Many South African websites are being targeted by hackers at the moment. This is cause for concern, but it isn’t unstoppable. We will be answering the following questions:

Why would they want to hack my website?

How do they do it?

How can I protect my website?


Why would they want to hack my website?

We know; you may simply have a small personal website where you share your thoughts and insights on life, or maybe a little site for your small business. What would any hacker ever have to gain from hacking your website?

The answer is simple: To boost their own sites.

You see, most of the time these hackers don’t do any damage; they simply target your website and add code to it linking back to their own site. Generally, search engines like Google and Bing give more authority to sites that have many links pointing back to them (called backlinks), so these hackers boost their own website search engine ranking by creating hundreds or thousands of backlinks. Some of them even advertise these services on freelancer websites such as Elance and Odesk as legitimate Search Engine Optimization. So even though you don’t necessarily lose anything most of the time, it’s still scary to think about the fact that your website could be so vulnerable.

How do they do it?

Hollywood has given us a very twisted perspective about hackers. When your site is hacked, it usually wasn’t some kid sitting behind a keyboard in lieu of a social life, typing away frantically with sweat dripping from his pimply face. Your site will be hacked by an automated script that derives no pleasure from it (though, admittedly, the script is often written by just such a pimple-faced kid).

These scripts usually target sites that are built on outdated versions of CMS systems like Joomla or WordPress. They exploit some vulnerabilities in the system that allow them to edit the source code of your website, publishing their own code (with a backlink) as a part of it. This same method can also be used to give someone else access to your website, and to remove your access to the back-end of the CMS system.

How can I protect my website?

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  1. Keep your system up to date. Modern versions of Joomla and WordPress tell you when there are updates available. These warnings aren’t there for charity’s sake, they are there so that you can take preventative measures. Most of these CMS systems even have a simple Click here to update option allowing you to easily keep your website up to date.
  2. Make regular backups. This usually involves making a backup copy of all of your website’s files, as well as the database. If you don’t know how, get a web developer to help you do that, or feel free to contact Hosting101 for assistance. In many CMS systems you can install a plugin (such as the excellent and free Akeeba Backup Core for Joomla and WordPress) that allows you to easily backup your entire site.
  3. Protect your site. This might involve changing your hosting provider (Hosting101’s web hosting has a high level of security), or installing plugins for additional security in your CMS. A quick Google search will reveal some good options.

The important lesson here is that you should NEVER EVER think your website (or anything else) is 100%, perfectly secure. It takes constant vigilance to make sure that what’s yours, stays yours. Make sure that you have secure web hosting, and always have a good backup system in place.

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Are you relevant online? You know Google, but does Google know you? Is your website geared and optimized to really bring in more customers? Is your business brand portraying you and your product effectively? Hosting101 can help you get from where you are to where you want to be.

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