The warning “This Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” can cause panic for any visitors and webmasters as well. The warning appears in such a way that nobody who cares about their device protection wouldn’t prefer to enter such an address. In fact, it creates a problem for the website owner since the warning could prevent many people from accessing the content inside it.
If you are the owner of the website there could be a lot of questions regarding this warning. What this warning actually is? What could be the reason for this warning? Well, how am I going to solve this?
It’s so frustrating to see this warning pops up before your website loads, but as long as you can debug the site and find out where the issue is, it’s fine because you can solve such a warning with proper strategy.
To fix the “use cookie-free domain” warning on GTmetrix, read this guide.
let’s start by understanding the problem.
What Does “The Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” Warning Mean?
Search engines like Google, Bing updates its algorithm frequently in order to provide the right content to queries. They also understand that user protection is a vital factor while browsing online so always try to ensure that the visitors of the website are protected from any kind of cyber threat and malware.
We know this if a site contains such threats it can even break the security shield of our computer depending on how well designed the malware is. These threats can be there on a website in the form of codes (of course they are all built from codes) and once we access that website it can automatically create a bridge between the computer and try to break the network and local computer’s firewall.
So, whenever search engine indexers find such information on a website they analyze and match the threat with existing database records and finally flag the website as “the site ahead contains harmful programs” to warn the users about the possible intimidation.
Although, search engines provide an optional gateway to the website so that a user can still visit the website at his own risk or by acknowledging the site is safe.
What Are The Causes of This Warning?
We have discussed the primary reason why this warning appears, but internally it can be classified into a few child reasons. It could be,
- Your site was hacked and has some short malicious stuff going on the background.
- Some plugins or themes may include bad codes intended to attack the visitors.
- It could be your advertisement network that includes suspicious codes behind it.
- Hackers could still data from your website or redirect visitors to fishing websites.
If search engines find such activities on your website they immediately flag it and inform the users that this site is not secure. These warnings can be different for different purposes. It depends on why the site has been flagged and based on that purpose search engines will recommend the users stay away from the site.
One example is our topic, “Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs”
Things to Do Before Fixing Your Site
Being the website owner when you detect such a warning you need to fix that as soon as possible. To remove that warning the following guide will help you,
Before you get started the most important thing is having a backup of your website. It’s better to backup your complete website so that in case anything goes wrong you can restore the backup and everything will be fine again. The backup process might seem difficult but with WordPress plugins and your hosting backup facility you can easily do that.
You can either install the Updraft plugin or VaultPress plugin to instantly have a full backup of your site. Make sure you have store the backup in your local storage or any of your trusted cloud drive.
- Link for free Updraft plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/updraftplus
- Link for free VaultPress plugin: https://wordpress.org/plugins/vaultpress/
When the backup is complete you are ready to proceed for the debugging and fixing part.
How To Fix “Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” Warning?
To fix site contains harmful programs warning, you need to take the following steps,
- Verify your site with Google safe browsing tool.
- Scan your site with a malware scanner.
- Clean malware from your site.
- Manually remove corrupted plugins and themes.
- Check for malicious or phishing site redirection.
- Get an. SSL Certificate for Your Site.
- Precautions You Need to Take for Future
Step 1: Verify your site with Google safe browsing tool
First of all, you should use a simple test to make sure your website is affected by something. The most effective way to do this by using the Google safe browsing tool. You can just put your domain address or any page URL in that tool and check whether the site holds any unsafe contents.
If the tool says unsafe content found on the website then proceed to the next step. Or if the tool doesn’t detect any such dangerous element then it’s also possible that Google or other search engines have flagged the site by a mistake.
In this case, you can file a report to Google that your site is safe for browsing and if they could help you by removing the warning from the site. You can mention the type of report as “incorrect Phishing warning“.
Step 2: Scan your site with a malware scanner
In order to find out whether the site contains infected files in the host or it’s a 3rd party issue you need to scan the site by means of the internal files. You can do that by installing a security plugin. Basically, you can use any plugin you want but I would recommend you use Wordfence or MalCare plugin.
These two plugins have scanners to scan your website’s files and if any dangerous files detected it will let you know. Wordfence is a complete solution for your WordPress site security that includes live malware tracking and intelligent admin notification system which let you know what kind of backend stuff going on your website. They even send you WordPress login notification so that you know who is logging in.
MalCare is specifically for scanning your site files and report you if there is any kind of threat in the files. It also tracks the server status of the website.
In this example, I am using the MalCare free version which can detect a vulnerable file on your website. You can MalCare plugin from the WordPress repository. After installing, access to the plugin dashboard from your WordPress admin dashboard.
