So, you are a WordPress website owner? Nice! But have you ever noticed the following:
- Can’t Log in to the WordPress site.
- Redirecting you to another website.
- Website is working unusually slow.
- Homepage is showing some unusual messages?
- Google is slowing the site insecure.
- Can’t Assess the site after browsing with the full URLs.
- Hosting provider is warning about unusual account activity.
Well, if you have noticed the above symptoms, then welcome to the league of “My WordPress Website is Hacked!” This league welcomes around 30,000 sufferers every day, much to the delight of the hackers.
But don’t worry; we will take you down the lane of how websites are hacked; how to recognize or check these hacks; and most importantly, how to prevent these hacks from reoccurring?
How WordPress Websites are Hacked?
Like any other software or digital product, websites developed via WordPress may also face glitches, caused by various vulnerabilities. We list down some common vulnerabilities that lead to hacking.
This vulnerability allows hackers to bypass security encryption and access WordPress websites via unorthodox methods – wp-Admin, SFTP, FTP, etc. Once they get in, hackers get full access to hosting servers with cross-site contamination attacks, affecting numerous sites hosted on that server.
The Pharma Hack attack causes search engines to deliver ads based on pharmaceutical-related products when compromised websites surf for them. Deviant codes are inserted in vulnerable versions of WordPress websites and plugins. The damages are often dangerous variants of encrypted malicious injections hidden in databases and need a full-fledged clean-up process to improve the conditions.
Brute-force Login Attempts:
These attacks lead to automated scripts that exploit weak passwords and enter sites. Many WordPress websites are exposed to this type of attack, allowing hackers to compromise as many as 30,000 websites in a single day.
In this type of attack, hackers inject backdoors in WordPress installations using FTP, SFTP, wp-admin, and other protocols, which insert redirection codes into the websites. The encoded redirects, which may be placed in your WordPress core files, take web traffic to harmful, dangerous sites.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS):
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) occurs when a harmful code is inserted into a trusted website. The attacker sends malicious codes to the end-user without their knowledge. One can collect cookies or session data or even alter HTML codes with it. These vulnerabilities are, by some distance, most prevalent in WordPress plugins.
Denial of Service (DoS):
This severe vulnerability creates errors and bugs in the code to overload the memory of website operating systems. These create risks for outdated websites leading to botnet chains that attack large businesses. Even the most updated versions of WordPress software fail to defend against DoS fully.
How to Check for Hacks on WordPress Websites?
Like diseases, the earlier you diagnose and take precautions against hacks, the more secure and safe the future will be. We will use some important methods and tools to check website hacking situations.
1 | Checking With Malware Scanning Services:
Concealed inside codes, malware infections need regular scanning and checking. We suggest you use malware scanners or similar services to detect vulnerabilities. Some good malware scanners are available in the market with varying usages. They scan your website’s code for malware and inform you when detected.
You may opt for MalwareCare’s malware scanning and removal services. Your website shall remain strong and secure at smooth speeds with our careful, detailed processes. We provide malware scans, manual malware removal, and firewall/security configuration to make your site strong and impenetrable. Our experienced engineers expertly remove malware, eliminating additional waiting hours for a malware-free website.
2 | Scanning with File Change Detection Plugins:
Malware infection spreads to files uploaded to a website. Certain file change detection plugins compare the files on your website with the ones on the WordPress repository and alert the website owners if there are any changes to the files. This method is fairly simple but not very effective.
3 | Scanning Website Manually:
Manual scanning involves going through every single line of code on your website and identifying malware in the uncountable lines of codes. As tough as it may sound, there are ways in which the process could be made simpler. For instance, you may look at the recently modified files in File Manager and check for files that you did not modify. Unexpected modification may mean intrusion by malware. This method, however, is not very concrete.
4 | Assistance from Google:
Google suggests its users to avoid harmful links and content, and therefore, harmful content, malware, or malicious code, can flag a website and warn its users against visiting the website. If you face such a situation, there are high chances your website is facing vulnerability risks.
With a Google Search Console account, you can log in and go to the Security issues tab on the left side. The malware will appear on this search console tab if your website is hacked. In addition, the insights of this search console show how it interprets your website.
Google Ads is another way to check hacked websites. If you run ads therefrom a hacked website, your account will be suspended, notifying you about the matter.
5 | Checking Activity Logs:
Even though not a core part of WordPress, an activity log is a documented list of actions of your website. It strongly indicates suspicions of hacking incidents on your website. You can set up an activity log through WordPress management or security plugins.
Ensuring hacks through this method requires checking the following:
- Suddenly unauthorized admin privileges of some users may show malware presence.
- Unknown admin accounts are another indicator.
- Unexpected changes on your pages or posts for SEO ranking directing to illegal content may mean your website is hacked.
6 | Checking for Nulled/Fake Plugins:
Some disguised malware takes the form of plugins. As many website admins do not monitor the plugins on their website, they are unaware of this secret installation. These fake plugins can destroy the website silently, for a long time, until noticed. Checking with the WordPress repository helps. A mismatch indicates fake plugins.
How to Prevent WordPress Website Hacks?
Firstly, if your WordPress website is already hacked, do the following:
- Don’t panic; stay calm and chalk out the next steps.
- Start documenting the issues for future reference. Note down the actions taken pre-hack and post-hack.
- Put the hacked site in maintenance mode to avoid access.
- Reset your password. This will temporarily block any unwanted access.
- Contact the local hosting provider to learn about the impact of the hacking.
- Remove unwanted users from the website.
- Remove unwanted plugins, themes, and files.
- Check with Google Blacklists on your website status and other blacklisted ones.
- Reinstall the whole WordPress system from the core, like formatting.
- Clean the affected database and make a backup.
Now for future reference, ensure you do the following to avoid hacking:
- Ensure all passwords are secure. If needed, go for two-factor authentication.
- Always keep your site updated. When you update your site, make sure you do it properly, create a backup, and test updates on a staging server.
- Avoid installing insecure and nulled plugins or themes.
- Avoid Cheap Hosting. This allows insecure websites to create vulnerabilities in your server.
- Setup Firewall(s) for your website that helps resist unwanted traffic to your system.
- Ensure regular checking and scanning by security services like MalwareCare.
It is better to be sure about website conditions. Thus, ensuring proper maintenance and care of websites is important. We suggest you use services like MalwareCare to check and protect your website 24X7 and follow the above mentioned preventive measure.