The WordPress Admin Hack

As platforms like WordPress become more popular, the rise of new vulnerabilities and the number of attacks increase by the second. Hacks on the admin panel of WordPress sites can be twice as dangerous because of the control it holds over the entire site – which is the hacker’s endgame. They can then manipulate your site to be a front for all kinds of malicious activities such as selling illegal products or medication, phishing attacks, download unwanted malware, use blackhat SEO methods for using the ranking of your site for their purposes, stealing customer data, etc. 

Your worst-case scenario with a severely hacked WP site is a complete loss of customer trust due to exposure to malware, infections, data and money loss, blacklisting by search engines like Google that gives rise to ‘Deceptive Site Ahead’ warnings, and suspension of your account by your web hosting provider. 

How does the WordPress platform function?

Files used in WordPress can be segregated into three categories – codes, uploads, and configurations. Under the ‘codes’ category, comes the core files and folders with the most important functions of the WordPress platform. This includes ‘wp-admin’, ‘wp-content’, and ‘wp-includes’. 

It also contains plugins and themes, all of which function together to make sure that the site functions smoothly. Similarly, uploads and configuration files (‘wp-config’) also connect to important parts of the WordPress site and are equally vulnerable targets of hacking attempts. 

Examples of WordPress admin hacks

You can know the difference in the kinds of attacks your WordPress platform faces by identifying from where it originated, through which backdoor the hacker was able to get in, and what they have checked out or modified. This is where the importance of attacks on the admin panel – the control centre of the site – becomes visible. 

A real case occurred where the user was hacked and they suspected the problem was in the database of the WordPress site. They couldn’t access wp-admin, with the message popping up that ‘you have no permission’, meaning the hacker placed a redirect on this file. The user resorted to cleaning up the WordPress site and databases, the user accounts that may have been suspicious on the admin panel, and even looked for malicious code and strings throughout, but came up with nothing. 

The user finally went to the ‘.htaccess’ file in the main folder where WordPress is installed and the wp-admin folder itself to ensure that nothing suspicious was placed in these files. They also looked through the ‘Hidden Files’ category and the raw access files under their hosting control panel so that they didn’t miss anything. 

Finally, the user took up a blank ‘.htaccess’ file and used code to rewrite it, as well as installing new versions of all the important files. 

If the hackers were able to upload any files, an important step is to check out for any backdoor files that may have opened the door for them to access the site – so, uploading new versions of WordPress core files and folders will not help in this situation unless you’re able to pinpoint the issue. 

Always remember to change all your passwords after a hacking attempt – including hosting control panel, WordPress admin panel, and FTP credentials. 

What’s next?

You may have temporarily resolved the situation once you recognized that your site has been subjected to an admin hack. How do you prevent this from happening again?

Fixing all known vulnerabilities

There’s always a list when you read up on WordPress security, and while it may seem familiar to you, a significant proportion of site users don’t take steps to fix these issues.

  • Strong login credentials, especially useful against brute force attacks
  • Regular updates for whatever you use – WordPress, plugins, themes, etc.
  • A reliable web hosting service provider can make all the difference in security
  • Limit your use of themes and plugins from reputed third-party providers or WordPress itself. Knowingly or unknowingly, they may have backdoors and code vulnerabilities that can be misused by hackers. Regularly monitor existing extensions and delete ones that are no longer required.

Hardening measures

Some of the recommended measures to strengthen your WordPress security barriers are:

  • An active firewall system will constantly monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, individual systems, network strength, and IP addresses for any suspicious activity that will push it to block the target. 
  • 2-factor authentication processes are extremely useful and easy to set up for added security, usually through one-time passwords sent to emails, mobile numbers, or CAPTCHAs. 
  • Disable plugin installations, especially if you’ve multiple users working on the WordPress platform so that you can monitor who gets to install which plugin. Just manually edit the ‘wp-config.php’ file. 

The security process is often a tedious process that almost always misses something no matter how precise you’re – but that’s where security experts like Astra Security come in, so do check it out today!

Frank Meyer

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