Another Reason Why SiteLock’s Lying About Incapsula Being The True Source of Their WAF and CDN is a Problem

When it comes to the numerous issues with the web security company SiteLock one of the ones we found to be the strangest is their continued lying about the true provider of their content delivery network (CDN) and web application firewall (WAF) services. While they make it sound like they are providing themselves when mentioning the services, using phrases like “our IP addresses“, “SiteLock servers“, and even “SiteLock patent-pending technology” what we found was that services are actually provided by another company, Incapsula.

We can’t think of a good reason of for lying about who provides these services, but when mentioning this previously we mentioned a couple of reason why being dishonest about that is a troubling thing. First, trust is an important part of security, if SiteLock is willing to lie about this then what else might they lie about. Second, since both of these services involve sending a website’s traffic through the provider of the service’s systems, having a website’s traffic go through a company that the website’s owner doesn’t have a relationship with raises some serious security and privacy issues.

While helping someone resolve an issue with a website recently we ran across another issue caused by this. They were having a problem caused in part by the Incapsula WAF. While they were getting an error page from Incapsula served as part of the problem, they didn’t know where that was coming from or how they could remove Incapsula’s WAF since they didn’t know that the SiteLock service being used was actually Incapsula or even that they were was a connection between the two. If SiteLock was upfront about who really provides that service then it shouldn’t have been a mystery as to the source of the error page and the issue could have been more easily resolved.

Manual Website Malware Removal Doesn’t Involve Manually Scanning Every File

In looking over a company’s marketing material about why they were a better alternative to SiteLock (which isn’t really difficult considering the many ways that SiteLock is a terrible company), there was a rather absurd claim made:

SiteLock likes to push their “manual” malware removal. However, with the average WordPress having about 1,900 files, can you imagine trying to manually scan that many files and have any kind of accuracy? I believe it’s a strategy for them to have such high prices.

In reality manual website malware removal doesn’t involve someone manually looking over every file on a website, which would be a waste of time. Instead it means that a human is involved in the process of reviewing the files and deciding what needs to be cleaned. One of the important reasons you don’t want a cleanup done with a fully automated process (as this company is promoting that they do and which SiteLock actually makes a big deal of doing as well), is that malicious code added to the website can provide important information on the source of the hack. Cleaning up the malicious code on a website, but not fixing the source of the hack, leaves the website open to being hacked again. We would guess that most people with hacked websites don’t want to have their website needing to be repeatedly cleaned, so they would want to have someone do a cleanup that actual does the work to determine how the website was hacked and then fixes it, instead of paying less upfront and then needing repeated cleanups.

To a large degree reviewing files on a WordPress website involves comparing the files to a clean copy of the files. In the download for the current version of WordPress, 4.7.3, there are 1473 files, so for a WordPress website with 1900 files, a large majority would be checked by simply doing a file comparison of those core WordPress files.

It also worth mentioning that the a major reason why SiteLock’s prices are so high has to do with them paying their web hosting “partners” large portion of the service’s fee, not how they do cleanups (which involves them cutting corners).

Positive SiteLock Review Praises Them for Leaving Website Insecure

When it comes to finding a web security company to help deal with a hack or other security issue with a website you have a lot of bad options, as from what we have seen most security companies don’t know and or care about security. One of the results of that is that often these companies don’t even try to properly clean up hacked websites.

We are often brought in to re-clean hacked websites after another company did a cleanup and the website was then re-hacked. In that situation the first question we always ask is if the previous company determined how the website was hacked, since if the source isn’t found and fixed it could be exploited again. The answer is almost always that doing that never even came up. Considering that doing that is one of three basic components of a proper cleanup, either the company doesn’t understand what the service they are offering should even include or they are intentionally cutting corners.

One company that doesn’t do things properly is SiteLock and more troubling they use their corner cutting to try to get people locked in to long term contracts. You would think that a website getting repeatedly hacked due to that would only lead to only negative reviews, but one recent review for them on the BBB page for the company actually praised them for this:

Sitelock has been there for me in the middle of the night when my blog was compromised several times this year. I am a one woman team and it is great to know that I have Sitelock always there for me making sure I am all safe and secure. It is so wonderful to have a live person to talk to when you need it 24/7. Now on to my gluten-free baking and blogging!

