Scan

A Wordfence scan examines all files on your WordPress website looking for malicious code, backdoors, shells that hackers have installed, known malicious URLs and known patterns of infections.

A Wordfence scan examines all files on your WordPress website looking for malicious code, backdoors, shells that hackers have installed, known malicious URLs and known patterns of infections. It also examines all your posts, pages and comments looking for malicious code and URLs. It performs several other checks like checking if your IP address is being used for malicious activity, checking for any unauthorized DNS changes and more.

A scan can be either a manual or a scheduled scan. If Wordfence finds problems during your manual scan, you will see those in the scan results. If Wordfence finds problems during a scheduled scan, you will either see the results next time you log in to your website or, if you have set Wordfence to send you alerts about your site, you will receive an email about it.

Depending on the size of your site, a scan may take anywhere from 1 minute to over 10 minutes if you have a very large number of files or comments or posts. If you are having trouble with your scans, please see Scan Debugging.

Scan status

Status Circles

The Scan status circles indicate the current detection capability of your Wordfence scan. If the circles are gray, it means scheduled scanning is disabled. To reach 100% on all Scan status circles:

  • Enable all Scan options that are part of the “Standard” Scan type. Go to the Scan options page and select “Standard Scan,” then press “Save Changes”.
  • Enable Premium Scan Signatures. The premium scan signatures improve detection rate. They are enabled automatically when you upgrade to Premium.
  • Enable Reputation Checks. Reputation checks examine if your site is blacklisted. They are enabled automatically when you upgrade to Premium.

NOTE: If you are on a host with limited resources, you may need to use the Limited Scan type. With Wordfence Premium enabled, you will then be at 55% of the circle.

The Malware Signatures status circle indicates if you are using the community or Premium version of our malware signatures. Malware signatures are used to detect malware on your site. When the Wordfence team releases new malware signatures, they are pushed out to Premium customers sites in real time. Free customers get the same signatures 30 days later. To get to 100% on this circle, you have to upgrade to Wordfence Premium.

The Reputation Checks status circle indicates whether spam and blacklist scan options are enabled. To reach 100% on this circle, you need to upgrade to Wordfence premium.

Severity Levels

There are two severity levels in scan results. Critical issues are problems that need to be examined immediately. Warnings are items that we would like to make you aware of, but that you can hold off on, or choose not to take action on, if you so chose.

To find out the details of what is critical versus warning, please see this page about alerts.

Scan Types

Limited Scan
A limited scan is suitable for a site that has highly restricted hosting resources. If your site is running out of memory, or your scans won’t complete, please try this scan type.

Standard Scan
The Standard Scan is recommended for most sites. It includes all checks that are needed to ensure that a typical WordPress site is safe.

Please note that the theme and plugin checks that compare your local files to the files in the WordPress.org repository are not currently included in this option. You may want to enable these. The options are located on the Scan options page in the section “General Options.” They are called:

  • Scan theme files against repository versions for changes
  • Scan plugin files against repository versions for changes

High Sensitivity
This scan type is for when you know or strongly suspect that your site has been compromised. It includes the scan option “Scan images, binary, and other files as if they were executable” which examines the source code of images, PDFs and other files as if they were programs that could execute code. This scan type will take longer time and use more resources than a Standard Scan.

Custom Scan
If you manually change which checks are included in your scans via the Scan options General Options, you’ll end up with a Custom Scan type.

Scan Stages

A Wordfence scan proceeds through a set of stages, with each stage checking specific areas of your site. While scanning, icons will indicate when each scan stage is complete. The icons also indicate whether any issues were found during the specific scan stage. A blue checkmark indicates the scan stage passed. A yellow warning sign indicates issues were found. These are the scan stages and their respective options:

Spamvertising Checks
Check if this website is being “Spamvertised”

Spam Check
Check if this website IP is generating spam

Blacklist Check
Check if this website is on a domain blacklist

Server State
Scan for unauthorized DNS changes
Monitor disk space
Scan for misconfigured How does Wordfence get IPs
PHP Version Check (Can not be disabled)

