How to Perform a Website Malware Scan?

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One of the disadvantages of owning a website is the possibility of being a target for hackers. Every day, approximately 18,500,000 websites are hacked, according to analysis. According to the same survey, an average website is attacked 44 times a day.

To add insult to injury, 17 percent of all compromised pages are subject to search engine blacklisting. Google scans websites on the internet with their website malware scanner, flagging alerts such as misleading site ahead, this site could be hacked, or blacklisting hacked sites. As a consequence, malware security for your website is critical.

Why Hackers Infect Your Site With Malware?

Otherwise, if a hacker has gained access to your site, they can infect it with malware for a variety of purposes. None of which are typically directly linked to your website. Hackers target WordPress sites for a number of purposes, including sending spam or phishing emails from your domain, manipulating search results with spammy keywords, transmitting malware to other websites on the same web server as you, and other illegal activities.

If you Google malware, you’ll find a number of different forms. Malware can take several different forms depending on its function, including viruses, adware, trojan viruses, keyloggers, and more. Phishing emails, secret iframes, obsolete themes and plugins, drive-by downloads, brute-force attacks, DDOS attacks, and other strategies are widely used to spread it.

Worse, hackers will try to make malware impossible to detect by hiding it in different locations on your website, making malware scanning much more difficult.

In this post, we’ll look at where malware can be found on WordPress sites and how to scan them for malware using various scanners. Website scanners work similarly to a web inspector for your domain. They are in charge of keeping your website secure. Apart from using a scanner, there are a few other things you can do, such as downloading an SSL certificate. Covering both of these steps would necessitate a separate post.

Where to Find Malware in a WordPress Site?

Malware can be found in various areas of your WordPress website, as we described earlier. Your database and .htaccess file are two common locations.

WordPress Plugins & Themes

Plugins and themes for WordPress are popular places for malware to hide, especially if you’re using old themes and plugins. It can also hide in themes and plugins that are no longer working. Disable themes and plugins instead of deactivating them. To uninstall malware, you can also use a WordPress malware removal plugin.

WordPress Core Files

Malware can also hide in the core files of WordPress. This refers to both obsolete and current installations, but it’s worth noting that outdated installations are more likely to contain malware.

If you’ve visited a malicious website or clicked on a connection in a phishing email and downloaded an infected file to your device, you’ve been infected. It’s fair to say that malware has compromised your device. Any uploaded files to your site may be compromised, making this a simple way to get your site infected with malware.

Shared Hosting

Finally, malware may impact other sites on the same host server while using shared hosting. Shared hosting isn’t always the safest choice. Malware can be seen on the main site in some situations, and it can be difficult to identify in others. The pharma hack is a well-known example of difficult-to-find malware. The hack is not noticeable on any of your website pages or in the source code in this case. When you search for a website on a search engine like Google, a pharma hack appears, and it can have devastating implications for your SEO ranking.

When you consider all of this, it’s clear that locating malware is a difficult task because it may be present in all of these locations.

How to scan websites for vulnerabilities?

Let’s look at how to search pages for malware now that we’ve covered where malware normally hides on a WordPress website.

Malware can be found in a number of ways. This includes plugins and manual processes, among other things. Despite the fact that manual malware detection is possible. However, considering the difficulty of locating malware, manual approaches have a very poor success rate.

Fortunately, there are several tools, plugins, and utilities available to assist you. However, before you use any of these tools, you should familiarise yourself with how these tools usually search websites for malware.

How to Scan a WordPress Site For Malware:

  • Signature/Pattern Matching
  • Malware Keyword Recognition for Scanning
  • Detect Differences in Core Files
  • Match WordPress Plugins
  • Look for Recently Modified Files
  • Look for Unknown Files & Folders in the Root Folder

Signature/Pattern Matching

The signature/patching method is the first on this list. A plugin or tool can match files and code against known malware signatures using this approach. Signatures are essentially patterns, and the tool can align all of your site’s data against those patterns. It will send a warning if it detects a match, indicating that an infection or intrusion has been discovered.

The signature/pattern matching approach has a number of drawbacks. The key drawback is that it only compares data to a pre-defined pattern. Unfortunately, since malware is made up entirely of code, there may be an infinite number of patterns that the tool is unaware of.

Signature matching is now used by the vast majority of site malware scanners, including some of the most common WordPress security scanners.

Security Scanner That Does Not Reply on Pattern Matching:

MalCare’s website malware scanner is not like those other web security scanners. It is one of the best website malware scanners because it does not rely on signature matching. Instead, it employs over 100 intelligent signals to detect even the most sophisticated malware. These intelligent signals are the culmination of three years of website scanning and data collection. This data is also used to detect malware that other website protection search plugins sometimes miss. The plugin extensively scans your website for perhaps the most difficult-to-find malware. MalCare also runs all scans on its own servers, ensuring that the website is not overburdened. MalCare detects malware and eliminates it with the click of a button once it has been detected.

MalCare also provides more security safeguards since it is a full security service. Consider MalCare’s website monitoring and firewall services, as well as the CAPTCHA-based security defense. It stops bots and hackers from gaining access to your website. MalCare also logs any IP addresses that attempt to hack into your WordPress account. MalCare also provides backup services for websites.

Malware Scanning via Keyword Identification

Another popular method for locating and identifying malware is to conduct a keyword search for malware-related words. This includes words like ‘eval’ and ‘base64 decode.’

