Table of Contents [TOC]
- WordPress Defacement Removal
- Website Defacement Monitoring Tools
- How to Remove Defacement From WordPress Website?
- How to Protect WordPress Site From Defacement?
- Prevent WordPress Defacement Attack
Like graffiti in the physical world, website defacement attacks can leave a visible mark on your digital property. When carrying out this type of attack, cyber criminals generally replace existing content on your site with their own messages, whether those messages are political, religious, or just shocking. If somehow you are one of the victims of such attack, you must have Googled these questions, like
- What does it mean to deface a website?
- What is a Website Defacement Attack?
- How do hackers deface websites?
- How Does Website Defacement Work?
- How To Restore Defaced WordPress?
- Are website defacement and DOS possible cyber attacks against websites True or false?
As a small business owner, you know that your website is a critical component of your business. It gives potential customers their first impressions of your business and can even serve as a digital showcase. A wordpress site defacement attack that drives visitors away could have lasting consequences on your business.
In this article, we will explain you how to fix defaced WordPress website but for that you’ll have to take quick action. If Google detects such attack on your website, they can blacklist your website immediately. Lets learn more about WordPress site defacement & how to completely remove defacement from WordPress site?
Website alterations can damage your company’s reputation, giving visitors the impression that you don’t take security seriously or can’t protect your business online. In addition to damaging your reputation, website defacement can also cost your business a significant amount of money.
First, potential customers will abandon your website if they don’t feel it is safe. Also, while website defacement detection isn’t difficult, getting rid of defacements requires downtime that could cause a drop in revenue.
We are going to analyze here what defacement consists of, what its objectives are, the techniques used by cyber criminals, and how to protect your wordpress from being hacked?
What Is WordPress Website Defacement?
The defacement or defacing web is an attack where cyber criminals replace the contents of a website with your own messages. The messages may convey a political or religious message, profanity or other inappropriate content that would put website owners to shame, or a warning that the website has been hacked by a specific group of hackers.
Most website’s and web applications store data in environment or configuration files, which affects the content that is displayed on the website, or specifies where templates and page content are located. The unexpected changes in these files can mean a compromise of safety and may indicate an attack disfigurement.
Defacement usually occurs on a popular website with many users. Vandalism usually contains images of the victim, which are often edited as a joke or to express hatred. This can be done by adding a beard or horns and captions against the person or organization. The hacker then shows his pseudonym for advertising.
Why WordPress Sites Get Defaced?
The cyber Defacement is linked to “hacktivism” which is the use of the Internet and computer networks to promote political and protest messages. The main purpose of defacement is to censor the freedom of expression of those with whom hackers disagree.
This attack generally only affects very specific website’s such as the websites of government organizations and agencies (such as the United States White House or the FBI, for example). This type of attack has been seen in different countries around the world.
Religious website’s and those belonging to governments are frequently attacked by hackers with the aim of displaying political or religious messages, altering the opinions and beliefs of others. Disturbing images and offensive phrases can be displayed in the process, as well as a kind of signature, to show who was responsible for the disfigurement.
Websites are not only defaced for political reasons; many do it just for the thrill. There are online contests where hackers are awarded points for defacing the largest number of web pages in a given period of time.
Websites represent the image of a business or organization and therefore suffer significant losses due to disfigurement.
Techniques Used to Deface a Website
Common techniques used by hackers to deface a website include:
Malware infection such as redirect malware
- WordPress Brute Force Attacks
The SQL injection, also known as SQLI, is a common attack vector using malicious SQL code for handling database back-end for accessing information that was not intended to be displayed. This information can include any number of items, including confidential company data, user lists, or private customer details.
Cross-site scripting or WordPress XSS Attack is a common attack vector that injects malicious code into a vulnerable web application. XSS differs from other web attack vectors (for example, SQL injections), in that it does not directly target the application itself. Instead, the users of the web application are the ones at risk.
A successful cross-site scripting attack can have devastating consequences for the reputation of an online business and its relationship with its customers.
The hijacking of the domain name server (DNS), also known as DNS redirection, is a type of DNS attack in which DNS queries are resolved incorrectly unexpectedly to redirect users to malicious sites. To carry out the attack, hackers install malware on users’ computers, take over routers, or intercept or hack DNS communication.
