How to know if your WordPress website is hacked? Get the inside story

WordPress provides a simple way to create and launch a website/ blog. It is an open source content management system and powers over 43% of the websites all over the Internet.

Hackers attack websites to retrieve valuable and sensitive information, spread malware, spread activism, etc.

Many websites lack basic security features like:

  • Multi-factor Authentication
  • Absence of activity logs
  • Strong password
  • Updated plugins, firewalls, and software.
  • Closed Backdoors
  • Brute force login attempts
  • Cross-site scripting

How to know if a WordPress website is hacked?

As all hack jobs are different, some can be easily identified while others make such subtle changes that identification happens after it is too late. So don’t worry you can hire a wordpress expert at different packages.

Following tips and symptoms can help to identify if the website has been compromised:

    1. Warning is given by the browser

It is also known as the “Red screen of Death” and can contain warnings depicting that the site may be compromised. Sometimes, it could be due to some source code alteration in the theme or plugin. Other than this, this can be a configuration issue with domain and SSL.

    The instructions given with the warning can help in diagnosing the problem and can recommend possible solutions.

      Some of these warnings are:

        • The site ahead contains malware
        • Deceptive site ahead
        • Phishing site ahead
        • Dangerous’ tag in the URL bar
        • This site has been reported as unsafe
      1. Website won’t load and shows the following:
        • HTTP 500 Internal Server Error, 502 Bad Gateway Error, or 503 Service Unavailable:

          In some cases, the request to the server cannot be fulfilled due to the installation of insecure plugins, themes, or corrupted access files which results in the reception of 5XX errors. However, these errors can also occur if the source code is modified

        • 401 Unauthorized, 403 Forbidden, and Connection Refused by Host:

          These errors can arrive when the authentication system has been compromised and the server denies the request. These can be viewed in the HTML preview section or the browser.

      2. Credentials compromised and login denied on WordPress dashboard:

        Users are not able to login into the dashboard with the present credentials and the security questions may be changed. This may result in disabling the website from the hosting server.

      3. Malware Warning Message:

        Warning message prompts while searching for the site on Google or attempting to load the site.

        Google Safe Browsing Add-on will identify the potential threats and inform the user to take corrective actions to help with the Engineering attacks.

      4. Weird changes appearing on the site:
        • Website Defaced/Vandalized

          Some hackers try to deface the website by concealing it with another web page to make users see that the website has been hacked. This can simply reduce the population on the website.

        • New Content Added

          Unauthorized new content or misleading information found on the website.

        • Contact and Information Updated

          Some hackers change important information like payment details, contact information, etc. to redirect money and important information to their accounts.

      5. Spam Popups Ads and compromised links:

        Links on the site are directing users to suspicious websites and attempting malware.

        Hackers use websites to embed malicious ads or bad links that may cause the installation of malware into the client systems. This malware is not easy to detect but their action may redirect the client to suspicious websites or links.

      6. Unusual activity on website source code
        • Unknown scripts and Plugins added to the site:

          Recently added source code or unusual plugins installed may compromise the integrity and security of the website. These changes can easily be reflected in the control panel of WordPress.

        • Suspicious scheduled tasks

          Web servers allow users to set up cron jobs that help to schedule jobs. WordPress itself uses cron jobs to set up scheduled tasks like publishing posts, deleting archive data from trash, and so on.

          A hacker can use this feature and exploit cron jobs to run unwanted scheduled tasks on the server.

        • Unexpected File Changes

          Hackers may also change or modify core WordPress files and can create files with names similar to WordPress core files.

          WordPress security plugin enables monitoring the health of WP core file

      7. Customers contacting about unauthorized charges or fraud

        If users complain about fraud while visiting the website and if the number of complaints is unusual then chances are that the website has been hacked and compromised to exploit finances.

      8. New, unfamiliar user accounts or FTP/SFTP credentials:
        • Unable to Login into WordPress

          Locked out of the WordPress user account as the username and password have been hacked and the recovery details have been changed

        • Suspicious User/Email Accounts

          New user accounts are added in the control panel with some access that may have the authority to make changes to the site.

      9. Red Flags shared by a security plugin:

        If a good and reliable security plugin is installed inside the WordPress panel, it will send some red flags that may show an alert for a website being hacked

      10. Sudden drop/spike in website traffic:

        Receiving notifications for sudden drops in the web traffic despite other websites working properly. The latest traffic can be reflected in the analytical report. It may indicate the site has been compromised.

      11. Downtime Monitoring:

        A sudden drop in performance on the site — it loads very slowly or reports timeout errors.

      12. How to prevent a WordPress site from getting hacked

        1. Upgrade to the latest version
        2. Security Plugins
        3. Create a regular backup
        4. Protected access to WordPress admin
        5. Using strong passwords
        6. Secure hosting
        7. Assigning file permissions
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