Thousands of WordPress accounts are hacked every year and the number of vulnerable sites is increasing. No matter if you have a WordPress malware removal plugin installed, your site can still be considered unsafe and might be vulnerable to hacking.
For most infected websites, the automatic plan of action is to have the best malware removal for WordPress take care of the problem. This, however, is not enough especially if you do know where and what to look for. In most cases, a backdoor was created by the hacker so normal authentication is bypassed. In this article, you will learn about what a backdoor is, how to find one, and the methods to fix it so that you will have a clean WordPress site.
What is a Backdoor?
Backdoor is simply a way for hackers to bypass the usual authentication and gain the ability to have access to a clean WordPress site server. The unauthorized and persistent access remains undetected as it is typically uploaded as a malicious file that is carefully hidden somewhere. It is the first thing that hackers do once they are successful with their brute force entry. Even if you are able to find the infected theme or plugin and delete it from your website, they can still regain access to the server. Most backdoors also survive updates so unless you have a very powerful WordPress virus removal tool in your site, then you remain vulnerable until it is fully cleaned up.
Backdoors range from simple ones that allow the hackers to create a hidden new admin username. There are, however, more complex backdoors that can allow remote unauthorized PHP execution. They can even create emails then send them as if you are sending it or execute SQL queries. They may also collect personal information and use it later for spamming activities. You will be exposed to the variety of dangers that backdoors bring if you fail to have a clean WordPress site.
Finding and Removing Backdoors
Backdoors are often obscured codes that is why it can be pretty difficult to determine. Hackers can also inject more than one backdoor that are different from one another. Sometimes, backdoors are part of an authorized site maintenance where they were left as an unsecured maintenance script.
In order to have a clean WordPress site and maintain WordPress security, you need to start a thorough search for the backdoor and take them down. As soon as you suspect for a hacked WordPress account, you need to sweep or analyze the site code, especially the php files on the server. They can present as a standalone file or as a part of the core and either plugin or theme files. Publicly accessible directories are also common locations since they are easily accessible.
To be more specific, here are the most common locations where backdoors are created or injected by hackers:
- Downloaded inactive themes and plugins that are usually never updated by the user. They are easy targets so it is a must to delete these inactive files for good instead of keeping them as part of your site.
- Uploads directory where media files are stored. It is almost never browsed through since there can be thousands of files on it. It is very rare to check the entire directory so hackers like to inject backdoors here. Another reason is that this is a writable directory so it will allow hackers to execute malicious codes from there.
- The wp-config.php has the database connection details and the installation parameters. This is why it is considered to be the most critical file and a favorite place by hackers to leave backdoors behind.
- The wp-includes directory that has mostly .php files. It is a core WordPress installation directory so unless you are keeping tabs of the core files by heart, you cannot find any unusual files in it.
Now that you are aware of the possible locations where backdoors are usually found, it is time to get into the dirty part of detecting and removing it. First off, here are the ways to find backdoors from your site.
Although it can be challenging to find backdoors, there are basic ways to detect them.
- Whitelisting lets you verify core files. There are good files that already looks familiar. This means that you can easily spot the changes made in them or if there are new files that were added.
- Blacklisting, on the other hand, means going through the list of backdoors that were already identified through the years. Use the list to block them from the server.
- Once you have identified the files that belong to the blacklist and whitelist, do anomaly checks for those that are not in either lists. This means that you have to manually analyze and inspect to see if they are a backdoor.
A more advanced and highly recommended method to make sure that you have a clean WordPress site that is free from backdoors is by performing a complete backdoor scan. Potential malwares are easily identified by backdoor scanners. A malware scanner can be initiated in order to scour the database for any code or file that looks suspicious. You have plenty of choices when it comes to malware or backdoor scanners. There are plugins that may be added to your site for automatic scans. The webhost can also provide this for you if they are taking care of the website’s security.
As always, prevention is better than cure and it is through constant vigilance that you can easily determine if there are any changes in your codes. Some of the methods mentioned are very basic. It is really up to the user to take the initiative to perform backdoor scans, blacklisting and whitelisting files, and checking for signs of irregularities in the files.
