Why Does Your Website Keep Getting Hacked?

Why Does Your Website Keep Getting Hacked?

Find out why does your website keep getting hacked and what you can do to mitigate these risks.

Did you know that on average over 30,000 websites fall victim to cyber-attacks every day?

These attacks can have devastating consequences, from financial losses and data breaches to reputational damage. Websites are targeted for a variety of reasons and by understanding these motivations and implementing strong security measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of your website becoming another statistic.

In this blog, we will discuss the most common reasons websites get hacked and provide actionable solutions to mitigate these risks. We will cover the following:

  1. Outdated Software
  2. Weak Passwords
  3. Unsecure Hosting
  4. Lack of Security Measures
  5. SQL Injection
  6. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  7. Phishing and Social Engineering
  8. Insider Threats
  9. Insecure APIs
  10. Insufficient Backup Practices
  11. How Conroy Creative Counsel Can Help

1. Outdated Software

Outdated software is one of the most common gateways for hackers to infiltrate a website. Content Management Systems (CMS), plugins and themes often have vulnerabilities that are patched in newer versions. However, if these updates are not applied, the known vulnerabilities remain, providing an easy target for cybercriminals. Hackers frequently scan websites for outdated software to identify vulnerabilities, exploit these weaknesses, gain unauthorized access, inject malicious code or steal sensitive information.

Examples of Compromised Website Security

A notable example of a hack due to outdated software is the 2018 attack on websites running older versions of the Drupal CMS, known as ‘Drupalgeddon2.’ This vulnerability allowed attackers to execute arbitrary code on affected sites, leading to widespread compromises. Similarly, the Equifax breach in 2017, which exposed the personal information of 147 million people, was attributed to an unpatched vulnerability in the Apache Struts open-source web application development framework.


The most effective way to protect your website from such vulnerabilities is through regular updates and maintenance. Here are some key practices to follow:

  • Regularly Update CMS: Ensure that your CMS is always updated to the latest version. Most CMS platforms, like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, frequently release security patches and updates. Enable automatic updates if possible.
  • Update Plugins and Themes: Just like the CMS itself, plugins and themes should be regularly updated. Outdated plugins and themes can contain vulnerabilities that compromise your entire website.
  • Remove Unused Plugins and Themes: Deactivate and delete any plugins or themes that are no longer in use. Even inactive plugins can pose security risks.
  • Monitor for Security Patches: Stay informed about security patches and updates from the developers of your CMS, plugins and themes. Subscribe to their newsletters or follow them on social media to receive timely notifications.
  • Implement a Maintenance Schedule: Set up a regular maintenance schedule to review and update all aspects of your website. This can be weekly or monthly, depending on the size and complexity of your site.

2. Weak Passwords

Using weak or commonly used passwords is like leaving the front door of your house unlocked. Weak passwords are easy for hackers to guess or crack using brute force attacks, where automated systems try numerous password combinations at high speed. According to a 2020 report by NordPass, ‘123456’ was the most commonly used password, with over 23 million accounts protected by this weak combination. One high-profile example is the 2016 breach of Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest accounts, which were compromised because he used the notoriously weak password ‘dadada.’


Creating strong passwords and managing them effectively are critical steps in securing your website. Here are some tips:

  • Create Strong Passwords: Ensure your password is at least 12 characters long and incorporates a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Avoid using easily guessable information like names, birthdays or common words.
  • Use Unique Passwords: Ensure each account or login has a unique password. This practice prevents a breach of one account from compromising multiple accounts.
  • Enable Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implementing 2FA adds an additional layer of security, significantly increasing the difficulty for hackers to gain unauthorized access. Even if they crack your password, they would still need a second form of verification.
  • Use a Password Manager: Password managers can generate and store strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. This way, you only need to remember one master password. Popular password managers include LastPass, Dashlane and 1Password.
  • Regularly Update Passwords: Change your passwords periodically and immediately update them if you suspect any security breach.
  • Avoid Common Password Pitfalls: Do not use sequences, repeated characters or passwords found in dictionaries. Password managers often have built-in password strength checkers to help you avoid these pitfalls.

