A WordPress website is one of the most critical steps in growing your business as a business owner. And the reason is simple. WordPress and its associated features make it easy for you to inform, entertain, and educate your readers or followers.
But despite its many benefits, WordPress also has some security vulnerabilities. That’s why it’s essential to understand what malware is and how to remove malware from a WordPress website.
Malware represents malicious software, a general term for harmful programs and data that can compromise a system. It can harm computers, servers, networks, and websites. Every web admin should know how to remove malware from a WordPress website.
What are the reasons that a WordPress website gets hacked?
Four points justify what might have caused a WordPress website to be broken into.
1. Easy identification
WordPress is one of the most widely used content management systems globally. Moreover, it is straightforward to identify whether a website is built on this platform.
Would you like to know how? Go to any website in Google Chrome to access the developer tools and click on the three dots in the upper right corner. Then select “More tools” and then “Developer tools.”
If the website’s URL contains “wp-content,” it was created using WordPress, making it a potential “victim” if the proper precautions – which we will discuss later – are not taken.
2. Open source
WordPress is an open-source system that allows you to include functionalities that suit your needs, such as plugins and widgets.
However, the source code is available to everyone and allows hackers to exploit loopholes in your website.
3. Theme and plugins
Anyone who knows programming can create a plugin and make it available on WordPress. Some programs are designed to open the way for invasions.
4. Manual updates
WordPress and the themes and plugins it uses may not perform automatic updates, forcing the user to do them manually.
If your website receives the updates, it may become vulnerable.
Signs that your WordPress website has been hacked
The complicated thing about malware is that it’s not always apparent that your website has been infected. Some malware infections prefer to keep a low profile, so your website might not show any visible symptoms.
We’re listing the most effective methods you can use to determine if your website is infected with malware, from the most likely to the more subtle.
Google has flagged your website
If you see this red death screen when you visit your website, it means that Google has either detected malware on the website or has good reasons to believe so:
Google Search Console sends you warnings that your website has been hacked.
Google may also send you alerts and emails informing you that your website has been infected, provided that you have connected it to Google Search Console. These messages also contain information about the suspicious URLs and possible attack vectors.
Your hosting provider shuts down your website
Hosting providers often scan their servers for signs of malware and may block hacked websites to prevent a virus from spreading. There are several reasons your hosting provider may disable your website. These include malicious code found on your server, Google blocklisting your domain, spam and phishing emails sent from your server, etc.
Your customers alert you about malware
Often, it’s not the website owners but the users who first learn about malware issues. In this case, they may contact you via contact form or phone to signal that something is wrong. For example, if you run a WooCommerce store, your users might complain that their credit cards have been hacked.
You see spam search results for your website
Try Googling your brand name and see if you notice anything odd in the results. The warning signs can range from meta descriptions with the pharmaceutical or unrelated keywords, to Google indexing pages that shouldn’t exist, to strange characters in the search results.
Your website takes much longer to load
Poor website performance can also be a sign that your website is infected. If your pages suddenly take much longer to load, malware might be consuming your server’s resources.
You have noticed that your website’s files have been modified.
If you have access to your website’s files, take a close look at them to see if there have been any changes. If a file has been changed recently, but not by you, examine it closely for malicious code.
Identifying the malware on your WordPress website
You certainly don’t want your dream WordPress website to get hacked or have to deal with unwanted scenarios that compromise the security of your WordPress website. But unfortunately, every WordPress website owner faces security breaches, whether you run a large or small online business.
Therefore, now is an excellent time to check your WordPress website for malware and malicious code. Since many beginners do not install a WordPress security scanner right away, malware or malicious code can go undetected for a long time. Even if your WordPress website has not been hacked or affected, you should learn how to scan your WordPress website for malicious code. That will help you protect your website from future attacks.
Before we move on, let’s look at how to determine if your website has been hacked. These steps will help you detect malware and prepare you to solve possible critical issues in the future.
Use a URL scanner
A URL scanner is a valuable tool if you suspect that your website is contaminated with malware. VirusTotal, which utilizes over 60 antivirus scanners and URL/domain blocklisting services to determine if your URL has been flagged as malware-infested, is one of several sites that scan any URL for free. If your website has been flagged as malware-prone and you want to find out where the infection originated, you should look at the code first.
Create a backup of your WordPress website
It is imperative to create a backup file of your website before doing anything. Otherwise, you might lose all your important files and data. So, ensure you have a strong backup of your WordPress website.
You can do this in two ways, depending on whether you have access to your website or not. If you don’t have access to your website, here’s how to do it:
- Go to the file manager, right-click on the public_html directory, and select Compress.
- Then right-click the Archive and download it to save it on your computer.
- Then go to Site Manager > Connect. In the left box, navigate to the document root of your website.
- Right-click on the public_html directory in the correct box and select Archive.
- Once the Archive is created, right-click on it and select Download.
Alternatively, if you have access to your website, you can use any WordPress backup plugin. And then follow the instructions.
Pay attention to all changes
Regularly backing up your website is a best practice for all website owners. That has several benefits, including the ability to restore your website in the event of a cyberattack. Knowing your website’s clean, regular code will also help you spot signs of potential malware.
