Today we’re happy to announce an extension of our industry leading PBN monitoring tools, our new Malware monitor. We’ll now offer daily checks of your network and client sites Safe Browsing Site Status within Google. This will allow you to catch potential issues that could result in your network domains being deindexed or the domain’s reputation being damaged. Both, at the very minimum, could significantly lower the link quality to your client sites, affecting your rankings. Along with our other tools, this helps protect your expensive domain and content investments, and from the potential revenue loss faced by dropping or lost rankings.
The issue facing Private Blog Network owners protecting their domains from malware infections is two fold. Firstly, we have to spread our domains across 100’s of different inexpensive shared hosting accounts. This means that our domains are often placed on out of date software, along with potential backdoors opened by the sites we have to share a server and IP with. Cheaper hosts don’t have the resources to keep an eye on potential issues and maintain their servers the way more expensive providers can. Also Phishing scams can be hard for their scanning softwares to detect.
Secondly, most of us rely on WordPress as our CMS on our PBN sites. Although with automatic updates WordPress has become much more secure in recent times, managing 100’s of sites with 100’s of different plugin variations and versions is tricky. There are hackers with the resources to take advantage of exploits found in WP and popular plugins very quickly. Again, even if you have your own house in order, you may be sharing with others using out of date WordPress installs.
As malware has become a more prominent issue on the web, Google moved in 2008 to help protect their users with the safe browsing diagnostic tool. They leverage data from over 38 different independent systems scanning the web. Google shows warnings in it’s search results if it suspects a site. The same database is used to warn users in most browsers that a site ahead might be considered high risk. I’m sure you’ve encountered the latter a number of times while moving around the web in the past.
For PBN owners this can result in a disaster. If sites are not cleared up quickly, they are removed from Google’s search results. This means that we are at risk of losing our PBN domain’s index status and the value of any links we place on them. We might also be at risk of damaging the linking signals to our client sites by being associated with sites that have malware issues.
PBN Owners Are in The Dark
The issue is compounded by the fact that we are unable to risk using Google Webmaster Tools for PBN domains. Therefore we are unable to benefit from warnings of any issue found in our Search Console. Although they attempt to contact our hosts with an automated message, these can be lost or could have a slow response time. This often leaves PBN owners in the dark for long enough to lose their domains index status.
Even if your host does fix the issue in a timely matter, your status may go unchanged long enough for your PBN domain to be deindexed. If you’re proactive and able to submit a rescan request right away, a domain’s status can be repaired in under 24 hours. That’s a massive difference and advantage when it come to mitigating the risk of deindexing and reputation.
Although in most cases you’ll probably have access to your client or affiliate site’s GWMT account, so you’ll probably be alerted to issues quicker than ExecPBN. However, we still check these URL’s too. In some cases you might not have access to these alerts directly. ExecPBN will allow you to be proactive, fix the issue and mitigate against any unnecessary further traffic loss. This could allow you to impress a client or get your normal flow of affiliate commissions quickly back on track.
Fixing The Issue
If ExecPBN has identified an issues with one of your sites you should look to take action ASAP. Contact your host immediately with a high priority ticket and ask them to help you look into the issue. You can get more details of the type of infection from ExecPBN. It might be a case of deleting one or two files and updating the server install to close the backdoor to future infections. If you’re using WordPress consider a complete fresh install including all plugins and themes.
Work closely with your host to establish the problem and confirm it’s been solved correctly. Once the offending files or content has been removed, request a rescan so your domains status is changed back to normal. The quicker you can turnaround the problems, the better the damage limitation will be.
How to Request a Rescan Without GWMT
Like the issue with being alerted to the problem in the first place, you might wonder how you can request a rescan without access to GWMT for your domain. Luckily you can undertake the same request from the nonprofit Stop Badware site at: https://www.stopbadware.org/request-review.
Google states that once a rescan has been completed and the issue is confirmed as fixed, it’s naughty list is updated within 24 hours. If you’re domain’s status hasn’t changed 48 hours after a request, it might be worth contacting your host again to confirm that the issue has actually been resolved correctly.
ExecPBN User Guide
We provide an overview of this information in several places, including your dashboard, daily email and the status of each individual domain in their respective client or blog overview page.
You can view the full tool under the monitoring menu, ‘Malware Status’. From here you can get a complete overview of all your network domains, including a check log for each one. You can also get details of the type of infection found on your site. For help decoding these, please see the explanation in the next section.
We’ll also be rolling emails alerts of new malware statuses once the script has been road tested with the live data over the next few weeks.
If one of your sites becomes infected and identified, Google doesn’t provide comprehensive details of what one of their partner’s system found on your site. This can be a bit of a pain and will probably require your host to assist you. However, they do provide some outlines to the type of threat your site is posing.
This is provided in two bits of information, threat type and platform type.
Threat Type: There are 4 possible types flagged by Google:
Malware – Malicious scripts or viruses that have infected and are now being hosted by your site’s server.
Social Engineering – Most probably phishing style pages that try to steal people’s login details or personal information.
Harmful Applications – Google’s rebranding of malware for Android users.
Unwanted Software – Spyware etc.
Platforms Types: They provide a general warning or let you know which devices are being targeted by your server.
All/Any Platform: Means it’s potentially harmful to anyone visiting your site.
Specific Platforms Covered: Windows / Linux / Android Mobile / Apple OSX / Apple iPhone / Chrome OS
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