I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t give my website a lot of thought. I did when I was designing it, but now it’s there and it serves its purpose. But a week or so ago, I woke up to an e-mail from a prospective client letting me know that my website was down.

Sure enough when I typed in my URL there were 2 lines of text. The first said “Unspecified Error” and to be honest, I don’t know what the other one said as I stopped reading and started panicking. But I do remember that it included a hyperlink, which I knew better than to click on.

I tried to log-in. My password did not work. So I called my website host who were able to access the site another way and they told me that I had been hacked. How did they know? There was a helpful message left by the hackers that started “This site is now owned by …” with a date.

I was flabbergasted. My website is for informational purposes only. It outlines my services and the way I work, there are some testimonials, pictures and comics and a blog in addition to the standard “Contact Me” page. You can’t buy or pay for anything on the site and I don’t store any card or customer details.

Why would anyone want to hack me?

To be honest I still don’t understand and I’m not really clear what the aim was. But what I do know is that even after my host got back all the pages and the site was up, some of the pages were not working as designed and I had to pay my web developer to do some work to restore them.

But I did learn some important lessons:

  1. I need to make sure to access my website every day. I now do it as part of my morning routine. If something is wrong with my website, a client shouldn’t have to be the one to let me know.
  2. There is anti-virus software for websites. Who would have thought it? But there is and now I have some.
  3. You can back up your website. Again … mind blown! I’m all backed up.
  4. There are websites updates released periodically to patch vulnerabilities and they are supposed to be installed. Now to be fair I did notice updates when I logged in to update my blog, but I didn’t run them because I was worried that installing them might break something. But hey if you have a backup (see 3 above) you don’t have to worry so much about that.

Professionals in the industry might be reading this and thinking “Dana how could you not have known these things? These are the basics.”

But I’m sure I’m not the only one. Since it happened, I’ve been asking my colleagues who own small businesses firstly how long would it take them to know their website was down – and the answer is pretty much “When someone told me”. And I’ve been asking if people have website anti-virus and backups and most people didn’t know for sure.