Here's How to Protect Vital Website Files and Other Documents on Your Computer

Read Barbara's article, "Carbonite: The Best Little Computer Backup Program You'll Ever Find."

Related Article by Dennis Gaskill

To Catch a Content Thief: a simple way to search the Web to see if someone has stolen any of the content from your website.



Copyright © 2000-2013
by Barbara Brabec
All Rights Reserved
Barbara Brabec's World


HACKED! How My Business
Was Ruined by a Hacker

Think Your Website is Safe from Hackers? Think again. Any website is a potential target for hackers. Yours could be next.

A Special Report by Dennis Gaskill,

This is the story of how my Web business and eleven years of work in creating and optimizing my webmaster resource site for the sear/ch engines was destroyed by a hacker in the spring of 2008. Within a few weeks, plunged from the top of search engine rankings to not being found at all on the first fifty pages.

The Early Warning

The first sign that something was wrong was a steady decline in sales. However, as an 11-year veteran of e-commerce, I was used to seeing sales slow down in the weeks leading up to the tax filing deadline. I chalked up the falling sales to that and consumer concern over rising oil prices and the economy in general.

After a few more weeks of further declining sales, it became obvious something more than short-term sales fluctuations was happening. I checked my site stats and was shocked at the downturn in web site traffic. What I first thought was strictly a loss of sales was instead a drastic loss of traffic from the major search engines.

I went to Google to search for my site using keywords and phrases for which it has traditionally ranked on the first page or two, but my site had seemingly disappeared. I clicked down into the search results for 50 pages without finding my site for any of my top keywords.

The First Clue

Concerned that my site was somehow no longer listed with the major search engines, I next searched for pages within my domain only. The first couple of pages brought results, so I knew my site was still indexed, but why had it fallen completely out of search results for keywords I usually dominated?

After clicking a couple of pages deep into the search results, I started seeing pages listed for my site that I knew I had not created. As I kept going, hundreds of pages not of my own making turned up. When I clicked the links for these pages to see if they were really on my site, all I got were 404 errors (file not found).

After discovering this, I logged into to my site via FTP to look for these specific pages, but they weren't there. I did make an important discovery, though. Hidden in a directory I seldom worked with, I found a strange file—a PHP script I didn't place there.

The Hacker's Script

In studying the PHP script, it appeared it was supposed to redirect people who clicked the bogus links in search engines to a Chinese web site, but apparently the script had an error in it so, to the search engines, all the bogus links ended up being non-existent pages on my site.

The links were for all kinds of things: shoes, porn, celebrities, MP3 downloads, pharmaceuticals, jewelry, sports equipment, and hundreds of other topics unrelated to my site.

But where were these links coming from?

A Second Discovery

After looking in all my directories, I next checked the source code of a few pages, which lead to a new discovery. All of the bogus search engine links were scattered throughout most of my pages, but they were placed after the closing HTML tags so they weren't visible on the web page if you were viewing my site in a browser. Unfortunately, the search engines picked them up anyway.

It seems obvious the hacker was trying to siphon traffic from my site. It's also possible the hacker was trying to boost his or her own site's popularity.

What the Search Engines Saw

To the search engines, my site had about 300 good pages and about 6,000 broken pages. Search engines penalize sites with too much link rot, and you can't blame them. Broken links in their search returns reduces the quality of their product. With all that link rot on my site, its search engine rankings were effectively destroyed.

With the hundreds of topics included in all the hacker-placed links, my site’s tightly-focused theme had been totally destroyed, too. I'd found the answer to why my traffic and sales had suddenly died.

Words cannot express how I felt when I realized that eleven years’ worth of work in building a successful online business had been wiped out by one person practically overnight.

For the rest of this story, download Dennis’ FREE 14-page PDF report, “Hacked! My Business Was Ruined by a Hacker—Your Web Site Could be Next.”

It includes detailed information on how to avoid becoming a hacker's victim, 14 tips on how to make your site less vulnerable to hackers (you'll be surprised to learn how bad your website username and password probably is), plus 8 recovery steps that should be taken in the event of a hacker attack.

NOTE: To help as many website owners as possible, the author has granted permission for this PDF report (formatted by Barbara) to be freely shared with others on the Web, by email, on websites and blogs, or as an incentive freebie.


On June 9, 2008, a new Bill, H.R. 6206: Small Business Information Security Act of 2008, was introduced to the House on June 9, 2008. The Small Business Administration is trying to establish a task force to be known as the "Small Business Information Security Task Force." Its purpose will be to address the information technology security needs of small business concerns. You can read the text of this Bill on GovTrack.US.

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