With a significant portion of online sites being powered by the WordPress platform, it is expected and mandatory that the site is regularly supervised to capture the latest security issues and immediately patch it up. However, even if these efforts are persistent and maximized, there’s always a chance of a slight loophole or vulnerability that could be exploited by millions of hackers.
For example, the WordPress security-plug-ins, themes, and extensions are often manufactured by third-party sources, leaving the possibility of a backdoor or a security loophole which can then be misused for malicious activities – in fact, 50% of WordPress hacking attempts occur in this manner.
So, how do you know if your WordPress site has been hacked? There are a couple of signs and symptoms that you can look out for to check if this has occurred.
1. There’s an unexplained drop in website traffic
Witnessing a sudden, suspicious drop in traffic after experiencing a relatively steady performance? There’s a probability that you’ve been hacked. A possible explanation in detail is that hackers have found, or created, a backdoor to your WordPress platform from where they are changing the content and code of your site, replacing it with their own malicious versions.
This implies sudden redirecting of users from your websites to other infected or spammy sites, stealing the sensitive information of your users, and slowly eroding the trust your customer base placed in you. The worst after-effect is the slow and painful rebuilding of your previous relationship with your clients and removing your site from the potential blacklist of Google by implementing security measures – https://www.getastra.com/blog/cms/wordpress-security/wordpress-security-guide/
2. Your WordPress site is in disarray
One of the more common signs that your WordPress site is hacked is the barging of unwanted advertisements and the general mess of your previously organized site. Some hackers are even known to compromise sites and the private information they gained access to in return for a ransom.
You will face a slow and unresponsive site with a number of colorful and useless ads displayed across the site, and multiple troublesome pop-ups. This could lead your visitors down spammy websites and infected sites, which damages the website traffic, both on a short-term and long-term basis.
It may also be that this is an automated hack, making its entrance through a potential loophole or backdoor, manipulating your WordPress core files.
There’s a possibility that this mess isn’t visible to you or those who can access the site directly, but only for those visitors coming in from search engines like Google and other referrals. So, unless they are concerned enough to tell you, you may go on for a dangerously long period of time not knowing that your site has been hacked.
3. Difficulty in logging in
If you’re not able to log in to your WordPress admin account, it’s mostly a telltale sign that you’ve been hacked. If your username was, unfortunately, one of the default versions like ‘admin’, ‘test’, ‘administrator’, etc, then that probably is one of the main reasons that you’ve been hacked so easily. Your first step at this point should be to change your login credentials into something that is strong enough to resist such preliminary attacks.
4. Suspicious user accounts
If you have opened your WordPress platform to user registration without using spam registration protection features, then any new accounts that are added are probably spam and can be deleted easily. But, if you don’t remember switching this feature on, and you still note that there are new user accounts that are unverified, there’s a fine possibility that your site has been hacked.
If these accounts have granted themselves the administrator role, you will not be able to delete them from the admin area.
5. Unknown files and scripts
Connect to your WordPress site using an FTP client to search for malicious content in locations such as wp-content/folder. Do not be fooled by files named innocently like ‘WordPress’ – they are not legitimate and deleting them immediately doesn’t guarantee that they won’t reappear in worse versions.
6. Notice any unusual activity
Your server logs will have a lot to say about hacking attempts, more than any other method. These logs are available on your cPanel, accessible by logging into your web hosting account with two varieties – ‘Access’ which provides details on who accessed your WordPress from which IP address, and ‘Error’ logs that show you all the errors that happened during the process of modifying your WordPress platform’s system files.
If you find any suspicious IPs while perusing these server logs, you can always blacklist or block them from accessing your site.
Keep an eye out for these signs to understand if your WordPress site has been hacked – always monitor continuously to recognize any shifts in analytics, website traffic, or other more obvious signs before going into detailed analyses to verify the hacking attempt.