Seven essential resources to help protect your website from technical attack

Kevin Roderick publishes the widely read and highly acclaimed (among Los Angeles-area journalists, at least) blog LA Observed. But this week, Roderick’s been living a Web journalist’s nightmare. Earlier this week, many Web browsers started blocking access to his website, following Google’s determination that LA Observed included links to sites that were distributing malware – malicious code that could infect readers’ websites with viruses and other nasty stuff.

Roderick ultimately traced the problem to ads running on his site, and took that section down while he worked with his hosting provider to purge the links. A day after clearing the site, Google cleared LA Observed, and traffic is able again to flow normally to Roderick’s site.

I don’t want to write about Roderick’s specific situation, beyond using it as a peg to remind all independent online publishers of the importance of keeping an eye on the tech side of publishing.

Tools such as Blogger and Moveable Type have allowed writing with no tech training to become popular and self-sustaining online publishers. But tech gremlins can attack anyone, and even novices need to pay attention to the threats.

In that spirit, here are seven essential resources for online publishers who don’t want to get burned:

1. Google’s Webmaster Tools

Google drives more traffic than any other site online, so it just makes sense for you to use every tool that Google provides you to improve your website’s position in its search engine results. Google’s toolset allows you to submit and track sitemaps of your website’s content, see how Google ranks your content via a simple interface, as well as to learn of any problems that Google is having with your site, problems that might drive your site down in the Google search engine results, or cause it to be blocked altogether.

2. Google’s Safe Browsing Diagnostic Tool

There is no landing page for this valuable service, so you’ll have to copy and paste the URL above, substituting your URL for “”. This page allows you to see what your users will see if Google ends up blocking your page, for similar reasons that it blocked LA Observed. But if you check this page on a regular basis, you won’t have to wait for your traffic to tank, or readers to e-mail you, to discover if you have a problem. The page also will detail the problem for you, allowing you to more efficiently isolate and remove it.

3. Google’s Online Security Blog

This is where to go for an overview of website security issues, as they can affect your presence on Google. You’ll want to bookmark the blog’s post on recovering from a website hack in case you ever find your site infected by malware, or blocked because it is linking to such sites.

4. Stop Badware’s Link Clearinghouse

You can prevent linking to “bad neighborhoods” online, including malware sites, by checking links through this page, before adding them to your site. Obviously, if you permit user-generated content on your website, and allow readers to post links, you won’t be able to control every outbound link from your site. But this tool can be helpful in allowing you to avoid bad linking in your work on the site.

5. Webmaster World

I’ve recommended Webmaster World before, and want to do so again today. It’s the best forum I’ve found for highly detailed news and analysis about how to prevent, and recover from, tech attacks on multiple common online publishing platforms. Browse the forums relevant to your CMS on a regular basis to stay aware of breaking threats to your website. If you need to post an emergency patch to your CMS, this is likely the place where you’ll find out about it.

6. Matt Cutts’ Blog

Cutts is one of Google’s software engineers and the go-to guy in combating Web spam. A popular speaker at Webmaster conferences, Cutts details many of the threats facing online publishers and offers guidance on how to deal with them.

7. Search Engine Land

Danny Sheridan’s website offers much more than security advice; it’s a great bookmark to stay on top of many technical aspects of Web publishing, notably improving and protecting your position in search engine results.

There are no 100 percent guarantees online. You could follow all these links on a regular basis, and still end up hacked. But reading and using these resources will greatly improve the odds to your favor.

It is also choose your Web hosting partner carefully – to find someone who has a track record of protecting client websites, and with whom you can comfortably communicate, in case the day ever comes when you need help to recover from a website attack.

About Robert Niles

Robert Niles is the former editor of OJR, and no longer associated with the site. You may find him now at


  1. Robert – Good stuff. I especially find the data from the Google Webmaster area to be beneficial. Not only can you discover what Google likes about your site, but they will also offer you suggestions on how to improve.

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  3. The google webmaster diagnostics are a great way of finding out what google thinks of your site.
    The “what googlebot see’s” section is great as you may be working on SEO and be totally off track because google doesnt even see your site as what you think it does.
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