How to Protect your WordPress Website from Malware

Let’s start with an astounding fact, in the year 2020, Wordfence blocked 90 billion malicious login attempts, i.e., 2800 attacks per second. One of the most common attacks on WordPress sites is brute force/login attempts. We can also see directory traversal attacks, SQL injections, remote code execution, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other types of attacks on WordPress websites.

One of the standard mechanisms for such attacks is malware. Malware is any harmful software hackers use to get a device, system, network, or website access. Malware can hamper system performance, steal data, push spammy advertisements, or be used to perform DDoS attacks on other systems. In addition, compromised systems are used for malicious purposes like identity, financial and personal data theft.

Malware comes in different shapes and forms. Most straightforward and infamously effective is phishing attacks. Email is the simplest delivery system for phishing attacks; 92% of malware is delivered by email. Once malware is on your system, it can dig up your local files, read your browser history, steal credentials, and hack websites.

Nulled and non up to date plugins and themes open doors for hackers straight into a WordPress site. Plugins are the biggest culprits; hackers exploit loopholes left by the poor coding standards used for developing plugins.

A hacked website puts business branding and trust at risk; it can shut down an entire business. Therefore, companies need to be proactive and protect their website from malware attacks. Though there are ways to scan and clean a website once hacked, it is always better to be proactive. For example, you need to put your website behind WAF, implement two-factor authentication, etc. Here in this article, we are going to discuss more such methods.

How to Protect website from hackers

Given the range of viruses, it is virtually impossible to be safe all the time. But that does not mean you should not take preventive measures. The following methods can safeguard your website from the most common and frequent attacks.

Install a Web Firewall

Protect your website with free or paid web firewalls (WAF) like Wordfence or Sucuri. WAF acts as the first line of defense and prevents hackers from hitting the servers.

They also offer automated scans, alerts, and warning systems. These popular WAFs uses attacks data from their vast customer network to secure all website in the network. This collective approach helps every participant in the network.

Setup Two Factor Authentication

Again the most common and effective way of getting website access is by stealing credentials with phishing attacks, keyloggers, and more. Setting up a two-factor authentication adds one more layer of security to the login system. Though it sounds simple, this method itself improves your website security multifold.

Do not use the “admin” account.

WordPress’s default “admin” is the most attacked username on WordPress websites. Create a different username while installing WordPress or set up a new administrator account and delete the “admin” account.

Strong password policy

In a brute force attack, hackers attempt to log in to your website with the most common username and password pairs. So, use a strong password policy (at least for administrator and editor accounts) that forces a complicated password.

Update Core WordPress, Plugins, and Theme

WordPress upgrades its core software from time to time to improve the functionality, handle bugs, and patch security updates. Therefore, it is very crucial to upgrade core WordPress regularly.

The same is the case with plugins and themes. The WordPress Core team does not develop these; every plugin and theme developer is different. Hackers use vulnerabilities to exploit the system. Theme and plugin developers also release security patches, so these upgrades are crucial for website safety.

How to detect malware on your website

Hackers try to stay one step ahead of the cyber security industry. They invent sophisticated ways to deliver viruses into the system. So, it is challenging to keep us with hackers and build detection, prevention, and remedial methods for new-age cyber attacks.

Nevertheless, we need to set up systems to prevent, detect and clean the hacks.

Here is a list of symptoms one can observe in a hacked system/website or a device

  • Slowed performance
  • Spammy advertisements
  • Multiple redirects
  • Full memory
  • Browser extensions / search engine / toolbars installations
  • Increased battery consumption
  • Blocked website login
  • Added / hidden administrator accounts

Most website owners don’t see such common symptoms and unknowingly keep feeding data to hackers.

Hackers do not always ask for ransom like ransomware or want to get website admin access. Instead, they earn with simpler tactics like forceful redirects, spammy ads, hidden links, etc.

You can use free malware scanners from Web Firewall providers (WAF) like Wordfence, Sucuri, Sitelock, etc. However, removing/cleaning a hacked website is a different ball game altogether.

How to clean website after malware attack

The malware removal process, tools, and complexity are bound to the type of malware. However, you can clean the hack depending on the scenario by removing plugins, resetting /deleting hacked accounts, etc.

It would help if you had a security expert, system admin access, and support from your hosting provider to clean up more sophisticated hacks. For immediate and quick turnout, you can use Sucuri’s malware removal service. In addition, one can use Kinsta hosting, which offers security guarantees.

Website security is a multi-faceted issue; it involves sophisticated attacks and human error too. There is no catch-all solution for it. System admin needs to stay on their toes to keep their business and customers safe.

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