How one Sydney business bounced back from a malware attack and Google ban

technology-iconRahul Bagharva’s summer holiday was spoiled by a hacking incident which took down his website and saw Google ban his ads. He’s recovered, but now has very different views about how to operate online.

Rahul Bagharva spends about $5000 a month on Google AdWords and relies on the service to drive traffic to his outdoor signage businesses RollupSigns and Bannerchain. So when the sites went offline it was a heavy blow.

“We get 50 to 60 hits a day from AdWords,” Bagharva says, with the steady stream of inquiries from online advertising helping the company to grow beyond steady clients like Subway, Pepsico and Diabetes Australia).

But in January 2012, when Bagharva was holidaying overseas, the websites stopped working.

Google explained why – the sites had been infected by malware and Google suspended Bagharva’s AdWords campaign to protect unsuspecting users. Web browsers also detected the malware and warned visitors that the sites were dangerous places to visit.

Bagharva’s outsourced IT team quickly identified the source of the problem: malware had been uploaded to his sites with the tool intended for uploads of custom art for signs.

Removing the malware and repairing the sites took more than a day and represented unwelcome and unplanned costs. Eventually the sites came back online and Bagharva had to make his case to Google for reinstatement of his AdWords campaign. Google was understanding and acted within days, but also said it has a dim view of sites whose security is compromised.

“We don’t have the power to pull strings to make it faster,” Bagharva says, but also praises Google for offering a dedicated customer service line staffed by actual humans.

Bagharva now plans to change the hosting company he uses for his websites, as it proved hard to work with his US-based host. He is also considering action against his current host, given its assurances of a secure service proved false. “We reported it to the guy who looks after the hosting company,” he says, but has not pressed hard for resolution. “These things take time especially for a small business like us.”

At least the sites are back online and producing new leads, a fact for which Bagharva is grateful.

“Overall the web is a big positive,” he says. “We just signed up for Twitter and from now on our business will be focussed more towards the website.”

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