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Your site is hacked - how to handle the situation properly

One of my client's sites was hacked the other day - new experience for me, so thought I'd share in a somewhat linear format.

  1. The developer who wrote the site did so using Drupal, and apparently a few weeks ago a pretty big vulnerability was found (something to do w. PHP).
  2. The site is hosted by Network Solutions (UNIX web host package) - (NS hereforth).
  3. There is no customer data held on the site, it's just informational & a few PDFs
  4. NS detected that the site was hacked, shut it down, and sent an email to the primary contact.
  5. Primary contact was someone who used to manage the account - I was never made primary (for whatever reason - obviously THIS is why having it set correctly is important)
  6. Client called saying their customers were reporting an offline site.
  7. The NS splash page simply said 'invalid domain'.
  8. I called NS after triple-checking NS account status & domain validity.
  9. NS confirmed account status was OK, transferred me to web host division - didn't have time to wait on hold.
  10. I submitted an email ticket requesting an update.
  11. I called NS again later that morning, got through to someone who explained that I needed to delete all the PHP files and let them know.
  12. (The site is written in PHP.)
  13. I told them this was a little crazy and to please turn our site back on.
  14. They told me, sorry, you violated the acceptable use policy, as we stated in the email.
  15. I said, what email?
  16. They informed me the primary account holder was notified 4 days ago.
  17. I requested they please send it to me.
  18. Asked to speak to a manager.
  19. After reading the email that just came in, I hung up and contacted stakeholders.
Admittedly I should have asked for ALL the information up front before getting upset (I was rather incredulous with the tech's answers).  It's reasonable to take a site down for hosting malicious content.  I would suggest it's NOT reasonable to take it offline without calling the customer first, or notifying ALL contact parties the site is being taken down.

Further, their policy is hands-off - they would only hint at what was wrong, would not provide full details - so you're on your own as to fixing the issue.  As a last issue, you have to wait 24-48 hours for 'approval' once you've notified them about the fix.

Thankfully our developer pulled an all-nighter to get the code side resolved, so now we're just waiting on approval to bring it back up (he can then put the final patch in place).  Still, that'll be almost a week of downtime by the time it's back online.  A week of downtime and they send one email.  Yeesh.

Points to consider:
  • Is your account/domain contact information valid?
  • What's your policy about security checks for code issues?
  • Who is responsible for security fixes/patches? (i.e. maintenance schedule)
  • Are you monitoring the site (independent of the hosting provider)?  Are you doing HTTP content checks?
  • Do you have emergency contact info for all stakeholders?


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