How the Spam Links are Getting Into Websites

There has recently been a lot of discussion about a hack that added spam links, primarily to, into the databases of WordPress based websites. These spam links are then included in some of the pages generated by WordPress in the website. What we have not seen explained so far is how the hack has been occurring. Determining the source is essential to cleaning up the website, otherwise you leave the website vulnerable to being rehacked. If we had cleaned up a website with the issue we would have worked on determining that for our client and we would expect that any companies cleaning up websites would have done the same but unfortunately they often don’t.

So far we have not had any clients with the issue, but several days ago we did clean up a website that appears to have been used to place those spam links into websites at a different web host. Among the files we found a file containing a listing of the database host, database username, database login, database name, database prefix, and the addresses for quite a few WordPress based websites. We contacted the host to alert them to what we had found and to inquire into the source of the issue.

What we have been told is the web server itself had been exploited and not individual websites, they are still in the process of determining what exactly allowed this exploit. So the issue is not caused by an issue with WordPress or an individual user’s computer. Once the web server is exploited it is possible to read the wp-config.php file, which stores the database information that WordPress uses, in user’s accounts and access their databases to add the spam links. Because the web server is exploited the file permissions of wp-config.php do not have an effect on whether it can be read or not.

If have been dealing with this issue let your host know that the server has been exploited. If they refuse to acknowledge they have an issue and fix it, it is time to find a new host. If you looking for  a new host, we provide some information on what ask a hosting provider to determine if they handle security properly here and a list of providers we have found to have security issues here.

If any hosting provider would like to see about sharing information on the issue with the host we have been in contact with, please contact us and we will pass along their information.