Is Your WordPress Website Truly Secure?
Trojans, worms, computer viruses, and now even malware that “eats” its competition – anybody who has used the Internet the past 20+ years is all too familiar with malicious computer software. Since most people now know how to spot obvious threats of malware, unscrupulous individuals have taken to using more subtle tactics to disrupt your website and harm unsuspecting computers. One such method is embedding malware into the popular web platform WordPress.
Studies show that upwards of 70% of WordPress sites have malicious code. This isn’t caused by vulnerabilities in the platform itself; rather, the numerous plugins and themes that users can install on the platform are susceptible to malware.
What Happens to Infected WordPress Sites?
Besides the obvious dangers, malware on your WordPress website can adversely affect it in several ways:
Ruined Google SEO metrics
An effective SEO strategy for your website influences the bulk of your online traffic, but certain malware can undermine your optimization. In some cases, malware replaces your site’s outbound links with its own domains, while in other cases it uses keyword-filled dummy pages to take visitors elsewhere. Both tactics are designed to temporarily boost the sites/domains linked to the malware at the expense of your SEO ratings.
Illegal cryptocurrency mining
With the recent boom in digital money, or “cryptocurrency”, malware developers have also jumped on the bandwagon with malicious software that can use your website to illegally mine cryptocurrency through visitors’ browsers. This is a more minor issue, but you’re still in danger of losing your users’ trust if your website is found to be mining cryptocurrency (even unintentionally).
Negative user/visitor experience
Slowing down your website / Forcing unauthorized redirects
Finally, the worst type of WordPress malware is the kind that redirects unsuspecting visitors to other websites. The malware can accomplish this by redirecting traffic either to an unsecured version of your site in an attempt to get visitors’ private information, or to their own page(s) to boost traffic for them. If it gets severe enough, search engines like Google can even straight-up scare users away from your site by showing.
How Can You Detect WordPress Malware?
The most important step is to scan your website frequently, like you would your own computer. One way to do this is with Google’s Safe Browsing diagnostic tool. Simply paste the following into your address bar:
with WEBSITE_URL being the site you wish to check. Do not include the https:// or http:// if the address has one.
To detect SEO-harmful malware, use Google Analytics to check where your outbound links are leading and see what keywords are bringing traffic to your site. If the keywords you’re seeing are unrelated to your site’s niche, there’s a chance that your site has malware.
Finally, if you want to be thorough, it’s a good idea to set up security logging. With a security logging plugin, you can monitor your core files and overall website security for any changes. If you notice something odd in the backend, you can nip it in the bud before it becomes a bigger problem for you.