You have a successful blog, or at least you’re working on making it a successful blog. You’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into selecting the perfect template, ideal color scheme, and a font that is clean and crisp with a bit of personality. This blog represents you or your company, so I hate to be the bearer of bad news: you’re vulnerable, and could be losing a percentage of your paid and organic website traffic to fraudsters.
Do I have your attention now? Good.
A new malicious exploit has been discovered quietly lurking in the backend code of your content management system. It has the ability to redirect your traffic, meaning that while visitors are trying to navigate through your website, this exploit will take the user elsewhere. It’s a nuance that is fairly annoying to the site visitor, can get you blacklisted by ad networks or advertisers, and is downright dangerous for third-party traffic scoring solutions.
To understand why this happens, it’s best to understand how it works.
What Is This Code?
It’s difficult to get rid of permanently. Just when you think you’ve eradicated it, it could easily come back later.
How Do I Know If I'm Infected?
As of April 2016, over 41.6 million websites use jQuery in their records. More than one fifth of all websites are based on WordPress, which loads jQuery. The main attacks of this threat are to WordPress and Joomla users, so if you are either, you’ll need to review:
- Google Search Console. Check for changes in your search rankings or impressions. If you find radical changes in your ranking or impressions, like losing or gaining traffic, it may be more of a Google Penguin or Panda update than a jQuery issue. This jQuery issue goes undetected as your ranking will barely change, or you’ll see a negligible impact, and your results will look comparable to prior months of traffic.
- Google Analytics. Does the traffic volume here match that of the Search Console? The Search Console shouldn’t show more traffic than Google Analytics, especially in regards to organic traffic.
- Site Speed. Has your site gotten slower recently? MosQUito will significantly slow down a site’s speed, or possibly cause the site to stop loading altogether.
- Search Your Site in Incognito Mode. Check the queries where you rank well and test your sites. When you do, click around like an organic user. If you find yourself being redirected once or more and landing on something other than what you intended, you’re likely infected.
Lastly, you can check this static list as our company has already identified over 10,000 of these websites which were infected and, at the time of this report, blocked by our ad fraud filter.
What Should I Do If I Suspect I'm Infected?First and foremost, if you suspect you’ve be infected, you’ll want to contact your hosting company to ensure the issue you’re seeing is not part of a bigger problem. Plus, if you’re not incredibly tech savvy, your hosting company can help you identify and isolate potential issues on your website that need to be remediated.
Identify and Delete All Files Containing Malicious Script.
Perform Updates on Your CMS and Extensions.
It’s tempting to ignore the updates to your CMS and website extensions, but don’t. These updates often take care of known issues and protect your website. Along with checking to make sure you’re running the most updated version of your CMS, don’t forget any extensions, plugins, or add-ons you’re running. Those should also be consistently evaluated to keep your site secure.
For WordPress users, this can be identified on the ‘At a Glance’ panel of your Dashboard.
Review Your Admin Status.
Change Your Passwords.
Simply stated, all passwords impacting your site (e.g. your CMS, any extensions, third-party applications, etc.) need to be changed. Remember, they’ve breached your website and likely can get back in, unless they no longer have the key.
Remember MosQUito appears in your backend code, so unless you completely break it off and eradicate it completely, it has the ability to continue to infect your website.
Get Ongoing Protection.
While finding the malicious MosQUito code on your website can be concerning, it’s not fatal and your website can come back from this threat. Follow the recommended steps to rectify the malicious code, use a malware scanner regularly, and keep a watchful eye on what your Google Search Console tells you versus your Google Analytics. Continuous attention to threats that could affect your website will keep not only your site protected, but others as well.