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Creating a website in WordPress can be done in minutes. Majority of hosting providers allow you to make a WordPress site with just a few clicks – just pick a theme and you’re done. Once you start, it’s easy to tweak the site to your needs.
WordPress is one of the most popular CMS, and it has a lot of plugins that allow you to add various functionalities with very little effort. You want an e-commerce site? Just install a plugin. Image galleries, comment sections, widgets, and almost anything else you might want can be found as a WordPress plugin.
However, this flexibility and ease of use is also a bit problematic. As the complexity of your website grows with plugins, it gives hackers more opportunities to compromise your website or maliciously change its content.
Since using WordPress is so easy, users tend to focus on what content and features they put on their site and spend way less time making sure everything is secure.
Is it easy to hack a WordPress site?
The simple answer is yes, if you’re not very careful.
Complex websites have more folders where data is stored. When you create such folders, each folder has a property called permission. If you don’t pay attention, you could allow outside users to write to that folder, which means somebody could copy a piece of malicious code to your website.
Even if you pay attention to folder permissions, you could be using normal FTP protocol to transfer files onto your server. Using FTP instead of SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) is problematic, since your username and password are transferred unencrypted, which could allow a hacker to gain your credentials and basically make any changes to your site.
Using weak passwords is another problem. A lot of people enter something simple or they use the same password for several accounts. There have been a lot of data leaks from various sites on the internet, and hackers most likely have a database of all common passwords, trying those combinations first. This is why using the same password for everything is never a good idea.
Leaving default user account names, such as Admin, to access the WordPress control panel is also not advisable, and you should change the username to something else as soon as possible.
Some hosting providers can have weak security, which increases the risk of your website getting hacked. Taking the time to look for a reliable hosting is a good idea, as it will make your life easier in the long run, and you won’t end up with a hacked WordPress website.
WordPress plugins or an outdated WordPress installation is another way to get your website hacked. Most plugins and themes are updated once a security flaw has been found. Not updating those plugins and themes leaves your site vulnerable to attacks, as it allows the hacker to insert malicious code or malware by exploiting the security flaw.
The way your website is configured is stored by WordPress in a file called wp-config.php, which makes it a prime target for hackers. You definitely want to prevent any unauthorised access to it, as the file stores all the information needed to get complete access to your website.
How do I recognize a hacked WordPress website?
Having a hacked WordPress website is not always as obvious as you might think it is. Some of the symptoms of a hacked WordPress website are the following:
- redirects to another website
- suspicious links that could lead to malicious sites
- getting flagged by Google as an insecure site
- loss of access to WordPress admin panel
- getting a warning from your hosting service about suspicious activity
In many cases, hackers prefer to install malware to your site rather than just making the entire site unavailable. Installing malware will allow them to collect information about your users or redirect them to another site designed to infect computers and steal personal or payment information.
This is why getting your site hacked is a big problem, since it will lower your Google search rating and destroy the reputation of your brand.
How do I scan my website for malware?
There are ways to scan your website for malicious code, and you should implement a healthy practice of regularly checking for vulnerabilities. The simplest one is using a free service, such as Sucuri SiteCheck, which allows you to check a site by simply entering its website address. While the functionality of such services is somewhat limited, they will still point out some of the flaws your site has, allowing you to fix them.
If you want a more thorough way to detect malware, you should think about installing a WordPress security plugin. These plugins will actively monitor your website for security issues and notify you of any suspicious activity or changes made. Since the plugin is installed on the website itself, it has better access to files and folders stored, which allows for better detection than a scanning service can provide.
If you’re unsure which security plugin to get, Sucuri’s suite of products is the best one in the market and has all the features you’ll need to keep your website safe and secure. Sucuri has both free and premium options available.
How to fix a hacked WordPress website?
Once you have detected that your website is compromised, you should immediately fix the flaws and ensure your website doesn’t get hacked again. Here are 5 ways to fix a hacked WordPress site:
1. Detect the problem
The first step you should do is to check reports from a security plugin, if you have it installed. It will give you a clearer picture on which steps you need to take.
Check for any files that have been modified. There are commands you can use that will compare files or list the ones that have been recently modified. This should help to narrow down the problem. Also, check if any of the core WordPress files have been tampered with, as core files most often don’t need to be changed, not even by plugins.
You should also contact your hosting provider, as they will often help with removal of any malicious code.
2. Remove the malware
Once you are sure you have detected the problem, you should remove it. The best and easiest way to do it is to replace the infected files with the original ones, preferably from a previous backup. You could also replace files from an official repository in case some of the core WordPress files have been modified.
If you are running custom files, check them as well for any pieces of code that look suspicious. Links to suspicious sites or weird keywords that you know you didn’t use should all be removed.
Changes could have also been made to your databases. You will have to check these as well for any entries that look out of the ordinary and manually remove them. Backups are a lifesaver in these cases.
Security expert companies such as Sucuri also advise on removing any tools and plugins that you have recently installed, especially if they are directly related to infected files.
They also advise that you check your website database for any new accounts that have been created; if there are, delete them. You should also reset passwords for any accounts you consider were compromised. You could do that manually or by using a Sucuri Security WordPress plugin.
3. Remove warnings and blacklists
Once you have thoroughly cleaned your website and made sure everything is back in working order, you should file a form stating that your website is secure. Usually, your hosting service can help with that, but if you want to speed up the process, you can also manually request removal by filling out a form at a blacklisting authority such as Google Search Console, Yandex Webmaster, or SiteAdvisor by McAfee.
Some security companies, such as Sucuri, do this part on your behalf, which makes the whole process faster and easier.
4. Update WordPress and plugins
Preventing the hack from happening again can be done by updating WordPress and any plugins you might be using, since the updates usually fix any security flaws that were present.
Once you have updated everything, reset all user passwords that you use to access your website, including FTP, cPanel, database, and SSH. Generating a new secret key is a prudent move, and you should consider doing that for an additional layer of security.
5. Backup your website regularly
In case your website becomes compromised, having a regular backup that you can fall back on, or use to replace compromised files, can really save you a lot of time. If you don’t have regular backups, you risk losing all the recently added data due to malware infection, which means you will either lose content you worked hard to create or you will have to spend extra time restoring it.
Why is WordPress not secure?
Since we listed a lot of issues and ways your website could be compromised, you might think that using WordPress is not a really good idea. This is not true.
Since WordPress is so popular and used by so many websites, it is also a prime target for hackers to try and exploit. Luckily, any flaws are detected fast and regularly patched, which leaves it up to you to make sure everything is updated properly.
Unfortunately, regular updates alone won’t make your website completely secure – you should also follow other safe practices and the advice we have mentioned here.
While this can seem a bit overwhelming, it is crucial that you do everything right. Hackers will often try to make a backdoor to a hacked WordPress website, so that they can easily access it again. If you’re not careful, you could miss it and then you will have to deal with everything again.
In most cases, it’s best to leave security to professionals. Subscribing to a security specialist service such as Sucuri will make your life way easier, as they will make sure everything is working properly and can even take additional measures to increase the security of your site, such as hardening your WordPress installation or setting up a good firewall.