Google has increased the transparency of its monthly updates and warnings in recent weeks. Notices of unnatural link detection, big traffic changes (both increase and decrease) and WordPress update notifications are sparking concerns with many webmasters.
The latest cautionary message is a notice of suspected hacking. Matt Cutts tweeted yesterday:
By ‘weird redirects’, Matt refers to malware inserted by hackers onto your site. The malware’s purpose is to redirect search traffic from the pages you have created, to pages hackers have created and hosted on your domain.
Unfortunately, if detected by Google, your site will be identified in search results to users as a harmful site. What’s even more alarming is that many webmasters are unaware of their site being hacked, as they typically go straight to their domain without monitoring how they appear in the search results.
So if you get this message, what can you do?
Cleaning Your Site of Malware
Sites affected by malware require immediate action. Here are three steps that need to be addressed once your site has been identified of suspected hacking:
- Take down the site: As the malware on your site has the potential to infect your users computers and other sites, it is important that the site be taken down for maintenance while the malware is removed.
- Contact your hosting provider: Your hosting provider should also be notified of the issue (and may also be able to handle the problem).
- Change all the passwords for all users and all of the accounts. Also check for any new users that may have been created by the malware.
Protecting Your Site from Malware
Whether your site has been recently affected by malware or not, the risk of future infection becomes greater if you don’t take precautionary measures. The time taken to protect your site from harm is nothing compared to the time, cost and potential loss of income incurred by doing nothing.
You can read more about how to monitor your site health and the steps you can take to prevent hackers from insterting damaging malware at the Webmaster Tool Support page.
If you would like to see the health of your website, there are a number of tools you can use to help identify how clean your site is:
- Google Safe Browsing: http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=www.example.com.
- Fetch as Google Bot: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=158587
- Remove bad URLs from being indexed: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1663419
For more information on how to address malware issues, read more on Google’s official support pages:
Cleaning your site: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=163634
Preventing your site from Malware: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=163635
Been affected? Request a Malware Review: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=168328
If you have any further questions or concerns, I’ll be happy to address them in the comments below.