5 Lessons from Cleaning a Hacked Site
Yesterday I got a Google alert that one of the sites I maintain had been compromised with spamming links: it had been hacked. Fixing this stuff is probably the least enjoyable part of being a webmaster because 1.) I want to create, not clean up messes and 2.) it’s extremely tedious.
I cleaned up files that were added to the main site directory and then had to go post by post in the blog and remove all the spamming code (thankfully there were just under a hundred). Amazingly there are life lessons everywhere if we’re looking and I saw some parallels here on healing and restoration that I thought I’d share with you.
- Everything may look fine, but there may be bad stuff lurking. That’s not meant to sound so ominous, but oftentimes, we can look fine on the outside (our “home page”) when in fact there is stuff that needs to be dealt with that we may be avoiding. The hurts and heartaches of our lives are not meant to be glossed over or ignored, we have a loving Father who is ready to tackle the process with us and is often working behind the scenes when we don’t even know it.
- The crud was attached to older stuff so that it wouldn’t be discovered easily. I’ve been amazed that as I’ve sought God for the root of certain issues, He will point me back to something in the past that I would now see as inconsequential. Someone said something to you as a child that made you feel “less than.” A friend betrayed your confidence. You suffered some form of abuse and buried it. Like the bad code that infected this site, you may think, “that was so long ago, I don’t even care,” but God does and He wants to heal. Do the work with Him and know His freedom.
- Not only were there links you could see, but invisible code that had to be deleted. At first, when I started cleaning up, I saw links placed in the content of posts and quickly removed them. I thought I was all done, but when I looked at the HTML code, there were hundreds of invisible links buried in there that had to be deleted. You may be able to get rid of certain bad habits or behavior with enough will power, but there are other areas you’ll have to trust God and the people He surrounds you with to address them. Don’t get angry that they’re challenging you on things you didn’t see. Be grateful God is intent on restoration!
- Without knowing what to look for, you’d be overwhelmed and might get rid of the wrong things. At first, I thought about telling the site owner to go in and delete the links, but when I saw it was buried in the code as well I knew I had to do it. You may not like the process. You may not like the feelings you’re having. But going in and trying to “fix” it yourself when you don’t have a full understanding of what’s happening can be detrimental and counterproductive. In the code, things can look similar if you haven’t had experience or knowledge in what you’re seeing. It’s the same with our lives—trust God and don’t worry about it.
- The process takes time. This, I believe, is the most important part. Cleaning up this particular site took nearly half my day, but it had to be done. Your healing process may feel tedious. You may want to rush it along, but it’s going to take as long as it takes. You partner with Him, but don’t get mad when it’s not on your timetable. You didn’t receive all your wounds in the course of an hour and it takes time to truly find your freedom.
God knows what He’s doing. You don’t have to be fixated on or freaked out by the bad stuff lurking beneath the surface because He’s the Healer. You’re not. He won’t stop until you’re fully restored.
If you have you’re own site, have you ever been hacked? Does any of this resonate with your own journey? What are your thoughts?