10 Apr, 2023

Website Defacement and How it Can Impact Your Business

Most businesses are vulnerable to website defacement, although there are simple DIY protection measures that users can consider.
Your website security is of high importance. It's prone to different hacks that require intensive evaluation to determine whether anything has gone wrong. However, one form of website attack that's readily obvious is website defacement.

This website attack occurs when hackers access your website and leave their mark. Please continue reading to learn more about website defacement, including its definition, how it occurs, its impact on a business, and how to protect your website to remove and avoid defacement.

What is Website Defacement?
Website defacement is a form of digital vandalism where hackers illegally access your website and modify its contents and files. They usually change the website's content and do something to embarrass you or leave their mark. Activists also use it when they attack a company's or organization's website to raise awareness about their alleged misdeeds.

This kind of website security differs from other cybersecurity threats since the attackers rarely have much to gain from their actions. Instead of engaging in illegal activities like stealing credit card information and skimming money from website users, website defacers try to make as much noise as possible. You would also expect most attackers to hide their activities, but these attackers usually do this as a showoff.
Which Techniques are Used in Website Defacement?
Hackers can use different website defacement techniques. All these methods usually take advantage of websites' security vulnerabilities and illegally access them.

These vulnerabilities come with different website configurations, including its content management system and web servers. Hackers use these configurations by breaking a website's SQL injection and authentication and misconfiguring the server's security. Here's a breakdown of the common techniques used in website defacement:

Brute force is a type of website defacement where a hacker guesses the password or the encryption keys by systematically trying all possible character combinations until they find the correct one.

It could take a long time to hack a website with this method. Therefore, hackers prefer a dictionary attack as their alternative. However, a dictionary attack only works for website users who prefer using everyday words as their passwords rather than combining alpha-numeric characters, numbers, and letters.

SQL Injection
In this kind of attack, hackers inject malicious codes into a website to interfere with the queries it makes to its database, especially those that use internal databases and their internet resources. This allows hackers to view the website's data that they would not normally manage to retrieve.

Cross-Site Scripting
Cross-site scripting is a website defacement technique where attackers inject malicious codes into a webpage. Once the users open the page, the code will start running on their computer, connect to the web servers, and the fraudsters gain control of the system.

Hackers take advantage of two types of vulnerabilities in this attack; persistent and non-persistent. In persistent vulnerability, the server saves the malicious code, making every website visitor a victim. In a non-persistent vulnerability, hackers inject the malicious code into a definite page, which users are attracted to, i.e., through phishing.

Why Do Hackers Deface Websites?
Hackers deface websites for many reasons. However, most of them use this form of hacking to make themselves known for a particular cause or prove their hacking prowess. Here are more reasons why hackers deface websites:

  • Hacktivism: Hackers can deface a website for social or political reasons. One good example is the 2020 attack on President Donald Trump's website to protest against his politics.
  • Raising awareness of a website's poor security features
  • Damaging a business or the reputation of the website's creator or management
  • Advertising for a business competitor or a third-party service or product
  • Showcasing their hacking skills
  • Extortion, whereby the website owner has to pay the hackers to regain control of their websites
  • Hooliganism
What Impact Can Website Defacement Have on a Business
Website defacement can significantly affect any organization or business, especially government agencies and multinational corporations. Here is a breakdown of the potential impact that website defacement can have on your business:

Business Disruption
Web defacement doesn't disrupt a business right away. However, once a website is defaced, it can be a point for discussion. You should expect some employees to talk about the incidents in the first few hours of the incident and during coffee breaks.

Businesses without a dedicated IT department will assign some of their employees to handle this issue. Therefore, these appointees will devote much time to addressing this problem rather than focusing on their primary duties.

Damage to Its Reputation
A defaced website affects how people perceive a business's ability to secure its systems. Therefore, if you're running an online business that processes customers' data, its users will likely lose their trust. This can eventually impact the business's profit and sustainability.

Potential Data Breach
Sometimes hackers can use website defacement to conduct a data breach. They use this website attack to distract users from other sinister activities they're engaging in. This allows them to engage in more nefarious activities, such as stealing sensitive information, performing privilege escalation, and installing malware without immediate detection.

Potential Google Blacklisting
Google holds the right to blacklist websites they believe can harm its user to protect its users. Therefore, they will likely block a defaced website to protect its users and reputation.

DIY Website Defacement Prevention Measures
You don't have to be an IT guru to protect your website from defacement. Below are simple DIY website protection measures you can consider:

Limit Your Privileges to Administrative Access
You should limit the number of people with administrative access to your website. This reduces the possibility of an attack by malicious internal users or someone with a compromised account.

Avoid Using Default Admin Email and Directory
Avoid using your default name for your admin directory since hackers can use it to access the admin directory. They can also attempt to access your website through phishing emails or other methods if you use your email address as your administrator's email.

Use Plugins and Add-ons to the Minimum
Using many plugins and add-ons on your website can make your website vulnerable to website defacement. Hackers can use their plugin's zero-day vulnerabilities or brief insecure moments to deface your website. Therefore, you should carefully maintain your website plugins and apply their security updates quickly.

Backup Your Website Regularly and Automatically
You need your website up and running ASAP after an attack. The best way to get things up and running immediately is by having multiple on-site and off-site backups. It would be best to do this regularly to recover all your data once you restore your website from the backups.

Protect Your Website from Defacement with Quttera's Threatsign!
Most websites are vulnerable to defacement, although there are simple DIY protection measures that users can consider, as described above. However, malware protection offers the best protection for website owners.

For the best protection, use Quttera ThreatSign! to detect website defacement, remove any malware, and blocklist removal. Our protection feature includes Web Application Firewalls and other essential tools to keep your website free from malware attacks.