Imagine going home on a Friday evening after a long week of work and everything is fine. Your websites are generating traffic and increasing sales. Come Monday morning you discover your websites have been down all weekend and ultimately infected with malicious malware. That’s exactly what happened to one of our colleagues this past week. Luckily, after only an hour of downtime, we were able to help them get back up and running with little effect on the business. These types of incidents are more common than we expect, especially with WordPress-hosted websites. That’s what prompted us to write this article, so hopefully, it can prevent a similar heart-stopping situation from happening to you.
Malware, short for malicious software, is a term that describes a wide variety of intentionally harmful programs. Protecting your website against them should be a top priority. To keep your site safe, it’s important to understand the different types of malware, and how they can affect your site. You’ve likely heard of malware before, Even if you’re not so savvy with computer security.
Malware has also progressed into many different types, which have differing ways of infecting and damaging the systems it attacks. New types of malware are released and discovered every day. It’s easy to think that you’re safe, but there are no ways to guarantee 100% security against malware. Even if you’re only running a basic WordPress site, it could still become infected causing you to lose content and money. It’s best to be prepared so you can take the appropriate measures to protect yourself from having your site infected. Let’s begin.
Different Types of WordPress Malware
Before we dive headfirst into the different steps you can take to protect your WordPress site from malware, let’s briefly discuss the types of malware you might encounter.
- Virus: A virus refers to software that replicates itself by inserting its code into other programs. This can take many shapes, such as adding spam content to your site and infecting your visitors’ computers.
- Trojan horse: A Trojan horse, named after the subterfuge that was used to invade the city of Troy refers to software that pretends to have one function but secretly performs other actions. Such actions may include corrupting your WordPress files, FTP files, PHP files, or exploiting your system’s resources.
- Spyware: Spyware is a program that remains hidden, to collect information. This can lead to data breaches and the loss of personal data.
- Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your data ransom. Once you’re infected, you will not be able to access your data until you pay the creators to remove it.
- Adware: Adware forces you to interact with an advertisement before you can use your site. Although it can be irritating it’s usually pretty harmless.
5 Ways to Protect Your WordPress Site Against Malware
To prevent malware from affecting your WordPress site, you’ll need to strengthen its defenses. This might seem a bit tricky if you’re inexperienced with website security, but it’s very simple. WordPress is a very secure platform, but nothing is completely safe. That being said, let’s dive into the five best ways to make sure your WordPress site can survive a malware attack.
- Move Your WordPress Site to SSL/HTTPS
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that encrypts the data transfer between your website and the user’s browser. This encryption makes it harder for someone to snoop around and steal information. Once you enable SSL, your website will use HTTPS instead of HTTP, you will also see a padlock sign next to your website address in the browser. Many hosting companies are now offering a free SSL certificate for your WordPress site.
- Keep Your Site Updated
This is both the easiest and the most important way you can prevent a malware attack. You must make sure to always update every facet of your site as soon as possible. This includes both WordPress itself, WordPress themes you are using, WordPress files, WordPress plugins you have installed on your site. Older versions of the software are more likely to contain security vulnerabilities due to the lack of recent anti-malware security measures in place. Updating your site is very simple. Go to your site’s admin area, under Dashboard > Updates.
- Ensure Your Login Page is Secured
One of the most notorious weak points is the WordPress login page. No-fault of WordPress, the wp-login page is a target because most attackers focus their efforts there to try and gain access to your site. The two most important things you can do to strengthen your login page are choosing a strong username and password. Try not to use ‘admin’ as your username, as this is the most common and easy to guess. You also need to use a strong password using a combination of capital letters, lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s also a smart idea to implement two-factor authentication, meaning users will need a mobile device to log in.
- Frequently Backup Your Site
A backup is a copy of your site with all of the content and data it contains. The backup can be used to revert it to an earlier state if the site ever crashes. If your site gets infected with malware and you have no backup, you may lose your data and content completely. With a regularly updated backup, you can restore the saved version to a point before it was infected. There are several ways you can create backups in WordPress. Some plugins contain backup features, and some web hosts offer this functionality as a part of their plans, creating backups for you at certain periods.
- Have a Security Plugin Installed
Several plugins provide a complete security system for your WordPress site. Sucuri Security is a popular free plugin that offers a lot of features. Sucuri scans your site for malware and keeps itself up-to-date on the latest threats. It will send you notifications about any security issues and monitors all of your site’s files to spot anything potentially harmful. The best advice is to do some research and find out which security plugin is right for you and your site’s needs.