We don’t understand how having a website compromised several times only two months in year could be paired with a claim that the company that dealt with the issue is keeping it “safe and secure”, but it happened here.

That is good reminder that you can’t rely on reviews of web security companies to point to a security company that can actual provide with a good result, because they are often praised despite providing a bad outcomes. We have even had clients that come to us to re-clean websites saying the previous company did a good job, despite needing us to re-do the work. In some cases like this one you might notice the inconsistency, but in others the details needed to spot that the praise is misplaced are missing.

Is SiteLock Providing Their Customers Access to All Accounts on GoDaddy Servers?

In looking over complaints about the web security company SiteLock a lot of things come up over and over, take for instance the end of a review of them from earlier this month at the website ConsumerAffairs:

Worst case scenario: a site will become infected with malware. Again, I get the auto-email with no clue to which site is infected. You have to upgrade your account to get it cleaned and then it never stays clean. It continues to get infected every few months and they do nothing to help you prevent or fix it. The one site that I’ve had this happen to, I ended up upgraded to the manual clean & monitoring service. Instead of them cleaning it when it happens, they send that email (you know the one, without any clue as to which domain it is referring) and then I have to call them to request it to be manually cleaned. AGAIN. They don’t just automatically do it, like the service implies. I cannot tell you what a frustrating phone call it is. They have no email or chat support and you are stuck to a phone call with someone who is trying to earn commission and has no interest in supporting you. DON’T USE THEM.

A lot of that isn’t surprising if you follow our blog, as we have discussed that usually when you get in contact with SiteLock you are dealing with a commissioned sales person (and how that looks to lead to untrue information being told to potential customers), the fact they cut corners when doing cleanups and leave websites insecure. It could actually have been worse as this review involved websites hosted at GoDaddy and we have previously discussed instances where websites cleaned through their partnership with SiteLock have left the websites broken.

What was new in this review was the claim of the prior paragraph of the review:

Once I find the account with the issue to reconnect, it is an absolute nightmare to do so. You have to enter the FTP info, then sift through EVERY SINGLE Godaddy site on the server to find yours (I’m not kidding, and I’m sure you can imagine there are a lot of sites on Godaddy’s server – why I have access to every single one of them via SiteLock seems like a security issue in itself). It’s an extremely tedious, SLOW and frustrating process.

It isn’t clear what level of access they are referring to there and what could be done with it, but there shouldn’t be any access to unrelated accounts at all (especially through a security service).

If you have more information on what access they are providing through that please leave a comment on this post or get in touch with us.

SiteLock and Bluehost Falsely Claimed a Website Contained Malware Due to SiteLock’s Poor Scanner

When it comes to the web security company SiteLock, one of the frequent complaints is that they and their web hosting partners falsely claim that websites have malware on them. After that happens the web hosting company frequently suspends access to the website and pushes the customer to hire SiteLock to clean up not existent malware. We thought it would be useful to look at an example of this we were recently consulted on, as those dealing with the possibility of a false claim should know a number of things when dealing with it.

This situation involved the web host Bluehost. Bluehost is one of many brands the company Endurance International Group (EIG) does business under. Some other major ones are A Small Orange, FatCow, HostGator, iPage,  IPOWER, and JustHost. The company’s web hosting brands are very open about having a partnership with SiteLock, what they have, at least in the past, refused to acknowledge publicly is that partnership involves EIG getting 55 percent of revenue for SiteLock services sold through that partnership (that information was disclosed to investors). That obviously raises some serious questions and it probably explains in large part a lot of the problems that arise from that partnership. What they also don’t disclose to their customers is that the majority owners of SiteLock are also a member of the board and the CEO of EIG, so they are well aware of SiteLock’s practices.

What we have repeatedly said is that if you get contacted by SiteLock or one of their web hosting partners claiming that the website is infected or otherwise is hacked, is that should not ignore it. While there are plenty of situations like the one discussed here where there is a false claim, the claim is also often true. For a hacked website, the longer you wait to do properly clean it up, the bigger the problem can be. Instead we recommend that you first get any information that SiteLock and or the web host will provide and then get a second opinion as to whether the website is hacked. We are always happy to provide that and we would hope that other security companies would as well (when someone contacts us about a hacked website we always make sure it is actually hacked before taking on a cleanup).

