Why hackers attack WordPress

WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world (running over 38% of websites). It is also a very popular choice for creating business websites. With this popularity comes a higher number of hacking attempts. Hackers are continuously trying to hack into WordPress websites.

With over 200 websites in our portfolio, it is a constant battle to stay ahead of WordPress hackers. While some successful hacks are visible, others are more discrete. This article looks at why hackers attack WordPress and explains what they gain from accessing the back end of a WordPress website.

Social Proof

The most obvious hack occurs when hackers deface the pages of your website. They will deliberately change items on your website (like add different photos or change text). Most often, these hacks tend to let visitors know that a hacker has hacked the website. Another easy to tell method is to redirect your website to another website. This redirection typically sends website visitors to a spammy website or a malicious website that tricks people into entering their personal information.

A third way to tell you website has been hacked occurs when you do a search (i.e. on Google or Bing) and the results for your website don’t look right. The search results contain images or text that doesn’t belong to your website. Or the search engine displays a warning that your website is not safe.

Another warning of website hacking occurs when your web hosting company lets you know that they have shut down your website for malicious activity.

All these activities have a detrimental effect on your website. Your business loses credibility. Visitors won’t come back and you have to rebuild your audience.

Make Money

The next set of hacks are not visible on the front end of the website. They are all occurring in the backend and are difficult to detect if you are not proactively monitoring your website. The first hidden hack occurs when hackers break into the website backend (typically through a leaked username/password list) and they install a backdoor on the website. The backdoor gives hackers the ability to login to the website at any time. Normally, these backdoors are installed in several locations, so finding one usually means there are others. These backdoors just sit there waiting for the hacker to come back at a later date and use your website for malicious activity.

A second hack involves using your website to inject spam or SEO content on your website that benefits another website. For example, hackers inject hidden text with links to another website in the hopes of boosting the SEO results for the other website. One SEO item used by search engines is the number of inbound links to the website. Hackers get paid for boosting the SEO of other websites. Typical locations for spam links are at the bottom of posts or in the footer, areas website owners don’t pay much attention to. Like spam links, hackers also create spam pages that are crammed with keywords and links to other websites. Again, the purpose here is to boost the SEO of the other website. Hackers put a hidden link on a normal page and search engines will find it and follow the links (thereby boosting the SEO of the other website).

A third hack deals with taking over the mailer script within WordPress. Hackers add code that uses the mail code to send out spam emails from your website. These spam emails include phishing campaigns looking to trick recipients into providing personal information and credentials to hackers. You won’t know your website is sending out spam emails until your website gets backlisted and your hosting provider shuts down your website in efforts to protect their server.

A final hack that is gaining in popularity is using a hacked website for crypto-mining. In this type of hack, hackers add code that is used to earn cryptocurrency. They use the server resources to run the mining code and you won’t know about it until your web hosting provider shuts your website down for excessive usage.

All these hidden hacks earn money for the hackers. They get paid for results and have no issues using your server resources to their benefit. These hacking methods are difficult to catch because they do not change the front-end display of your website. Everything happens in the background.

Hackers getting stealthy

Traditional website hacking is giving way to more sophisticated attacks. Hackers don’t want you to know that they hacked your website. They want to maximise the use of your website server resources before they max it out and move on. The problem for most website owners is they don’t know until it’s too late and their web hosting provider turns their website off.

Don’t wait for your web hosting service to shut down your website. Check your website for unauthorized intrusion. Take steps to harden your WordPress website, including installing security software, setting up a security system, locking out hacking attempts, and scanning your website regularly. Securing your website is a methodical process and requires constant monitoring.

At Majaid Web Solutions, we regularly monitor client websites for hacking attempts and take deliberate steps to keep hackers out. This includes enforcing strong passwords, monitoring the website using Wordfence, keeping the website regularly updated, and using a backup system to keep copies of the website (so that it can be quickly reset if a hacker gets in).

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