There are several types of malware that affect WordPress sites every day. In the world of ever-growing tech tools and technologies, the malware also continuously evolves.
When we talk about malware in WordPress websites, there are numerous problems that it can cause, including the overuse of system resources, deterioration of user experience, reduced performance, and collapse of your SEO results. All this is coupled with the possibility of inappropriate images flashing across your screens.
In this article, you’re going to learn everything you need to know about malware and different techniques to remove it. However, it’s advisable that if you detect malware-related issues in your WordPress site, you seek professional help rather than trying to fix them on your own, especially if you’re not a pro.
What is malware?
Malware is a type of virus that can affect your website. Once a user visits an infected website, it can download itself to the user’s computer. Regardless of your device, WordPress malware can be located anywhere where storage devices are present: your computer, laptop, phone, and servers. It has different types of mutation and infection capabilities that affect the target computer system in different ways; some commonly known types are viruses, worms, trojans, ransomware, spyware, adware, etc.
Each type of malware is aimed to cause a different kind of issue on the infected system. For example, ransomware is known for locking down users’ files, encrypting them, and holding your files hostage, asking them for a ransom to unlock them.
How do you know if you have malware on your WordPress site?
It’s pretty simple:
If you notice something “just not right” or something “looks funny” on your site, you did not change. Maybe even a snippet of code sitting at the top of your website is an indication that you have been infiltrated and infection has taken place. Another possibility is just a slow-loading site.
You can confirm this with a scan of your website using a professional malware scanner. Highly-focused security software that can detect malware has a built-in scanner that deeply scans and analyzes your WordPress site for pieces of malicious code.
Once the scan is complete, you’ll be presented with a report on the possible malware infection. It could be hard to digest all the information at first, but it will eventually make sense if you figure out what you’re looking at. Remember, you can always refer to a WordPress malware removal service for professional help, such as WP Expert Services.
If you haven’t had the chance to scan your site, there are other non-efficient ways to figure out if you have malware. You can always log in to your website’s FTP and manually check each file in a source code editor. It would be best if you were highly skilled in this process to know what to look for and at which location. If you are not familiar with this process, leave it to the experts at WP Expert Services.
Here are some sites that allow you to do a free malware scan on your site.
- Google Safe Browsing – https://transparencyreport.google.com/safe-browsing/search
- VirusTotal Scanner: https://www.virustotal.com/gui/home/url
How to remove WordPress malware
This is where we get technical and try to find and remove malicious files manually. To start with, you must check and see if your core WordPress files integrity has been compromised.
The first thing you need to do is take the WordPress website offline. You can use plugins such as SeedProd to put your site in maintenance mode with one click quickly. This ensures that your customer’s computers are not further infected while you perform the cleaning process.
Check core WordPress files’ integrity
One important thing to understand is that users’ core WordPress files should never be changed because there’s no need to edit them manually. However, if you or the scanner detect a core file has been changed, there’s a high chance it’s affected by malware.
You can find out if your core files have been altered by using the diff command in the command line. However, if you’re not comfortable working with the command line or terminal, you can manually check the files using SFTP.
Check recently modified files
If malware has been injected into your WordPress site recently, you can try to find it by checking recently modified files. Log into your server using FTP and review the last modified column. If you see any modified file that you haven’t altered, it could be malware, and you must review the change immediately.
Clean hacked files
If you have performed a scan using a malware removal tool, you’ll have the option to delete all the infected files. After confirming those files don’t have any use for you, you can proceed to delete them. Sometimes, this step is everything that’s needed to get rid of all the malware.
Compare with backup files
If you have a backup of your site, compare that backup version to the current state of your website. Check if there are any differences between the files between the two. If there is, malware could be hiding under the changed files. Keep in mind, don’t delete files without proper knowledge, or you risk having your site left in a broken state.
Last resort (if the steps mentioned above fail)
If for some reason, the steps mentioned above don’t work out for you, you should reload a previous version of your site from a clean backup.
Restore from a 1:1 backup
There could be several reasons why you can’t figure out where the malware is hidden on your site. However, I recommend not to panic; there are ways to deal with it.
If you have taken a backup of your WordPress site lately, it’s time to restore it. Doing so will replace the malware-affected files with their previous, unaffected versions. However, having a non-affected, clean backup file is crucial for this step.
Daily offsite backups are recommended for times like these when you do need disaster recovery. Our Gold plan and higher offer offsite backups.
Last, last resort (if you can’t restore from the backup file)
If you don’t have a backup file that you can restore, or if it refuses to load for an unknown reason, it’s time to start over by using the following steps.
Extract your content
If you don’t have copies of your website’s content, i.e., text, images, videos, PDFs, you need to extract them from your site and store them on your computer. They will come in handy when you’re repopulating your site with content. Don’t forget to take screenshots of the menus, pages, layouts, etc. Having these will help you get your new site from scratch up and running faster.
After you’re done copying your content to your local computer, it’s time to reinstall WordPress with your hosting provider. Some hosts make it easy for you to reinstall WordPress, while others make you jump through hoops. Either way, figure out a way to reinstall WordPress. Doing this will overwrite any files that contain malicious code.
Reinstall your theme
When you’re done reinstalling WordPress, you’d need to reinstall your website’s theme. If you purchased your theme from a provider, make sure you download the latest version of the theme. Do not install the theme from a previously downloaded zip file. Installing the latest version of the theme will make sure you don’t restore any insecure theme containing malware.
Recreate the pages
You’d need to recreate all the pages of your website from scratch. I know doing all these steps all over again could be a tedious task, but it’s essential if you want your site to live a malware-free life.
Reupload your content
Now it’s time to reupload them to your site.
- Upload all the media – images, PDFs, videos, ebooks, etc.
- Give alt-tags to all the newly uploaded images – alt tags are lost once you download the images.
Recreate your Headers and Footers
This can be challenging depending on the theme, but try to make it easy as possible as navigation in your headers and footers is critical.
Scan your PC
You also need to make sure the computer you’re operating from isn’t infected with viruses or other types of malware. Viruses in your PC can easily affect different components of your WordPress site.
Scan your PC using a malicious software removal tool. If you’re running Windows 10 on your PC, you already have a built-in anti-virus tool in your system. Use it to scan your PC.
You will have two different types of scans to choose from, quick scan and full scan. While the quick scan is faster and finishes up in a couple of minutes, I recommend a full scan as it analyzes every file in your PC for malware.
Malware and its subtypes can hinder the performance and safety of your WordPress website. Even though the affected files can mostly be found and removed, sometimes, the malware sets its roots deep into your site’s files. In such cases, setting up your website from scratch would be the ideal choice.
However, going through the hassle of setting up from scratch is a tedious task. In most cases, it’s better to rely on a professional malware removal service to do this dirty work for you.
We here at WP Expert Services have the expertise to do this entire process for you.
As our name states, we have the technical background to make sure this won’t happen to you in the first place. We’ll lock down your site and do the necessary updates on time. We’ll get the updates in place for you in case you need to do a full restore.
Sign up for one of our plans, and we’ll take care of everything WordPress for you!
Peace of mind for you so you can focus on your business.