Diagnosing and Fixing a Hacked Website: 2023’s Ultimate Guide

Get your website back on track with our 2023 comprehensive guide, providing actionable steps and expert advice on diagnosing and fixing hacked websites.
Oliver Brown, Contributing Editor | Updated October 7, 2023

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In the dynamic landscape of the internet, the security of websites remains a pivotal concern. As we step into 2023, the sophistication of cyber-attacks has heightened, making it imperative to understand how to diagnose and fix a hacked website. Armed with the right knowledge and tools, you can safeguard your online presence and restore your website’s functionality swiftly.

Steps To Diagnose and Fix a Hacked Website (Quick Answer):

  1. Identify the Signs of a Hack
  2. Contact Your Hosting Provider
  3. Scan Your Website for Malware
  4. Remove the Malicious Code
  5. Update All Software and Plugins
  6. Strengthen Your Website’s Security
  7. Monitor Your Website Regularly

Let’s delve deeper into each step, offering you actionable insights and guidelines to safeguard your website effectively.

Identifying the Signs of a Hack

Recognizing that your website has been compromised is the first vital step in the recovery process. Early detection can significantly minimize the damage. Here, we shall explore the common signs that indicate a hack, coupled with the tools that can assist you in identifying these signs.

Unexpected Website Behavior

  • Redirection to other websites
  • Display of unfamiliar ads and pop-ups
  • Slow website loading time
  • Unexpected content alterations

Warnings from Browsers and Search Engines

  • Security warnings when visiting the website
  • Search engine blacklisting
  • Browser red screen warnings

Server and Hosting Indicators

  • Unusual server log entries
  • Unexpected spikes in traffic
  • Hosting provider sending malware alerts

Contacting Your Hosting Provider

In the wake of detecting a hack, it’s prudent to immediately get in touch with your hosting provider. They often have a wealth of experience dealing with such issues and can provide essential assistance. In this section, we will discuss the steps to communicate effectively with your hosting provider and the kind of support you can expect.

Initial Steps to Take

  1. Gather all necessary information: Make a note of all the anomalies observed and any technical issues encountered.
  2. Contact customer support: Reach out to the customer support of your hosting provider, reporting the issue in detail.

Collaborative Action Plan

  1. Utilizing hosting provider tools: Learn about and utilize the tools your hosting provider offers for diagnosing and rectifying the issue.
  2. Follow the guidelines: Adhere to the guidance and instructions provided by the hosting provider to resolve the problem effectively.

Scanning Your Website for Malware

Embarking on the road to recovery necessitates a thorough scanning of your website to unearth any hidden malware or vulnerabilities. Here, we will unfold the various methods and tools that can facilitate a deep and effective malware scan, setting the stage for a robust cleanup.

Utilize Website Security Plugins

  • Sucuri: A comprehensive security plugin that offers website scanning and malware removal services.
  • Wordfence: A popular choice that provides real-time monitoring and malware scanning features.
  • iThemes Security: Equipped with malware scanning capabilities and offers actionable recommendations for securing your website.

Manual Malware Scanning

  • Inspecting code files: Manually check your website’s files to identify any unfamiliar or modified code.
  • Reviewing .htaccess files: Examine the .htaccess file for any dubious entries or redirects.
  • Database examination: Delve into your website’s database to spot any suspicious content or alterations.

Removing the Malicious Code

Once the malware scan has spotlighted the compromised areas, the ensuing step is embarking on a meticulous removal of the malicious code. This section will guide you through the meticulous process of purging your website of any harmful elements, aiming to restore its pristine state.

Backup Your Website

  1. Create a full backup: Before initiating the cleanup, ensure to back up your entire website, preserving all data.
  2. Isolate affected areas: Identify and isolate the sections of your website that have been compromised.

Cleaning Infected Files

  1. File replacement: Replace infected files with clean versions from a recent backup or fresh installation.
  2. Database Cleanup: Purge the database of any malicious entries and restore it to a secure state.

Seek Professional Help

  • Contact a website cleanup service: If the infection is extensive, consider seeking assistance from professional website cleanup services.
  • Consult with a cybersecurity expert: Gain insights from a cybersecurity expert to ensure a thorough cleanup and fortification of your website.

Updating All Software and Plugins

In a bid to arm your website against potential hacks, it is vital to keep all software and plugins updated. This step involves delving into the latest updates available and understanding the role of each in fortifying your website.