One of the reasons for getting a second opinion is that someone familiar with hacked websites should understand how to easily check the validity of the claims made. While someone not familiar with the situation might try doing checks that won’t necessarily be very useful. In this situation one the things the website’s owner did was to download a copy of the website’s files and run them through a malware scanner. That likely is going to fail to identify many files that contain malicious code because a malware scanner for a computer isn’t designed to detect those files (our experience is that scanners designed to scan website files don’t produce great results either).

When we were provided the information that the website’s owner had received, the first element that caught our eye was this result of SiteLock’s malware scanner:

What was shown was rather odd as the malware scanner claimed to have detected a defacement hack (labeled as “SiteLock-PHP-HACKEDBY-klw”), which isn’t malware. So at best the scanner was incorrectly labeling a hacked website as containing malware, when it had a different issue.

More problematic is that it looks like they might are flagging websites as being defaced just because they have text that says “hacked by” something. That could produce some rather bad false positives, since this post itself could be claimed to contain malware simply by using that phrase. They also mark that detection as having a severity of “Urgent”, despite that.

So was the website defaced as that scan seemed to indicate? The website was taken down by the point we were contacted, which wouldn’t need to be done just because there was a defacement and makes it harder for someone else to check over things (whether intentional or not, it seems like something that makes it easier to push someone to hire SiteLock to resolve the issue). Looking at the Google cache of the website’s homepage though, we were able to see what happened.

The website’s page contains a section that shows RSS feeds items from other websites. One of those websites had been impacted by a vulnerability in outdated versions of WordPress that allowed defacing posts and the results of that defacement was showing on this website:

That “hacked by” text on showing there didn’t mean this website was infected with malware or otherwise hacked and the website didn’t pose any threat. That is something that anyone from Bluehost or SiteLock familiar with hacked websites should have spotted by looking over the website for a few seconds, but clearly that didn’t happen, even when they suspended access to the website. Both of them have an incentive to not check to make sure the website is hacked, since they have monetary interest in selling security services in this situation even though they are not needed. As we mentioned recently it appears that when you are in contact with SiteLock you are dealing with a commissioned sales person, not a technical person, so they might not even understand what is actually going on either (one situation we looked at recently would strongly seem to indicate that as a possibility).

Looking at the files that Bluehost had listed as being infected, they were just cached copies of the content from the website that had the RSS feed section in them. So there wasn’t any malware in them.

It also seems that no one from Bluehost or SiteLock bothered to contact the other website to let them know that there website was actually hacked, seeing as it was quickly fixed after we notified them of the issue they had.

At this point the website’s owner is planning to move to a new web host, which doesn’t seem like a bad idea (we think that people should avoid web hosts that have partnered with SiteLock even if they have yet to run into this type of situation).

SiteLock Review Shows the Problem of Relying on Customer Reviews To Determine Quality of Security Companies

We have frequently mentioned the fact that many security companies don’t know and or care much about security. That not surprisingly leaves the public with a lot of bad options when they are looking for someone with security expertise to help them deal with a hacked website or other security issues. So how can they find one of the few companies that don’t fall in to one of those categories? We don’t know of an easy way, but we do know that looking at customer reviews of security companies isn’t a good way to do that.

We frequently are brought in to re-clean hacked websites after another company had been brought in to do that. While that isn’t always the company’s fault, we have found that in almost every instance the company doing the cleanup either didn’t know what they were doing or intentionally cut corners. We know that because we always ask in these instances if the previous company had determined how the website was hacked (since if the vulnerability hasn’t been determined and fixed it would leave the website open to being hacked again), and the response is almost always that trying to determine how the website never even came up. Considering that is one of three main components of a proper hack cleanup, that shouldn’t be the case. In more than a few cases even at that point the person we are dealing with said that the previous company did a good job, which doesn’t seem accurate considering they didn’t do things properly and the website was hacked again. If people think they did a good job at that point, we would assume that even more would have said that right after the original work was completed.

To give you another example of this we thought something we ran across involving web security SiteLock is worth highlighting. Here is a review of SiteLock from August of last year that comes from the BBB page for them:

Sitelock has been a great and affordable toll to achieve… security challenges, and enabled idbasolutions.com to offer our visitors peace of mind. In one and only incident in 2012, Sitelock emailed us as soon as they detected that some malicious software had infiltrated our comment pages…they quickly deleted all malicious code.

