“The site ahead contains harmful programs” alert is triggered when you open a malware infected and hacked website in chrome or firefox. It means your wordpress site is hacked and infected with a malware and its security has been comnpromised. In this post, we will show you how to fix The site ahead contains harmful programs warning in WordPress & preventive steps you can take to secure your wordpress site.
Table of Contents [TOC]
- ⭐ What is “The site ahead contains harmful programs” error?
- ⭐ The site ahead contains harmful programs – Causes
- The site ahead contains harmful programs Warning in Chrome
- How to Fix The Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs Warning
Google Chrome usually comes up with such types of errors whenever we open a website featuring harmful content or malicious code. If you are also seeing such errors in your WordPress site, it concludes that it is either being hacked by someone or malware attacks have harmed it.
Such consequences and signs indicate that the search engines namely Google have blacklisted your site. Therefore, it becomes necessary to take precautionary steps to protect users suffering from data theft and fraud.
A hacked website can make you a little concerned and anxious about the consequences as it creates a domino effect. If visitors fail to access your website, your traffic will start going down. You’ll see your rankings falling, which further affects your revenue.
So, the only solution to recover your website is to take immediate action. Of course, it requires a bit of light, and we made sure to do it today.
If you have ever come across the ‘The site ahead contains harmful programs’ warning screen while navigating to a site, be sure to review the explanation below:
Also Read – Remove “This Site May Be Hacked” Warning Message in Google
⭐ What is “The site ahead contains harmful programs” error?
When we open a hacked WordPress site, which contains and carries harmful programs, it will display a warning message “The site ahead contains harmful programs” on a red screen. This is not only unsafe for visitors but also lowers your overall revenue. Such errors also trigger when your website accidentally falls under a malicious software attack in the background. This warning message is generally for alerting visitors about the website that it is affected by malware. It also could lead to loss of financial information in your browser cookies through various means.
A red screen with the error message “The site you are accessing contains malicious programs” or “Deceptive site ahead” can be a stressful situation for many website owners.
The site was infected with a virus or malicious code, generally related to adult themes, online games, sports activities, fake news, banners, coupons, commercial offers, among others. Even malicious entered code affects the computers of people who visit the website.
Such cyberattack problems can even harm various CMS platforms such as Drupal , Shopify, Prestashop, Magento when the websites are out of date.
This could happen if:
- A website is hosting phishing pages
- A website has malware/virus infection
- A website contains code within your website linking to questionable websites according to Google
- Website is transmitting your Personal information to unsecure servers/links
- SSL certificate is compromised
- The site contains credit card stealing malware
⭐ The site ahead contains harmful programs – Causes
As discussed above, if there is malware on the website, Google will flag your platform as fraudulent and potentially dangerous.
In this section, we discuss in detail various possible reasons for occurring such a warning message of “The site ahead contains harmful programs”.
Always remember that search engines like Google value the safety of their users and think about their satisfaction. So, if any issue occurs with your website, a warning message will display and stop them from reaching the “unsafe website”
Once the website gets under attack by malware, a hacker can take advantage of it to perform several malicious activities. These activities include the theft of confidential data, posting malicious content, and the sale of illegal products. Such activities will harm and affect your users in the following ways.
- They may be subject to viewing inappropriate content and ads.
- They could be redirected to malicious websites that trick them into downloading malware onto their computers.
- Hackers can also redirect them to phishing and malware sites with the intention of stealing their personal data.
Let’s dive into more details below.
One of the primary reasons for the ‘The site ahead contains harmful programs’ error is malware infection. Often, websites get infected with malware for months until it’s discovered. Malware is often inserted into a website with these frequent cyberattacks. Here is our detailed expert guide on how to remove malware from WordPress site.
SQL injection attack:
WordPress SQL injection vulnerability is the second most critical security subject in WordPress.
These attacks can expose delicate and sensitive information about the database, which allows hackers to make changes to your content and the entire website.
The SQL injection also accomplishes many attacks. WordPress SQL injection can destroy the entire database of your site.
Attackers can hack your htaccess file, which redirects the users from search engines to malware, Attaching malware to the website, Browser Fingerprinting and IP logging without user interaction, Watering Hole Attacks & Information Disclosure Using htaccess.
