Malware is an umbrella term for malicious software that can affect your website’s performance and even steal your data and sensitive information (like customer data).
If you haven’t safeguarded your site against malware, you are at a higher risk of it affecting your business, but many users find that even after being diligent about protecting their website, malware can still creep in.
What Can Malware Do?
Malware refers to any malicious software that finds its way into your system. Some malware programs disrupt your regular operations or even crash your computer or servers and prevent them from operating properly. Today, most malware programs exist to steal sensitive information, but different types of malware cause a variety of devastating problems.
Most Common Types of Malware
Most users are familiar with some of the more common types of malware, but it’s vital to know the different types of malware, what they can do, and how to protect against them:
A virus is an executable file attached to another file. Once opened, the file will follow its programming, sometimes to delete or corrupt data, infect other programs, or spread to connected systems.
Similar to a virus, a worm will spread to other systems and infect files and programs once opened. However, unlike a virus, a worm does not need a host program to run.
This type of malware is usually silent, causing minimal disruption to your activity on your system. However, this type of malware exists to steal sensitive information and relay it to the individual responsible for putting it on your system.
As the name suggests, this is a type of malware that disguises itself as another program or file. Trojan horse executables can attach to non-executable files.
These programs remain dormant in a system until activated, and then they are capable of causing physical damage to targeted machines by overloading cooling fans and overheating motherboards and other components.
This type of malware essentially locks a user out of his or her system unless he or she agrees to pay a ransom.
Some malware simply creates an open door to your system. Once a hacker implants a backdoor in your system, the hacker can bypass your passwords and other digital security measures easily.
A rootkit is essentially a more robust backdoor program that allows remote access to a system.
These programs record your keystrokes, allowing a hacker to record your password inputs and other keystroke information.
Not only does malware exist in many different forms, hackers and malware developers are constantly looking for new methods to make their malware harder to detect and harder to stop once it infects a system. As malware developers’ techniques evolve, your defenses must adapt as well. It’s crucial to have a plan in place to safeguard your website from malware.
Protecting Your Systems from Malware
The best way to handle malware is to prevent it from affecting your system in the first place. Due to the complexity of modern cyberattacks and the sophistication of their programs, this can sound easier said than done, but a few best practices can limit your exposure to malware or potentially reduce the damage if you notice malware on your system.
1. Avoid clicking pop-up advertisements and suspicious links. Even so much as one click on a pop-up ad can download malware to your system. If you see an enticing ad, it is best to look up the brand on your own and visit a secured site rather than clicking on a pop-up ad.
2. Keep your system and programs up to date. It is much easier for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities in outdated programs. The program developers of your operating system and other programs likely release security and performance patches on a regular basis, and these patches can help reduce vulnerability and make it harder for hackers to breach your system.
3. Use caution when downloading files. Most people who mistakenly download malware often believe the sender was a legitimate source. Some malware programs can mimic known email addresses, so always use caution when downloading email attachments or clicking links in emails, even from known senders.
4. Install a firewall and antivirus protection. Most modern antivirus software programs automatically update with new information and safeguards against new and evolving types of malware.
Protecting Your WordPress Website from Malware
1. Apply Updates: When it comes to open-source systems like WordPress, keeping your core software and plugins updated is one of the first lines of defense against bots and hackers. We always stress to our clients that keeping your website software up-to-date, like your cell phone, is the best defense against it becoming exploited.
Open-source software by its very nature is open to the public, so when bugs or security issues are detected, not only are coders and web developers informed of this, but hackers are, too. This is why expediency is an extremely important factor when applying updates. Don’t wait to update your core WordPress installation, or your 3rd party plugins.
2. Rename your database: Renaming your database prefix from the stock naming-scheme will help protect bots from automatically detecting your database tables and attempting to inject them with code.
3. Disable PHP Uploads – There is no need for outside parties to be granted the ability to upload PHP files to your directory. By keeping this ability disabled you ensure that no hackers can exploit your web server by uploading arbitrary code.
4. Install a WordPress Firewall – Installing a firewall specifically for WordPress is a great way to lock-down your website from common attack vectors related to malware infections. We recommend using All In One WP Security & Firewall. It gives you a recommended score as a reference for how well locked-down your website is from common exploits and public-facing usage.
5. Block Access To XMLRPC – XMLRPC is a WordPress API (application programming interface). It gives 3rd party developers access to your website so that their applications can communicate with your backend. However, attackers have found ways to use this functionality to attack websites, usually via DDos or Brute Force attacks. If you are not using any 3rd party applications that need access to your WordPress installation, then we recommend disabling this API