If your website has been hacked by cybercriminals it’s essential to take immediate action to recover the website as quickly as possible to prevent it from happening again. This blog post will provide you with a guide about how to fix a hacked WordPress website to help you to get your site and business back online.
How Do WordPress Websites Get Hacked
WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems (CMS) in the world, powering millions of sites globally. However, its popularity also makes it a prime target for cybercriminals who are looking to exploit its vulnerabilities and gain access to your website in order to use it for commercial or criminal purposes.
Websites that use outdated versions of the software are particularly vulnerable to attacks. This is because outdated versions of the software can have known security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. It’s important to keep your website, themes, and plugins up-to-date to minimize the security risk.
Outdated Themes And Plugins
A large number of sites get compromised because the website is running an outdated version of a theme or plugin which has a know security vulnerability that allows the attacker to hack your website by infecting it with malware, Trojans, or rootkits in order to take control of the site.
Web Hosting Security
Not all hosting services offer the same level of security to protect your website from cyber-attacks. Your hosting service should include the following as a minimum DDOS protection, Mod Security, WAF CageFS if they don’t offer this level of security then this may explain why your site was compromised by the hacker.
The most common way that websites get compromised is through weak passwords. If you use a password that is easy to guess, such as “password” or “123456”, then your site is vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Hackers use automated scripts to guess usernames and passwords until they find one that works. To protect yourself, you should use strong passwords that are at least 12 characters long and include a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. You should also use a different password for each of your accounts.
Brute Force Attacks
A brute force attack is when the attacker tries to gain access to your website by guessing your username and password. This is particularly effective if you have a weak password or if you use the default “admin” username. We recommend you install the best brute force plugin that can prevent attacks like this on your site.
Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks
Cross scripting or XSS attacks occur when malicious code is injected into your website through a form, comment, or another input field. This code can then be executed on your site, allowing the hacker to take control of your site or steal information from your visitors. We recommend you install a firewall security plugin that can prevent attacks like this.
Signs Your WordPress Website is Hacked
1: Changes to the Website Content
The first sign of a hacked WordPress site is changes to the content on your website. If you notice changes to the text, images, or other media on your site that you did not make, it may be a sign of a security breach. For example, the hacker may add spammy links to your site, or they may replace your content with links to their own website. If you notice any unusual changes to your site content, it is essential to investigate further ASAP.
2: Suspicious User Accounts
Another sign is you find suspicious user accounts that you did not create under your site. If you notice new user accounts that you did not create, it may be a sign that the cybercriminal has gained access to your website without your permission. One of the reasons why they create new user accounts is to gain administrative access to your site, allowing them to make changes to the site or infected it with malware. It is essential to regularly review your user accounts and delete any suspicious accounts.
3: Unusual Website Traffic
If you notice an unusual increase in website traffic, it may be a sign that your website has been compromised and used to distribute malware or to launch DDoS attacks on other websites. This can cause your website to become slow or unresponsive. It is essential to monitor your website traffic regularly and investigate any unusual spikes in traffic.
4: Changes to the Website’s Appearance
If you notice changes to the appearance of your website, such as changes to the layout or design, it may be a sign of a security issue.. The hackers may modify your website’s appearance to display their own content or to redirect visitors to other websites. If you notice any changes to your website’s appearance, it is essential to investigate further to determine if your website has been infected with malware and exploited by the cybercriminals
5: Error Messages
If you receive error messages when trying to access your website or specific pages on your website the Hackers may modify your website’s code to redirect visitors to other websites or to display error messages. If you receive error messages when trying to access your website, it is essential to investigate further to determine if your website has been compromised.
5: Website Crashes
If your website crashes, becomes unresponsive or is showing a 500 internal error, it may be a sign that your site has been compromised by the attacker who is using your site to launch DDoS attacks on other websites, causing your website to become slow or unresponsive. If your website crashes frequently, it is essential to investigate further.
7: Malware Warnings
If your website displays malware warnings when accessed by visitors it is most likely that your site has been infected with malware which is been distributed to visitors, causing their devices to become infected with a virus. It is essential to investigate this issue further and to remove the malware from your site as soon as possible before it does any further damage to your business or your visitors.