The problem with that review is that the website isn’t actually secure and hasn’t been secure for some time. The website is running Joomla 1.5, for which supported ended in September of 2012, over four years ago.

You wouldn’t know that if you were to believe SiteLock, as of today they are claiming it is secure:

It would be easy for SiteLock to determine that the website was running outdated software and isn’t secure, as the source code of each page on the website contains the following line:

<meta name=”generatorcontent=”Joomla! 1.5 – Open Source Content Management” />

So the review’s claim that SiteLock services “offer our visitors peace of mind” is true, but it is because SiteLock is not telling the website’s visitors the truth.

Considering that SiteLock missed such an easy to spot issue, it isn’t hard to believe they might also miss more serious issues, and in fact our past experience shows that it isn’t a theoretical issue. So while the review is positive, the underlying reality is the opposite.

Considering that customers of security services are hiring them in the first place, it isn’t likely that many reviews come from someone who would actually be aware of a failure like SiteLock’s here, so many other reviews of them are probably unintentionally misleading others as well.

When You Get In Touch With SiteLock You Are Dealing With a Commissioned Sales Person

As we have found out more about the web security company SiteLock over time a lot of things that we previously heard and saw about them have come to make more sense.

One those things was we found out that is that when you get in touch with SiteLock you are likely dealing with a commissioned sales person. That seems to go a long way to explaining, for example, why when people who are already paying for SiteLock protection services get hacked that the response from SiteLock is to try to sell them additional services or even more expensive services similar to what they already have, as that person interest in selling them something, not in trying to resolve what went wrong with the protection SiteLock was supposed to be providing. That also leads to other issues, like dealing with someone that either doesn’t understand much about security, leading them to make rather ominous sounding claims, or saying things they know to be untrue to try to scare people in to spending more.

Something else we ran across recently seems to show how those commissioned sales people view potential customers, who in many cases have just had their websites hacked or  access to their website blocked based on a claim that the website is hacked (which is not always true), which seems in line with what we mentioned in the previous paragraph. In a review of the company by a salesperson on Glassdoor they said this:

If you are willing to work weekends you will make a TON of money!
My commission checks in sales range from minimum $3500-$7300.
The only company where we’ll never be able to call all the leads if we tried. So many untouched leads because the market for our product is so large.

So people who are dealing with a stressful situation are simply leads to them.

Not surprisingly with how they sell people on their services they have a lot of customers that are canceling as mentioned in another review on Glassdoor:

Company has a high churn rate with regards to customers which directly impacted bonuses of their employees. (Myself included) There were 2(back-to-back) months where our inbound sales team did not receive our commissions despite passing our monthly goal as a team entirely.

That is even though they make it rather difficult to cancel their service and even though you are apparently dealing with sales people even when you try to cancel the service.

Avoiding SiteLock

If your web host is pushing you to use SiteLock due to a claim that your website is hacked then your best bet, from everything we have seen and heard, is to simply avoid using them, as the commissioned sales people are only tip of the iceberg with the bad experience many people come away with. While they do push SiteLock, if you ask the web host they will let you know that SiteLock is not required to do the cleanup.

Seeing as your web host likely gets a majority of what you pay to SiteLock (one major web hosting company that is run by SiteLock’s owners disclosed to investors that they receive 55% of the revenue from their partnership) despite not doing the work, you are necessarily going to overpay when going with SiteLock.

For the type of low quality cleanups that we have seen them providing you can find an equivalent service from many other providers for much less than they charge and we provide a high quality cleanup that often costs less than SiteLock charges (we will first check to make sure your website is hacked, so you are not paying for an unneeded cleanup).

Don’t Ignore a Message From SiteLock or Your Web Host That Your Website Has Malware

When it comes to the poor state of web security we often find that security companies play an important role in that. That includes making up threats and telling people they need to take advanced security measure, while many, including those same companies are still failing to do the basics.

Another area we have seen this involves the security company SiteLock and their web hosting partners. We have written numerous posts about SiteLock’s bad practices, one of them being that they and their web hosting partners (who get paid handsomely to push their services) sometimes falsely claim that websites contain malware or have otherwise been hacked. What we have consistently said though is that you shouldn’t assume that the website isn’t hacked and recommended getting a second opinion (something we are happy to provide for free). Unfortunately people often conflate SiteLock’s many bad practices, with the idea that any claim by them or their partnered web hosts that a website is hacked as being false.

