WordPress Malware Removal Services: Remove Malware from Your WordPress Site

Malware attacks are a major security threat for any website owner. Many attacks are carefully crafted by large criminal gangs with financial motives. With over 40% of all sites on the Internet now being powered by WordPress, it is a prime target for hackers. Malware, short for malicious software, is any software that has been installed on your site without your knowledge or permission and which is designed to do something you don’t want it to do, from placing hidden files on your visitors’ devices to defacing your site to encrypting your website files and holding them for ransom.

Why is site security so important?

While all malware is undesirable, WordPress malware can be particularly dangerous to your organization’s reputation, as it can also be transmitted to the computers and mobile devices of visitors to your site. Besides the threat of data loss, if you store sensitive customer information or banking credentials on your site, it may not even need to be downloaded—malware can steal the information directly from you hacked website, costing you lost revenue, as well as well as reputational harm.

What Does WordPress Malware Removal Service Entail?

Removing WordPress malware correctly is a complex process. We first have to identify what specific malware attack method has been used—and it is often more than one. The next step is to find all of the WordPress website files and database entries that have been affected, and restore them to where they were before the attack—which may have happened in multiple stages over days or weeks. Finally, we need to update all important files and fix any other vulnerabilities to prevent the hacked WordPress site from being reinfected.

How do I clean my WordPress website?

To clean the malware from a hacked WordPress site, you can either hire a WordPress malware removal service, or if you have some technical skills and your malware infection is not too serious, you may be able to clean it yourself for free without hiring a security specialist. There are several necessary steps you will need to follow in order to clean it yourself:

  1. Back up your existing site–the WordPress core files, plugins, themes, uploads, and database.
  2. Password protect your site so that nobody else can access it and spread the infection
  3. Check your log files for any recent changes or access requests that seem unusual.
  4. Change the WordPress salts in your wp-config.php file
  5. Change access keys used by third party services.
  6. Change all passwords for hosting, FTP, the WordPress Admin interface, and any other associated services.
  7. Remove any files from your Uploads directory that you do not recognize.
  8. Delete and reinstall the newest version of all WordPress core files.
  9. Remove any unnecessary plugins.
  10. Update all WordPress plugins to their newest versions.
  11. Install and run one of the best WordPress malware removal plugins listed in the FAQ.
  12. Use the Google Search Console to determine if your site has been blacklisted. If it has, request a review to have it removed.

Website owners with advanced technical skills may also want to:

  • Compare the WordPress core files and plugin files from the infected backup with those on the cleaned site to look for signs of suspicious activity and determine more details about the type of malware.
  • Export the newly cleaned database to an SQL file, and compare the SQL file from the backup with one made from the cleaned site.
  • Examine the new SQL file for any malware that the plugin might have missed.
  • Remove any .php files from outside the WordPress installation itself that should not be there.
  • If your site utilizes .htacess files, examine them for signs of malware infection.
  • Examine your server configuration to look for security threats and determine the root cause of malware infection.

Why Hire WordPress Experts to Remove the Malware

As a business owner, if your site is a critical part of your business, you should strongly consider hiring an expert WordPress malware removal service, like AUQ. Here are some of the reason why:

  • The cost of site downtime or stolen data is far more expensive that using a professional WordPress malware removal service.
  • The best malware removal services will be familiar with accepted best practices for identifying security threats and preventing future hacks and unauthorized access.
  • Hackers today are incredibly sophisticated. Many attacks are carefully crafted by large criminal gangs with financial motives. You need a company with an equal level of skill and experience to remove malware completely, and ensure that the site is secured against future attacks.
  • Effectively combating malware requires in-depth knowledge of the Web server software, and in some case, the host operating system, as well as WordPress itself.
  • Multi-layer attacks are common. Can you be sure that you or your Web-savvy friend or relative has removed ALL the malware, and not just the part that was designed to be easy to detect?
  • Your website is a key business component. Every minute that it is compromised is potentially costing you money.
  • An infected site could cause you to be blacklisted by the major search engines, destroying you Google rankings and wasting the time and money you have spent optimizing your website SEO.
  • New malware, especially any that exploit so-called zero day vulnerabilities which have only just been discovered, will not be detected by most malware removal plugins or online malware scanners.
  • A small mistake could leave deeply-embedded malware hidden on your site, or cause problems that will be very hard to identify and fix later.
  • Even most professional website developers are not qualified to diagnose and remove many of the modern malware infestations.
  • Continued monitoring is critical. Hackers will often have programmed a bot to revisit your site at regular intervals and re-inject the malicious code if the site has been cleaned or restored.
  • Finding the root cause of malware infection is difficult, but If you fail to find all security issues and fix all vulnerabilities the right way, a second infection can be much more damaging. Clients and other visitors are much less forgiving if a site is infected a second time, after they have been assured that the malware has been neutralized.
  • The AUQ team includes WordPress security experts with decades of experience in fighting malware and other security issues, including engineering backgrounds with leading antivirus and network security companies.

