Hacked sites up by a third in 2016 says Google report

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Google has published their ‘State of Website Security’ report for 2016, which claims that almost a third more websites were victims of hacking compared to a year previously.

They say that 32% more websites fell victim to hackers, and even more worryingly they believe this upward trend is set to continue.

Explaining the figures

The data has been collected from Google’s Safe Browsing technology, which is the tool which warns users of its Chrome browser and Google search engine. It will flag any sites which the ‘Safe Browsing’ technology identifies as having been hijacked in some way.

How Google defines a hacked site is fairly broad. It can identify a whole host of problems, from user-generated spam, dodgy links, and sneaky redirects, to cloaked images, and hidden text or keyword stuffing.

Another bit of Google kit, known as Google Search Console, informs users about problems with their site. But according to the report, 61% of owners whose sites are identified as being hacked are never informed by Google because their site is now verified with Search Console. They are obviously keen for webmasters to register their sites with Search Console, claiming it is a great way to keep sites clean.

They have also published a new range of easy to understand documents to help people running their own sites understand more about being hacked as well as a series of clean-up guides for certain types of commonly used hacks.

This is all well and good but of course, hackers are using different tools and techniques all the time, so such information is only ever going to be useful up to a point.

‘Prevention is Key’

In the report, Google acknowledges this in a section entitled ‘Prevention is Key’. And the best way to prevent your site being hacked is to take a number of basic safety precautions.

The first of these, which Google highlight, is to make sure all software is kept completely up-to-date. By software, they mean both tools from your Content Management System, and any other software programmes you might be using that could allow access to the site.

But going one step further, ensuring that your online connection is permanently encrypted when editing your website is a sure-fire way to drive hackers away. The best way to do this is by using a reliable VPN such as IPVanish or ExpressVPN.

They will divert all of your online traffic down an encrypted pathway, whether you are logging on at home, in the office, or using a public Wi-Fi network. This means everything you do online is secured and goes a long way to protecting your site.

Into the future

To say Google are not optimistic for the future would be an understatement. In the report, they grimly note that “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.”

That message couldn’t be clearer. Hackers are not going to give up. On the contrary, they are going to get stronger.

And while Google will continue to take whatever steps it can to protect users registered with them, it is ultimately down to users to take the necessary steps to protect their websites.

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