Although the name “SQL injection” might not ring a bell for many WordPress users, it’s actually a fairly common and dangerous attack. SQL injection is one of the most devastating vulnerabilities to impact a website. It can lead to exposure of sensitive information, Google blacklisting, web hosts suspension among other things.
But don’t worry, SQL injection attacks are preventable. In this article, we’ll show you all the steps you can take to secure your WordPress website from an injection attack like this.
If you have been attacked by SQL Injections and are looking to just clean the injection and fix the site, you can install our SQL Injection Malware Removal Plugin (MalCare). It will instantly clean your site.
What Is SQL Injection Attack?
A WordPress SQL injection attack is a kind of hack attempt where malicious codes are injected into the MySQL database. Every WordPress website has a MySQL database. It’s where the content of your site is stored.
Hackers inject malicious codes into your database with hopes of stealing critical data. Sometimes, they exploit the database to carry out malicious activities like redirecting visitors, etc.
How SQL Injection Attacks Works?
Hacks occur when hackers find a vulnerability through which they enter your website. In SQL injection attacks, hackers utilize vulnerabilities in forms to gain access to the database. They can use anything from contact forms to signup forms, from login forms or even the search bar.
Based on the purpose of the attacks, there are two types of SQL injection attacks.
In-band SQL injection attacks – It’s where hackers try and steal information from the database like user credentials.
Blind SQL injection attacks – In this type of attack, the hacker prefers to exploit your website to carry out malicious activities like sending spam emails, redirecting visitors to different websites.WordPress takes measures to protect WordPress websites from SQL attacks. But it can't protect you from vulnerable themes and plugins. Click To Tweet
How Does WordPress Handle SQL Attacks?
WordPress does have measures in place to protect websites from SQL attacks. This mainly comprises two steps:
Data validation: Validation ensures that the data being received is in a specific format. For instance, data entered in the phone number field has to be numerical.
Data sanitization: Sanitization ensures that you are not entering more than what is required. For instance, in the phone number field, WordPress will prevent you from entering over say 10 digits.
Despite being taking measures, a website can easily be hacked. That’s because WordPress never works in isolation. A WordPress website consists of plugins and themes. WordPress cannot account for vulnerable plugins and themes. It’s up to the developers to follow good security practices and to build software that can’t be easily exploited. Unfortunately in this world of cut-throat online businesses, developers prefer building WordPress plugins and themes faster. They are eager to launch new products and generate revenue. But they are doing it at the risk of a security compromise.
In the next section, we’ll look at the impact of a hack on a WordPress website.
Impact of a SQL Injection Attack
The consequences of SQL injection vulnerabilities are severe. These are just some of the basic consequences you’d have to face once your site is hacked –
1. The exploitation of Sensitive Data
Sensitive information stored in databases like user credentials, medical records, transaction records can be stolen. Hackers can use credentials to access your website whenever they want. Medical records can be sold to third party websites and exploited further.
2. Loss of Data
A typical hacker would want to go unnoticed for as long as he can. But in the past, we’ve seen that sometimes while making modifications to the database, the hacker ends up deleting a critical piece of information. Removal of data is a significant loss which you may never recover unless you were taking regular WordPress backups.
3. Declining Performance
WordPress hosting providers offer resources which you use to run your website. Your website resources are limited and you need them to ensure your site is run smoothly. Even if you are using the highest hosting plan, there is some kind of limitation associated.
When your website gets hacked, your resources are used to execute many of the malicious activities that hackers tend to carry out like redirecting visitors to a different site, sending spam emails, etc. It has an impact on your site performance. That’s because your web server is taking on the burden of executing malicious activities on top of performing regular processes. Once your site becomes slow, it becomes unpopular. You are likely to experience a decline in traffic too.
4. Falling SEO Rankings
Google puts a considerable emphasis on website speed. The search engine detests slow WordPress websites and ranks them low. Given that, ranking in search engines takes a lot of effort and time, getting those rankings back up is going to be an uphill climb.
5. Tainted Reputation
We mentioned earlier how hacked WordPress sites could be used to redirect visitors to a different website. Often the second website is found pulling off malicious activities riding on your reputation. It could be selling illegal drugs or duping people into sharing their credit card details. Whatever the case, it’s neck on the line. It taints your reputation stains of which can be hard to clean.
6. Being Blacklisted and Suspended
It’s not uncommon for hacked websites to be blacklisted by Google or suspended by your hosting provider.
Google wants to ensure a safe browsing experience for its users. Hacked websites are known to exploit visitors hence the search engine giant blacklists hacked website. It prevents users from accessing the site.
In shared hosting spaces, many websites are hosted on the same server. When one site gets hacked, it’s very likely that it’ll drain resources from other websites on the same server. That’s why host providers may end up suspending a hacked website.
In both cases, visitors to your website can’t access the site’s content. Needless to say, this will have a very negative impact on your business, especially if you rely on your website for bread and butter.
The impact that SQL injection attack has on your website is frightening. But don’t worry, if your site has been hacked it can be cleaned. That’s what we are going to show you in the next section.
Scan & Clean WordPress SQL Injection
There are two ways to clean SQL injection, you can do it manually or use a plugin. Manual cleaning will take a considerable amount of time to execute. Moreover, there is a good chance that you’ll miss hidden SQL injection (can be also referred to as malware). Besides, making a mistake while doing manual clean up could end up breaking your site. It’s much safer and faster if you use a plugin to remove SQL injection.