3. Unsecure Hosting

Choosing a low-quality or unsecured hosting service can leave your website vulnerable to various threats. Poor hosting services often lack essential security measures, such as regular security updates, robust firewalls and malware scanning. Without these protections, your website is at greater risk of being targeted by hackers. Furthermore, shared hosting environments, where multiple websites share the same server resources, can also increase the risk of cross-site contamination. In these scenarios, an attack on one website can affect the other websites on the same web server operating system.


Selecting a secure hosting company or provider is crucial for safeguarding your website. Here are some criteria to consider:

  • Security Features: Ensure the hosting provider offers essential security features, such as firewalls, DDoS protection, malware scanning and regular security updates. Look for providers that include SSL certificates and support secure FTP (SFTP) for data transfer.
  • Backup Services: Reliable hosting companies should offer regular automated backups and easy restoration options to quickly recover your website in case of a security breach or data loss.
  • Customer Support: Choose a hosting provider with responsive and knowledgeable customer support available 24/7. Good support can help you quickly address security issues and other technical problems.
  • Isolation and Resource Allocation: Opt for hosting plans that provide isolation between accounts, such as VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated hosting. These options offer better security compared to shared hosting environments.
  • Compliance and Certifications: Verify that the hosting provider complies with industry security standards and regulations, such as GDPR for European customers, NIST which is widely adopted across various industries in the US or HIPAA for healthcare-related websites. Certifications like ISO 27001 indicate a commitment to maintaining high-security standards.
  • Monitoring and Logging: Ensure the hosting provider offers real-time monitoring and logging of server activities. This helps in early detection of suspicious activities and quick response to potential threats.

Hacked websites often share the same pitfalls and security vulnerabilities. Outdated antivirus software, FTP accounts, incorrect file permissions, weak passwords and insufficient security measures are just are common factors for hackers attacking websites.

4. Lack of Security Measures

The absence of essential security measures can leave your website wide open to attacks. Key security measures such as firewalls, SSL certificates and malware scanners play a vital role in protecting your website from various threats.


Implementing basic security measures is crucial for safeguarding your website. Here are some recommendations:

  • Install and Configure a Firewall: Use a web application firewall (WAF) to filter out malicious traffic and protect your website from common attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS). Ensure it is properly configured to provide maximum protection.
  • Use SSL Certificates: Implement SSL certificates to encrypt data transmitted between your website and users. This not only protects sensitive information but also boosts your website’s credibility and improves its search engine ranking. Most hosting providers offer SSL certificates, and there are also free options like Let’s Encrypt.
  • Regular Malware Scanning: Install malware scanning tools to regularly check your website for malicious software. Tools like Sucuri, Wordfence and SiteLock can help detect and remove malware, ensuring your website remains clean and secure.
  • Update and Patch Regularly: Keep all software, including your CMS, plugins and themes, up to date to reduce the risk of exploitation.
  • Implement Access Controls: Restrict access to your website’s administrative areas to authorized personnel only. Ensure the use of strong, unique passwords and enable two-factor authentication (2FA) for an additional layer of security.
  • Back Up Your Website: Regularly back up your website to ensure you can quickly restore it in the event of a security breach or data loss. Using automated backup solutions can streamline this process and provide peace of mind.

5. SQL Injection

SQL injection is a type of attack where malicious SQL code is inserted into a query through input fields, URL parameters or any data entry point that interacts with a database. This technique exploits vulnerabilities in an application’s software, allowing attackers to manipulate queries, access unauthorized data and execute arbitrary commands. SQL injection can lead to data breaches, data loss and even full system compromise if the attacker gains administrative access.

One of the most famous SQL injection attacks was the 2014 breach of Yahoo, which compromised data from 500 million user accounts. Another significant incident was the 2007 breach of the website of Heartland Payment Systems, a major payment processing company, which resulted in the theft of 130 million credit card numbers. Additionally, in 2008, a hacker used SQL injection to breach the database of the United Nations, exposing sensitive information.