Updating Content Management System (CMS)

  • Automatic Updates: Configure your CMS to receive automatic updates, ensuring you’re always running the latest version.
  • Manual Updates: Learn how to manually update your CMS to fix any security vulnerabilities promptly.
  • Change Logs: Regularly check the change logs to stay informed about the latest updates and features.

Plugin and Theme Updates

  • Update Regularly: Keep your plugins and themes up-to-date to patch any existing vulnerabilities.
  • Remove Unused Plugins: Eliminate any unused or outdated plugins that might pose a security risk.
  • Reputable Sources: Ensure to download plugins and themes from reputable sources to avoid malicious content.

Strengthening Your Website’s Security

After navigating the tumultuous waters of a hack, bolstering your website’s security is of paramount importance. In this section, we will discuss various strategies and tools that can help you build a fortress around your website, preventing future intrusions.

Implementing Strong Password Policies

  • Password Complexity: Enforce a policy of utilizing complex passwords, combining uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters.
  • Regular Changes: Encourage users to change their passwords periodically to enhance security.
  • Two-Factor Authentication: Implement two-factor authentication to add an additional layer of security during the login process.

Utilizing Security Plugins

  • Firewalls: Install a firewall to block malicious traffic and protect your website from unauthorized access.
  • SSL Certificate: Obtain an SSL certificate to encrypt data transfer between your website and the users.
  • Regular Scans: Set up regular scans to detect any vulnerabilities and fix them before they can be exploited.

Regular Backup and Recovery Plan

  1. Automated Backups: Set up automated backups to secure your data and facilitate easy recovery in case of a hack.
  2. Recovery Plan: Develop a comprehensive recovery plan to restore your website quickly in the event of a breach.

Implementing Regular Monitoring

Maintaining the sanctity of your website is an ongoing process. Regular monitoring acts as a vigilant guard, detecting any irregularities before they escalate into significant issues. In this section, we will dive deep into the various strategies and tools that can assist in setting up a robust monitoring system.

Website Performance Monitoring

  • Uptime Monitoring: Utilize tools to monitor the uptime of your website, promptly alerting you in case of any downtime.
  • Page Speed Analysis: Regularly analyze the page speed to ensure optimal performance and user experience.
  • Error Detection: Set up systems to detect and notify you of any errors occurring on the website.

Security Monitoring

  • File Integrity Monitoring: Implement tools that notify you of any changes in your website files, helping in early detection of a breach.
  • Login Attempt Monitoring: Monitor login attempts to your website to identify and block any brute force attacks.
  • Malware Scanning: Set up regular malware scans to detect any malicious code or vulnerabilities in time.

FAQ Section

What Are the First Steps to Take When You Suspect a Website Hack?

The initial steps should encompass identifying the signs of a hack, which can range from unexpected website behaviors such as redirections, unfamiliar ads popping up, to warnings from browsers and search engines. Following the identification, contact your hosting provider promptly to notify them of the issue and seek their guidance in mitigating the problem.

How Can One Effectively Remove Malicious Code From the Website?

Removing malicious code entails conducting a comprehensive malware scan using reliable security plugins or manual scanning methods to identify infected files. Following this, back up your website, isolate the affected areas, and begin the cleanup process. This involves replacing infected files with clean versions and purging the database of any malicious entries. In cases of extensive infection, consider seeking professional help from website cleanup services or cybersecurity experts.

How Can I Strengthen My Website’s Security Post a Hack?

Post a hack, enhance your website’s security by implementing strong password policies, utilizing security plugins offering features like firewalls and regular scans, and obtaining an SSL certificate for data encryption. Additionally, set up automated backups and develop a robust recovery plan to safeguard your website against future breaches.


In the ever-evolving landscape of the internet, the security of your website should be your utmost priority. Falling prey to a hack can not only compromise sensitive data but also tarnish your brand’s reputation. Through this guide, we have navigated the comprehensive pathway to diagnosing and rectifying a hacked website, ensuring you are equipped with the necessary tools and knowledge to prevent future attacks.

Take a proactive stance by regularly updating your website’s software and plugins, strengthening security measures, and implementing regular monitoring. Remember, the safety of your website is an ongoing endeavor, requiring vigilance and prompt action. Let’s forge ahead into a safer digital future, fortified with knowledge and readiness to combat potential cyber threats.

Published: September 25, 2023 | Updated: October 7, 2023
Contributing Editor

Oliver is a Contributing Editor with plenty of experience in proofreading, editing, and writing. He delivers in-depth guides, reviews, and articles about all aspects of the web hosting industry. In his spare time, Oliver enjoys spending time with his family, playing guitar and read science fiction.

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