When it comes to improving the security of websites one of the biggest impediments we see is the many companies selling security services. The services they sell generally don’t do much too actually fix the underlying security issues that exist (and could be fixed), while at the same time they spread a lot of bad information making it harder to actually improve security. The general sense we get is that these companies neither care nor know much about security.
One such company we have discussed several times before is SiteLock. In the past we have mentioned how they continue to fail to do a basic security check and don’t do proper hack cleanups. In another post we looked at how GoDaddy was distributing software to clients with known security vulnerabilities while trying to sell an additional service in partnership with SiteLock to “Defend your website against hackers” and “Keep your site clean and secure.”. If SiteLock cared about security you would think they would have insured that GoDaddy resolved that situation before they partnered with them.
A recent situation we were brought in on showed yet more problems with SiteLock. A Joomla website hosted with GoDaddy was hacked and GoDaddy recommend to the website’s owner that they sign up SiteLock’s service to clean it up. SiteLock then did what they describe as 95 percent of the cleanup, but then told the website’s owner that rest of the work would need to be done manually and would incur an additional fee. In the meantime the work SiteLock had done had managed to break the website, with only the homepage loading anymore. The website’s owner was unsettled about SiteLock wanting more money to complete the work and the fact that the website was broken after the partial work was done, so they reached out to us to take a look.
The most likely culprit for when only the homepage is loading for a Joomla website that has Search Engine Friendly URLs enabled, like this one did, is that the .htaccess file has been damaged in some way. The code in that file is needed to translate the Search Engine Friendly URLs in to the form understood by the underlying software. It isn’t uncommon when we are brought to re-clean a hacked website that has been previously cleaned with an automated tool to find that core files have been damaged or deleted entirely, causing varying degrees of problems with the website. In this situation the .htaccess file was missing all of the normal code that should be in it when we took a look at it.
One nice feature of GoDaddy’s standard control panel is that you are able to view how files looked over the previous month or so, which can come in handy when dealing with recently hacked websites. In this case we figured we could pull up the file from right before SiteLock did its cleanup and then restore the file and just remove the malicious code in it. Surprisingly there was no malicious code in the file, so unless some malicious code was added between when backup file was made that day and the time of their cleanup, it looks like SiteLock managed somehow to damage a file that had not contained any malicious code and shouldn’t have been touched.