Using various WordPress hacks, these could be injected into your site. Hackers will not only take advantage of WordPress vulnerabilities to carry out malware injections but also harm the website in different means. Various types of hacks include WordPress pharma hacking, Japanese keyword hack & malware redirect hack in WordPress.
Outdated SSL Certificate
An outdated SSL certificate could also be the reason for “The site ahead contains harmful programs” that is most often noticed by Google. That’s why it is necessary to move from HTTP to HTTPS. However, installing SSL certificates is not only enough. Redirecting your website from HTTP to HTTPS is also significant. Despite this, having some of your web pages as HTTP and some as HTTPS gives Google a mixed content signal.
Other common causes are discussed below.
Over time the lapse of years, themes, and plugins usually build wordpress vulnerabilities. Developers launch security patches to cure the vulnerabilities when they are discovered. One can get access to the updated version in the form of these patches.
Ultimately your vulnerabilities will be cured when the new version is updated. In a few cases, the developers dawdle to detect the vulnerability, which gives an advantage to the hackers to hack the vulnerable websites.
Also, the latest version is not updated by the owner. This enables hackers to find the vulnerability in your plugins and exploit it for malicious activities.
Recently many vulnerabilities have been found in popular wp plugins, read about them here, here & here.
Surely one of the first questions that come to mind is… Why does the browser say that my website is dangerous? The answer is simple: security reasons.
The most likely in these cases is that your WordPress has been hacked, and a malicious user has taken advantage of a vulnerability in a plugin to inject malicious code into your application.
Nulled or pirated themes and plugins
Many developers allow users to access the premium features by nulled software. The usage of this software is very enticing as well.
Nevertheless, the preloaded malware is already inbuilt into this software. Even hackers can effortlessly distribute the malware to all installed sites. That’s why it’s necessary to keep your WordPress theme security up to date.
To download any sort of software and unessential programs is inadvisable from our side. Read – How to Scan & Detect Malware in Nulled WordPress Themes.
Visiting a malicious or phishing site
To open a malicious website can be negotiated and deluded at times. These sites are coded in such a way that by simply visiting the site, it could infect your computer and your own website if you have your WordPress dashboard open on another tab.
Its Negetive Impact On Your Site
The hazardous consequences can be experienced when the security of “the site ahead contains harmful programs chrome ” is flagged on your site.
- Decrease in traffic – The traffic will drastically drop when your spectators see the warning, and they will opt for the ‘go back to safety’.
- Fall in SEO ranking – Google penalizes your site for having malware which will cause your SEO rankings to drop. Your site can be ranked among the top three one day, and you would see it drop to the second or third page the next. Your site may not even appear on Google’s search results pages. This could be a result of Spam Link Injection or large scale SEO Spam
- Google ads suspended due to malware on site
- Web host suspension –The account will be instantly suspended when the malware is detected on your site. Until and unless the malware is not cleaned the website platform cannot be hosted. Read our detailed post GoDaddy Site Suspended – Siteground Account Suspended Site
So you see that your hacked WordPress site also puts your visitors at risk of being hacked. In order to protect their users, they blacklist your site and display the warning message “This site contains malware”.
Now that you know why this happened, we will show you how to remove the site ahead contains harmful programs chrome error below. We will approach this in three steps:
- Scan and clean your WordPress website for malware
- Submit your site to Google for review
- Prevent future malware infections on your WordPress site
To safeguard the servers and interests the following steps are taken.
The site ahead contains harmful programs Warning in Chrome
Google pays a lot of attention to the user’s online safety, and that’s also the inclusive concept of the Chrome browser. They can invade your privacy occasionally, but phishing and malware sites are immediately identified.
So even without the online protection of third-party antivirus, you are likely to run into one or more security warnings along the way.
Especially, if you scroll through the dark parts of the Internet or click on pop-ups or advertisements.
They are characterized by the red alert screen that informs you that the link you are trying to follow is:
- Malware infection on the website.
- Links to hacked sites
- Outdated WordPress version
- Plugins or themes having malicious code
- spam in your comments linking to questionable sources can cause a warning.
As for the “Pre-misleading site” warning, most of the time these are treacherous sites trying to steal your personal data, especially passwords. The milder versions come with dozens of ad pop-ups.
