What is malware?

Malware is a contraction of two words – malicious software. It includes several types of malicious software whose aim is to infiltrate and damage computer systems and networks.

How does malware work?

Since malware is an umbrella term, it includes different types of malicious software, each of which works fundamentally differently from the others. If you suspect that your WordPress has been breached or infected, it’s essential to check everything thoroughly. If you suspect a malware infection, the first step you need to undertake is to determine what type of malware is driving the infection.


Viruses are perhaps the most known type of malware, with the word virus often used in place of malware. Viruses, however, have certain distinct characteristics. They need to attach themselves to a host, such as a file or a program, which can replicate and spread.


Worms behave similarly to viruses; however, they do not need to attach themselves to files to spread. Worms spread through infected files and network connections, which allows them to replicate and infect other devices.


Spyware does not need to attach itself to anything and runs independently. Its job is to sit quietly in the background and report back on user activity. Spyware can monitor anything from sites visited to keystrokes, with the latter putting personal information, including passwords, at risk.


Adware, as the name suggests, displays ads based on your activity. It collects data by effectively spying on you. How it displays ads can be problematic, since it can create redirections to dangerous sites that open the gates to other types of malware.


Ransomware is a type of malware that holds your data hostage, usually until payment is made in lieu of release. Encryption is a favorite tool used by ransomware, effectively rendering the data unreadable until demands are met.


Fileless malware lives in the computer’s memory and does need to be installed. This makes it difficult to track and vanishes once the computer is restarted.

Why is malware dangerous?

Malware is dangerous because it risks bringing your entire computer and network down, sometimes irrevocably so. Depending on the type of malware, personal data can also be stolen and used for further attacks, including theft of funds.

In a WordPress environment, malware can infect the server on which the website resides and the computers of users and visitors. Liability issues aside, it can also lead to delisting and blacklisting and may see the website lose rights such as the ability to process payments.

How malware can be introduced to WordPress websites

Malware can be introduced to WordPress through hacking or infected files.

How to protect your WordPress website from malware

You can take several steps to protect your WordPress from malware infections. While good governance and a healthy dose of skepticism will get you far, also consider the following:

  • Keep everything up to date – Updating software will help you ensure that any known security holes are plugged before malware can exploit them
  • Take backups often – Taking backups will often help you ensure you’re able to get back online quickly should the worst happen
  • Install Anti-malware software – Modern anti-malware software can detect and remove most anti-malware; however, remember that no one solution is complete and the same goes for this kind of software
  • Monitor files for changes – Except for fileless malware, malware needs to be installed, altering the fingerprint of your directories which is why a file integrity monitor for WordPress (scanner for file changes) can be an invaluable tool in your arsenal

While protecting WordPress from malware is important, a 360-degree WordPress security plan will yield better protection and results.

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