For example, yesterday we ran across someone on Twitter claiming that Bluehost was falsely stating a website had malware on it:

We asked how them how they determined that and the answer was they hadn’t actually done that:

We then tried to explain that while there are false claims made by them and the web hosting partners, the claims are often true and suggested that they get a second opinion from a security company (and letting them know we do that for free), at that point they blocked us.

If the website did contain malware, which seems to be of decent likelihood, then their tweets help perpetuate the issue.

Ignoring the Evidence

What makes the false claims is even more problematic is that it feeds in to an existing belief that we have often seen with people assuming that claims that their website are hacked are not true, even when coming from parties that have no profit motive (like Google).

When it comes to SiteLock and their web hosting partners we see two very different scenarios.

In some cases access to the website is shut off immediately and they haven’t provide any evidence of the supposed hack that lead to that happening, which makes the claim legitimately seem questionable.

In others they actually provide evidence, which should be easily checked, but is instead ignored. Take for example, someone, also hosted with Bluehost, that contacted us recently. They had been sent the following email by their web host:

[redacted],
Your [redacted] account has been deactivated due to the detection
of malware. The infected files need to be cleaned or replaced with clean
copies from your backups before your account can be reactivated.

Examples: /home1/[redacted]/public_html/config.php.suspected
/home1/[redacted]/public_html/post.php.suspected

/home1/[redacted]/public_html/administrator/components/com_weblinks/tables/s
ession.php

/home1/[redacted]/public_html/components/com_content/models/articles.php

To thoroughly secure your account, please review the following:
* Remove unfamiliar or unused files, and repair files that have been
modified.
* Update all scripts, programs, plugins, and themes to the latest
version.
* Research the scripts, programs, plugins, and themes you are using
and remove any with known, unresolved security vulnerabilities.
* Update the passwords for your hosting login, FTP accounts, and all
scripts/programs you are using. If you need assistance creating secure
passwords, please refer to this knowledge base article:
https://my.bluehost.com/hosting/help/418
* Remove unused FTP accounts and all cron jobs.
* Secure the PHP configuration settings in your php.ini file.
* Update the file permissions of your files and folders to prevent
unauthorized changes.
* Secure your home computer by using an up-to-date anti-virus program.
If you’re already using one, try another program that scans for
different issues.
You may want to consider a security service, such as SiteLock, to scan
your website files and alert you if malicious content is found. Some
packages will also monitor your account for file changes and actively
remove malware if detected. Click here to see the packages we offer:
https://my.bluehost.com/cgi/sitelock

Please remove all malware and thoroughly secure your account before
contacting the Terms of Service Department to reactivate your account.
You may be asked to find a new hosting provider if your account is
deactivated three times within a 60-day period.

Thank you,

Bluehost Support

http://www.bluehost.com
For support, go to http://my.bluehost.com/cgi/help

Over a month later they were notified by SiteLock that the website had been deactivated. Even then they didn’t look at the files that Bluehost had provided as examples of the malware infection, while questioning if they were really hacked.

When we took a look at the names of the files and their locations mentioned in that email, we noticed one of them wouldn’t normally be in that location in a Joomla website. That isn’t something we expect that the average person would know, but it does show how easy it should be for someone that has actual expertise with dealing hacked websites using the software running your website to double check the claims for you.

Looking at the content of the files, we think that even a layman would think that something was off with them. And for us it was obvious by just looking at them that they really were part of a hack and not a false positive, so we could easily confirm that the claim was actually true in this case.

Get a Free Consultation From Us

If you are have been contacted by SiteLock or a web host (whether a SiteLock partner or not) claiming your website is hacked, feel free to contact us to have a free check done to see if the website is really hacked and if it is we will provide you with a free consultation on how you can best deal with the issue.

If your web host is pushing you to use SiteLock you should be aware of a number of items before making any decisions and you should know that we can provide you with a better alternative for cleaning up the website for less money.

Cancelling SiteLock Services Sounds Like It Is Just As Bad As Everything Else With Them

Yesterday we looked at an example of the web security company SiteLock trying to mislead someone on what leads to websites being hacked to get them to purchase a reoccurring service with a long term commitment instead a one-time service. Using their one-time cleanup is also a bad option since it doesn’t include fixing vulnerability that allowed the website to be hacked, while costing more than we charge in many instances for a proper cleanup that actually includes the work to secure the website (you can also get a lower quality cleanup from many companies for much less that SiteLock charges). If you make the mistake of signing up for one of SiteLock’s ongoing services you are in for more problems based on what we have seen mentioned by their customers.

