How To Fix ‘The Site Ahead Contains Malware’ Error On A WordPress Site?
If you’re seeing the warning “Site Ahead Contains Malware” when you try to access your WordPress site, you need to act fast to fix it.
This message indicates that your website is infected with malware or has been hacked. Search engines like Google crawl your website regularly to index new or changed content. In the process, they can also detect if your site has malware infection.
If they find malware on your site, they immediately flag your site and display this warning to protect their users from accessing the site. Such a warning can have detrimental effects on your SEO and traffic. It could also lead to your web host suspending your account. Needless to say, this can severely impact your reputation and your business.
But don’t worry because we’ll guide you through the process of removing the malware from your site and then the ‘Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs’ warning.
TL;DR – To get rid of malware from your site, install the MalCare security plugin. It will automatically scan your site to find malware on your website. You can then proceed to cleaning your site with MalCare’s instant malware removal.
What Causes ‘The Site Ahead Contains Malware’ Error?
The error message occurs when Google has blacklisted your WordPress website. When a Google user is trying to access your website, Google shows them the ‘The Site Ahead Contains Malware’ warning on a red screen to discourage them from visiting the WordPress site.
You must be wondering why Google does that! The reason is simple.
Google wants to protect its users from harmful and deceptive websites.
A website is considered harmful or deceptive when it is running harmful programs to sell illegal drugs or conduct illegal gambling, show pornography among other things.
But if you are not doing any of these things, then why is Google blacklisting your site? The answer to this is that your website is probably hacked and hackers are conducting malicious activities on it without your knowledge. If you are not sure is your website hacked, you can check our article.
How Did Your WordPress Website Get Hacked? We’ll look at this in detail.
How Did Your WordPress Website Get Hacked?
As we mentioned earlier, if you see this warning on your site while trying to access it, you can be sure there’s malware present on your site:
How did malware infect your site? This could happen for a number of reasons:
- An infection could’ve come through the plugins and themes installed on your site. There are three ways in which a plugin or theme could affect your site:
- Many times, plugins and themes develop vulnerabilities in them that allow hackers to gain access to your site and installs malware like wp-tmp.php. Usually, developers fix the flaw promptly and release an updated version of the software. But unfortunately, many site owners tend to delay updates. If you haven’t updated your site, hackers can find and exploit the vulnerability.
- If you’ve installed pirated software, that could’ve caused the infection. Pirated software is free but it often contains malware. Hackers use such software to distribute their malware easily.
- You may have installed a plugin or theme from an untrusted source. If you bought or installed a plugin from a third-party site, it could be a source of infection.
- You may have uploaded a file from an infected computer. Often when a computer is infected, it can spread to the files present on the system.
- Hackers may have used brute-force attacks to guess your username and password to break into your WordPress site.
This list isn’t exhaustive but covers the main ways a hacker could infect your WordPress website with malware.
Why Do Search Engines Flag Your Site For Malware?
Search engines like Google prioritize their user’s satisfaction and safety. Therefore, if there’s any issue with your site that puts their users at risk, they will display the warning messages and prevent them from accessing your ‘unsafe site’.
This is because once there’s malware on your site, a hacker can use it to run malicious activities. These activities include stealing confidential data, displaying malicious content, and selling illegal products. All of these activities will affect your user in the following ways:
- They may be subject to viewing inappropriate content and ads.
- They could be redirected to malicious websites that trick them into downloading malware onto their computers.
- Hackers can also redirect them to phishing and malware sites with the intention of stealing their personal data.
So you can see that your hacked WordPress site puts your visitors at risk of being hacked too. In order to protect their users, they blacklist your site and display the warning message ‘This site ahead contains malware’.
Now that you know why this happened, we can proceed to fixing it. We’ll approach this in three steps:
- Scan and clean malware from your WordPress website
- Submit your site to Google for Review
- Prevent future malware infections on your WordPress site
Scan And Clean Your Malware-infected WordPress Site
There are two ways in which you can scan and clean your infected WordPress site –
- You can do it manually (the hard way)
- You can use a website security plugin (the easy way)
Manual Scan & Clean (Not Recommended)
The manual method is quite risky as it involves going into your website’s files and folders. A slight mistake can result in a broken site. It’s also a tedious process and has proven to be ineffective in many cases. Plus, usually, when hackers gain access to your site, they create backdoors that give them secret access to your site. This is the reason why many site owners find their site being hacked over and over again despite cleaning it. We don’t recommend this method.
Scan & Clean With a WordPress Security Plugin (Recommended)
Today, we’ll show you how to scan and clean your site using an efficient method that’s guaranteed to work – The MalCare Security Plugin.
- The WordPress malware scanner is free to use.
- It will locate all infected files by analyzing every inch of your site, including your database.
- It uses an automated process that analyses the behavior of code. So, even if the hacker has hidden or disguised the malicious code, MalCare will find it.
Next, you can then proceed to clean it instantly without any risk of breaking your site. Your site will be malware-free in under a few minutes.
