How to Prevent Hijackers from Ripping Off Your Website
Imagine all of your hard work being ripped off by someone half way around the world. My first thought was always, “Ah, that’ll never happen to me. What are the chances?” Imagine my surprise when I found out my freelance website (HTML, CSS, graphics, design-down-to-the-last-detail) was hijacked by an Indonesian company.
I found out about this hijack through my Google Analytics results. I saw that I’d been getting about 28 hits a day from an Indonesian website as well as Google Search hits from keyword phrases such as “Terminal” and “Terminal Pulsa.” Thankfully, I’m curious by nature and investigated this odd behavior.
My first thought was, “How dare them! I worked hard on this site! Why would someone think this is okay to do?!” Quickly followed by, “Oh great, this place is overseas and surely they do not hold to the same legal standards as the United States. What do I do now?”
Please note that I am NOT a lawyer (thank God), but the following information should really help you out if you ever have this happen to you!
Crap, I was hijacked. What do I do now?
1. Chill out. This is obviously easier said than done as I always thought when someone copied my work I’d be flattered. Sadly, I wasn’t.
2. Find their contact information. Use IP Tools or your favorite WHOIS tool to find out who the heck owns your website’s evil twin. I had some trouble finding mine because it didn’t have a “.com” address; my hijacked website contained a “.co.cc”. If you have one of these oddities, you can check the WHOIS at this website.
Along with finding contact information, you can also find out who their web host is. Once you find out this information, you can send a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter to them as well as contact their hosting provider if you are so inclined.
3. Send a ‘Cease and Desist’ letter. Once you have the appropriate contact information you can send a Cease and Desist letter. There are lots of Cease and Desist templates out there, so have a look around for one that fits your needs.
The purpose of a letter like this is to establish professionalism rather than the very vocal ‘take-my-website-down-now-you-jerk’ kind of email (which would probably not prompt an intelligent response anyway). The Cease and Desist letter also uses legal jargon as well as a perceived valued fine, both which will probably scare the bejesus out of your website hijacker.
4. Ask for help! This article is only one of hundreds of resources available online. When I was hacked, I reached out to my Twitter friends and my amazing friend Angie. Everyone was super helpful.
Oh no! The hijackers didn’t listen to me! Now what can I do?!
Tell all the search engines how much of a big jerk they are (aka REPORT THEM!) You must try a Cease and Desist letter first. I repeat: try a Cease and Desist letter first! This usually fixes the problem within 24 hours, and it’s a heck of a lot easier than contacting search engines one by one by one. If this doesn’t work, then you can report them.
As we all know, copyright laws in India, China, or even the UK are not the same as the laws in the United States. Thankfully, almost all search engines will recognize rip-offs and fakes equally. The only catch is that you have to provide proof, but that should be pretty darn easy.
The downside is that Google doesn’t make it easy (or quick) to report this type of activity. This was disheartening to me, considering almost all my keyword search traffic comes from Google. Almost all the other search engines allow you to report these cases via email. However, Google forces you go through a third-party company, which makes you either fax (that’s so 1990) or snail mail your claim to them. Yes. Really.
But I’m Still Really Mad!
Don’t be stupid! It’s alright to be mad, but beyond calling attention to this matter in your personal blog (as I did) do not go plastering the hijacking all over the internet. Oddly enough, you can get sued for slander. Weird, right? So be careful!
Hide that code! If being hijacked has left a nasty taste in your mouth or if you are scared of this happening to you, there are things you can do to try to prevent this from happening. One thing you can do is encrypt your code. Have a look at this website for more information on code protection.