Dealing with WordPress Admin Hacks

It is crucial that constant attempts should be made to take important security measures to be able to protect WordPress sites from cyberattacks and hacking. Attacks such as WordPress pharma hack, phishing pages, brute-force, Japanese keywords in Google Results, etc. can tamper your site and make your WordPress admin account vulnerable to hacking and complete site takeover.

What are the different kinds of WordPress admin hacks?

For example, if you don’t operate your site on an HTTPS server and instead use HTTP, the data being sent from one location to another is not encrypted or protected. WordPress sends your login details via HTTP, allowing hackers the prime opportunity to intrude in between and modify the cleartext or unencrypted HTTP traffic, especially the administrator credentials. These are called the “man in the middle (MITM)” attacks.

There are also instances of adding unauthorized admin users which then lead to the issues given above, like pharma hacks. More often than not, such compromising situations eventually lead to data theft, SEO hijacking, or taking over the complete control of the site for the hacker’s malicious purposes. Subsequently, your site is suspended by your hosting platform and blacklisted by search engines. 

To further secure your site, you should also watch out for brute-force attacks, in which automated bots try out the different username and password combinations in rapid succession to bypass the login of your site.

The success of these brute-force attacks depends on weak administrator credentials, lack of regular updates leading to core vulnerabilities such as running on older versions with known hacks, and SQL injections that allow the hacker to damage or gain access to the admin console through malicious SQL queries or statements that target the SQL database.

Hackers know that the admin panel of WordPress is a gold mine – once they gain access forcefully, there are practically no limitations to the amount of malicious activity that can be done. 

There are certain symptoms you should watch out for in terms of admin hacks:

  • The first unusual symptom is usually the addition of unknown users to the admin panel with the highest level of privileges to interfere with the site and its content. There’s also the possibility of multiple spam users with no details about their authenticity or user information.
  • You’ll find strange files added to your WordPress site like admin1.php or adminer.php, concealed in a way that a cursory look will fool you into thinking that it’s an existing core folder. Other times, there’ll be the addition of strange code that doesn’t contribute anything to the functioning of the site.
  • There’s new content on your site, either in the form of external links filled with SEO spam keywords, malware, or new webpages in different languages (like Japanese or Korean).
  • Your site gets blacklisted by Google and other major search engines because of the presence of malware like redirection, loss of sensitive data, pharma hacks, etc.
  • Possibility of defacements such as multiple pop-ups, unwanted ads with fake information, and deals to mislead customers or black screens instead of the original content with or without writing.

While it may not be possible to keep yourself eternally safe with a few practices, it definitely doesn’t hurt to ensure a basic level of protection using proven and existing measures to ensure that you are not vulnerable to passing hackers:

  • Strong login credentials are your first step and last aspect of verification when ensuring the security of your site. The stronger and more complex they are, the more difficult it is for hackers to get through.
  • Installing a good security and firewall solution, like Astra Security, is always a good option as they consist of professionals who know what most signs and symptoms indicate and hence structure their plugin to deal with such issues along with other common attacks.
  • Try out the WordPress File Integrity Monitor which provides alerts when any suspicious changes are made to the files under WordPress installation.
  • If you find the files where the malware is stored, temporarily deleting them provides a respite but the real task is to monitor all possibilities of hackers placing backdoors in other core files to keep bypassing the admin panel and manipulate the content according to their will.

For example, when deleting the spam accounts made on the admin panel by hackers, you also need to check for the WordPress backdoor script which allowed the hacker to enter a new user into the admin role.

  • Keep checking the activity log to supervise all sorts of actions and ensure that no unauthorized accounts are added under the admin panel or given extensive permission to modify the core files.
  • Adding extra security barriers such as two-factor authentication measures and hiding the default admin URL also help in keeping most illegitimate accessing methods off your concern – installing the WP-Hardening plugin can do that for you.

These are some general measures you can take to protect your WordPress site from common admin-related hacks. Since hackers are always updated on new tactics to breach certain security barriers, these measures don’t comprehensively deal with new and old situations, but implementing them assures a minimum level of security.

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