Step 1: Scan Your WordPress Site
Install the MalCare plugin on your site. Access MalCare from the left-hand menu on your WordPress admin dashboard. Here, enter your website name and select Malware Scan.
You will be redirected to MalCare’s independent dashboard. The automated malware scanning process will begin which will take a few minutes.
Alternatively, in case you don’t have access to your WordPress admin dashboard, you can install MalCare from its website.
Once it identifies the malware, it displays the number of hacked files found:
Note: If your site is clean and you feel it has been incorrectly blacklisted, you can file a report to Google.
Step 2: Remove malware from your site
Cleaning your site with MalCare is as easy as one click. On the same page, click the auto-clean button. It’s really that simple. Once the cleaning process is complete, it will show you that your site is clean.
Note: WordPress Malware Removal is a complex process and is a premium feature in all plugins. If you’re a first-time MalCare user, you would need to upgrade to a premium plan that starts at $99 per year. This will give you access to unlimited cleanups and the plugin will secure your site for a whole year.
Take a screenshot of this page that indicates your site is clean, you’ll need it in the next step when you submit your site to Google for review.
Submit Your WordPress Website To Google For Review
To remove the warning ‘Site ahead contains malware’, you need to contact Google and submit your site for review. The following are Google’s safe browsing policies that you need to adhere to before you submit your site:
- You need to log in to Google Search Console and verify ownership of your website.
- Make sure your site is completely clean. If you followed the steps above, we’re confident your site is rid of malware and any backdoors.
- Fix the vulnerability that led to the hack. We recommend installing all pending updates on your site,
- If your WordPress hosting has suspended your site, you need to contact them and request them to remove the suspension. Your website needs to be back online before you submit it to Google.
Once you’re confident you’ve fulfilled these steps, you can proceed to contacting Google.
- Log in to Search Console and access Security Issues Report.
- Select Request a Review.
- Fill in the information required on what steps you took to rectify malware issues.
- Submit your request.
Google usually takes anywhere between a day or even several weeks to process a review request. Once they verify that your website is clean, you’ll get a response in Messages in Search Console or Webmaster tools account. The warning will be removed within 72 hours.
You can let out that sigh of relief now that the warning is removed and your site is back to normal. We also recommend clearing your browser’s cache and doing a google search for your site. Check that there are no warning messages on your WordPress site.
But before you take a much-deserved break, we recommend taking additional measures to secure your website.
Prevent ‘The Site Ahead Contains Malware’ Security Warning in Future
You need to take preventive measures to ensure that your website is never blacklisted by Google in the future. To do that, implementing the following WordPress security measures:
1. Install a Security Plugin
You need a website security plugin active that will protect your site from the likes of hackers and bots. If you’re using MalCare, it will scan your site every day to identify any suspicious activities or malware on your site. It also puts up a WordPress firewall that will defend your site against known dangerous traffic.
2. Update WordPress Regularly
Installing updates on your WordPress site is one of the most important WordPress security measures you can take. We advise you to update your WordPress core installation, plugins and themes regularly.
Many times, these updates carry security fixes to vulnerabilities and security flaws in the software. Once you update your website, your site will be secure. But if you choose to delay the update, hackers are aware of the vulnerability and actively seek it out to exploit it.
3. Use Only Trusted Themes & Plugins
Never use pirated plugins and themes. They often contain malware that results in your site being hacked. We recommend using plugins that are found in the WordPress repository or in trusted marketplaces like CodeCanyon or ThemeForest. Also scan your WordPress themes and plugins regularly to check for the vulnerabilities if any and fix it.
4. Delete Inactive Themes & Plugins
The more elements you have on your website, the more opportunities the hacker has to break into your site. And hackers often target plugins and themes to compromise WordPress sites. It’s best to keep only the theme and plugins for WordPress that you actually use. Delete the ones you don’t use.
5. Implement Website Hardening
WordPress has a number of functions to build and run a website. But not everyone requires all of them. So, WordPress recommends you delete or block these areas to minimize the chances of an attack. These measures are known as WordPress hardening. They include changing all passwords and secret keys regularly, disabling theme and plugin installation, setting up alerts for suspicious logins, limiting login attempts, installing an SSL certificate, among a list of other measures.
Implementing these measures manually takes time and requires technical knowledge. If you’ve installed MalCare, you can harden your site from its dashboard with just a few clicks.
Now it’s time for that much-deserved break!
If you follow this guide, we are confident that your site will be back online in no time. We’ve dealt with hacked WordPress websites for over a decade and have seen the pains website owners face when trying to fix it.
To avoid such ordeals in the future, we strongly recommend activating MalCare on your WordPress site. You can have peace of mind knowing your site is secure and closely monitored around the clock.
Protect Your WordPress Site With MalCare!
Melinda is a WordPress enthusiast, and enjoys sharing their experience with fellow enthusiasts. On the MalCare blog, Melinda distils the wisdom gained from building plugins to solve security issues that admins face.