When something like this happens, you can submit a report, close the tab and avoid the site in the future, or just open it if you know you can trust it. These protection measures are there to prevent phishing and malware infections. Also, Chrome will automatically prevent all downloads from unauthorized sources.
Steps To Diagnose
You can Verify the Status of Your Website in Google’s safe browsing analysis tool. All you need to do is add your site’s domain name as the query parameter to the URL like this:
Checking Your Site in the Google Search Console
Go to > “Security issues” link in the Google Search Console. Here you can check with Google to see what the problem is .
Yo can file a report for an incorrect phishing warning in case there is no issue shown there. Goto Google’s “Report Incorrect Phishing Warning” page. Complete the form and click the “Submit Report” button.
Remove Disable Unsafe Site Warnings in Browser
In Google Chrome
We found some bogus reports that it is a browser hijacker or a malware infection at hand. It is not. It is an integral part of Chrome that can be disabled if you wish.
Here’s how to turn off the site ahead contains harmful programs chrome indicator :
- Open Chrome.
- Click on the 3-dot menu on the far right and open Settings
- Scroll down and expand the Advanced section.
- Navigate to Privacy and security.
- Disable Protect you and your device from dangerous sites
We recommend using an AdBlocker to overcome pop-ups and antivirus for online protection. Windows Defender will suffice most of the time, and it makes your browsing more secure.
Verify the Status of Your Website in Safe Browsing
Essentially, this alert is to inform the user that the site they are going to visit is suspicious and may contain malware.
According to Google, warnings protect you from harm caused by dangerous sites, such as malware infections and phishing attacks. But it hasn’t always been clear why a specific website triggers a warning.
So the next time a user comes across such a warning from browsing Google results pages, verify that your site does indeed have a problem, you can manually test your site against the Google Safe Browsing tool.
Go to the Safe Browsing site status page and enter your site’s URL:
If a site displays the security level as “Dangerous” in red, then this could indicate that the content is bad or has a temporary malware infection.
The condition of the site will return to normal once the webmaster has cleaned up the site. To help speed up this process, Google automatically provides the webmaster with a notification to check the health of their site through Google Search Console.
Make a complete backup of your WordPress site. Removing malware from your wordpress site can become a daunting task. Even after cleaning your site thoroughly, the malicious code can keep coming back until you find and remove the backdoor placed on your site.
Find the backdoor. It could be a compromised password, unsafe file permissions, or a cleverly disguised file. We have a detailed guide on how to find a backdoor in a hacked WordPress site and fix it.
How to Fix The Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs Warning
This warning is caused by the malware present in the website. To remove The site ahead contains harmful programs warning, you need to get rid of malicious code at first place. Then you need to resubmit site to google for reconsideration.
Follow the below mentioned 10 easy steps.
Step 1: Find the Cause
Finding and removing viruses manually can be time-consuming, tedious, and frustrating. That’s why it is necessary to make use of specialized tools. There are numerous free plugins that provide the best WordPress security services. These plugins will not only prevent sites from being attacked but also keep hackers away from infecting your website. Hence, it will protect your site from various threats.
However, you need to install the software before suffering from the attack.Hunt for malware in the following files:
- index.php file
- core theme files
- header & footer files
- wp-content uploads
- functions.php file (if using WordPress)
- WP-Content Uploads Hack
- wp-config file (if this file is infected, wp-config hack could be at work)
You can also get a list of infected URLs causing the issue in Google search console under “security settings”
Step 2: Scan your Website for Malware
Finding the source of the issue couldn’t be easier with the help of wordpress security scanners. Here’s a couple of them.
Using WP Hacked Help
Its is a free malware scanner dedicated to seeking out infected files on your website.
- Go to this page.
- Insert your website URL and hit the Scan Website button.
Yes, you can review your website manually. So, it is recommended to complete a scan using an online tool that runs automatically. This way, you can save a lot of time and effort.
WP Hacked Help has various professional security solutions for WordPress websites. We have the ability to fix the WordPress site immediately. Try our WordPress malware scanner & contact us for malware removal, WordPress Security services, WordPress Hosting, and Maintenance Services, and 24/7 support available. For SMB websites, blogs, enterprise websites & agencies. Secure Your WordPress Website Today!