Malware refers to the sending of perpetrators of malicious software to infect individual computers or networks of an organization. It exploits the vulnerabilities of the target system, such as a bug in legitimate software (for example, a browser or a web application plug-in) that can be hijacked.
A malware infiltration can be disastrous: the consequences include data theft, extortion, or the paralysis of network systems. It can also have devastating impact on SEO rankings of your site.
Consequences of A Defaced WordPress site
It can lead to serious consequences and you may come across number of errors or warning on your website such as:
- Deceptive Site Ahead’ Warning Message
- Siteground Account Suspension
- Spam Links in WordPress
- 500 Internal Server Error WordPress
- “This Site May Be Hacked” message in Google
- “This Account Has Been Suspended” WordPress
- Google Blacklist Warning message on your site
- Japanese Keywords on your wordpress site
- Links to pharma sites in wordpress – google viagra hack
Examples Of WordPress Defacement
Some of the largest websites in the world have been affected by defacement attacks at some point. A defacement attack is a public indicator that a website has been compromised and causes brand and reputation damage, lasting long after the attacker’s message has been removed.
As examples, we can mention the following.
NHS Defacing Attack – In 2018, the BBC reported that a website hosting patient survey data, operated by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), was destroyed by hackers. The defacement message read “Hacked by AnoaGhost.” The message was removed within a few hours, but the site was defaced for five days. The attack raised concerns about the security of medical data controlled by the NHS.
Google.ro and PayPal.ro – In 2012, users were unable to access Google Romania, and were instead taken to a defacement screen posted by MCA-CRB, the “Algerian Hacker”. The disfigurement lasted at least an hour. The attack was carried out by DNS hijacking: the attackers managed to spoof DNS responses and redirect users to their own server instead of Google’s.
The same attack was carried out against the paypal.ro domain. The MCA-DRB hacker group was responsible for 5,530 website defacements on five continents, many of them targeting government sites.
The Largest Cyber Attack in Georgia’s History
In 2019, Georgia, a small European country, experienced a cyberattack in which 15,000 websites were destroyed and then went offline. The affected websites included government websites, banks, local press, and large television networks.
A Georgian web host called Pro-Service took responsibility for the attack, issuing a statement that a hacker violated their internal systems and compromised the websites.
Differences Between WordPress Defacement & WordPress Phishing
Although both imply that there has been a breach in the security of our system, there are differences between them. Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that aims to exploit the naivete and/or credulity of legitimate users of the system.
Attackers go to great lengths to ensure that your emails appear as legitimate as possible. These emails typically direct recipients to an attacker-controlled website that delivers malware or intercepts user credentials.
The main difference between phishing and defacement would be in the motivation for the attack. Defacement attacks are more politically or ideologically motivated and spoof the web to make their ideas stand out. However, the objective of phishing is cheaper, they try to obtain bank details or other personal information of the victims.
WordPress phishing attack often provide attackers with user credentials. These credentials can provide access to restricted systems or data.
Privileged access from compromised computers, or credentials to an organization’s systems, allows attackers to bypass many technical security controls. This can also allow attackers to pivot and scale their access to other systems and data.
Ultimately, this can result in the complete commitment of an organization. This could include the theft of customer and employee data, source code leaks, website defacement, etc.
Website Defacement Monitoring Tools
If you have a monitoring system for your website to instantly notify you when the site is damaged. To limit the impact on business and reputation to zero or minimal.
Let’s take a look at the main programs to monitor websites and prevent defacement.
One of the popular cloud-based site monitoring platforms offers blacklist and defacement monitoring.
Monitis checks every 12 hours and reports any possibility of a site being defaced or blacklisted.
Website monitoring: Monitoring of the response time of the site and its performance from different locations around the world.
Network monitoring: It has tools to follow the status of the network at any time.
Open monitoring API: You can easily customize your monitoring tools for special customer needs.
Server monitoring: From a console, it detects bottleneck problems and problems can be prevented before they arise in the server or in the operating system.
Mobile monitoring: Alerts are sent to Android or iOS devices via text or emails.
The characteristics of this tool are:
Permanent monitoring: It is in charge of monitoring the site or server 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year.
