What is Website Malware & Why Does Google Hate It So Much?

The term “malware” covers all sorts of malicious software designed to harm a computer or network, and even a website. Malware can be installed on your machine without your knowledge, often through deceptive links or downloads posing as something desirable or out of fear.

For that reason, these days, you have to be very careful what you click and download.

Clicking unfamiliar links can expose you to malicious software and websites. This software could contain programs that scan your computer or track what keys you type, in pursuit of personal information and your passwords. We recommend that you only download from sources you trust, and hover over links to check the address before you click. When in doubt, use trusted bookmarks for important sites or browser scanning extensions like McAfee for Chrome.

mcafee extension

Many websites suffer from malware quite often and most of the time it wasn’t something the owner of the website did wrong, the site just happened to get hacked through an open access point. So, be sure that you completely trust a website before clicking on it or downloading files from it.

Can Website Malware Affect My Computer?

YES!

Once a computer has been compromised by malware, cyber criminals can attempt to access your personal information by logging your keystrokes or monitoring your computer’s activity. Your computer could also be controlled to visit websites or perform other actions without your knowledge. The effects of malware range from brief annoyance to complete computer crashes with the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) to higher level identity theft occurrences.

The various forms of malware include, but are not limited to:

  • Viruses
  • Worms
  • Spyware
  • Adware
  • Trojan horses
  • Rootkit
  • Backdoors
  • Keyloggers
  • Ransomware
  • Redirectors

Malware can be tough to remove, and no single program is guaranteed to catch and clean up everything, so once again, you have to be extremely careful which sites you visit and what you download.

What Are Some Malware Warnings and How Can I Deal with Them?

To protect web surfers, Google is continually working to identify and blacklist dangerous pages and domains. Many popular applications (Google Search, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.) use Google’s malware database to warn their users to keep away from potentially harmful sites.

This site may harm your computer notice

The majority of blacklisted sites are in reality legitimate websites into which hackers have inserted malicious content by exposing a vulnerability and manipulating files or folders.

Often, the site owners are having difficulty, both in cleaning up their sites, as well as in removing malware warnings that seriously impact their sites’ traffic and reputation.

What If My Website is Under Google’s Blacklisted Sites? What Can I Do Now?

website malware notice

To find out what’s wrong with your site or any other site, you can simply consult a Google’s Safe Browsing diagnostic page. From the diagnostic, you first need to determine what Google exactly blacklisted. This information can help you narrow down your search to specific sections of your site.

If your site is blacklisted or marked as “This site may be hacked” in Google’s search results (SERPs), you can usually find additional details about your problem in the “Security Issues” section of Google Search Console, previously Webmaster Tools. The details may include web pages where Google detected malware or spam, type of malware and examples of the malicious code to locate and remove from the files.

How Can I Clean My Site From Malware?

Once you’ve identified the source of the problem, you need clean up your site and take action to prevent re-infection. The easiest way to clean a site is to backup a most recent restore point of the web files and database, place on a testing server and begin the cleaning process.

During this time is when you should be taking the much needed preventative steps to significantly reduce re-infection or re-injection of malware.

  • Look for malicious files hidden deep in directories that may look legitimate
  • Remove files that look suspicious (if you developed the site, then you will know right away)
  • Remove any backdoor scripts that may be lingering in folders or parts of other files
  • Before uploading the cleaned version of the website, begin changing passwords from any known access points, such as: database login, SSH/SFTP, FTP, CMS Admin logins for WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, etc
  • If using a database or CMS like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or Magento to name a few, make sure you have their core versions up to date, along with any of their extensions or plugins updated
  • Overwrite the current infected website files and database with the new cleaned version
  • Then change server level passwords for your cPanel and then your domain registrar and even your Mail IDs that may have a record of the old and/or new login details

Hackers use automated tools and can update malicious content on compromised sites every day. So, if you don’t secure the site, it may be blacklisted again very soon, or may not pass the initial malware review from Google.

It is important to investigate the issue and identify the security holes that left the website susceptible to attack. You will have a better grasp as to what caused your specific problem and what should be done to prevent it. Every case is different as these malware bots and hackers are evolving just as fast as the web itself.

My Site is Clean. How Do I Request a Malware Review from Google?

Once you clean your site it’s now time to request a formal review from Google. You will need to be logged into your Search Console account and on the left side, click on “Security Issues” in order to see the page as shown above with the malware listed.

Scroll to the bottom and check the box “I have fixed these issues” and click the red “REQUEST A REVIEW” button to get a small pop up window.

request a review

Be sure to detail your tactics in cleaning the website inside the description box and ask for Google to review the request as soon as possible. In our experience, if you or your developer has done everything right, then Google typically releases the blacklisting notice within the same day or by morning.

*SPECIAL NOTE* You will NOT receive a notice from Google letting you know the site has been released, so be sure to check the domain often. If it goes on for days with the notice still visible, try again.

submit request for review

If no malware is found, Google will remove the warning from your site.

These extra steps are required if you want to quickly have your site displaying online normally again for those browsing using Google Search and Chrome, FireFox and Safari.

Without the manual request, it may take several weeks before your site’s status is cleared when Google makes it way back to keep indexing new sites and pages published to the web every second.

Finally, You Must Act Quickly!

Malware can happen anytime, so it is important that you are constantly checking your website for any issues that may be present and, more importantly, keep your email associated with your Google Search Console account to receive notices as they are found.

If a website security issue were to rear its ugly head, be sure to take action as soon as possible in order to keep your site’s downtime to a minimum and Google happy to show your URL to your customers and potential customers.

For more information about Google’s malware blacklisting process or, worse, you need assistance with your hacked WordPress website, please contact Whiteboard Creations today for immediate help.

About the Author

Patrick McCoy - Internet Marketing Consultant
As Founder & President of Whiteboard Creations, Patrick is just as dedicated to writing articles about website design and internet marketing as he is managing the day to day operations for the business. Keep connected with Patrick via Google+ & LinkedIn.

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