Protecting against SQL injection involves implementing several best practices for secure database management and input handling:

  • Use Parameterized Queries: Implement parameterized queries (or prepared statements) to keep SQL code distinct from data inputs, enhancing security and preventing SQL injection attacks. This prevents attackers from injecting malicious SQL because inputs are treated as data rather than executable code.
  • Stored Procedures: Use stored procedures for database queries, which encapsulate the SQL code on the database server, reducing the risk of SQL injection.
  • Input Validation and Sanitization: Validate and sanitize all user inputs to ensure they conform to expected formats and remove potentially harmful characters. Use built-in functions and libraries that provide robust input validation.
  • Apply the Principle of Least Privilege: Grant database accounts only the permissions necessary for their specific tasks, minimizing access to sensitive data and reducing the risk of unauthorized actions. Avoid using administrative or high-privilege accounts for regular application operations.
  • Web Application Firewalls (WAF): Implement a WAF to filter and monitor HTTP requests, blocking malicious traffic and SQL injection attempts. Many WAFs come with predefined rules to detect and prevent SQL injection.
  • Regular Security Audits and Testing: Conduct regular security audits and penetration testing to identify and fix vulnerabilities. Tools like SQLMap can help test for SQL injection vulnerabilities in your applications.
  • Error Handling and Reporting: Properly handle and log errors without exposing detailed database error messages to users. Detailed error messages can provide attackers with valuable information about the database structure and vulnerabilities.

6. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) is a type of security vulnerability that occurs when an attacker injects malicious scripts into content from otherwise trusted websites. This script runs in the user’s browser when they visit the compromised website, allowing attackers to steal session cookies, deface websites or redirect users to malicious sites.

One notable example of an XSS attack is the 2005 MySpace Samy worm. This attack exploited an XSS vulnerability in MySpace profiles, allowing the worm to propagate by adding itself to the profile of anyone who viewed an infected page. Within 20 hours, it infected over one million MySpace users. Another instance occurred in 2014, when an XSS vulnerability in eBay’s website allowed attackers to inject malicious code into product listings, redirecting users to phishing sites.


Preventing XSS attacks requires implementing several strategies focused on input validation, encoding, and secure coding practices:

  • Input Validation and Sanitization: Validate all user inputs to ensure they conform to expected formats. Use whitelisting to allow only specific characters and formats. Sanitize inputs to remove any potentially harmful code.
  • Output Encoding: Encode data before rendering it on the web page. This ensures that any HTML or JavaScript code is treated as text rather than executable code. Use context-specific encoding functions, such as HTML encoding for HTML content and JavaScript encoding for script content.
  • Content Security Policy (CSP): Implement a CSP to restrict the sources from which content can be loaded. This helps prevent the execution of malicious scripts by allowing only trusted sources.
  • HTTPOnly and Secure Cookies: Use the HTTPOnly and Secure flags for cookies to prevent them from being accessed via JavaScript and to ensure they are only transmitted over secure HTTPS connections.
  • Regular Security Testing: Conduct regular security testing and code reviews to identify and fix XSS vulnerabilities. Automated tools like OWASP ZAP or Burp Suite can help detect XSS vulnerabilities in your applications.
  • Framework Security Features: Utilize the built-in security features provided by web frameworks. Modern frameworks like React, Angular and Django have built-in protections against XSS.
  • Educate Developers: Train developers on secure coding practices and the importance of preventing XSS. Awareness and education are crucial in building secure applications.

7. Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing and social engineering attacks are tactics used by cybercriminals to trick users into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials, personal details or financial information. These attacks often involve deceptive emails, websites or messages that appear legitimate but are designed to steal data or gain unauthorized access.

A high-profile example of a phishing attack is the 2016 breach of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where attackers used spear-phishing emails to trick recipients into providing their email passwords, leading to a significant data leak. Another example is the 2017 phishing attack on Google and Facebook, where attackers impersonated a supplier, sending fake invoices and tricking employees into transferring over $100 million to fraudulent accounts.


Combatting phishing and social engineering requires a multi-faceted approach, including education, technical defenses, and stringent verification protocols:

  • Training Programs: Implement ongoing cybersecurity training programs that cover the latest phishing tactics and how to avoid them.
  • Phishing Simulations: Conduct simulated phishing attacks to test and reinforce awareness among employees.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implement 2FA for all accounts, requiring an additional verification step beyond the password.
  • Spam Filters: Use advanced spam filters that analyze email content and attachments for phishing indicators.
  • Browser Extensions: Recommend browser extensions that warn users about suspicious websites.
  • Incident Response Plan: Ensure employees know how to report suspicious activities and whom to contact in case of a suspected breach.

8. Insider Threats

Insider threats involve risks posed by individuals within an organization, such as disgruntled employees or contractors who have access to the website’s sensitive data and systems. These insiders can misuse their access to steal data, sabotage systems or leak confidential information.

