How To Fix A Hacked WordPress Website

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 hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities and gain access to websites.

If your WordPress website has been hacked, it’s essential to take immediate action to fix the issue and prevent it from happening again.  In this blog post, we will discuss how to fix a hacked WordPress website.

How Do WordPress Websites Get Hacked

The following are some of the common ways a website can get compromised by hackers.

Outdated WordPress Software

WordPress sites that use outdated software are particularly vulnerable to hacking. This is because outdated software can have known security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit. It’s important to keep your WordPress software, themes, and plugins up-to-date to minimize the risk of being hacked.

Outdated Themes And Plugins

A large number of sites get hacked because the website is running an outdated version of a theme or plugin which has a know security vulnerability that allows the hacker to exploit the vulnerability to get access to your site.

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.

Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are another common way that WordPress sites get hacked. Passwords that are easy to guess or that are used across multiple websites can make it easier for hackers to gain access to your site. It’s recommended that you create a strong password that can help stop cybercriminals from getting access to your site

Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is when a hacker 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 a brute force plugin that can prevent attacks like this.

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks

XSS attacks occur when a hacker injects malicious code 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.

10 Signs That Your Website Could Be Hacked

  1. unexpected or unfamiliar changes on your website:  If you notice new files, directories, or pages on your site that you did not add yourself, this could be a sign that your website has been hacked.
  2. Suspicious user accounts: If you see new user accounts on your WordPress site that you didn’t create, or if the privileges of your existing user accounts have been modified without your permission, this could be a sign of a hack.
  3. Malicious redirects: If you are being redirected to unfamiliar pages when you click on links on your site, or if visitors are reporting that they are being redirected from your site to other malicious sites, this is another red flag.
  4. Spam links or content: If you notice spammy links or content appearing on your site, such as pharmaceutical or gambling ads, your site may have been hacked.
  5. Slow website speed: If your site is taking longer than usual to load, this could be a sign of a hack, as attackers often add additional scripts or code that slow down your site’s performance.
  6. Google warning: If Google has flagged your site as potentially harmful or blacklisted it due to malicious activity, this is a strong indication that your site has been hacked.
  7. Phishing attacks: If your website is being used to launch phishing attacks, which aim to steal sensitive information from users, this is a clear sign of a hack.
  8. Unexpected pop-ups or ads: If your site is displaying unexpected pop-ups or ads, this is often a sign of a hack, as attackers may be injecting ads to earn revenue or spreading malware.
  9. Unauthorized access to files or databases: If you notice that files or databases on your site have been accessed or modified without your permission, this is a sign that your site may have been hacked.
  10. Unusual network activity: If you notice unusual network activity, such as unexpected traffic spikes or outgoing connections to unfamiliar IP addresses, this could be a sign of a hack.

How Do I Fix My Hacked WordPress Website

The following will provide you with a brief guide on how you can fix a hacked website yourself.

It’s important to understand that your website should be 100% clean of any malware, malicious code, or backdoors if it’s not then your site will get hacked again.

Step 1: Identify The Hack

The first step to fixing a hacked WordPress site is 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-infected, malicious files from your site and hosting space.

  1. Free online malware scanner
  2.  Wordfence, Sucuri security plugin
  3. 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 WordPress 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 to remove the malware or malicious code from all the files and SQL databases. It is important to understand that the hacker will not just hack your WordPress 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

  1. WordPress Security Plugin to scan, identify and remove the malware
  2. The hosting provider’s built-in malware scanner will scan and identify all files under your hosting space not just your WordPress site. You may also be required to manually remove each infected file via FTP, and Hosting file manager.
  3. Hire a security expert who has the skills, knowledge, and experience to fix your hacked 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 WordPress 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

  1. 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.
  2. Reset all hosting control panel, FTP, and WordPress Account logins using secure and strong passwords
  3. Enable two-factor authentication via your hosting control panel and WordPress login
  4. Install a WordPress 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 using backup plugins or your hosting provider’s backup services. It’s recommended to back up your website at least once a week or more frequently if you update your site frequently

Fixing 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 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.