How We Remove WordPress Malware from Client Sites

The exact steps required will depend upon the nature of the malware, but the goal is always the same; remove the malware and get you site back online and safe to visit as quickly as possible, while securing it against future intrusions. The process has several stages.

Secure the existing site

To provide immediate protection to site visitors, we need to get the infected site offline as quickly as possible. We first back up your site files and database to our secure server. If you have a known good backup available, we restore that. If not, we take the site offline and post a notice that it is down for maintenance and will return soon.

Diagnose the malware and vulnerabilities

This is where the real work starts, and where AUQ’s expertise is critical. Working with the files we backed up, we identify the exact type or types of malware that have been used against your site. Using professional tools and manual inspection, we follow best practices to carefully examine your site, including the database, custom theme files, WordPress core files, and WordPress plugins to locate and identify the malware and determine how it was able to infect your site. We then look for the root cause of the vulnerability, examining the above files as well as your server software itself to determine how the malware was able to attack your site.

Clean your WordPress site

Cleaning is the process of removing the malware itself and fixing any damage it has done to your data. The usual process is:

  1. Inspect your database for any content that was injected by the malware, and remove it.
  2. Remove any WordPress plugins that are unnecessary or that have been identified as security vulnerabilities.
  3. Update WordPress core files to the newest version.
  4. Update WordPress plugins to their newest versions.

Fix the vulnerabilities

Lastly, we need to fix any problems on the server that allowed the malware to reach your WordPress site. This could include:

  • Installing updated versions of server software such as PHP and MySQL
  • Adding or configuring a web application firewall (WAF)
  • Removing suspicious or unnecessary users from the server or WordPress
  • Preventing unauthorized access
  • Installing WordPress security plugins
  • Moving your site to a more security-focused hosting platform

Types of WordPress Malware We Fix 

There are now many types of malware in addition to the traditional viruses you have already heard so much about. The categories are vaguely defined and often overlap or are used in combination with another type or types. Some are not actually WordPress malware in themselves, but are often used to find and/or exploit vulnerabilities in the site that will allow malware to be deployed. AUQ will provide protection against all of them.

Viruses

The original malware, and a term that is something of a catch-all for many types of malware. Essentially, this is any type of infection that replicates itself once it is triggered by an event such as a visitor clicking a button on your site.

Worms

Are very similar to viruses in that they are self replicating, but they do not require that a specific action be taken by a site user or visitor.

Trojans

Trojans are files that hide in plain site by being disguised as other, desirable files. They are often used as part of a multi-faceted attack.

Bots and botnets

Short for “robot,” a bot is a software program that performs tasks without direct user control. A botnet is a network of bots which can then be used to overwhelm the security safeguards of a target computer.

Ransomware

This is software that encrypts the files on your or a visitor’s computer and then requests a ransom to give you instructions for how to decrypt it.

Spyware

Malware that is designed to silently read important information such as banking login credentials and send it to a remote server.

Fileless malware

Fileless malware deploys no files itself, making it very difficult to detect. Instead it scans the Internet looking for specific vulnerabilities in WordPress core files, plugins, or even the server software itself, then injects an exploit directly into the memory of the computer.

Malvertising

Similar to adware which can sometimes found on application software. The software is often combined with a drive-by download attack to insert malicious code ito ads on legitimate advertising networks.

