Semalt Recommendations On How To Stop And Fix Spambot Site Attack
A spambot is a program that runs automated tasks over the internet and then sends spam emails. This program continues sending out spammy emails until the websites' servers overload, causing the website to go offline or it stops legitimate messages from reaching the recipient.
Spambots are created to inflict malicious attacks on your website without the need for human interaction. It is important to put measures in place to make sure you do not become a victim of spambots.
In this article, we will be explaining what they are and what you can do to stop them before they completely take over your business.
How Do Spam Bots Work?
Spambots are created by spammers by writing program codes that allow these boats to mimic human behavior, so they fool web servers and deliver their payload, which is usually a virus or spam, to a victim. However, spambots aren't perfect, so they may be able to mimic human behavior by their use of language and behavior, but they are unable to logically communicate with other computers or websites without crashing them.
What Makes Spambots Dangerous
A single infection can send out thousands of emails and messages within seconds. These bots can wreak havoc on the internet within seconds. Not only can spambots overload a website, but they can also stop you from being able to message your audience. When there is a spambot on your website, email service providers will label your messages as spam or off-topic.
If this happens, it becomes really difficult for legitimate messages to reach the intended recipient. And because these bots are created to cause harm, they are usually loaded with keyloggers that allow these programs to steal personal information like passwords and bank account information. If such data falls into the wrong hands, it could result in losses in many ways, and the website may face lawsuits.
Recognizing An SEO Spambot Attack
Spambots are difficult to detect because they try to avoid all detection systems. These links are added, or pages are created with great effort, so they remain hidden to the site owner. Sometimes, you will realize that your CMS has core vulnerabilities and you're just a victim of an attack.
However, there are a few red flags you can use to detect an SEO spam attack. They include:
- A drop in traffic
- Random site pages
- Google Search warnings
- GSC warnings
You could also include firewalls, logging systems, and monitoring to have extra layers of protection.
Diagnosing attacks on your site is possible when you use plugins such as MalCare, or Wordfence both of which can also be used as security against spambot attacks.
Step By Step Guide To Recover From A Spambot Attack
Once you discover that you're a victim of a spambot attack, there are steps you should take to stop the attack and restore your site.
Stop Bots From Causing Further Damage
You have to stop the bleed so you can save your website and repair the damage. At this point, your website is still vulnerable, and it will remain vulnerable until you've discovered how the spambots accessed your site.
Before you scan your site, remember to put bot protection in place. There are several tools you can use to scan and stop bots on your site. Cloudflare is a common bot management system. They use a three-prong approach to provide security. They include:
- Behavioral analysis: This is to detect any traffic anomalies
- Machine Learning: This uses billions of data points to find bots
- Fingerprinting: this tags and classifies bots that have been detected before, so it's easier to find if they reoccur.
Real-time analytics improves the odds of safely detecting and stopping these attacks before they cause real damage.
Run A Site Scan
Running a site scan is important because it shows you how much impact an attack had on a page. Now that your site is protected from further invasion, it's important to know the extent of damage done to the site.
There are several ways to scan your site, including reading the source code for each page, taking note of anomalies, or using the software. Screaming Frog is a professional scanning tool we use for this. If you have logs available, analyze them to see where the traffic is coming from and find any pages on the site that may have been created by the bot.
This step may turn out to be the longest because a lot of time will be needed to determine what needs to be cleaned on the site.
Figure Out Your Vulnerabilities
Secure sites can not be infiltrated. In most cases, sites fall victim to spambot attacks because they had vulnerabilities they didn't correct. Here are some possible breach points:
- Out of date software
- SQL injections
- Bad plugins
- Easy to guess admin / FTP passwords
If you fail to plug the leak, the chances are that you will suffer the same attack in the near future. So the first thing you should do is update all your software and plugins on your site. Your old scripts will also need to be updated and deleted for any script you didn't create.
Sometimes, spambots leave scripts on your server to regain access to your site in the future.
Patch up every vulnerability you find before you continue.
Focus On Your Important Pages First
How you clean up your site depends on the type of attack. If you were hit with a mass page creation or user-generated page spam, you have to go through all of your pages to determine which pages should be deleted.
You also want to improve your original pages by:
- Analyzing your analytics
- Cleaning up the most important pages
- Mark which pages were most hit
When your website stays down, you lose traffic and conversions, so you want to get your revenue pages up and running first. Doing this kickstarts the process of renewing their ranking so you can make sales. Then you continue to improve other pages until you have cleaned up the entire website.
While cleaning these pages, you need to search all of them thoroughly for:
- Hidden links
- Malicious coding or ads
Once you're confident that you've thoroughly cleaned and removed all of the spam, wait to see if your ranking improves.
Monitor the Site
Monitoring your site should be a daily thing. You may want to monitor:
- Your ranking and analytics to spot any changes
- And the site logs for suspicious activity
It is important that you pinpoint how the attack occurred and fix that vulnerability. However, there are instances when a spambot attack adds a backdoor to your server. This gives it a clear path to return and damage the website once more.
It is crucial that you continue to monitor your site so you can quickly identify and resolve any suspicious activity.
Restore operations from backup
If you were lucky enough to catch the attack before it caused significant damage, you might be able to restore your site to its previous state using a snapshot. This method only works if you do not have new customer orders or data in the database that has been impacted.
Unfortunately, simply restoring your backups isn't wise because it still leaves your original vulnerabilities unprotected. At this point, the best bet is to restore your site using Cloudflare protection before you correct the key vulnerabilities in your backup.
If you discover an attack after weeks or months, there may be no need to do a backup as the file may already be corrupted.
Spambots can be a real pain because they go undetected for weeks or even months. A bot can slip in and insert links or content into an existing page to ruin your company's reputation and tank your SEO efforts.
Spambots can also create thousands of pages on a site using physical files, so freshly optimized content will be overshadowed in a CMS dashboard. Clearing out spambots can take months if the damage is too extensive.
Don't forget to audit your site periodically; it could save you not just time and money but also your customers and reputation.
If you need to learn more about the subject of SEO and website promotion, we invite you to visit our Semalt blog.