As an open source platform, WordPress is naturally prone to hackers and malware attacks. Regardless of the security measures and protection that you implement, there’s a big chance that your WordPress website can still be hacked.

The good news is that you can take some significant steps to remove malware in your WordPress website, as well as to prevent any potential malware intrusion in the future.

Signs of Malware in your WordPress Website

First of all, you need to check if your website has really been hacked, or if it’s just some random connection error. It’s possible that your site is just misbehaving temporarily or receiving spammy contents.

The following are telltale signs that your WordPress may have been hacked:

  • Spammy adverts appear in the header or footer of your website such as those for pornography, drugs, illegal services, and other malicious links. Although they are visible to search engines, these malware codes may appear as dark text on a dark background and invisible to the human eye.
  • When you do a Google search of your website, you may notice contents that are unrecognizable or malicious.
  • You get reports from users that they are being redirected to a malicious or spammy website. These ingeniously constructed malware codes may not show up as spam on the viewpoint of the site administrator (that’s you), but will only appear to your visitors or to search engine crawlers.
  • You get reports from your hosting provider that your website is acting maliciously and sending spam.

Methods of Malware Infection

There are several ways that your website can be infiltrated by malware:

Stolen login information

If hackers acquire your admin login details, prepare to be at their mercy. They can do anything they want, such as installing malicious codes, deleting your blog content, and peeking at your email addresses to gain access to more private information.

Backdoor Access

This is the more common way that most WordPress websites are hacked. Several factors may contribute to backdoor hacking of websites, some of which include the following:

  • Weak codes and security vulnerabilities in themes and plugins
  • Security breach in WordPress core
  • Installation of malicious plugins
  • Hosting your WordPress site on a provider with poor security features

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Malware Removal Techniques

Malware can have a huge impact on the performance and traffic of your WordPress website. Search engines may see it as spam and bring your search rankings down. Visitors may be discouraged by your suspicious site and end up going someplace else to get the information that they need.

If you don’t want any of these to happen to your website, check out these strategies on how you can remove malware in your website:

Make use of live scanners

Contrary to what most people say, using web-based scanners can make a difference in ensuring the security of your website. These online tools can come in handy in preventing malware from attacking your website.

Unfortunately, there are only a few free and reliable live scanners in the market. However, if you are willing to shell out for the sake of site security and peace of mind, registering for live scanning services may be the best line of defense for your website to be free from malicious and unwanted codes.

Update Your Core Files and Folders

Another way you can remove malware from your WordPress website is by upgrading all of the core files and folders of the blogging platform. You can do this manually using file transfer protocol (FTP) or through a hosted file manager.

First off, you need to download the latest version of WordPress and extract the files on your local drive. Delete the old core files and folders (with the exception of the wp-content folder), and install the locally extracted core files.

When updating, make sure that you back up your configuration files. After the fresh installation of core files, copy the following information from your old wp-config.php to the new one:

  • database name
  • database host
  • database password
  • $table_prefix

This step will ensure that your core files and folders are spotlessly clean from malware.
Next, login to your admin panel, reset the permalink structure first to its default and then set it to the old structure. This will create the .htaccess file.

Delete themes and plugins

Themes and plugins may get hacked via backdoor access, and so the best thing to do is delete them and download the latest themes and plugins. Make sure that the plugin or theme that you are using comes from a reputable source, as there is a chance that your source may be inserting malicious codes without your knowledge.

Delete additional files in the wp-content folder

With the exception of folders for uploads and the updated themes and plugins, other files in the wp-content folder should be deleted.

Scan uploads folder

The uploads folder may become the target of a malware attack through the insertion of PHP files. By default, this folder doesn’t contain any PHP files. Therefore, it’s a wise move to remove PHP files in this folder. The size of the uploads folder is usually larger than most PHP files in your website.

Check for a hidden admin

There are times when malware codes can create a hidden admin user after accessing your website through the backdoor. Once they are able to do so, hackers can make changes to your website without your knowledge.
To verify this, go to the WordPress admin dashboard and click on Users. Any user apart from your identified identities must be removed.

Check for malicious users

If you allow user registration on your website, expect to have a lot of different users on your site. If you suspect that there is a malicious user even if it is subscribed, you need to assess its integrity. Hackers may register on your site and add malicious scripts looking for any weaknesses in your themes and plugins.

To check for spam users and remove them from your list, you may install WordPress plugins that do the job, such as Stop Spammers.

The Bottom Line

Your WordPress website has the potential to generate a huge following and surge up in search rankings. Unfortunately, the presence of malware may do the opposite and even hurt the rankings of your website. By following these simple steps, you can put an end to malware infection in your website.


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