Keyloggers

Keylogger record computer keystrokes. When deployed a WordPress site, they can be used to find sensitive data, which can then be delivered to a remote site.

Malnets

These are networks of malware-infected devices that can be used for many kinds of automated attacks.

Backdoors

A backdoor lets an attacker access your WordPress site via by using a method that you did not expect and have not guarded against. It can be used to inject malicious code or take control of the site, or just to create a way for a following attack to gain access to your site.

Drive-by downloads

This is a very sophisticated attack that allows attackers to target visitors to your site. They first take advantage of a vulnerability on your site to take control of it and inject code that will cause a visitor’s browser to download code from another site under the attacker’s control.

SEO Spam, AKA Pharma Hacks

This injects code into your site that will show up on Google search engine results. It originally was used to promote pharmaceutical products, hence the name, but can now be for any purpose.

Malicious redirects

This malware redirects a user to a website other than yours. The site might attempt to download malicious code onto the visitor’s device, or it might just display advertising.

Phishing

These attacks place code on your WordPress site that is designed to steal information from your visitors. This often includes login credentials to financial or email accounts.

Hacktools

These are tools that don’t fit any other category but which allow hackers to perform a wide variety of unwanted tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  • How do I know if my WordPress site was hacked?

    There are a few common ways you can identify a hacked WordPress site:

    • You are unable to log in to your site.
    • Your site has been blacklisted by one of the major search engines, such as Google.
    • There is text, images, or links on your website that should not be there, especially on your Home page.
    • You find pages or posts on your site which you did not create or authorize.
    • Your site experiences a sudden large increase or decrease in site traffic.
    • There are user accounts on your site that you do not recognize–especially if they are Administrator accounts.
  • How long does it take to remove malware from my site?

    Successfully removing malware will take anywhere from a few hours to several days, depending upon how complex the attack is and whether you attempt to fix it yourself or hire a professional WordPress malware removal service.

  • How do I scan WordPress for malware?

    To scan WordPress for malware, either use one of the free online malware scanners such as Sucuri Sitecheck or install a malware scanning and removal plugin. Most offer free versions available from wordpress.org as well as paid versions with additional features. These plugins will typically offer options to either manually scan your site, or to set up a regular scanning schedule.

  • What are the best WordPress malware removal plugins?

    While there is no one best choice, some of the best options for WordPress malware removal plugins include:

    Wordfence Security–the best known WordPress security plugin. The free version includes a web application firewall, a security scanner, and additional features. Possibly the most powerful free version, but it has received criticism for reducing site performance, excessive alerts, and a high number of false positives.

    Sucuri Security–the Sucuri plugin is able to do a much deeper scan of your site than their online scanner. While the free version does not offer as many features as some competitors, it has an excellent reputation for accuracy and reliability. The paid version adds automatic malware removal and a web application firewall, among other useful features.

    BulletProof Security–a very full-featured security plugin with a 5 star rating. The free version gets high marks for its customer support, but like Wordfence, it is a very “heavy” plugin that may impact site performance. The paid version offers almost every security option imaginable, although not all are of great use.

  • Do I need a WordPress security plugin?

    Most sites do not need a WordPress security plugin if they are kept updated on a regular basis. However, if your site is a key component of your business and you do not have a professional team monitoring and maintaining your website, a WordPress security plugin might be the next best option, especially for sites running on inexpensive shared servers. If properly configured (hire a WordPress security expert if you are unsure how to do this), it can block many automated attacks and alert you to to intrusion attempts. Unfortunately, such plugins are known to slow down site loading time, so you take this into consideration before installing a security plugin.

  • How can I prevent my WordPress site from getting hacked?

    The single most important step you can take to prevent your site from being hacked is to keep your WordPress core files and plugins updated to the newest versions. Various studies have shown that 80% to as much as 98% of WordPress malware and hacks is due to out of date software.

    In addition, you can take steps such as:

    • removing any user accounts that are not needed
    • assigning the least privileged role to each user that is sufficient to allow them to perform necessary tasks
    • setting up a web application firewall through your hosting company’s control panel
    • installing a WordPress security plugin (but see the question above, first)

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