It’s true that those keywords appear in a lot of malicious code. However, there is a huge amount of malware that does not use them at all. On the other hand, these keywords are used in a lot of true and good code.

As a consequence, using this tool to search a website for viruses is not foolproof. Furthermore, if you use this tool to search a website for malware, you are likely to get a lot of false positives.

Differences in Core Files

Malware can also be found by comparing the local WordPress core files to the official WordPress core files. All of the WordPress files that make up the WordPress program are found in the core files. Malware is often introduced into these files to make them harder to locate or to allow for vulnerability exploits.

Since WordPress is an open-source project, you can easily compare the local and official versions and see if there are any variations.

To some degree, this approach is efficient since a difference can be easily identified. It does, however, have its own collection of issues. The biggest issue with this approach is that different web hosts use different WordPress versions. This indicates that there’s a chance you’ll get a false alarm.

Aside from that, there’s another issue with searching for malware in core files. Malware isn’t necessary to live there. It may live anywhere, so even though your website has been compromised, you might not see any symptoms. Nonetheless, this is a good way to locate and recognize malware on your website.

Match WordPress Plugins

Matching plugins is the next approach on our list. Plugin matching, like core file matching, refers to comparing installed plugins to those available in the public repository.

This is a good tool for detecting malware, but it has some disadvantages. For instance, bear in mind that plugins come in various versions, much like WordPress core files. As a consequence, there’s a chance you’ll get a false positive.

Another concern with this approach is that not all plugins are open to the general public. Some plugins are only accessible on the websites of website developers or on third-party marketplaces. As a consequence, you won’t be able to compare different models.

Finally, some plugins have changes that aren’t always reflected in the repository. This involves making improvements to a plugin’s actions or adding features beyond what the plugin originally provided.

All of this makes matching WordPress plugin files as a reliable method of detecting malware on your web challenging.

Look for Recently Modified Files

If your website has been hacked, it’s likely that malware has been concealed in recently updated files. Perform a malware search on recently updated or new files on the website. They might be the result of a hack, particularly if you or someone else in charge of your site didn’t make any changes or upload any files. Any new or updated file uploaded or modified in the last 7-30 days should be handled with caution and checked for malware.

You’ll need to check the date and time the files were edited or uploaded. If you or your teammates did not make any changes to the files, a third party, such as a hacker, might have done so or uploaded malicious files such as wp-feed.php or wp-tmp.php.

This approach, like the other methods mentioned here, has its own set of drawbacks. Today’s hackers are astute, and they could have reverted the modification period. This makes it difficult to tell if the files have been updated recently or whether they were modified by anyone unrelated to your website.

Look for Website Malware in Unknown Files and Folders of WordPress Root Folder

Finally, search the root folder of your WordPress installation for any unknown files or directories. Hackers mostly target the WordPress root directory (the /public HTML folder) because it’s not a location that most WordPress users use on a regular basis.

The plugin folder in /wp-content/plugins/ and the themes folder in /wp-content/themes/ are two other insecure directories and data. Make sure there are no unknown PHP files or extra folders in these directories to ensure there is no malware.

Looking for unknown folders and files is a good way to capture any suspicious or malicious files and folders as a general rule of thumb. Keep in mind, though, that there might be extra files and directories that appear to be malicious but aren’t.

Themes and plugins are the same way. While folders typically contain a well-known collection of files and folders, there are times when they contain additional files and folders that aren’t as well-known. In these instances, removing them can result in themes or plugins failing to function properly. As a result, rather than using this approach alone, it’s better to combine it with another.

Drawbacks of the Scanning

As you can see, there is a range of paid malware scanners and online website scanners available. They also use a number of methods to search the site for malware. Although both of these approaches can be used, keep in mind that they all have vulnerabilities, which means they aren’t entirely accurate and can generate false positives or, worse, completely miss malware.

Some of the methods used by online website malware scanners, such as the ones we described above, necessitate gaining SSH access to the site. This functionality isn’t available on 99 percent of hosted pages, and it’s also outside the reach of most WordPress users’ awareness.

Furthermore, you could use software such as grep, which is incredibly difficult to use and poses a challenge for the vast majority of WordPress users.

Even if you ignore all of the disadvantages mentioned above, there is no guarantee that you will be able to search your website thoroughly and detect all instances of malicious code.

Finally, bear in mind that the preceding procedures, such as pattern matching and WordPress core file matching, usually resource intensive. This means they have the ability to overburden your server, causing you to exceed your resource allocation and having your site suspended. This is an issue that many WordPress malware scanners have.

You’ll find a plethora of choices if you Google malware checker or simply Google website scanner. There are several online tools that will allow you to search WordPress for malware, such as Sucuri Site Check. You can have come across free website protection software as well as a plethora of website security companies that provide malware protection. They are all, however, vulnerable to the above-mentioned interventions. Alternatively, you should employ a website malware removal provider to do the job for you.

Last Thoughts

MalCare’s free website malware scanner, like many other security plugins, checks websites for malware. However, it is free of these flaws and does not depend on the methods described above. These are some of the plugin’s highlights –

  • MalCare is able to reliably detect malware because it processes anything on its own servers and draws on the experience of hundreds of thousands of websites on which it has been deployed. You can search a website for malware at any time.
  • And MalCare uses the data collected from these pages to recognize malware as a whole. As a result, the MalCare website scanner is not only effective but also the best option for your website.
  • MalCare provides a variety of services in addition to scanning, including instant cleaning, website hardening, firewall, and login security.