Additionally, our scanner enables you to do security scans to discover infected files and substitute them with healthy files. To use it, you only need to visit the official site. You hit “Scan” and the scanner does the job.
WP Hacked Help team can also help you. They just require all the necessary accesses to enter and perform the necessary updates and cleaning tasks. We can certainly help you
Step 3: Remove a malware infection
The steps you must follow are:
- Log in to your server via SFTP or SSH.
- Create a backup of your website.
- Search your files for any references to malicious domains or payloads.
- Identify suspicious or recently modified files.
- Restore infected files with copies of the official repository or with a clean backup.
- Replicate the customization made in your files.
- Check that your website is still working after the changes.
If you use the WP Hacked Help scanner, we will suggest the code to remove to make your work easier. You can also edit your file directly from the compare and editor.
Step 4: Clean your WordPress database
To clean and remove malware from the database, you can use the database administration panel to connect to the database.
- Login to the database administration panel.
- Make a backup of the database.
- Look for suspicious content like spam links.
- Open the table that contains suspicious content and delete it.
- Make sure your website is still working after the changes.
You can also manually search for malicious PHP functions, such as eval, base64_decode, preg_replace, str_replace, etc. These functions are also used legitimately by plugins, so be sure to test the changes so you don’t accidentally damage your website, blog, or e-commerce.
Step 5: Eliminate backdoors
Once you become successful in eliminating the infection, you should look for backdoors. These backdoors are another option for attackers to enter your website whenever they want, and affect the website.
Therefore, you need to look for files with names similar to WordPress core files that are located in the wrong directory.
Backdoors generally include these PHP functions:
base64, str_rot13, gzuncompress, eval, exec, create_function, system, assert, stripslashes, preg_replace (with / e /), move_uploaded_file.
These functions can also be used by plugins, so be sure to test any changes so as not to cause damage to your website by removing benign functions.
Step 6: Remove malware warnings
To remove the Google blacklist or malware warnings from your website, you should probably contact your hosting provider. However, don’t forget to ask them to eliminate the suspension of your service since you have cleaned your website.
Step 7: Obtain an SSL Certificate
Getting an SSL certificate is a quite simple process. However, you sometimes need to pay to certify that your website is reliable, authorized, and trustworthy. Fortunately, SSL certificates are not too expensive.
Once you get the certificate, you still need to configure it before solving “The site ahead contains harmful programs” warning.
Step 8: Change your WordPress URL
At this point, your WordPress website is still using an HTTP URL. Before forcing the platform to load via HTTPS, you need to change the main URL.
To do this, log into your WordPress dashboard and go to the Settings> General tab. Here, you will get several options. However, you need to choose – the WordPress Address (URL) and the Site Address (URL).
Now, you need to change both URLs for using HTTPS rather than HTTPS, just adding the additional “s”. Then save your changes on this page.
Maybe you are wondering why you are using two different fields to configure the WordPress URL. Well, this helps in knowing – where exactly are your main files for your site located. On the other hand, the Site address field helps visitors in finding your website.
In most cases, both fields are indistinguishable. However, there is also another option, which allows you to install WordPress core files in a different directory. This would alter the WordPress Address field. Now, the only change you need to make now is to replace HTTP with HTTPS in both fields.
Following this will help in getting rid of Chrome’s “Not Safe” warning. There is only one more thing you need to do before your website can be considered secure (at least by Google standards).
Step 9: Implement a 301 Redirect across the Site
Now, visitors will be able to access your website through HTTPS. However, some sites can still work using HTTP. They may have saved your old URL or they revisit the website from an old link on an external site.
To get rid of this problem and protect your users, you need to redirect your WordPress from HTTP to HTTPS. You can use various types of redirects, but the best one for this scenario is 301. This is what is called a ‘permanent’ redirect, and it tells search engines that your website has been permanently moved to a new address.
You can use a plugin like Really Simple SSL, to set up a 301 redirect in WordPress which forces WordPress to load over HTTPS. All you need to do is install the plugin, and it will automatically explore for an SSL certificate linked to your website. Once you find one, it will enable HTTPS automatically.