In the past we have had people comment and discussed that these service don’t protect websites from getting hacked and SiteLock explaining the solution is to pay them even more.

At least in some instances people are being charged without receiving any invoice or other notice of the ongoing charges.

Then there is trying to cancel, which we have seen numerous complaints from their customers about.

First off, according to their customer agreement you have to call in to a cancel the service:

All cancellation requests must be submitted by calling our Customer Care Department at (415) 390-2500 and must be made prior to the expiration of the Service term.

In one customer’s complaint they mentioned something that really isn’t that surprising to hear about what happens when you call:

It is not possible to each the billing department except by phone and when you call you are connected with a telemarketer that try’s to upsell you and they become rude when they realize there is not going to be a sale.

The “billing department” is actually a salesroom.

You might be waiting a long time to even get to that as one review on SiteLock’s BBB page reported that:

I tried to cancel my account and it is nearly impossible. Was on hold for over 45 minutes and the person said they did and low and behold….billed the next 2 months.

And here is another complaint with someone taking even more time

I’ve spent two hours, over 4 phone calls attempting to cancel the service by phone. I’m currently on another extended hold waiting for a ‘cancellation agent’.

(While it sounds like making you call is about trying to make it difficult to cancel or try to sell to you again, it turns out that for a web services business they don’t seem to be very web savvy, as one of their web hosting partners list that you need to call SiteLock to have their CDN’s cache of your website manually cleared as well.)

If that isn’t bad enough if you don’t cancel at least thirty days prior to end of the subscription period you are going to being paying for another one according to their customer agreement:

Such cancellation must be made at least thirty (30) days prior to the end of Customer’s current subscription period.

Considering that these are web services that should easily be turned on and off, this sort of lead time doesn’t make sense.

In other instances people have complained about various cancellation fees as well, even though with what the services include that doesn’t seem like it would be a reasonable thing.

SiteLock Misleads Potential Customers About Why Websites Get Hacked To Lock Them In To Long Term Commitments

One of the oddest claims that we have seen related to the web security company SiteLock was that they “don’t control how the hosts sell their services to customers”, which came from a journalist and seemed to be based on their conversation with a SiteLock employee. It’s odd because in what kind of partnership would one partner not have any control over how their services are being sold, but especially in the case of SiteLock’s partnerships where they are paying the web hosts a lot of money to partner with them (one web hosting company disclosed to investors that they get 55% of the revenue of sales of SiteLock services) and when many of the partnered web hosting brands are run by SiteLock’s owners. The other thing that made this so odd is that from everything we have seen the problematic way their services are sold usually involves sales made by SiteLock themselves. The web hosts just push their customers to SiteLock and then when their customer gets in touch with SiteLock they are put in touch with a commissioned sales person, which is where the problems really start.

We have seen and heard plenty snippets of what that involves in the past, but we recently ran across an example of an email from SiteLock that shows how they try to trick people into overpriced services. Not surprisingly considering that they are willing to tell people things that are not true even when the truth doesn’t seem to be a big deal, much of what they said is far from the truth.

Let’s start from the beginning of the email:

It looks like the issue your website is having is more than just infected files and you’re goign to need a manual clean. I recommend the SecureSite plan. I recommend this plan because you’re going to need several cleans during this process (of being under a targeted attack) but the malware itself isnt the biggest issue. The biggest issue the vulnerability that is allowing a hacker (or bots controlled by a hacker) to inject code or infect your files.

SiteLock makes a big deal of their automatic malware removal and how that sets them apart, but what we often see is they tell people that it won’t handle the issue on their website and they are going to need a manual clean, which comes with an additional cost. In one case they also claimed that a website couldn’t be automatically cleaned “without risking bringing down our site”.

A real problem with automated malware removal is that when cleaning up malware or other malicious code what is found can often provide important information on how the website was hacked, so if the cleanup is fully automated the cleaner is potentially going to miss important information needed to get the website secured. Normally SiteLock doesn’t actually determine how the website is hacked, so that doesn’t matter, but not doing that leaves the website open to the possibility of being hacked again. While doing that is actually a basic part of a cleanup, as will come up later SiteLock will charge even more money to do that (for a lot of cleanups they charge more to just remove the malicious code than we do for a proper cleanup including getting the website secured).