But what if something goes wrong and you don’t have a clean backup? You can check your database, files, and source code for signs of malware if you’re familiar enough with your website or content management system (CMS) code to check it for questionable content.
Check for database malware
To check your databases for malware, you need access to a database management tool offered by your web host. Once you have access to the tool, check for signs of malware using this list of syntax commonly used by cybercriminals.
Inspect your source code for malware
When looking for malware in your source code, you should look at two attributes: Script attributes and iframe attributes. Look for lines that start with “script src=>” and unknown URLs or filenames that follow them. Also look for unusual URLs in iframe src=” URL”>. If anything doesn’t look right or the URL doesn’t look right, it’s probably a sign of cybercrime.
Look for malware in your files
We recommend downloading your backup using an FTP client or file manager and then running a scan of the backup locally.
To diagnose and fix potential problems in your website’s files, use an antivirus system and a malware scanner like Kaspersky or Malwarebytes. Change your FTP password and re-upload your website’s files if the scan successfully identified and fixed all the problems.
How to remove malware from your WordPress website manually
You have several options to remove malware from your WordPress website. First, you need to connect to the website’s files via FTP or a file manager.
- Delete all the files and folders in your website’s directory, except for wp-config.php and wp-content.
- Remove any suspiciously long code strings. Next, open the wp-config.php file and compare its contents with the
- Wp-config-sample.php file from the WordPress GitHub repository or the same file from a new installation.
- Once you have checked the file, you should also change the password for your databases.
- Plugins – list all installed plugins and delete the subfolder. You can download and install them again at a later time.
- Themes – if you have a clean backup or don’t mind reinstalling, delete everything except your current theme and check it for suspicious code, or remove it altogether if you don’t have a clean backup saved.
- Check your uploads for anything you haven’t already done.
- After you delete the plugins, delete the index.php file.
Protect your WordPress site from malware in the future
Keep WordPress up to date
WordPress is an open-source program that is regularly updated and maintained. WordPress installs minor updates automatically by default. For significant updates, you will need to start the update manually.
WordPress also has a library of thousands of plugins and themes that you can use to customize your website. These plugins and styles are maintained by third-party developers who release updates regularly.
These WordPress updates are essential for the safety and stability of your WordPress website. Check if your WordPress core, plugins, and themes are up to date. Protect Your Website From Malware With Fixed Hacked Site. Partnering with Fix Hacked Site is a sage decision you can make if you want to retain and even boost your website’s reputation. It is true because Fix Hacked Site is a comprehensive suite of solutions and managed services available with an online scanner feature.
Reset user passwords
It would help if you changed the passwords for all access points on your WordPress website. That includes your database, FTP/SFTP, SSH, cPanel, and WordPress user accounts.
Keep the number of administrator accounts to an absolute minimum for all your systems. Apply the principle of least privilege. Only give people access for as long as they need it to complete the task.
Set up regular backups
Website backups, like computer backups, should be done regularly. There is no point in restoring your website from a several years old backup.
Backups should be performed daily or weekly at best. The frequency with which you update your website will determine whether you use daily or weekly updates. If you only publish a single blog post per week, which is the only update to your site, weekly backups are sufficient.
It isn’t easy to imagine how it feels to lose all your website data until you experience it yourself. In any case, it is not a pleasant experience. More importantly, it can be avoided entirely if you use the right online backup software.
Use only official platforms
Remember that WordPress is an open-source platform. Therefore, you ought not to be surprised if you encounter unsecured plugins and themes. Since they are free, they are beautiful for new website owners.
On the other hand, should not use the plugins included in public collections. Instead, use plugins from the WP Plugin Directory, which contains free and paid plugins. You can also buy a license from a reputable developer who will keep you updated with security patches and updates.
Invest in a reliable WordPress hosting service
Before installing WordPress on the server, should install server-level firewalls and intrusion detection systems to ensure that the server is well protected even during WordPress installation and website development. All software installed on the machine to protect WordPress content should be compatible with the latest database management systems to ensure optimal performance.
Scan your website
You should check your website for malware if you notice a sudden drop in traffic, strange performance issues, or suspicious behavior.
Even if everything seems okay, it is advisable to run a malware scan regularly.
Some hacks work invisibly behind the scenes, so web admins may not even notice something is wrong. It is the case until the damage is done, such as when Google removes your website from search results due to security issues or blocklists it, resulting in a significant loss of revenue and reputation.
That’s why it’s essential to check your website for malware regularly.
Enabling the WordPress firewall
Setting up a web application firewall is another essential WordPress security measure (WAF). Your WAF is the first line of defense against malicious attacks, stopping them before they reach your website.
WordPress firewall plugins protect your website from hacking, brute force attacks, and DDoS attacks.
Make sure you have an SSL certificate installed
It is a basic but essential security measure for most websites. It protects data by encrypting the data you and your users use and transmit through a website. For example, when someone fills out a contact form or logs into a website, the data transmitted remains encrypted. When SSL is installed on a website, it can ensure secure login on the go. While some hosters and hosting plans provide this for free, others require you to use a separate SSL plugin.
A proactive approach to your website’s security is your best defense in the face of developing cybercrime and malware. Whether you manually scan for malware or use an automated website scanner, you can make your website more secure by knowing the different ways to scan for malware.