One of the reasons WordPress is so popular as a content management system is because of its airtight security (read: it’s rare ability to be hacked). But the truth is, 136,640 attacks are happening per minute to WordPress websites across the globe.
That’s a scary thought.
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In fact, weak passwords, domain or hosting level breaches, insecure themes and plugins, and even an outdated WordPress core may cause your website to become more vulnerable than normal.
But the thing is, how can you tell if your website has fallen victim to hackers?
Fortunately, there are some surefire ways to tell if your WordPress website has been hacked. And, by familiarizing yourself with the most common signs, you will be able to identify an attack quickly and easily, and get started on a solution right away.
Top Signs Your WordPress Website Has Been Hacked
1. A Sudden Drop in Traffic
Malware and trojans love to hijack website traffic and redirect it to spammy websites. Unfortunately, some hackers don’t redirect logged in users, causing their bad deeds to go unnoticed for quite some time.
However, if begin to notice unusual drops in daily traffic to your website, this may be a sign your site has been hacked.
2. Inability to Login
If you are having trouble logging into your WordPress dashboard, there could be a problem with your admin account. Sometimes hackers like to delete your account so they can have control over your website. And, since the account has been deleted, you will not be able to reset your password from the login page.
To fix this, you will have to fiddle with your website’s wp-login.php on an FTP client (such as FileZilla) by deleting it and reinstalling a fresh version with a new WordPress install. From there, add some code to your website, as recommended here, and start anew.
3. Email Issues
Sending spam emails is one way hackers like to utilize WordPress websites. To do this, they break into your site and use your host mail’s servers to send spammy WordPress emails to the masses.
Here’s a look at how it works:
- Hackers break into your WordPress website and install scripts to send out thousands of emails from your IP address
- People receive these spammy emails and mark them as spam
- Your website is then added to a block list
If you are having trouble sending or receiving WordPress emails, there is a good chance your mail server has been compromised, or far worse, you have been blacklisted by Google. Take care to resolve this issue quickly to minimize long-term damage.
4. A Change in Website Appearance
This is one of the most obvious ways to tell intruders have attacked your website. If you notice visual changes to your website, you can conclude that hackers have invaded your theme files and dropped a lot of bad, invisible code to your site.
Bad code added to your website will result in any of the following:
- Visible only to crawlers, invisible code added to your site will slow your site down and get tracked by Google, therefore affecting your search engine rankings
- Footer sections will now have unwelcome links and content added that attract the wrong kind of attention
- Explicit or otherwise unwarranted content will be visible to site visitors
Again, since hacking into websites is a sneaky business, you may not always know that it’s happening.
5. Incorrect Meta in Search Results
If you run a manual search result on your website and notice that the Meta descriptions that should be there are not, or they have changed, you can guess that someone has invited themselves into your website and done damage.
The kicker is, when you get back into the dashboard of your website, everything looks the way it should. This is because malicious code has been injected into the backend of your website, thus modifying your website’s data in a way that only search engines can see.
6. New User Accounts
For websites that allow users to register, spammy user accounts are a normal occurrence. Simply delete them and go about your day.
On the other hand, if you do not allow user registration on your WordPress website, and notice new accounts being created in the backend of your site, you can assume your website has been hacked and you need to take action.
7. Site Scanner Alerts
One popular notification involves unknown scripts or files on your server. By infecting your site’s files and scripts with corrupt or unknowns additions, hackers are then able to do things such as redirect all of your site’s visitors to a website of their choice.
This is in hopes that their website’s search engine results will increase thanks to the boost in traffic. As a result, your website suffers because of drops in traffic and your user experience is horrible because site visitors cannot connect with your content.
The best way to delete these unknown files and scripts is to access your WordPress website via an FTP client. Then delete the suspicious code and links on your website. Next, re-upload clean versions of anything you deleted that was infected but still needs to be in your website files.
How to Avoid WordPress Website Hacks
You can take several precautions to ensure your WordPress website is not hacked:
- Monitor your site’s traffic via your hosting provider or a tool such as Google Analytics
- Take swift action when you notice anything unusual – highs or lows in site traffic, design defacing, spammy links or code, etc.
- Always keep an updated version of WordPress, plugins, and themes
- Only use themes and plugins from reputable developers to avoid poorly coded software and vulnerabilities
At some point or another, your WordPress website will become compromised. In fact, it’s not a matter of if, but when. That said, there are some definitive signs that you will notice should your website fall victim to hackers.
Take heed and learn the warning signs so that you will notice right away when your site has been hacked. This way you can get the problem patched up before your website takes a big hit in traffic, sales, and reputation.