The effects can be listed down as:
Up to 90% Loss of Visitors
It is known that for every 3 second delay in page load:
Reduced Customer Satisfaction
Since your web host has shut down your website, there is no website for the visitor to even visit! This results in the loss of up to 90% of your visitors.
6 to 18 months of Loss on SEO ranking
Did you know that Google scans 60 trillion URLs on a daily basis? Out of these, more than 20,000 websites are flagged for malware presence. Search engines like Google discourage visitors from going to sites through Google security warnings called Blacklisting. As a result of this, when your site is suspended, your SEO ranking suffers.
Loss of Trust
If online stores like Amazon were hacked, wouldn’t you think twice before placing your next order even after they clean up? When word gets around that your website is hacked, it attracts negative attention. This adds up to a staggering 90% loss of organic traffic. Meanwhile, malware is corrupting your site. You stand to lose everything you built. There is no going back from permanent damage to your business trust.
Loss of Revenue during Downtime
When your website is down due to web host account suspension you can’t access your precious content. The longer your website downtime, more the chances of losing all your data. You must act quickly, or you are going to lose more revenue than ever before.
The hours you spend arguing with hosting providers, developers, or security professionals (If only they understood how much your hopes and dreams are riding on this!) can eat into your time and energy. The fear of missing out a spot or file during the malware removal itself is enough to lose a good night’s sleep. The words If only I had taken precautions! will be floating in your mind.
This is all while malware is still lingering in your website and it is up to no good either.
What can I do?
At the end of the day, as the website owner, it is your responsibility to ensure your site is malware-free. As a member of WordPress community, it is also your duty to help secure the internet to the extent possible from your side.
If you have already been suspended, then your first priority should be to get back online.
The process for getting a website back online after a suspension varies from host to host. Here’s a high-level view of the general process:
- Remove the malicious files.
- Carefully review all files.
- Contact your hosting provider for a re-scan.
How do I Get Back to Business
There are two ways to get your site online again.
Third Party Technical Expert
D. I. Y. Approach
Let us go through the necessary steps:
Detect the Malware on Your Website
Scan your website thoroughly for malware. It is often very difficult to look for malware because it might looks similar to your own website files, especially in the case of File Inclusion attacks. You cannot afford to leave any malware in your website.
Remove the Malware
Now that you have detected malware on your site, you should clean it. Ensure that every backdoor, injection and corrupted file.is removed from your website. A backdoor is also a type of malware that is extremely difficult to spot and remove since hackers prefer to have easy access to your website backend long after you remove the malware they inject to it.
Update Plugins, Themes and the WordPress Core
XSS or SQL Injection are malware on your website that are a result of outdated scripts or poor code. Outdated WordPress scripts, script plugins and/or themes are more vulnerable to hacking. Updates usually contain security patches that are extremely important for the security of a website.
Harden your Website
Cleaning and updating your website brings you a few steps closer to getting your site back online. Keeping the long-term health of your website in mind, there are a few more steps for you to take before you can tell your web hosts you have truly secured your site. Please note that these steps can get quite technical and you will need technical assistance or a security service to do this for you. WordPress recommends security hardening techniques such as:
Change Security keys
Create a new set of security keys and store them in wpconfig.php file while setting up your site. This will add a layer of protection for your website.
Protect Upload Folders
Block the rogue execution of any PHP files in the uploads folder. These PHP files might contain vulnerabilities which hackers can exploit.
Disallow Rogue Plugin Installation
If your WordPress Admin Panel is hacked, hackers can install a rogue theme or plugin of their choosing. As a preventative measure you can disable this, as well. define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_MODS’,true);
Disable File Editor
Make it harder for hackers to change any of your files. define(‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’,true);
Backup your Website Regularly
A WordPress backup can save the day when things go south. It is the most important supporting pillar of security. You can recover your website quickly unlike this particular hosting provider. Do not forget. Whatever you do, Backup your site.
Install a Firewall
A Web Application Firewall blocks malicious traffic from entering your website. Firewalls analyse the data trying to enter your website and that is why they are an important layer of website security.
Protect your Login Page
Insufficiently secure passwords for databases and FTP are one thing, but an unprotected login page is one of the worst mistakes a website owner can make. It is leaving your front door open to burglars. You must limit the number of failed login attempts, A. K. A. brute force attack prevention to keep your website safe from bots, botnets, and hackers.
Do I have any other option?
A highly skilled web developer may be able to resolve some of this manually. However it is very difficult to keep up with the fast and furious pace with which hackers have been releasing new malware into the WordPress ecosystem. It is faster and easier (not to mention, more economical) to use a security service. MalCare WordPress Security service will automatically scan all files and tables with one-click and remove any malicious content – including the latest types of malware – again, with one-click.
What are the benefits of using MalCare WordPress Security Service?
As we have already mentioned, getting back online must be your top priority. The clock is ticking and your visitors are waiting.
MalCare can help speed up the scanning, cleaning and hardening of your site. With MalCare’s 100+ intelligent signals you can detect and remove malware from your website before you web hosts even suspend your site. You only need to click a single button and we will take care of even blocking IPs with our inbuilt Firewall and Login Protection.
The cherry on the top is MalCare’s Reporting feature. MalCare provides in-depth Reports on the Security of your websites, which will be helpful in convincing web hosts that your site is truly clean. That’s the next step.
What is the last step?
1. Recheck your Website.
Scan your website a few more times to make sure you haven’t missed any malware. It might be really embarrassing to learn from the hosting company that you still have malware present on your website, after all the hard work you put into cleaning it, the first time.
2. Report the Malware Removal to your Hosting Provider.
Get in touch with your hosting provider with the following details:
- Your website.
- The malware removed and files cleaned.
- Include the relevant information about the malware removal.
- Confirm that you have fixed the issues they have mentioned.
3. The Hosting Company will Confirm your Statement.
The hosting provider will reply in confirmation if they find your website suitably clean.
That’s it! Your site will be up in about 15 minutes.
How do I Prevent a Web Host Suspension?
Check Terms of Service
Each hosting provider has their own terms and conditions for using their services. Go through the TOS of your hosting provider to get a clear idea on maintaining your hosting account.
Connect to your Server Securely
Whenever you get the chance to, use sFTP or SSH, not FTP. Use SSL certificate for better security. Note that Google uses HTTPS as a ranking factor since it is a secure way of transacting online.
Install a Web Application Firewall
Ensure no hackers get past your website defense mechanism. Nip the malware in the bud by blocking any unauthorized requests or login attempts.
Harden your Website
Reinforce your website security by keeping hackers, bots and botnets away from your website back end.
Use Only Reliable Themes and Plugins
Pirated themes and plugins almost always contain malware or spam bots. Best case? They will hamper your site performance. Beware the worst case – They will steal critical information and spread viruses to your visitors. And nobody wants that happening again.
Scan your website
Scan your entire website for malware detection regularly. Yes, it might be difficult to do that, so we recommend using a WordPress security service like MalCare.
Is there Anything else I Should Know?
It is trials and tribulations like these that help us grow and learn from past mistakes. There’s only so many times you can afford to make the same mistake again. “Hacked once, shame on the hackers, hacked twice, shame on you.” Secure yourself against any and all hacker threats and never go through a web host suspension ever again.