Am I hacked or am I not hacked? That is indeed the question and for website owners everywhere, the idea of being hacked is a scary prospect. But for some businesses, this fear has recently become a reality.
Or has it?
Google displaying mass “This Site May Be Hacked” messages
About two weeks ago, whilst performing our local searches – which we do on a daily basis – we noticed something strange; one of the businesses in our local area was listed slightly differently than usual:
The meta description had been pushed down and underneath the page title and website address instead was a new piece of information: “This site may be hacked”.
Now this is a long-established, reputable company that has a good website and we were surprised it had managed to be hacked. Nevertheless, whatever Google says has to be right. Right?
Webmasters all over were seeing hacked notifications and complaining that they were aware of no issues. As it turns out, it was a bug at Google’s end. According to Google’s John Mueller, they had been releasing a hacked page classifier and accidentally misclassified a number of websites.
As of today, we can see that the website in question no longer has this message showing in the search results. So chances are it was related to the Google issue. But you never know…
And it’s because you never know that this kind of message could be seriously damaging. If I was a potential customer for this business and I spotted that, I would be put off straight away. I’d probably make a mental note not to visit there in the future and instead I’d click on one of their competitors’ websites; one that looked safe.
If you’ve seen this message saying your website has been hacked but you’re adamant that it hasn’t, Google tells us you can fill in this online form which will then cause your website to be reviewed (just to make sure) and the label will be manually removed.
What should you do if you have been hacked?
On the other hand, if you believe you have been hacked or you’ve received notification of this in your Google Webmaster Tools, it needs to be addressed immediately, not only for security purposes, but also to prevent the loss of visitors and traffic to your website.
Google provides this information on what to do if you’re a webmaster that wants to remove this notification from your listings. But that does involve carrying out a significant amount of technical work to assess the problem and resolve the issues on your website.
The hacker may have changed some of the pages on your website or added brand new spam pages. Or they may even have redirected the entire website so that any visitors are sent to spam or malware. Whatever has taken place, it may be best to consult an expert to resolve the problem for you.
So whether you’ve been hacked in the past, received one of the above-mentioned false messages or have thus far managed to avoid any issues, it’s a scary and unfortunate fact that hackers really are out there and it’s important you remember to take precautions to prevent your website – and your business – from suffering any damage.