Having your website hacked could be compared to having an annoying roommate sometimes. Everything’s a mess, no matter how many times you keep putting things back. Your shampoo, food and other resources are always running out. Thanks to them, shows you’ve never even heard of turn up in your ‘Continue Watching’ list on Netflix… And to top it, none of your friends want to come over any more.
But that’s where the similarities end.
You can always talk things out with a roommate, or probably move out… But hacks have devastating consequences. And there’s no way you can just end the problem by walking out. Your website’s reputation is at stake, and the internet never forgets.
There are a number of reasons hackers attack your WordPress website even when they know nothing about you, or what your site stands for. In fact, most of the time, hackers use crawler bots, like the ones search-engines use, to check the web for sites that exhibit vulnerabilities.
Once they identify weak websites, hackers attack for one of the following reasons:
- They want to gain critical information from the website. (This could be any sensitive information, like login credentials)
- Modifying your site allows them to serve your visitors malicious content (like viruses, or malicious code that could track your visitor’s cookies)
- Defacing a website helps hackers send some sort of message across. These kinds of attacks make up for only a small number of hacks
- Your website could be another notch in the hacker’s belt: damaging your website could help them climb ranks in the hacker community
- Exploiting your site’s resources could prove to get them some kind of monetary benefit. Stealing your visitors identities and selling them on the web is something a lot of hackers do. Hackers could also try to gain control of your server, in which case they could do anything.
Once an attacker gains control of your server, the amount of power they wield depends only on what they want to do. They could do anything from sending out spam mail, to even deleting your website. In fact, some malware is designed to lock you out of your website until you give in to the hacker’s demands. Malware designed for this purpose, is called ransomware, (for obvious reasons). The data stolen from websites could also be held for ransom. Hackers could declare to release it in case their terms of payment isn’t met. But those are headline-worthy scenarios… What hackers stand to gain by remaining undetected, is a lot more. Undetected hacks mean that hackers could keep siphoning off information, and using it for their own purposes.
In fact, the Netflix scenario we mentioned earlier actually happened earlier this year. Netflix users’ login credentials were stolen after the site got hacked, and then sold on the web. Identity theft is a huge business, and hacks like these thrive on the premise that the website owner isn’t in the know. So even if you’re only a WordPress site owner who has subscribers, you have reason to worry.
It’s been a while since WordPress core has had any vulnerabilities, but plugins and themes are a different story altogether. Developers creating these plugins and themes usually don’t anticipate the exploitation of vulnerabilities… or they build first, and then fix later. But with hackers becoming more and more competent, hacks keep getting more complex, and difficult to identify.
Most vulnerabilities open doorways to other exploits and attacks, each with their own scope of damage. The cumulative damage could be disastrous for you, as a WordPress website owner. Moreover, your site could keep getting hacked because of exploits like Backdoors. They maintain a foothold to your website’s server, and your website.