Is your WordPress website not working the way it should, or simply acting ‘funny’? After running the security scans, you may find that your worst nightmare has become reality. Is your WordPress website hacked?
Your website is indeed infiltrated. All of your hard work, compromised in minutes. What’s there to do now? Well, first of all, don’t freak out. Hacking is a common problem for webmasters these days, so you can be sure that there are fixes and countermeasures for even the most serious breaches.
This short article created by our team at wpDataTables, will walk you through everything you need to know about having your website hacked, how to solve it, and how to prevent it in the future. Keep in mind that you should always consider a pragmatic approach so that in the case of an unfixable hack, you won’t be truly crushed. Nothing beats making backups.
Recognizing The Problem Easily
Most people don’t recognize a cyber attack immediately after it takes place. Web developers might keep an eye on inconsistencies, but regular users(and even admins) often won’t be able to tell the difference between a normal site and a hacked one. It is best to learn what symptoms are associated with cyber attacks in the first place so that if you ask “is my website hacked?” you will know the answer and be able to take steps to remedy the situation quickly.
Hacking is an ambiguous term, considering how many types exist today; some of them not yet defined. Besides staying up to speed on WordPress security news, you should be aware of the general signs of hacking. Certain symptoms of any hacked website are called Indicators of Compromise, shortened as IoC. The most common indicators are:
- The website gets blacklisted immediately after the hacking takes place.
- The host disables the website to prevent further problems (suspension of service).
- The website is flagged as malware whenever someone tries to access it.
- Anti-virus scanners consider the website a threat.
- Weird behavior starts taking place – unauthorized new accounts, credential change requests, and more.
The Causes Behind Having Your Website Hacked
In most cases, hackers don’t try to take over a specific website. They have bots that automatically search for the weakest link in websites and attack those that seem to have poor overall security. Moving to a more specific situation, WordPress websites represent a popular target for hackers simply because the CMS is used by so many people. Around 30% of websites on the Internet are powered by WordPress, which is a huge number that translates into many millions of sites. A WordPress hacker will look for one of these open doors to take over a site:
Bad web hosting
WordPress sites need to be stored on a server. These servers are offered by web hosting companies. The hosting companies are responsible for how secure the website is on the server side. A weak web hosting company with poor security practices and a lack of intrusion monitoring means a higher chance of having your WordPress website hacked.
As you may already know, the username and password you choose are of great importance. Even though you might not have taken this seriously until now, it would be the right time to change your credentials to something stronger. Advancements in technology can be used for both good and bad, and a password you thought was strong enough five years ago may be easily cracked with the increased computational power available today.
Unprotected WordPress admin access
WordPress hacking gets even easier when admin access is unprotected. If you’ve used WordPress for any amount of time, you should know that the admin area can be used to set what types of actions can be performed on your site. If a WordPress hacker reaches your admin dashboard, they will be able to control most of your website’s functions. Add multiple layers of authentication to make admin access more difficult.
Another weak link that hackers can use to compromise your WordPress site is plugins. Faulty or shady plugins that are not updated regularly or that don’t come from trustful sources can be used as a hacking opportunity. Entering a website’s root through a plugin is a common practice and it is often called “backdoor access”. Make sure to use plugins from sources that you completely trust and that receive updates on a regular basis.
When your website is built using a CMS such as WordPress, there are certain bots that can automatically track weak links specifically for this platform and make use of them to infiltrate your website. These bots won’t harm your website as badly as a determined WordPress hacker would, but they could easily turn into a serious problem later on.
How Can You Solve The Situation?
Once you are positive that your website is hacked, it’s time to find relevant solutions for your issue. There’s no time to wait around and give hackers the chance to dig deeper into your site, so jump right to it without further ado.
Panicking and expressing your regrets of not ensuring the security of your site won’t solve what’s already happening. Address the security issues at hand and try to find reasonable solutions to them. Having your WordPress website hacked is indeed stressful, especially if it is an important website that you invested years into creating, and that’s exactly why you need to act fast and smart to fix the problem.
Find the cause
You won’t be able to find a solution if you don’t know what the problem is in the first place. Take a few minutes to understand what is happening and to gather some information about what you are experiencing. Look for what other people who had their website hacked say in relation to the issue and follow their advice. Gather relevant information about the event such as when it happened, what actions occurred, what changed, and so on.
Scan the website thoroughly
Use a special program to scan the website or ask your web hosting provider to do it. Each program is designed to find certain threats, so you might want to get the website scanned with multiple applications. This could be a great starting point for getting the site back on track.
Discuss with your hosting provider
As mentioned before, if you can’t deal with the situation on your own and you know that your hosting provider is safe, you can ask for help. Keep in mind that some companies don’t offer 24/7 support and your problem is urgent. This is why it is paramount to choose a reliable web host to begin with.
Backup the database
Backup the website’s database as soon as you get the chance. A hacked website might end up so messed up that you can’t save anything out of it. At the very least, it’s best to perform a backup in the incipient stage of the hacking process to prevent further damage (assuming you have no previous clean backups).
Clean up the mess
You may want to leave this task to a specialized person because it requires patience, attention to detail, and deep technical knowledge. All in filtrations must be manually identified, and if the slightest bit of malicious code is left behind, the site is still not safe to use. If you can’t afford to pay someone to clean your site right away, use a malware removal plugin at the very least. It’s possible that the hack has been encountered before and is able to be cleaned automatically. In addition, a good security plugin may be able to spot what a human might miss.
How Can You Prevent The Problem From Reappearing?
Use better hosting providers
This can’t be stressed enough. Having a good web host can make a ahuge difference in a situation like this. When your WordPress website is hacked, your hosting provider should be able to place the site under quarantine and create a backup of it in an instant. A reputable provider could end up solving the problem entirely as part of their service agreement. Analyze the market and choose a good provider. Don’t get fooled by low prices if the company doesn’t have a good reputation.
Backup your site regularly
Creating a backup when you have your website hacked is just a last-minute solution to a problem that has already affected it. In order to make sure that you will be able to get your website back no matter what happens, you need to backup the site on a regular basis. Set clear times when you want your website to be backed up and regularly check that your backups are being performed correctly.
Strengthen the login process
Two-step authentication and strong credentials are a must nowadays, in any situation. The login process should be as secure as possible, so don’t be lazy.
Keep WordPress updated
Run all the updates that WordPress releases. With these updates, you get access to new features, code improvements, and better safety features. Skipping this process is not useful in any way to your site. Choose plugins and themes that are updated regularly to avoid inconsistencies between them and the latest WordPress.
Reset passwords every now and then
Even though you are convinced that your passwords are strong, change them every now and then, just to make sure that everything is safe. It doesn’t take long and it can make a great difference if your website becomes a target. Even the strongest passwords can be unintentionally leaked.
Having your WordPress website hacked is always possible, no matter how carefully you guard it. You never know what hackers have in mind or when a data breach can occur. Follow all the pieces of advice mentioned before to keep your site safe at all times and if the unfortunate event still takes place, keep calm, act wisely, and react quickly to solve it before it gets worse.
If you enjoyed reading this article about WordPress website hacked, you should read these as well:
- How to Stop a DDoS Attack on Your WordPress Website?
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- WordPress Salts and Keys: Everything You Need to Know