There is always going to be a vulnerability that allowed a hacker in, otherwise how would the hack have even happened.

The claim that website is being targeted isn’t actually true, unless you count every hack as being a targeted one. The explanation of how the website is being targeted doesn’t make sense:

You are being targeted by this hacker, they already know how and where the vulnerability exists and they will not stop sending bots to you until your website is destroyed or until the bots “hit a wall”. Typically about 4-5 months of rejected attempts the hacker will send the bots elsewhere as they’re usually after low hanging fruit. They’re hacking 10s of thousands of sites at a time and usually the goal is stealing traffic or placing malware on your site to get onto peoples computers to steal information. After the vulnerability is fixed, they’ll move on, I wish I could elaborate on what’s causing this right now but I don’t want to just guess, the data in the manual clean will give me exactly the information I need whether it’s having our technicians recode entry fields on the website or if something needs to be done on a server level via your host.

From dealing with many hacked websites we get the sense that this is written by someone who has no idea what actually happens with hacking attempts on websites, which they probably don’t, since it was coming from a sales person not a technical person.

The reality is that most hackings are not targeted at specific websites; instead hackers try to exploit the same vulnerability across many websites, which is often referred to as a mass hack. Either the website is vulnerable and the hacker will take further actions once they successfully exploit the vulnerability or they will move on to other websites. Often times there look to be numerous different people or groups trying to exploit the same vulnerability, so a vulnerable website might get hacked more than once (that is good reason to promptly deal with a hacked website once you become aware it has been hacked).

Hackers are not usually interested in destroying websites. The closet we see with that are defacements hacks where a hacker causes a website’s pages normal content to be replaced with a message from the hacker. The website’s content would normally not be destroyed by that. In other cases hackers are interested in using the website to do something else, say sending spam emails, which wouldn’t destroy it at all. Of course if you are trying to scare people, then telling hackers are trying to destroy their website would make sense.

Another part of shouldn’t really make sense even if you are not familiar with hacked websites. The email claims that “Typically about 4-5 months of rejected attempts the hacker will send the bots elsewhere as they’re usually after low hanging fruit.” Why would a hacker keep trying to exploit a vulnerability for months on end when either the vulnerability is exploitable or isn’t? The answer would seem to be that they are trying to lock you in to a six month commitment to one of their services, again this coming from a salesperson.

After the manual clean we will also your host (if your website is suspended) so that they can re-instate the account if you’ve been deactivated, we will also take care of any blacklisting issues (Google, Norton, AVG, Avast, Bing , Yahoo, etc… if there is a warning screen stating that your website is malicious or that it has malicious content). You do have the option of purchasing a one time clean from us but typically within 24 – 72 hrs, you’ll need another clean due to the bots attacking you. One time cleans are also $300 per clean, per domain and vulnerability fixes are the same price of $300 per domain.

A proper one time cleanup would actually involve determining how the website has gotten hacked and making sure it is fixed. Their pricing is just outrageous. If you want a poor quality cleanup that doesn’t involve doing things properly, you can spend a lot less than $300. For many websites we charge less than $300 to do things properly, meanwhile SiteLock wants $600 to do that. The idea that they would even sell a service that they know leaves a website vulnerable is rather troubling.

I would also be happy to review the services with you after 6 months to make sure that bot traffic has decreased, I encourage you to reach out to me so we can determine whether you’re still being targeted. I can proudly say that 100% of my customers that follow my recommendations (after the clean, as far as general maintenance) not only are malware free and no longer the victim of a targeted attack but also likely will not have a need for unlimited cleans and can explore other options (we have nearly 70 different products and services).

Here we get to them trying to get you to a six month commitment, the price of this wasn’t mentioned, but we have recently had people mention that they are trying get them to sign up for services that are $100 a month (in some instances it is even higher than that). That would be the same price as their overpriced cleanup and securing service, but with the added difficulty of trying to cancel the service at six months. The fact that they offer a service with unlimited cleanups is a good indication that they don’t properly secure websites, since if you do a proper cleanup the website shouldn’t be able to be exploited through the same issue again at all.

Considering that very few websites are ever targeted by hackers, the person receiving this email likely was never targeted in the first place.