Here’s what to do if your website has been infected with malware and red-flagged by internet browsers.

When this happens to a website, most likely the website was hacked and/or injected with a malware. Why? It’s hard to understand the why, but the “bad” hacker who injected your site with the virus, spyware or malware wants people who visit your website to get the same virus and related problems on their computer. Go figure, but now it’s your problem.

The second problem is that an internet browser (like Google Chrome or others) has also red flagged your site. Why? All browser providers need to have a filter to detect virus-spreading sites and a system for letting end users know which sites are infected (by red flagging those sites). If the browser did not have a good filtering system, users would switch to another provider with a better warning system for them. The bottom line is that everyone wants an obvious warning before they click into a tainted website. Here are the steps you need to take to resolve this headache and get your website back in good standing.

First, stay calm and contact your web hosting provider to see if they will clean up your website for you. One thing to keep in mind, if you have an informational website and pay only $5- $10 per month for web hosting, or if you have an e-commerce website and pay only $25- $35 for web hosting, you should expect a charge from the provider who cleans up your website. Today, many web hosting providers offer all kinds of attractive prices. However, cheaper prices mean fewer services in their plan. In any case, the first step is to have the virus or bad codes cleaned off your website.

Second, ask your hosting provider or web designer to upgrade your content management system (CMS) website to the most recent CMS version. In another words, if your website was built with WordPress, ask the provider to upgrade your current WordPress version to the most recent version. Why? Because almost every year, WordPress comes out with a new version of their platform after patching the security loopholes that had become evident through information from programmers and end users around the world. This means if your site is still using the old CMS version, it opens an opportunity for a “bad” hacker to inject malware and viruses onto your site. Therefore, it is very important to have your (CMS) website upgraded periodically to the newest version to keep your site secure. If you take care of the first step but not this second step, the problem will most likely occur again.

Also in this second step, be prepared to pay your provider a fee to upgrade your CMS website to the most recent version. My advice for this is before deciding on a web hosting provider, ask if they will include this service in their hosting plan at the price they quoted. If they don’t, then find a different provider because the root of this website hacking problem commonly arises from a CMS website that is running on an old CMS version.

Third, after your website is cleaned up, upgraded to a recent CMS version, and brought back up online under your official domain, use this tool to see if your domain/website has been blacklisted based on your recent situation with the virus. If not, you are good; but if your site has been blacklisted, you need to ask your provider to help you dispute the matter with the authority websites and take your domain/website off their blacklist.

Without taking care of this, internet browsers would still red flag your website, and your visitors will exit your site as soon as they arrive. The process of getting your website off all the blacklists usually takes about 1- 2 weeks, depending on how fast those authority websites process your dispute. And again, there might be a fee involved for your provider to solve this for you.

Nobody wants this happens to their website; but if it does, or if you want to be better prepared, my recommendation is to find a web hosting provider who will include all of these services for you in their web hosting plan. That will drastically reduce the probability of such an unfortunate turn of events. You would pay a little more for web hosting, but it’s worth it. There is a common saying: “You can’t buy insurance for the accident that just happened.”

Overall, these are three key steps to address this problem and bring your website back online in good standing. I hope you find this article helpful. If you do, please share it with others. Thank you!

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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