File Changes
Scan wp-admin and wp-includes for files not bundled with WordPress
Scan plugin files against repository versions for changes
Scan theme files against repository versions for changes
Scan core files against repository versions for changes

Malware Scan
Scan for signatures of known malicious files
Scan file contents for backdoors, trojans and suspicious code

Content Safety
Scan comments for known dangerous URLs and suspicious content
Scan posts for known dangerous URLs and suspicious content
Scan file contents for malicious URLs

Public Files
Scan for publicly accessible quarantined files
Scan for publicly accessible configuration, backup, or log files

Password Strength
Check the strength of passwords

Vulnerability Scan
Scan for out of date, abandoned, and vulnerable plugins, themes, and WordPress versions

User & Option Audit
Scan WordPress core, plugin, and theme options for known dangerous URLs and suspicious content
Scan for admin users created outside of WordPress

Working With Scan Results

A Wordfence scan result will look a little bit different depending on what was detected. To find out about all the different results that can appear in a scan, please see our full list of Scan results. Each scan result comes with a set of actions you can take to resolve it.

Ignore

Occasionally, the Wordfence Scanner may report something as suspect or malicious even though according to your findings, it is not. This is called a “false positive.” If you are sure that a scan result is a false positive, you can choose to “ignore” the scan result. It will then be listed under the “Ignored Results” tab in all future scans. Examples of false positives are if you have manually edited a WordPress core or theme file yourself. If you have enabled “High Sensitivity,” you may also get false positives, since this scan type is the most thorough.

View file

Any file that has been detected as having an issue in a scan has an option to “View file.” Viewing the file displays the file’s actual source code in a new window. This can be useful to see if it contains code that looks suspicious. Viewing the file like this is safe, as it only prints out the code and does not execute it.

View differences

If a file has been detected as “modified,” you have the option to “View Differences.” This option compares the version of the file that Wordfence expected to find to the version that you currently have installed. Inspect “The Modified Version on your WordPress system” to see if code was added.

Delete file

Files detected in a scan can be deleted, with one exception. The WordPress configuration file, wp-config.php, cannot be deleted using this method, because deleting this file will inevitably break your WordPress installation.

Wordfence helps you find potential problems on your site, but ultimately we rely on your good judgement to determine if a file should be deleted or restored to its original version. A good rule of thumb is: if you view the changes in a core file and see that a lot of garbage-looking text has been added to the file, then it’s probably an infection, and restoring the original core file will clear the infection. However, if you see changes in a file where some well-formatted PHP code or HTML has been added, then it’s likely that it’s not an infection and it may be that your site developer has customized a theme or core file and you should leave the changes in place. In this case, clicking the ‘ignore’ option that Wordfence gives you is likely the best course of action.

You might have old files from a previous version of WordPress, especially if you have ever used a ‘beta’ version, or your host may have log files with unusual names. But .php files in these locations may also be malicious. In most cases, you will want to remove unknown .php files found in core locations, but some plugins may place other files there, so remember to keep a backup of files before removing them, if you’re not sure whether they are good or bad.

If you are running an alpha or beta version of WordPress, extra core files should not be flagged unless the internal WordPress version number is incorrect.

Delete all deletable files

The button “Delete all deletable files” allows you to bulk delete all files that were detected in scan (with the exception of wp-config.php). This action should be exercised with extreme caution. If you have a premium theme or plugin or a theme or plugin you have developed yourself, there will not be an option to restore these files. However, deleting it may break your site. If you find infected files in a custom theme or plugin, a safer action will typically be to get a fresh version and reinstall.

The “Delete all deletable files” exists for one specific circumstance only, and that is when there are massive amounts of malicious files that are not part of WordPress core or any of your custom themes or plugins. Again – use with caution, and make sure you know what you are deleting!

