Clear Image recently helped one of our clients that had their website hacked. Not only is a hacked website an inconvenience (and an unplanned business expense), it’s also bad for business. In this case, Google had detected the hack and so when someone searched for their business website, there was a message under their link on the search results page that read, “This site may be hacked.”

If you were searching for a business and Google told you their website might be hacked, would you visit it? Probably not. And that’s not good for business.

If you actually visited the hacked website though, everything looked just fine. However, somehow, the hacker gained access to the site and inserted blocks of “spammy” links that were only visible to Google or other web crawlers. What this means, is that while the website looks perfectly normal, search engines like Google or Yahoo would see links to online casinos, payday loans, pornography, etc.

The reason for this is simple. One way to have a website that shows up higher in search engine rankings and gets more traffic to have lots of links leading to that site from other reputable websites. In this case, the hacker is creating false links to their sites from yours. Making it seem like you are endorsing these spam links.

Of course, there are lots of different reasons that hackers might attempt to access a website. It could be to spam, spread a virus or access private information like credit card numbers or email addresses.

But why would a hacker target your seemingly innocent business website? The truth is, hackers target websites that are easiest to hack. And seeing as how they can use powerful computers and sophisticated software from anywhere in the world – everyone is a target.

So, how do you protect your business website from being hacked?

Make your passwords as strong and secure as possible, and change them frequently.

Think of your website like your bicycle. There are plenty of bike thieves (jerks) out there. The best way to keep your bike from getting stolen isn’t to use a lock, it is to use TWO locks. Why? Because you can never make your bicycle impossible to steal, so what you can do, is make it harder to steal than the bike beside yours.

Tough passwords work the same way. Why would a hacker spend a long time trying to crack a really tough password when there are plenty of easy ones out there.

So, what makes a strong password? Well, for starters, here are the 25 most popular passwords of 2015 – don’t use any of these. Don’t use obvious or predictable sequences, your pet’s name, your phone number, your favourite sports team, etc. The best password, is the one that you can’t remember. A random series of numbers, letters (uppercase and lowercase) and symbols. Something like, “F5hjR#95!h4Pgv”.

If you’re wondering how strong your password is, there are password checker tools that exist. We don’t suggest typing your actual password into any site, but you can try different combinations to see what makes a strong password and what doesn’t.

Stay safe!