Availability and performance reports: Provide all the necessary information on the uptime and performance of websites and servers in easy-to-understand reports and graphs.
Maintenance windows: One-off and recurring maintenance windows can be defined to pause the checks. No alerts will be sent during scheduled shutdowns.
Dependencies: In a data center, devices depend on each other. For example, ten servers are connected to the same switch. You can define the dependencies between the servers and the switch, so in case of a switch crash, you will receive only a “For switch” warning instead of receiving a warning for each of the servers behind.
Multi-Protocol Support: Supports ping, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, SSH, SWTP, DNS, POP3, IMAP, MySQL and any other service that runs over TCP / IP.
Worldwide monitoring: Monitor web sites and servers from a worldwide network with 34 monitoring nodes.
Fall time warning: Notify via email, SMS.
Sends restart requests: To the provider when a crash is detected.
False alarm reduction: They use advanced testing technology to avoid false alarms. Monitoring sensitivity can also be increased or decreased based on timeouts, timeouts, and geographic locations.
In this program,
Monitoring frequency: You can choose between 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15, 30 and 60 minutes as the amount of time the website will be verified.
Contact support: You can be notified by email and SMS. The emails contain details of the service being below and the error it returns. SMS alerts are a short notification sent to your mobile with the status of the monitored service. You can also use the service’s own tools to create your own application.
Content: The page is verified to have appropriate content. If a letter is not present on the web page, an alert is sent.
Ping: Sends echo commands to the destination host/device, helping to verify the level of IP connectivity, useful for both host and devices such as routers and firewalls.
Web servers: HTTP (Port 80) and HTTPS (source port 443) protocols. Monitor the performance and status of the website.
Link verification: You can monitor the exchange of links from parent websites and be alert once they are removed.
Different types of server protocols: ensure that your protocols work correctly (POP3, MySQL, SMTP, IMAP, DNS, and FTP).
This service has the following characteristics:
Web page performance monitoring – Monitor website performance and availability from multiple locations globally and notify you immediately when a crash occurs.
Web page analyzer: in-depth visibility of how your web pages are loading for customers around the world.
Monitoring service: Monitors the availability of critical services.
Real user monitoring: understanding of problems that affect real users, accessing websites and applications. Analyze application performance from all perspectives.
Cloud Monitoring: Provides comprehensive performance metrics for Amazon EC2, RDS instances, and Bucket. Guarantee the maximum performance of the applications and business-critical services hosted on their Amazon platforms.
VMware monitoring: comprehensive view of your VMware infrastructure.
Server Monitoring: Monitors critical server indicators, such as CPU, disk, memory, processes, services, and network usage of Linux and Windows servers running critical applications.
Monitor the internal network via On-premise poller: Monitor intranet portals, ERP systems, payroll applications, ping network devices, application servers, database servers and ensure that other custom applications have optimal performance.
Monitor from mobile networks, internal WiFi and mobile devices: Check the performance and availability of mobile applications, websites and other online services through mobile phone operators (3G, 4G) and Wi-Fi networks of the company.
How to Remove Defacement From WordPress Website?
Now we will walk you through all the steps you need to take to fix defaced wordpress and perform WordPress defacement page removal with ease. You can also refer to our other in depth posts on how to fix a hacked wordpress site & how to remove malware from wordpress.
1. Scan your site
When your website is corrupted, hackers often insert malware onto your site that makes destruction possible. The first thing we recommend doing is scanning your site for this malware.
You can do this using WordPress security plugins. Now there are many available in the market and you should choose one wisely.
In a WordPress website defacement attack, hackers do the following:
Insert malicious code (also known as malware) in different parts of your site.
Disguise and hide your codes making it very difficult to detect.
Create secret entry points known as back doors that allow them to access your site even after cleaning it.
Not all plug-ins can detect hidden and disguised codes, and some bypass the back doors.
You must use a smart scanner like WP Hacked Help that meets these challenges. The site runs a full scan of your WordPress site in less than a few minutes. If there is any malicious code on your site, our team can help you to remove it. We provide one of the best wordpress malware removal services.
2. Clean Up Your Hacked WordPress Site
Now that you have scanned your site, you need to clean it up by removing any malware present. Many malware removal solutions on the market have long response times. This means that it can take days before your site is clean.
