Home Digital Marketing How to Scan and Detect Malicious Code in a WordPress Theme?

How to Scan and Detect Malicious Code in a WordPress Theme?

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You’ve started your website, and everything is going great.

The content is on-point, you’re getting sales, and all your strategies are implemented currently. Being a careful webmaster, you’ve also taken some important security measures.

Slowly, you start to realize a bit of a drop in your website’s performance. You’ve taken all the necessary precautions, so what seems to be the problem?

You start to suspect your theme of choice might be causing the issue. But here’s the thing;  you have no idea how you can scan a WordPress theme for error and malware issues.

In this article, we’ll show how you can inspect WordPress Errors with regards to your themes.

There are plenty of reasons why you should perform such scans. Failure to do so can put your website at the mercy of hackers who then gain the liberty to do almost anything to your site.

It’s not a pretty sight to see your web project slowly disintegrate at the hands of hackers.

While a WordPress theme might look pretty harmless and secure, it’s not safe from getting infected with malware. Let’s take a look at how that happens.

A: WordPress Themes and How They Become Vulnerable to Malware

While they do help WordPress users in creating stunning websites without designer or developer support, themes are rather prone to getting hacked.

It begs the question; how does a theme get infected in the first place? Here, are four reasons that answer this question:

Third Party Themes

There are two ways you can download and install a theme on your WordPress site:

  • The WordPress Theme Store, and
  • Third Party theme stores like ThemeForest

The one we mentioned is one of the many third-party providers who actually provide beautiful and secure themes.

On the other hand, there are also the bad ones.

Built to look legit by hackers, these third-party providers offer themes that are riddled with malware from the get-go.

Sometimes, the themes are priced very cheap or are free. Don’t get distracted by a theme that promises too much for too less a price. Moreover, you should always check the legitimacy of the provider before you purchase. If it looks too shady, avoid it.

 

Installing Free Themes from The Directory

Even on the official theme store, you should be wary of free themes. While the vetting process for themes is indeed tough, it is important to note that some of the themes that pass the test are from rookies or individual developers.

Because of the constant changes in the WordPress ecosystem, it becomes hard for some of them to maintain their products and release newer, more secure versions – often coming out with theme updates very late.

The delay between a WordPress update and the theme update may give hackers the chance to plant malware into the theme’s code.

Using Bundled Solutions

There are themes that come equipped with pre-installed plugins to give users additional functionality without having to do it themselves. For example, a theme could come with the following plugins bundled together:

  • Yoast SEO
  • BackWPUp
  • B2B WooCommerce (if it’s an eCommerce theme)
  • WP Super Cache
  • WordFence

All of these are essential plugins for your website or store. But the problem here is that one or more of these plugins might be an older version. If that happens to be a case, then it could be exploited, or worse, already exploited by hackers.

Enabling the Theme Editor

Enabling the theme editing feature within your WordPress site helps developers make changes to the theme’s code when performing customizations.

While it is a useful feature in its own right, it also gives hackers ample room to plant malware into your site’s theme code. Fortunately, you can disable this feature by reading the sections below.

B: WordPress Themes and Malware Injections: What’s the Impact?

When your site gets hacked, besides being at the mercy of hackers and their malicious operations, there are plenty of other problems you can face. Some of them include, but are not limited to.

  • Slower load-times due to server overload
  • Drops in page rankings on SERPs
  • Blacklisting by Google
  • Web host account suspension
  • Destruction of your brand image
  • Compromised personal information of you and your employees or customers

C: Security Tips: How to Scan Your WordPress Theme

Let’s look at the easiest method to scan your WordPress theme:

Using a Security Plugin:

The first step is leveraging automation to your benefit. If you already have a theme installed, then you can use a plugin like MalCare or other good security plugins to detect malware on your site.

Another popular plugin that you can use is Theme Authenticity Checkerwhich, as the name suggests, checks your WordPress theme for authenticity and legitimacy.

If you don’t have a theme installed and are looking to simply test a theme for malware injections, then you can use a tool like VirusTotal. A free to use tool, it allows you to scan both your site, and a zip file of your theme for issues.

D: How to Secure your WordPress Theme from Hacks

There are plenty of tips available on how you can secure your WordPress site. When speaking of themes, however, we would recommend you do the following:

1. Select a Trustworthy Theme Store

Here are some of the most popular, and trustworthy theme stores on the market;

  • The Official WordPress Theme Store
  • Theme Forest
  • WP Eden
  • AppThemes

…among others, these are the best places you can find secure and premium themes. There are plenty of ways to select the best WordPress theme for your site, but never compromise on security, a factor these stores take seriously. The vetting processes, and overall quality assurance is top-notch with these theme providers.

2. Always Scan Your Theme Before Installation

Whenever you download a theme before installation, always make sure to scan it externally using tools like VirusTotal to ensure that there are no bugs and malware in the theme.

Once you’ve performed the scan, you can go ahead and install the theme on your WordPress site.

3. Disabling the Theme Editor

As discussed above, enabling the theme editor feature helps developers customize your site. However, it can also be targeted for malware injection by hackers. To disable this feature outright, you can use the MalCare security plugin.

From the MalCare dashboard, select your site

Navigate to “Security” and click on “WordPress Hardening”

From here, you can disable the File Editor on your site.

There is also a manual, and more tedious method to disable the theme editor on your WordPress site. For the sake of convenience, we have explained about the non-technical method.

4. Remove Themes That Are Inactive

 

It’s a common practice for WordPress users to install new themes to test them out. In the process, however, they forget to delete the themes that they were using. This is counter-intuitive and can lead to hacks on your WordPress site.

Every single insecure point on your site can give hackers the room to cause significant damage. Therefore, avoid using inactive themes.

Conclusion:

WordPress themes can give your site a modern aesthetic appeal. But at the same time, it can also open up backdoors for hackers. We hope this article gave you a primer on why securing and scanning your WordPress theme matters.

 

 

Author Bio:

Zubair Khan – a foodie by choice and tech enthusiast by profession. He loves to get his hands into modern technology trends and share the knowledge with everyone. He is currently working fulltime for B2BWooas a Digital Marketing Executive. Aside of the work life, Zubair loves to travel new places and explore nature, food is still his first love though!

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