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Hosters: Help Your Customers Never Get Blacklisted Again

Blacklisting, as you might guess from its name, is when a search engine like Bing or Google blocks a website from appearing in search results.

But it’s much more than that. If a website of one of your business customers gets blacklisted, it’s a business continuity issue — and who do you think will be on the receiving end of an angry customer support call if that happens? The hosting provider, of course.

It is the responsibility of the hoster to provide leadership, guidance and tools for all their web hosting customers on the topic of website blacklisting — what it is, how it can be prevented, and which website backup and recovery tools they should add to their monthly hosting plan to protect them from unforeseen business continuity issues.

What is blacklisting?

A website blacklist is a process of warning Internet users (or blocking them) from accessing a website hosted on your network. A blacklist is technically a list of banned website IP addresses of companies which have been denied certain cyber privileges for not complying with the rules of the Internet.

According to Norton, “a website is rated as unsafe if it contains any threats.” And Google describes a blacklisted site as “social engineering sites (phishing and deceptive sites) and sites that host malware or unwanted software.”

As of this writing, there are 100+ website blacklists that are maintained by search engines, web browsers and anti-virus companies. Popular blacklist monitors include Google, Bing, BitDefender, ESET and Norton.

Why do websites get blacklisted?

A website IP address may get blacklisted for many reasons. The most common causes of blacklisting include the detections viruses, malware, ransomware, spam unwanted ads, redirect behaviour and phishing. Did you know that over 30,000 websites get hacked every day? The companies that maintain the backlists are always crawling the web looking for sites that have been compromised. If they uncover a deceptive IP address, they add it to their blacklist. In some cases, everyday Internet users can manually report a “compromised” website to be blacklisted.

What’s actually happening within a compromised website?

When one of your customer’s websites is infected with unwanted software such as malware, the databases and related content folders residing on the servers in your hosting facility may attempt to communicate with other computer devices across the web by pinging them. Or malicious bugs in their HTML code could be a time bomb that explodes and wreaks havoc. In other instances, your customer’s web server is distributing SPAM without their knowledge.

In such cases, your customer’s website’s IP address may be added to a blacklist, or to multiple blacklists. Every website blacklist is maintained by a unique entity (rather than a central monitoring body). Each has different web guidelines to avoid being blacklisted.

What is the impact of blacklisting?

Besides the immediate public relations downside to a company when their website becomes inaccessible, an organization’s reputation could suffer long-term harm if the blacklisting event is not quickly contained and remediated. There may be loss of sales as well, particularly if the company runs an e-commerce website and their only source of revenue is from online sales. In such cases, downtime can be deadly.

How can your customers tell if their website has been blacklisted?

At least once a month, businesses should perform a blacklist check on their domain name or IP address. Some forward-thinking web hosting providers actually provide regular blacklist checks as a premium service on behalf of their hosting customers.

An even better solution is Dropsuite Website Backup. We’ve integrated Google’s Safe Browsing into our services. This way, we automatically notify customers when Google determines that a website contains suspected malware or phishing code and is deemed not safe for browsing by Google. We perform this check 4 times a day or every 6 hours. This feature was designed to bring peace of mind to business and is integrated into our website backup product at no extra charge.

How can a website IP address be removed from a blacklist?

It’s fairly common for web hosters to receive frantic phone calls from a web hosting customer asking them how they can quickly debug or restore their websites to good standing with the backlist monitors so their website can be seen again. Once it’s been verified that a website has been infected, your customers will need to debug their website content, code and databases of any malicious code. Some web hosters offer this service for a fee, others leave it to the business to sort out for themselves. The debugging process can take days of work lead by savvy IT staff members or consultants and all the while your web hosting customer is steaming mad and pointing the finger at you. Why didn’t you help prevent this!

Hosting providers that have integrated Dropsuite Website Backup into their control panels and have bundled backup into their web hosting plans are able to offer a much better response to a frazzled customer whose website has been blacklisted — “No problem Mr Customer, we can bring your website back to life in minutes”

Dropsuite Website backup stops backup when a blacklist has been detected on a website. So you will always have a “clean” copy of your website and database files with us. You (or your customers) can simply restore their blacklisted sites to the previous cleaner version. It’s that easy.

Once a site has been restored to a safe state, your web hosting customer can reach out to the blacklist monitoring companies and ask them to remove them from their blacklist. Sometimes, this can be done quickly.

How to prevent being blacklisted?

The most important thing you can do as a trusted hoster is to help educate your web hosting customers from being blacklisted in the first place. Better yet, offer them the four tips to safeguard their websites before the fall victim to an attack:
  • Tell them their company software must be up-to-date, including their operating systems, browsers, servers, etc.
  • Deploy anti-virus software and make sure it is also up-to-date (you can upsell or bundle this).
  • Backup and encrypt your data, using solutions such as Dropsuite Website Backup in the cloud (you can upsell or bundle this).
  • Be vigilant and educate/train your staff about the causes of blacklisting and how cyber-attacks happen — to help mitigate user error as the point of entry.

How can Dropsuite Website Backup help businesses avoid being blacklisted?

Since new varieties of malware, viruses and other external cyber threats are continuously being created by hackers, deploying a good backup and recovery solution is the most dependable form of defense. Automated and secure website backup by Dropsuite can safeguard your web hosting customers’ most critical business data — their websites. And if you ever get a frantic phone call at 2:00 am from a hysterical customer who has just had their website blacklisted, you can calmly and confidently reply, “No problem. Let’s bring your website back to life”

Blacklisting is an ongoing war worth fighting because it’s a battle that can be won with a bit of education and the right tools in place under the hood to protect your business customers from the ongoing threat of being blacklisted.

Be a website mentor and a data recovery hero in the event of an unforeseen blacklisting. Offer Dropsuite Website Backup to your web hosting customers today.

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