Worried that your WordPress site may have been hacked? Well… that’s a fear that gives many a website owner sleepless nights!
Let’s be realistic here… perfection is a myth! There’s no platform out there that can promise to be completely hack-proof. It’s always better to be prepared for the worst, and take sufficient care to back up and update your website as regularly as possible! But, how would you know if your WordPress site has been hacked in the first place? Surely, a hacker won’t announce that he/she has hacked your website and that you now need to focus on damage control!
There’s no need to fret though… We’ve compiled a list of telltale signs that you can watch out for to know if your site was hacked.
1. Spot the signs of a hacked site
Not all hacks stem from the same goal so the signs of a compromise in your site will depend on what the hacker was trying to do. If you are breaking into a sweat because your site is not doing what it’s supposed to, take a deep breath. Here are ways to spot whether your site has been compromised and take the right steps to recover from it.
a. Homepage looks different
Some hackers like to play dirty and often troll on a website to gain attention. They can change your website to display something funny or leave a “Hacked By” notice. They can also place spammy links on the homepage. For that very reason, it’s wise to check your home page regularly!
b. Website slows down
Your site tends to be sluggish when it has an infection and may experience slowdowns. This is because malicious scripts could be using your web server resources.
c. Security plugin or search engines detect malware
If you are using a WordPress security plugin such as MalCare for your site, it will send you a warning the moment there is some compromise. Google Chrome and other browsers also issue warnings if they detect phishing, malware or other risks when you access the website. Look out for such warnings and keep a plan of action ready at your disposal.
d. Site contains unknown ads & pop-ups
The goal of this type of attack is to drive away traffic from your site to the hacker’s site. If you see pop-up or ads in your website redirecting to malicious sites, your site has probably been hacked.
e. Google marks the website as insecure
Google will sometimes mark websites as insecure in their search results or remove them from the results page altogether. In such cases, you may get an alert in the Google Search Console under ‘Security Issues’. Another way to check if Google has blacklisted your site is by tracking your website traffic. If there’s a significant drop, chances are high that your website’s suffered a ‘hack attack’.
f. Unable to log in to admin panel
One of the most vulnerable breaches is someone getting their hands on your user credentials or obtaining it via brute force. Once the hackers get access to your user credentials, they can hijack your admin account and make it impossible for you to access your own site to make changes.
At times, new admin users can also be created without notice. With admin privileges, the hacker is all geared to make some nasty changes to your site.
g. Unexpected file structure changes
If the files on your website have been changed, shifted or removed, then it is a definite sign of the site’s security compromise. That is why it is essential to have alerts set-up in case of changes in the files of the website.
h. Security scan detects problems
Often, infections are hidden and can’t be detected easily… Having an automatic malware scanner can be a great way to make note of these hidden threats!
i. Hosting provider suspends the site
In case your web host received reports from users and automated website security tools that your site is hacked, they might immediately take down your site in order to contain the damage. Following that, you would be notified that your site is offline.
j. A sharp decline in site traffic
Hacked sites frequently experience a dramatic decline in traffic. The reason why it happens is that the hacker might have linked your site to a campaign that hosts malware or redirects traffic to another malicious site. Hackers like to do this to avoid spam detection since your site is a clean domain.
Phew… that’s quite a long list, ain’t it? Here’s the above checklist in a nutshell for you to refer to while checking your website for signs of being hacked!
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a. Keep cool
The situation is not outside of your control! Think with a steady mind so that you are well-equipped to tackle the problem. Don’t take impulsive actions and cause even more damage to your website. Before jumping into action, give yourself a chance to come up with an effective plan to deal with things.
b. Restore from backup
If you have not taken a backup already, (which you should have) salvage what you can now by taking a backup. Your site contains more than just the corrupted system files — important files, images, and media that you might need to rebuild the site later.
If you regularly take backups or have automatic backup systems in place (which you should for the protection of your data), recovering from a website hack is very easy. A few clicks can get you out of trouble and on your feet as soon as possible.
Restore to the right version of your backup so that you have access to all the changes you might have made in your site recently. Of course, restoring your site is simply the first step of damage control! But get your website running again, by scanning your site to identify threats and clean them. Only then would your website be safe!
c. Scan the website
Before you take any further steps, you must know the origin of the hack! It could have started from your computer or even an outdated plugin/theme. If at all a hacker has compromised your system, chances are high that they can access all your information via a keylogger or other tools.
So, run a full scan on your website and make sure your operating system is also uncorrupted. By doing a full scan on your website and your local system, you can address the problem at its root and reduce the risk of being reinfected with malware again after cleaning up the mess.
d. Clean the website
Once you’ve scanned the website, you can now proceed to clean it. You can manually clear all the hacked website and database files, secure the different user accounts, and remove hidden backdoors. And an alternative to clearing your website manually would be to install a plugin that helps remove complex malware from the website!
e. Remove malware warnings
Contact your hosting company to get them to take your site online again. You may have to provide details about how you managed to clear the malware. Additionally, you might have to fill a review request form for any other blacklisting authority, such as the Google Search Console.
The best way to protect your WordPress websites from hackers, and other potential risks, is to ensure you have all the security measures in place! One way is to have a Web Application Firewall that monitors your site keeps malicious traffic out! Some other website hardening practices you could incorporate are:
- Refrain from using nulled/cracked themes. They are hacked versions of premium themes and might contain hidden malicious codes.
- Install a dependable security plugin that helps in scanning your website. And upon finding malware, it helps remove website malware.
- Once your site is live, disable the code editor function.
- Use strong passwords.
- Install an SSL certificate, especially if your website processes sensitive information.
- Change your WP-login URL, or add a security question to the registration and login page. Alternatively, you can also add a 2-factor authentication plugin to prevent hackers from gaining entry into your website.
- Limit the number of login attempts.
- Hide your wp-config.php and .htaccess files.
- Make sure you update your website regularly.
You may not always be able to protect your website from hackers… but, you sure can take the necessary steps to contain the damage done by them! If you are not sure how to use a malware remover you can always use a professional website malware removal service.
We hope you found this article useful. If you have any question or any suggestion, we’ll be happy to hear from you. Reach out to us using our contact page.