But there’s a catch. Choosing a good security plugin is not easy.
Not all security plugins can find malware and remove it completely.
- SQL injection can be difficult to detect. It could be hidden anywhere on the database. Some scanners only skim through the database looking for known malicious codes. Only a powerful vulnerability scanner can go deep looking for new, and even hidden malware (take for instance the WP-VCD malware).
- A powerful deep scanner like MalCare goes above and beyond looking for new and hidden malware. The scanner checks the pattern and behavior of codes to identify if it’s malicious or not. That’s how it finds new kinds of malware that other plugins often fail to detect. As for finding hidden malware, the plugin looks into places where other security plugins don’t look. That’s how it detects out new and hidden malware.
- It’s worth noting that with other security plugins, you’d have to wait for a security personnel to access your website and clean it. This could take a long time, between 24 hours to a few days. Within that period, things can snowball and you could face even more trouble. For instance, your site could be blacklisted or suspended. By enabling you to clean your website instantly, MalCare help you avoid such fates.
Scan & Clean WordPress SQL Injection With MalCare
Step 1: To use MalCare’s malware scanner, you’ll need to install and activate the plugin. It’ll start scanning your website immediately. The plugin takes a while to run its first scan but once the process is complete, it’ll show you the hacked WordPress files it has found.
Step 2: Now you’ll clean your website with MalCare’s automatic malware removal. All you need to do is select the Auto-Clean button and let the cleaning process begins.
Depending on how severe the website hack is, it could take a while for the plugin to clean your site. But once the SQL injection codes are removed, you’d want to take measures to prevent this from happening again.
How To Prevent SQL Injection Attacks?
In 2017, WordPress released an update that fixed an SQL vulnerability. While you can rely on WordPress for taking appropriate measures to protect you from SQL attacks, it’s not enough. You need to run a website security audit and then have a few security measures in place to help prevent such attacks in the future:
1. Stop Using Pirated Software
Just like any other software, WordPress theme and plugins can be pirated. It’s tempting to use pirated software but did you know that pirated themes and plugins can offer hackers an entry point to your website. It’s common for pirated software to have hidden backdoors that enable hackers to gain access to the website. Immediately remove any pirated software that you are using.
The WordPress repository is the most trusted source for plugins and themes. Beyond that, you can buy website software from popular market places like Mojo Marketplace, Theme Forest, and Code Canyon. These market places offer you forums where you post queries about the plugin or theme you’ve purchased. And the queries are generally resolved by the developers of the software.
2. Keep Your Website Updated
Frequently updating your WordPress site can be annoying. But since the price of using outdated software is so high, it’s best to get used to keeping WordPress updated all the time.
WordPress updates not only help add new features and improve performance, but it also fixes security issues. When you skip an update, vulnerabilities are left unpatched and it can be easily exploited to launch an SQL attack on your website.
While it may not be convenient to update your site every day, you can set aside an hour every week for the same. And if making time is impossible, you can delegate the work to a WordPress maintenance service.
3. Change the Default Database Prefix
If you’ve ever seen a WordPress database, you must have noticed tables like wp_link, wp_options, (see image below), etc. The tables are where your content is stored.
The default prefix of a WordPress is ‘wp_.’ Changing it will make it much harder for hackers to use your database. They’d find it difficult to navigate the database especially since they deploy bots to automatically carry out all activities.
To change database prefix, login to your hosting provider and navigate to the cPanel. From there, select My SQL Databases and on the next page, edit your database name.
Remember to take a backup before making any modifications. Editing the database is dangerous and things may not go as planned. If something goes wrong, you can restore the backup and get your site up and running in no time.
4. Use a Firewall
Having a firewall guarding your site is a lot like adding reinforcements to a fort. Deploying a firewall is one of the oldest ways of hardening a system against hack attempts.
Since SQL injection attacks occur through forms, firewalls keep a close watch on the inputs of a form. It investigates suspicious inputs and if the users input turns out to be a SQL injection, the firewall blocks it.
5. Scan Your Website Daily
No matter how many precautions you take, hackers will try to outsmart you. That’s why despite having a firewall in place, it’s possible that hackers are one day successful in planting malware in your database. When that happens, you’ll be the first person to know if you have a scanner scanning your site daily.
But finding a good scanner is never easy. We compared the 5 most popular scanners so that you can decide for yourself which scanner you’d want to use.
6. Track Database Usage
We mentioned earlier that the database is where the content of your site is stored. Needless to say, you should give access to your database to someone you trust. In cases where you just can’t avoid giving someone access but you are not sure if you can trust them, set a tracker that will record every modification made on the database. Try out WP Audit Log. The plugin keeps a record of all modifications made on the database along with information on who is making the modifications. That way, if you come across any suspicious behavior, you’d know who can account for it.
SQL injection attacks are incredibly common. But detecting and cleaning it is hard. Which is why we wrote this guide to help you repair your hacked website.
But even after you’ve cleaned your site, there’s always a risk of re-hack. Taking preventative measures will stop that from happening.
Whether you want to scan and clean your site or take measures to prevent hack attempts, it’s best done by a security plugin.