In 2019, a former employee of cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks was found guilty of stealing customer information and confidential company data after being laid off. Another case involved a systems administrator at the insurance company Anthem, who was implicated in a data breach that exposed the personal information of 78.8 million individuals in 2015.


To mitigate insider threats, organizations should implement strict access controls and monitor employee activities:

  • Role-Based Access Control (RBAC): Implement RBAC to assign access rights based on the user’s role within the organization.
  • Segmentation: Segment sensitive data and systems to limit access and reduce the potential impact of an insider threat.
  • User Activity Monitoring (UAM): Deploy UAM solutions to track user actions and identify suspicious behavior.
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Implement DLP solutions to prevent unauthorized data transfers and leaks.
  • Security Training Programs: Conduct mandatory training sessions on security best practices and insider threat awareness.
  • Anonymous Reporting Mechanisms: Provide channels for employees to report concerns anonymously.

Have you got a hacked website? Contact Conroy Creative Counsel for help.

9. Insecure APIs

APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) allow different software systems to communicate and exchange data. Insecure APIs can become gateways for attackers, exposing sensitive data and system functionalities. Common vulnerabilities in APIs include lack of authentication, improper input validation and insufficient rate limiting.

In 2018, a vulnerability in Facebook’s API allowed attackers to steal access tokens of 50 million user accounts. Another significant breach occurred in 2020 when a flaw in Twitter’s API exposed the private information of users, including phone numbers and email addresses.


Securing APIs involves adopting secure design practices and conducting regular security assessments:

  • Authentication and Authorization: Ensure all API endpoints require authentication and implement proper authorization checks.
  • Input Validation: Validate and sanitize all inputs to prevent injection attacks and data breaches.
  • Rate Limiting: Implement rate limiting to prevent abuse and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks.
  • API Security Testing Tools: Use tools like OWASP ZAP and Postman for automated API security testing.
  • Code Reviews: Perform regular code reviews to ensure adherence to security best practices.
  • Encryption: Use encryption to protect data transmitted via APIs. Implement HTTPS to secure data in transit and encrypt sensitive data stored on the server.
    • Transport Layer Security (TLS): Ensure all API communications are encrypted using TLS.
    • Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data before storing it in databases or transmitting it through APIs.

10. Insufficient Backup Practices

Not having regular backups can have severe consequences in the event of a data breach, hardware failure or other disasters. Without backups, organizations risk losing critical data, facing prolonged downtime and suffering financial losses.

In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide. Many organizations without recent backups were unable to recover their data, leading to significant operational disruptions.


Implementing regular backups is essential for data recovery and business continuity:

  • Automated Backups: Use automated backup solutions to ensure regular and consistent backups without manual intervention.
  • Versioning: Implement versioning to keep multiple copies of data, allowing restoration from different points in time.
  • Cloud Backup Services: Utilize reliable cloud backup services that offer redundancy and high availability.
  • Offsite Storage: Maintain physical backups in a secure offsite location.
  • Restoration Drills: Conduct periodic restoration drills to verify that data can be accurately and quickly restored.
  • Integrity Checks: Perform integrity checks on backup data to ensure it is not corrupted or incomplete.

In WordPress sites, hackers often try to exploit vulnerabilities in a popular WordPress theme and WordPress plugins and actively search for these websites.

How Conroy Creative Counsel Can Help

Navigating the complexities of website security can be daunting, but you don’t have to face these challenges alone. Our award-winning law firm marketing agency has extensive technical knowledge and expertise to help law firms combat these threats and secure their online presence. We offer:

  • Expertise in Law Firm Marketing
  • Comprehensive Security Audits
  • Implementation of Robust Security Measures
  • Training and Awareness Programs
  • Regular Monitoring and Maintenance
  • Customized Online Solutions for Law Firms

In addition, our popular podcast on ‘What Lawyers Need to Know About Website Technology’ discusses in depth how to keep your website safe, how to prepare for the eventuality of your website getting hacked and what you need to do when this happens.

Partner with Conroy Creative Counsel, and let us help you build a robust defense against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. Contact us today and let’s get started!


I'm Karin Conroy

Founder of Conroy Creative Counsel, an award-winning recognized leader that has cracked the code of smart, sophisticated, and strategic marketing for law firms.

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