Hackers hijacked the website of Jim Kreinbrink’s online marketing consultation business seven years ago, redirecting potential clients to an online pharmacy and undermining the online credibility of his business.
A dreaded warning that the website of his Louisville company, Hyper Dog Media, was untrustworthy began appearing in Google search results. When a client first alerted him to it, Kreinbrink didn’t know why, he said.
But Kreinbrink knew web programming and dug into his website’s coding.
An automated script had commandeered his website address, added new pages to the Hyper Dog website and cross-linked to similarly hijacked websites across the internet, all directing traffic to a shady pharmaceutical sales website.
“We were showing up with search terms we weren’t associated with, like Tramadol and certainly Cialis,” Kreinbrink said. “We were never able to figure out who was behind it.”
For Kreinbrink, getting rid of the corrupt computer code on his website took little time, and he was able to trace it back to a computer server in Germany. But finding the associated web pages that had linked to his hijacked website and getting Google to remove them from being associated with Hyper Dog’s website took weeks.
Similar hacks persist today, though not as high profile as the sophisticated data breaches grabbing board room attention at major companies. But small businesses and nonprofits are frequent targets and struggle with the problem, partly because hackers know they’re the least likely to have a good defense prepared.
It’s why the National Cybersecurity Center, the Colorado Spring nonprofit cybersecurity resource started by Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, will have crisis response for businesses in its mission when it opens next month. An NCC team will help businesses react and find resources to deal with a hack.
“There’s a lot of under-served small- and medium-sized business out there, and they don’t know how to respond. They don’t necessarily know who to call,” said Ed Rios, CEO of the NCC.
Kreinbrink’s Hyper Dog Media still helps companies raise their online profiles. It’s not uncommon to discover a new client has been through website hacks similar to his and are still suffering effects from it years later, he said.
Web publishing tools and Google have made it easier clean up after a website hack, Kreinbrink said. Even so, a lot of small businesses don’t know where to start.
Kreinbrink hopes businesses become more open and vocal about sharing their experiences to help others. It’s why he agreed to be a resource for U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter who’s pushing a bill in Congress aimed at improving cyber security protections.
These days, nothing is immune from hacking, Kreinbrink said.
“It’s a given that everyone is going to see some sort of intrusion,” he said. “Even my son’s baby blog was hacked by some kind of bot. This is crazy.”
Content originally published by the Denver Business Journal on October 20th, 2016.