But with the WordPress defacing hack, time is of the essence and you should clean up your site immediately. You can use a WordPress malware removal plugin.
3. Restore Your Backup
Now that your site hack has been removed, you can get your normal site back by restoring your backup.
A backup is an exact copy of your website. It is useful at times like these to restore your site to its previous state. You can restore your backup in three ways:
Use a plugin -If you have installed a WordPress backup plugin on your site prior to the hack, you can use the service to restore your site to normal. For example, if you are using the BlogVault backup plugin, the restore process is very simple.
Access your site in the BlogVault dashboard.
Under “Backups”, select “Restore.”
Enter your FTP credentials, select your backup, and restore your site.
Your site will be restored to its previous state before the hack occurred.
Use web server – In case you have not backed up your site using a plugin, you can check with your web host.
Most web servers periodically back up sites on their platform. Upon request, they will send you a copy of their site. You may need to upgrade to a higher plan to access your backups.
The process of restoring your site differs from host to host. You should check with them about the restoration process after your WordPress gets damaged.
Using Softaculous – If you haven’t used a plugin and your host doesn’t have a backup either, we suggest one last try: Softaculous.
Softaculous is an application installer that your web server automatically includes in your web hosting account.
The developers use softaculous to install WordPress on the website. During WordPress installation time, Softaculous offers a backup option. If the backup option was selected, Softaculous would have kept a copy of your website.
Also Read – How to export wordpress database
Check Your Web Hosting Provider
Step 1: Login to your web host accounts and go to cPanel.
Step 2: Here you will find the Softaculous application. If there is no Softaculous option, contact your host to find out if they provide it.
Step 3: Within this application, you will find backup copies. Click backups and you will see options to download the backup or restore your site.
Lastly, if you don’t have a backup, you would need to restructure your site manually. You may need the help of your website developer for this. In case you have not backed up your site so far, we recommend that you do so immediately. You can read more about the importance of backups and how to get one for your site in our guide on how to backup a WordPress site.
If you have followed the steps mentioned above, we are confident that your website is now piracy free and has been restored to normal.
Before closing, you should know that these defacement campaigns and hacks are only growing more in number! Unfortunately, your site does not become immune to defacement after an attack. There are chances of more attacks happening in the future.
How to Protect WordPress Site From Defacement?
To gain access to your website, cyber criminals often target contact forms, inject spam into comment boxes, or insert unwanted links into your source code or database.
The more entry points your website has, the easier it will be for attackers to gain access. A backdoor is a way to access the control of the WordPress website. New variants of WordPress backdoor hack can be found every month.
If you don’t have the tools to detect their entry, they will be able to carry out a defacement attack.
Follow these tips to stop cyber criminals and keep your site safe.
Limit Your Website Plugins
Cyber criminals often target sites that are considered vulnerable or would attract a lot of attention if hacked. Oftentimes, the sites that are especially susceptible to attack are those that incorporate a set of additional plugins and functions. Basically, plugins expand the footprint of a site, giving hackers more potential entry points.
One way to avoid website destruction is to choose your plugins and applications carefully. Make sure each one provides value to your website and use only what you need. Regularly audit plugins and completely uninstall any plugins or themes that are disabled in the dashboard.
Unused plugins are likely to be out of date and less secure over time, making your site more vulnerable. The software outdated is a major factor in cyber attacks because the vulnerable code is not updated. It is highly recommended to update plugins, themes, and core files as soon as updates are available.
Limit Access Levels
If more than one person is logging into the website to make changes to the content, it limits the type of access each additional individual has.
Having multiple administrators on your website leaves the door open for a cyber criminal to gain unauthorized access through the login page. Limiting full access to content can prevent defacement of the website caused by human error (for example, weak passwords).
Scan the Source Code of Your Site
If you have the technical knowledge or tech-savvy staff members, you can manually check for malware on your site. You should also have access to the file manager provided by your domain host or file transfer protocol, which can be used to check your site for malware.
Look for the script and <iframe> attributes, and scan the URLs that follow these attributes to make sure you recognize them. If you don’t, they may have been injected with malicious content.
