Chris Schutte

October 26, 2022

How to fix “This site ahead contains harmful programs” error in WordPress

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you recently encountered the error message, “This site contains harmful programs” on your WordPress site, but you don’t know how to fix it? In this article, we’ll show you several solutions, as well as the steps you can take to prevent it from happening to your website again.

What Is the “This Site Contains Harmful Programs” Error?

Don’t be alarmed, but the WordPress error message “the site contains harmful programs” usually means that your website has been hacked and is considered a threat by Google and other search engines.

You’ll see the same message on websites that are considered malware spreaders or have some form of malicious code in them. The WordPress error serves as a warning to visitors and to tell the webmaster, “Hey, you’ve been attacked and need to get this fixed as soon as possible” in layman’s terms.

Malware is a serious site defect and should be eliminated quickly. If left unchecked, it can spread from one website to another and cause massive headaches to both web owners and their visitors. Google puts this warning on websites that could be harbouring dangerous malware, so visitors from South Africa could stay safe until the problem is solved.

Now that you know what the error message means, it’s time to do some website maintenance in Johannesburg.

How To Fix “This Site Contains Harmful Programs”

Fixing this particular WordPress site error pop-up is not an easy task. However, with persistence and some thorough scanning, you can get your website operational again.

Generally, you will want to do the following steps:

  • Scan and hunt for the malware
  • Remove the infection
  • Clean your WP database
  • Check and remove backdoor programs
  • Ask Google to remove the warning

Step 1. Scan and Hunt for the Malware

The first thing you’ll want to do is hunt for the offending malware or malicious script. Look through places where it could be, including your site’s functions.php file, core theme, and index.php files, as well as your .htaccess and header and footer files.

Once that’s done, you can enlist the help of a WordPress malware scanner via a trusted WordPress plugin or security scanner. Hopefully, this should be enough to root out the offending code and get you back on track.

Step 2. Remove the Infection

After locating the malware, it’s time to remove it from your WordPress site. We recommend you log in and create a backup before you take any further action.

Infected files should be replaced with clean versions from the official repository, or one that you’ve recently backed up. Do the customisation steps to get the file up to speed and apply the changes.

A scanner should confirm if it was indeed the malware that prompts the error message, or if there are more lurking on your site. If your website still doesn’t work, go back to Step 1.

Step 3. Clean Your WordPress Database

At this point you can breathe easy — the worst part is over! Now it’s time to clean your WP database. Log in and make a backup (if you haven’t done so already), then do a quick scan and remove suspicious links, as well as content from your table.

Apply the changes and test your website; it should be good as new.

Step 4. Check and Remove Backdoor Programs

Hackers can still attack your website using backdoor programs and shut it down after you’ve cleaned it. To prevent this from happening, you should exercise due diligence now and check for unwanted scripts in the core files.

Backdoors can hide behind PHP functions and may appear to be legitimate WP files at first glance. However, you should be careful as you might remove real functions in the process. Test any changes on every edit until you get everything right.

Step 5. Ask Google To Remove the Warning

The last thing you should do to remove the error message is to ask Google to restore your website.

This can be done by going to Google Webmaster tools, clicking on the “Security Issues” section, and reading through the report. You’ll be able to see helpful resource links on how you can clean up your Johannesburg WordPress website further.

If you’re fully confident that your site is malware-free, then go ahead and click on the link that says “Request a Review” and fill in the required information. You may have to wait several days up to a week to receive a response, but once you do, then your website should be restored within 72 hours.

What To Do To Prevent the Harmful Programs Error

Prevention is still the best cure, and this applies to WordPress website owners who want their platforms running smoothly.

Having strong security can do wonders in keeping out malware. You should also check outgoing links and make sure that the website is trusted and authoritative. There are WP plugins, such as firewalls and security apps you can use to protect your site from malicious software.

Last but not least, it wouldn’t hurt to do a scan now and then.

Get a WordPress Care Plan

Having to deal with persistent WordPress error messages can be draining and time-consuming. However, you won’t have to deal with it alone as you can get the help of a professional WordPress website maintenance service in South Africa.

Launch Digital offers comprehensive Johannesburg WordPress care plans, which include unlimited edits, weekly reports, backups, and updates, as well as analytics reporting and even malware removal. You can also get speed and performance optimisations to keep your WordPress website speedy, responsive, and most important of all, online. This leaves you spending your valuable time on the things that matter most.

wordpress care plan support

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