Provide your email address and start the site scanning process immediately. It should redirect you to app.blogvault and there you can see the screening process step by step. After completion of site scanning, you should see the result as the given example below.
If you have malware or any other threats on your site the result will appear as HACKED. For my site it the result is clean in the example below.
Step 3: Clean malware from your site
In case your site has some vulnerable files you need to clear them before forwarding to the next step. For those sites which have malware, the clean option will appear as follows.
To clean the found malware you should upgrade your account. However, you can use any such plugin which lets you clear the malware from your website. The final goal here to polish your site and save it from critical programs.
Cleaning the site will make sure that you have eliminated the possibility of appearing “Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs” warning because of in site dangerous files.
Now recheck your site status on a private window whether the warning is gone or still appearing. I would suggest you clear the global site cache before you check. If you have not configured a caching plugin to your WordPress site yet, check this post. If the warning is not fixed then proceed to the next step.
Step 4: Manually remove corrupted plugins and themes
Although the auto clean does a decent job by cleaning the bad internal files, it still recommended to manually check your plugins and themes. It’s a simple process because of all you have to know which plugin or theme is creating the issue.
Unlike the usual WordPress plugins conflict you don’t have to bulk deactivate and then activate them one by one to find out which plugin is creating the mess. In this case, just because you know which plugin has infected code or files you can instantly remove it from your website. And I said you know which plugin or theme might have an issue because those gotta be either nulled or downloaded from unreliable sources.
Now how will you detect which plugin or theme has a problem? which plugin is giving access to the hackers? Basically it’s recommended that your WordPress plugins and themes should always be up to date. The developer releases update for fixing bugs, improving performance and they might introduce new features as well. Apart from that these updates make sure that the plugins are safe to keep with your WordPress installation.
So the first thing you need to do is,
- keep your plugins and themes updated.
- Next, try not to keep unused plugins or themes.
- it’s very risky to use nulled or pirated themes and plugins.
- Try to use them from the official producer or WordPress repository.
Step 5: Check for malicious or phishing site redirection
If hackers have access to your site they may trick the users/visitors into opening a malicious link by automatically redirecting or showing them an advertisement that seems genuine.
Upon clicking the link, people will be redirected to a malicious website. These malicious sites are built in such a way that one simple visit to that page can infect the user’s browser. Hackers can also use the cookie stealing technique to find the user’s personal login credentials so in that case, the search engines may flag your site as the site ahead contains harmful programs. So make sure your site doesn’t redirect users to any other nontrustworthy website.
Removing the current ads and vulnerable site integration can fix this problem. Regarding advertisement try to use trusted ads like AdSense, Affiliate ads from trusted creators, Bing ads, etc.
Step 6: Get a SSL Certificate for Your Site
An SSL is very important for your site regarding the current standard the search engines look for on a website. There is a constant data flow between your website server and visitor’s browser, so having an end to end encryption is necessary to protect what you are sending and what they are getting. It not only protects the information it gives trust to the visitor that, “okay this site is secure and fine to browse”.
It’s very easy to install a certificate if you haven’t installed one check this quick guide.
Trust me, this gives a lot of relief in browsing to most of the users,
Step 7: Precautions You Need to Take for Future
There are certain measures WordPress does recommend you take in order to increase the security of your website. Those are important because there is a purpose of protecting your site against online vulnerabilities such as our example, “Site Ahead Contains Harmful Programs”.
- Implement two-factor authentication.
- Disable the file editor.
- Block PHP execution in certain directories.
- Disable auto logging for inactive users.
- Disallowing plugins installation (For specific case you can allow for temporary time).
- Hiding your WordPress and plugin’s versions.
The above tasks are little technical but your can find relative guides very easily, although in the upcoming posts I will add these tutorials one by one. These steps establish another level to your site strength and help your site stay protected.
Finally, you should double-check your site status for any type of redirection or annoying pop-ups, your SSL status, and additionally the site performance. Although, you have done fixing the issue the warning will still appear since you have not let Google or other search engine know that your site issue was fixed and they can verify the fix.
To drastically change your site performance try “perfmatters”, a great caching plugin that is very light itself. This is a premium plugin, and we suggest you give it a try and you wouldn’t regret it. (The mentioned link is an affiliate link)
You can simply follow the safe browsing verification steps we have talked about earlier in this article. Here is the quick link again for the verification tool.
To complete this post I would like to highlight three primary measures that are strongly recommended to implement on your WordPress site.
Always keep a reliable security plugin, ensure to keep a working backup of your site, and always keep an eye on what’s happening on your site’s background. It’s important to keep your website optimized in all ways to achieve a higher ranking. So is this guide helpful to remove the site ahead contains harmful programs warning?
Let me know in the comment section below…
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