By Wafa Alnasayan and Eric Kuan
We hope your year started out safe and secure! We wanted to share with you a summary of our 2016 work as we continue our #NoHacked campaign. Let’s start with some trends on hacked sites from the past year.
State of Website Security in 2016
First off, some unfortunate news. We’ve seen an increase in the number of hacked sites by approximately 32% in 2016 compared to 2015. We don’t expect this trend to slow down. As hackers get more aggressive and more sites become outdated, hackers will continue to capitalize by infecting more sites.
On the bright side, 84% webmasters who do apply for reconsideration are successful in cleaning their sites. However, 61% of webmasters who were hacked never received a notification from Google that their site was infected because their sites weren’t verified in Search Console. Remember to register for Search Console if you own or manage a site. It’s the primary channel that Google uses to communicate site health alerts.
More Help for Hacked Webmasters
We’ve been listening to your feedback to better understand how we can help webmasters with security issues. One of the top requests was easier to understand documentation about hacked sites. As a result we’ve been hard at work to make our documentation more useful.
First, we created new documentation to give webmasters more context when their site has been compromised. Here is a list of the new help documentation:
- Top ways websites get hacked by spammers
- Glossary for Hacked Sites
- FAQs for Hacked Sites
- How do I know if my site is hacked?
Next, we created clean up guides for sites affected by known hacks. We’ve noticed that sites often get affected in similar ways when hacked. By investigating the similarities, we were able to create clean up guides for specific known type of hack. Below is a short description of each of the guides we created:
Gibberish Hack: The gibberish hack automatically creates many pages with non-sensical sentences filled with keywords on the target site. Hackers do this so the hacked pages show up in Google Search. Then, when people try to visit these pages, they’ll be redirected to an unrelated page, like a porn site. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.
Japanese Keywords Hack: The Japanese keywords hack typically creates new pages with Japanese text on the target site in randomly generated directory names. These pages are monetized using affiliate links to stores selling fake brand merchandise and then shown in Google search. Sometimes the accounts of the hackers get added in Search Console as site owners. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.
Cloaked Keywords Hack: The cloaked keywords and link hack automatically creates many pages with non-sensical sentence, links, and images. These pages sometimes contain basic template elements from the original site, so at first glance, the pages might look like normal parts of the target site until you read the content. In this type of attack, hackers usually use cloaking techniques to hide the malicious content and make the injected page appear as part of the original site or a 404 error page. Learn more on how to fix this type of hack.
Prevention is Key
As always it’s best to take a preventative approach and secure your site rather than dealing with the aftermath. Remember a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. You can read more about how to identify vulnerabilities on your site in our hacked help guide. We also recommend staying up-to-date on releases and announcements from your Content Management System (CMS) providers and software/hardware vendors.
Hacking behavior is constantly evolving, and research allows us to stay up to date on and combat the latest trends. You can learn about our latest research publications in the information security research site. Highlighted below are a few specific studies specific to website compromises:
- Cloak of Visibility: Detecting When Machines Browse a Different Web
- Investigating Commercial Pay-Per-Install and the Distribution of Unwanted Software
- Users Really Do Plug in USB Drives They Find
- Ad Injection at Scale: Assessing Deceptive Advertisement Modifications
If you have feedback or specific questions about compromised sites, the Webmaster Help Forums has an active group of Googlers and technical contributors that can address your questions and provide additional technical support.