8: Suspicious Code
If you notice suspicious code on your website, it may be a sign of hacking. The attackers may modify your website’s code to perform malicious activities, such as stealing user data or launching DDoS attacks. If you notice any suspicious code on your website, it is essential to investigate further.
How Do I Fix My Hacked WordPress Website
The following steps will help you to recover a hacked WordPress site if you need any help or support take a look at the security services we offer where we will take care of everything for you to get your business and website back online.
Step 1: Identify The Hack
To clean and repair a hacked WordPress site you need to identify how the cybercriminal got access to the website.
We recommend you complete a full scan of your website and hosting space to ensure all files and the MYSQL database is scanned to help you to identify the hack.
You can use one of the following tools to identify, locate and remove the malware or malicious files from your site and hosting space.
- Free online malware scanner
- Wordfence, Sucuri security malware removal plugin
- Built-in Malware scanner service which you can access via your hosting control panel
We would also advise you to review the server logs to understand how the hacker exploited your website which will help you to protect it and put the right security in place moving forward.
Step 2: Take The Website Offline
Once you have identified the hack, it’s essential to take your website offline to prevent further damage to your site, company reputation, and website visitors. This can be done by putting your site in maintenance mode, which will display a message to visitors that the site is down for maintenance. You can also use the .htaccess file to limit access to your site by IP address so only you can visit, and access the site in order to clean it up and secure it.
Step 3: Change All Passwords
It’s essential to change all passwords associated with your site and hosting space, including your login, hosting account, and FTP passwords. Use strong passwords that are difficult to guess and enable two-factor authentication if possible.
Step 4: Restore Your Website From A Backup
If you have a backup of your site including all the files and SQL database which you are confident that it has not been compromised we recommend restoring the website from the backup first which will save you a lot of time and stress.
Step 5: Remove The Malware, Malicious Code From All Files And MYSQL Database
Once you have taken your site offline and changed your passwords, you can begin the malware removal process to remove all the malicious code from all the files and SQL databases. It is important to understand that the hacker will not just hack your website. The cybercriminal may have left a backdoor or injected code into other files within your web hosting space or they may have also created a cron job
You can remove the malware or malicious code by using one of the following methods
- Security Plugin to scan, identify and remove the malware from your website.
- The hosting provider’s built-in malware removal scanner will scan and identify all files under your hosting space not just your site. You may also be required to manually remove each infected file via FTP, and Hosting file manager.
- Hire a security expert who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to fix a hacked WordPress website for you.
Step 6: Update WordPress, Plugins, and Themes
One of the most common ways that hackers gain access to websites is through outdated software. It’s essential to update your WordPress core, themes, and plugins to their latest versions as soon as possible. This will patch any vulnerabilities and make it more difficult for hackers to exploit your site.
Step 7: Scan Your Hosting Space
After you have removed the malicious code or Malware from your hosting space and website we recommend you complete another scan of all the files and SQL database under your hosting space to ensure it is 100% malware free.
Step 8: Harden Website Security
Once you have removed the hack and updated your website, it’s crucial to harden your site security to prevent future attacks. This can be done by implementing the following security measures
- Review the security of your server or speak to your hosting provider to ensure they have the right security measures in place to protect your site from future hacks.
- Reset all hosting control panel, FTP, and website account logins using secure and strong passwords
- Enable two-factor authentication via your hosting control panel and website login
- Install a security plugin
Step 9: Backup Your Website
If you don’t want to be put through this stress again we recommend that you regularly back up your website which will allow you to quickly recover from any future hacks or site, or server issues. This can be done by using a backup plugin or you can also back up your website using your hosting provider’s services. It’s recommended to back up your website at least once a week or more frequently if you update your site frequently
Recovering a hacked WordPress website can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but it’s crucial to take immediate action to prevent further damage. By following the steps outlined above, you can identify the hack, remove malware, malicious code, and files, update your site, and harden your website security to prevent future attacks. Remember to back up your site regularly, so you always have a clean copy to restore if necessary.