Well, it is quite easy to install the plugin. However, it is not recommended in most cases. Plugins can easily crash due to updates or conflicts. When it comes to key functionality like HTTPS, you may not feel safe depending on a third-party plugin.
Step 10: Request a Review from Google
To remove the ‘site ahead contains harmful programs’ message, you have to submit your site for review.
But before you do so, you need to sign up or log in to Google Search Console. Verify ownership of your website. We’ve entailed the detailed process of verification in this article – Did Your Website Get Blacklisted by Google?
Once done, you can request a review to remove the Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs warning in Google Chrome.
- Log in to Search Console and access Security Issues Report.
- Select ‘Request a Review’.
- Fill in the information required on what steps you took to remove the malware and secure your WordPress website.
- Submit your request.
Your review request will be processed between a day to several weeks. You will receive a response in your Messages in Search Console or Google Webmaster account.
Once Google determines that your website is clean, the warning will be removed within 72 hours.
How To Prevent This Warning Message?
Above, we have discussed some effective tips to remove the warning message and other signs from the WordPress website. However, the most significant part is to determine the actual cause and find ways to tackle it.
If Google detects that there is malware on your site, you might get penalized. That’s why it’s important to take necessary preventive measures to get rid of this situation.
Use hosting with robust security measures
Having a secure website foundation will prevent it from attacks. That’s why it is necessary to pick a hosting plan with strong security measures to keep your business and clients’ safe and risk-free.
Every software is susceptible to having some vulnerability. However, using a web hosting or SSD hosting plan that has anti-hacking security measures will make it difficult for hackers to exploit any security hole in a CMS like WordPress. Its firewall, or an account isolation system like CageFS have safer and secure norms.
NOTE – Update your wordPress salt keys for better security – READ MORE
Make sure you have backups
While hiring a hosting, it is necessary to ensure whether your provider is providing backup copies if something happens to your website. Having such a secure site will help in restoring your website if your WordPress gets infected. Most often, you make changes to your website over time. However, not creating backup copies of them can be quite frustrating for you. That’s you need to restore a copy and make sure everything is working again in minutes or not.
Know – How to Backup WordPress Database Manually & With Plugins?
Keep your website always up to date
Keeping your WordPress website, plus applications’ plugins and templates up to date is not only significant in terms of preventing it from malicious attacks but also from hackers trying to sneak onto your website.
For example, a very recent vulnerability was detected in the Client plugin that allowed any user to access the WordPress administration panel without logging in. Do you realize what that can mean? The developers immediately released a security version to correct the problem.
That’s why you need to update your WordPress plugins.
Check for WordPress security updates
Use only trusted themes and plugins
A worthwhile piece of advice is to avoid using pirated plugins and themes. Usually, pirated plugins contain malware that affects your website and increases the chance of getting hacked. We recommend using plugins that are in the WordPress repository or trustworthy marketplaces like CodeCanyon or ThemeForest.
Remove inactive themes and plugins
Adding extra and meaningless material to your website will make it easier for hackers to break into your website. And hackers often target plugins and themes to compromise WordPress sites. That’s why it is necessary to keep only the required themes and plugins that you actually use. Delete the unnecessary ones.
A security plugin can help you
Installing security add-ons on your website will keep you alert if something bad happens. For me, I would only prefer top-rated plugins. Check out our list of best WordPress security plugins in 2023, but in the official WordPress repository, you have a thousand alternatives that help you keep your website safe.
Protect the WordPress login
One of the valuable measures to take into account is to protect your WordPress website from a user taking control. Sometimes, a strong password or a user other than admin is not enough. That’s it’s necessary to take the required action within a short period of time. So, do the following:
- Change the access URL to your WordPress
- Password protect the wp-admin directory
- Use a Captcha system
When Google Chrome starts showing the warning message “The Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” for your website, it is time to take into account the preventive measures to remove the errors as soon as possible. A poor and infected website also puts the visitors in thoughts and pushes them to doubt the professionalism of your website. It will not only harm your reputation but also SEO and conversions.
To protect your WordPress website, you can use a scanner like WP Hacked Help or also a malware analysis tool. In this way, you can detect malicious files and clean them or restore a backup of your website. We can also help you fix your hacked wordpress site in under 5 hrs.