By now you have a clear picture about how you can detect backdoors, the next step is to remove them from your site. With these methods, you have greater chances of protecting as well as recover WordPress site once it has been infected by a malware. Before it becomes a major nuisance, the following methods will help you eliminate the pesky backdoors:
Delete Inactive Themes
Keeping themes that you no longer use only gives hackers a convenient access to your database. It is pointless to keep default themes so it is better to delete them at once. After getting rid of them, perform a backdoor scan to see if you already have a clean WordPress site. You should have clear results if the backdoor was placed in one of the inactive themes.
Delete All Plugins
Although a malware scanner can tell you exactly where the backdoor is hidden, there is still a risk of breaking the site down if you will accidentally delete the wrong file. The best way around this is to completely delete the plugins to have a clean slate for your site. Another reason is that some backdoors are unaffected from updates so they still get to reside in the codes. Instead of updating the outdated plugins, it is best to remove them completely. You can then choose fresh plugins to install and you must check that you will have the latest versions of each. Unless you really need a specific plugin, it is also encouraged to let go of it or find better ones. This will keep a healthy number that is manageable for you to check upon in the future.
Fix wp-config.php file
Even the wp-config.php is not safe against malwares. You can try to see any unusual codes by comparing your file against the wp-config-sample.php. Security experts must also be consulted if you are unsure of how you can get rid of suspicious codes in the file.
Examine the Uploads Directory
You are aware that only media files are in the uploads directory. While it can be tiresome to look through the hundreds of files in this directory, you must really be careful in inspecting for any .php file that might be hidden in the folder. These .php files usually have malicious codes installed and hackers hide them here because a lot of users never try to regularly check the files in this directory.
Delete .htaccess File
After the wp-config.php, the .htaccess comes as the second most essential file in your account. Hackers sometimes put malicious codes in there to serve as backdoors. What you can do is to just delete it. Do not be scared as this file automatically regenerates and, this time, no more malware in it. In case that you cannot find it anywhere, just go to Settings, choose Permalinks and save the current settings. You must be careful though as there are instances where a site breaks down after deleting the .htaccess file. It will be neat to have a backup ready so everything can be restored if something goes wrong.
It can be pretty intimidating to do all these things if you are not familiar about how they are done. There is also that risk of destroying the site instead of fixing it, simply because you have deleted an important file instead of the backdoors. It is understandable that for most beginners, WordPress security is an unfamiliar topic. Keeping a clean WordPress site is something that they are not too confident about so the best solution is to find someone else who can protect the website. There are security solutions provider, like Airflour, who has all the capabilities and the tools to deter hackers using backdoors. Once you are suspecting that a backdoor has been created in your files, calling for an expert to fix the problem is the most awesome thing you can do for your site.
Always Do Backups
With or without malware, it is very important to have backups for all your files in the website. You should not forget that aside from the security features, you need to have that assurance that should anything happens to your site, you always have something to restore it back. Aside from the webhost, there are third-party backup services that you can have to take site backups. It will only take a short time to set up these services. It is a faster way to backup everything and they can even do it automatically. You only need to set the backup schedule and you never have to worry about having to restore files ever again.
Website security is a very crucial topic especially if you own a WordPress site. Hacking WordPress sites is very rampant and it only takes having an account to become a target. A clean WordPress site is very difficult to achieve with all the plugins and themes that are too enticing not to have in the website. You cannot also discount the pact that hackers are always on the lookout for their next prey.
If you are concerned about your brand, reputation, or credibility, it is a must that you take your website’s security very seriously. Backdoors make it easier for hackers to send spam, send visitors to inappropriate sites, and be blacklisted from search engines. Ignoring security measures will also eventually lead to being banned from major antiviruses. This means that you will lose any potential viewer that are warned about poor security features on your website.
It is kind of interesting to note that you never have to go through the stress of getting hacked alone. There are many resources that can be of help in protecting your site. You can start by making a research about website security. You may also directly ask from the experts, like your webhost’s support team, for any security concerns. What is important is that you are aware about the possibilities of having backdoors in your website and all the dangers that they bring.
To maintain reliable security features for your website, do check out Airflour’s expert security solutions. They are the best when it comes to securing any WordPress site and you deserve to have only the best for your website.