Mark as fixed

If you take this action on a scan result, it’s hidden from view instantly. You can use this to manage the current view if you are going through and resolving issues one by one until all issues have been resolved. This action does not persist, and if you mark an issue as fixed even though it has not been resolved, it will reappear in the next scan.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Error connecting to the Wordfence scanning servers

    Errors about connecting to the Wordfence scanning servers usually mean that your web server (the machine that runs your WordPress website) can’t connect to our scanning servers. It is possible that

    1. Your server is blocking outgoing connections
    2. There are some DNS resolution issues

    When you run a scan your web server needs to be able to connect to our scanning server which is noc1.wordfence.com, so that it can send hashes of files and signatures for comparison against known bad items. Your web server must be able to connect to port 443 and port 80 of noc1.wordfence.com. To test if it can do this, you can SSH to your server and run the following commands. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your administrator or hosting company.

    Depending on what is installed on your server one or more may work:

    dig noc1.wordfence.com
    nslookup noc1.wordfence.com
    host noc1.wordfence.com
    getent hosts noc1.wordfence.com
    ping noc1.wordfence.com

    You can try connecting both to port 80 and port 443. As long as you can connect to both, you should be able to scan. You should see the IP 69.46.36.28 returned. If you are seeing anything other than that it’s possible that your host has a caching nameserver that isn’t respecting the TTL (Time To Live). This would mean that it’s keeping old records longer than it should.

    You can also try:

    • Uncheck “Enable ssl verification”. It is found under Tools, on the Diagnostics tab at the bottom of the page.
    • Make sure your cUrl is not outdated and allows outbound connections. Run the connectivity tester (near bottom of the Wordfence options page) to test. If you receive an error, a ticket with your hosting provider may be required.
    • Check iptables (linux) to make sure you are accepting those connections.

    To set iptables to accept the connections, the following code should be checked and adjusted for your particular site, by an experienced server manager or your hosting company:


    sudo iptables -t filter -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT
    sudo iptables -t filter -A OUTPUT -p tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT

  • PHP Fatal error: Allowed memory size exhausted

    Occasionally, depending on your site, resources, and plugins and themes you may get a php error that says something like this:

    PHP Fatal error: Allowed memory size of 67108864 bytes exhausted (tried to allocate 491520 bytes)

    Fatal error: Out of memory (allocated 33292288) (tried to allocate 616 bytes) in...

    This issue is not a Wordfence error but simply indicates that you need to contact your hosting provider and ask them to increase your site memory. Usually your hosting provider will edit your php.ini file to increase the memory_limit parameter, and they may also have to increase your web server memory limit along with any operating system limits they have.

    Increase PHP Memory
    This is an indication that your memory in php.ini is not set high enough. You can define this in your php.ini file (usually found in /etc on linux systems – check your documentation for windows servers, which are currently unsupported by Wordfence). Look through the file for a line like this: memory_limit = 128M. Keep in mind the 128M is probably different. That’s the amount of memory that php is allowed to consume. If you have 10 plugins and combined they consume more memory than you have allocated, you’re going to have problems. You can assign more by increasing this value. (Some of our personal sites have 256M allowed, but these are pretty big sites with a substantial number of hits and plugins). Make sure and restart httpd (apache) after making changes here.

    Disable plugins that affect database queries
    When the scan is running Wordfence has to make a lot of database queries. If you are using plugins that affect all database queries such as Query Monitor, you may run out of PHP memory. If you have Query Monitor or any similar plugin installed, make sure it’s deactivated while Wordfence scan is running.

  • Red error messages in the scan log

    You can view the activity log by clicking Scan on the Wordfence menu on the left of your WordPress admin console and then clicking the link “View activity log” below the “Scan Detailed Activity” box. The red errors you see here are not just Wordfence errors, but also errors from other plugins and even WordPress itself in rare cases.

    If you see red errors here, they are often just warnings which may not affect the functioning of your site. But you should investigate them and report any errors to the owner of the plugin that is generating the error.

    An example of a plugin error is:

    Use of undefined constant user_level – assumed ‘user_level’ (8) File: /home/blah/foo/bar/home/wp-content/plugins/the-name-of-the-plugin-here/somefile.php Line: 525

    If you look at the filename above, notice where the name of the plugin appears. Use that to determine which plugin is generating the errors you’re seeing, and report the issue to the plugin maker. If Wordfence is generating the error, then report it to us ASAP! If the error is the last error (or close to last) that appears before a scan mysteriously stops running, then send that to us too.