Use WordPress Malware Scanner
Even if you have the technical expertise to manually check for malware, WP Hacked Help scanner is essential for regular maintenance that won’t take time.
This type of WordPress malware scanner can detect suspicious activity as soon as it occurs. It will be able to monitor your website’s files, database and patch vulnerabilities. Their team of experts are able to help you in removing malware and spam when detected.
Best Practices to Address Website Defacement Attack
If you have been the victim of a defacement attack on your website, the first thing you should do is to recover the normal functioning of the website as soon as possible. To do this, follow these tips:
- Report it to the CISA
Also file a complaint with the police.
Report the situation to your web service provider.
Make backup copies of affected hard drives to use as evidence for the investigation.
Restore the web backup.
It scans the company’s computers to verify that they are not affected using an antivirus.
When the problem is solved, ask that your website be removed from the blacklists.
Prevent WordPress Defacement Attack
In the previous sections, we have covered the importance of a scanner and backup solution for your site. These measures are a must when it comes to WordPress security.
A WordPress scanner will scan and fix your site.
A backup is your safety net if things go wrong with your site. You can use it to easily restore your site and get rid of disfigurement quickly.
- Use Secure Multipurpose WordPress Themes
- SWordPress File And Folder Permissions
- Delete Invisible/Hidden Admin User In WordPress
- Track (Monitor) User Activity in WordPress
- Disable Directory Browsing in WordPress
- Change Your WordPress Username
- Scan your WordPress Themes for malware
- Disable XML-RPC in WordPress
- Setup WordPress Two-Factor Authentication
Update your WordPress site – Like all software, WordPress and its themes and plugins are prone to security issues from time to time. The main WordPress installation has been very secure for the past few years. However, some of its themes and plugins tend to develop vulnerabilities.
When developers discover these vulnerabilities, they quickly fix it and release an update. Once you update the plugin or theme to the new version of WordPress on your site, the vulnerability will be fixed.
This is why it is so important to keep your site up to date. If you put off updating your site, it gives hackers a chance to hack your site and deface it.
So if you see updates available, we recommend updating without delay.
If you find updates difficult to manage, we recommend that you check out our guide on WordPress updates.
Harden your WordPress site – WordPress has a number of features that allow you to create and manage your website. Hackers try to misuse these features to get into your site. Therefore, WordPress recommends disabling some features that you probably don’t need. It also recommends implementing certain security measures to strengthen your site. These include:
Use of strong usernames and passwords
Disable plugin and theme installations
Disable plugin and theme editor
Limit login attempts
Enable two-factor authentication
We will not delve into this here as these measurements need detailed explanations. We have prepared a guide on how to strengthen your WordPress site. You can follow this guide to know how to secure a WordPress website in 2021.
Remove inactive themes and plugins – Many WordPress site owners tend to try new plugins and themes and then forget about them. But every additional item on your site gives hackers another chance to hack into your site. We recommend that you remove all themes and plugins that you don’t use.
If you use pirated versions of themes and plugins, you should remove them immediately. Most pirated software contains malware that infects your site when you install it. We highly recommend that you avoid using pirated themes and plugins at all costs.
Use an SSL certificate – As we mentioned earlier, hackers try to intercept the data that is transferred to and from your site. They exploit this data to gain access to your site.
This problem can be easily solved by installing an SSL certificate. This will ensure that your data is encrypted and cannot be used by hackers.
You can buy an SSL certificate from your web host or any SSL provider. There are different SSL certificates that you can buy that offer different levels of protection. You can also get basic SSL certificates for free from sites like LetsEncrypt.
We recommend reading more about SSL certificates for your WordPress site. This guide will show you how to obtain a certificate and install it on your website.
Once you have implemented these measures, the security of your WordPress site will be airtight. You can be sure that hackers will find it extremely difficult to break into your site.
The reason your WordPress site was defaced is that hackers found a way to get access to your site. You can prevent this from happening by taking extensive security measures on your WordPress site.
We strongly recommend that you do regular scanning of your site. If you need our hep, you can contact us & we will scan your site for threats and vulnerabilities in wordpress. Their team of expert will also proactively block hackers from accessing your website so that they cannot attempt to hack into it.
You can be sure that hackers will not be able to harm your site in the future.