A website owner's worst nightmare is when the website is getting hacked. To make matters worse, a website attack is usually not obvious, especially if the hacker is really good. As a savvy site owner, you should get into the habit of regularly checking if your website is susceptible to an attack or not.
Once your WordPress website gets infiltrated, you might risk losing lots of valuable content and data that is vital to your website. Although the very best solution is to prevent hackers from successfully accessing your site in the first place, it's still possible that they can go through all of your defenses. In this case, you must know the tell-tale signs that your website has been hacked already.
What are possible signs that your website was hacked?
So, how can you tell if your WordPress website has been hacked? In fact, that a website has been hacked is not always very obvious, but there are certain indications, like spam, traffic spikes, errors, warnings or else that point to a hacked website. Let's go into detail and see the signs below!
- A lot of spam on your website
- Sudden spike in foreign traffic
- Changes in your files' content
- Google warning message
- Changes in website's design or layout
- No more access to the admin dashboard
A lot of spam on your website
If your WordPress website seems to have a lot of spam, then you might have been hit by a tracker. A tracker is what some companies would use to track down certain individuals and bombard them with ads. Hackers sometimes use trackers to pass around viruses that look like simple ads. One thing that you should look out for would be spam comments that appear on your website.
If you have lots of spam comments on your website, you should consider beefing up your security. This may be an indication that there is already a security breach from a hacker who either wants to get in or has already gotten halfway in your site data. Do not ignore this very simple sign that doesn't seem very obvious at first. Make sure to protect your website against any form of spam.
Sudden spike in foreign traffic
If your website is targeted specifically for a particular language or country, you'll probably find it weird if you suddenly have a lot of visitors that come from a different region. When a huge number of visitors from another country finds its way to your website, you better take some security measures because there may be foreign hackers who are trying to get in or attack your site in other ways.
Another scenario for this would be that a hacker has already gotten in and is trying to drive traffic from your website to infiltrate or attack other sites. In any event, you must look out for suspicious volume of traffic and always make sure to protect your site before hackers are able to destroy your website and possibly even steal confidential data. Analytics tools can help to keep track of traffic.
Changes in your files' content
If files on your server have changed even in the slightest bit, although you haven't made any changes by yourself, chances are your website has been hacked. It's recommended to keep an eye on this or use tools to track changes, so that you'll know if something has been changed or not. When hackers try to infiltrate a website, they typically try to attack your .htaccess files, .php files, and your media files. Hitting those files may cause great damage to your website. Files that contain sensitive data which hackers could use to have full control or access to your site should be protected.
Google warning message
Sometimes, Google will give you a warning message in your browser if one of the Google bots spots something malicious in your code. Take this as an immediate warning sign because this usually means your website is infected with malware, that there is someone trying to get into your WordPress website or has already succeeded in breaking in. Luckily, Google is quite efficient in spotting these kinds of things, so you may want to make use of the Google Chrome browser when you're trying to access your website or keep track of your website in the Google Webmaster Tools.
Changes in website's design or layout
If the design or the layout of your site suddenly changes out of nowhere, then it's possible that you've been hacked. This could be some small changes or even big ones. Small changes like an image disappearing may just be a technical error because a bit of code was accidentally changed or an image is no longer available on your server. However, if you see a lot of your images suddenly disappearing, or if you see weird images on your site, then it may be a sign that you've been hacked.
In some cases, hackers will leave their screen names after they hacked a website to take credit for the job. Of course, there are also hackers that do not disclose themselves after they've hacked your website. In this case, your site was probably attacked by someone who benefits from infecting it. In any case, check for hacking attempts if you see unexpected changes in the overall layout and design.
No more access to the admin dashboard
Once you can't log into your WordPress dashboard anymore, then you should analyze the situation and possibly start taking high-security measures. If you can't access the admin page of your website, then possibly hackers have already gotten inside and have already changed all the passwords that control your website's backend. When this happens, immediately contact your hosting company to regain control of your WordPress website before further harm can be done. However, you should not confuse this situation with the White Screen of Death, which is a common WordPress issue.
How to prevent your website from getting hacked
The truth is, you'll never achieve 100% certainty that your website won't get hacked. However, there are a few important actions you can take to protect your WordPress website from hackers. These include secure password protection, admin access protection and other security precautions.
- Check and change passwords regularly
- Keep your admin access private
- Scan your website for malware and viruses
Check and change passwords regularly
As already mentioned before, prevention is better than a cure. In order to avoid security vulnerabilities from happening, do your due diligence to protect your WordPress website's security. You should always choose secure passwords and also change your passwords on a regular basis. This is something that a lot of people take for granted because most WordPress website owners are confident that no one will be interested in hacking their website, until it happens.
Keep your admin access private
Keep your admin accounts' access to a minimum. Make sure that only you and your IT department have access to it. Also, you should back up your data so that if the worst happens, you still have all your information with you. This way, you can easily restore your website access if necessary. Remember to back up your data regularly to prepare yourself for any attack.
Scan your website for malware and viruses
Lastly, it may pay off to scan your website regularly so that you know if there are any potential issues. A great website scanner that you can use is Sucuri SiteCheck. This website security scanner can scan for viruses, trojans, malware, other spyware which contain keyloggers that may steal your passwords and even website errors or outdated software.
Google Webmaster Tools can also be very useful to check if malware or other infections can be found on your website. You usually will get notified by Google if viruses or malware has been detected on your site so that you can take further actions to clean up your website.
Conclusion: Signs that your WordPress website got hacked
Although a minor attack with malware or else may not totally bring your website down, it can still become a business risk for your online business and may affect your site's user experience. It's highly recommended to secure your WordPress site and stop hacking attempts as soon as possible. Has your site been hacked in the past? Have we missed any signs of hacked websites? Do you have more tips to secure WordPress websites from hacking attacks? Please let us know in the comments!