How to guard against computer malware on your government or nonprofit site

Thwart an attack before it happens

No website is immune from attack. And when a hacker wants to attack a site to send a message, government and nonprofit sites are at the top of the list. Back in 2016 the Library of Congress site was hit with a massive DDoS attack that took the entire site offline and knocked out its email. That same year, nonprofit Comic Relief was hit with a ransomware attack on one of its servers that brought the site offline for days.

And that’s just for starters. If you run a government-related business or work in the nonprofit sector, guarding your website against computer malware is something you must take seriously.

Related: Protect your library, nonprofit or municipal agency from the ransomware virus 

The dangers of computer malware

Sadly, most website owners don’t think about security until it’s too late. But, it’s easier to protect against an attack than it is to clean up the aftermath — especially, when you’re dealing with something as potentially damaging as malware.

Malware is shorthand for malicious software, which is any kind of software whose sole purpose is to do harm to data, a device, an organization or even a group of people. It’s a broad classification that includes various viruses, Trojan horses <Trojan horse link to come>, spyware< spyware link to come>, worms, ransomware and more.

Some types of computer malware are more destructive than others, and the impact ranges from locking down your computer and stealing your data to corrupting or destroying your entire system and multiple networks.

If you’re running a government or nonprofit site, you likely have access to a lot of sensitive personal information, whether it’s donor information or even data pertaining to people active in government organizations.

Malware can put your entire website and organization at risk, and removing it can be extremely difficult, depending on the severity of the attack.

And if you don’t have a proper system or website backup in place, you might have to start from scratch and alert your users about the attack and any information that might have been compromised.

Related: GoDaddy small business website security report 

Has my site already been infected?

Computer Malware Virus

If you’ve been running your site for a while now without the necessary security protection there’s a chance your site is already infected.

Hackers are becoming increasingly skilled at running malicious code without being detected.

 

However, there are some clues that will tell you if your site has been infected:

1. You see the Google malware warning

Google does a good job of alerting visitors that a site has been compromised. If a visitor lands on your site, they’ll see a warning that appears before they’re allowed to open it. This can be especially damaging, as the chances are high that they might never return after seeing a warning like that. The same warning message will display if you try to visit your site as well.

Computer Malware Google Warning

2. Your host might remove your site

If a web host receives an alert or emails from a visitor that a site has been infected with malware, there’s a good chance they’ll remove the site from their servers. A site that’s infected with malware can pose a risk to other sites that might be sharing a server.

Of course, you’ll be alerted that this is happening. But, you’ll want to have backups in place, so you can restore your site if need be.

3. You receive a security scanner alert

If your site has been infected, you’ll want to know as soon as possible. If you have website security monitoring software in place, you’ll be alerted if malware is detected. Plus, you’ll be able to remove it and take the proper course of action for restoring your site’s security.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Website Security features various tools to keep your website safe, including malware scanning, removal and prevention. This tool is ideal for small business owners without the time or tech chops to adequately protect their websites against security vulnerabilities.

Protecting your government or nonprofit site from malware

The best way to protect your government or nonprofit site is to have protection measures in place from day one. Here’s how you can do that and quickly recover if hacking occurs:

1. Have a website security tool in place

Your first step is investing in a solid website security tool. This useful software will regularly scan your site for security issues, harden the existing security around your site, monitor your site for Google blacklist and more.

The features you’ll have access to will depend upon which tool you select. GoDaddy offers a variety of website security packages you can add on to your existing site. If you’ve built your site with WordPress, there are numerous plugins you can use, Sucuri Security or WordFence.

2. Conduct regular website backups

If your site does become infected with malware, you’ll want to have an older version of it that you can restore from. This won’t always be necessary as you might be able to remove the malware without having to restore your site, but you’ll want to have a backup just in case.

Computer Malware Backup

For WordPress websites, there are a variety of backup plugins you can install, which will create regular site backups. Or, for any type of website, you can use a solution like GoDaddy’s Website Backup, which will create automated backups, offer you one-click restore, and a lot more.

3. Invest In computer malware removal

If your website has been hacked or you’ve been infected with computer malware, it’s obviously something you’ll want to remedy right away. The longer you wait, the more damage will occur.

If you’ve recognized any of the red flags here, you’ll want to use a malware removal tool to completely clean up your site. GoDaddy offers a solution that will completely remove malware and restore your site. You’ll also get access to additional features like advanced security monitoring and improved site performance.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why safeguarding your government or nonprofit site against computer malware is important, and the steps you can take to improve your security.

Image by: Osman Rana on Unsplash