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PHP Pharma Hack: All You Need To Know

Updated on: December 1, 2021

PHP Pharma Hack: All You Need To Know

While browsing the internet, you’re likely to see advertisements of drugs and medicines promising miraculous results and amazing discounts. But, there is a wicked revelation about these advertisements. Most of these advertisements are fake and possibly malicious too!

Hackers use web pages that receive a lot of traffic to advertise illegal pharmaceutical drugs online. This technique is called SEO spam hack. However, considering the number of such hacks related to pharmaceuticals, it is also called PHP Pharma Hack or just Pharma hack. Further, the most popular drug that is sold online in this fashion is Viagra. Therefore, it is also called the PHP Viagra hack.

Understanding PHP Pharma Hack

As mentioned earlier, PHP Pharma hack is a type of SEO spam hack. SEO hacks are hacking methods that manipulate the search engine to increase traffic and rank the page higher. However, the methods employed defy the Terms & Conditions of a search engine. In 2018, about 51.3% of all internet hacks were related to SEO spam. The percentage increased by 7.3% as compared to 2017.

Source: ThreatPress

Pharma hackers tend to sell illegal or knocked-off drugs without prescription. Some of the commonly sold drugs include Viagra, Levitra and Cialis. Nevertheless, to sell these, pharma hackers hack into well-ranked websites, change the existing content, add more pages and insert links to their websites. Now, you might think if they have their website, why do they do this?

Do Google or Bing show weird search results for your website? Find out in 15 seconds.

Search engines like Google try to identify such illegitimate pharmaceutical websites and do not rank them. As a result, these websites do not receive enough traffic. Consequently, they take advantage of well-off websites to advertise their product. This way, they receive all the traffic that the victim website receives. These hackers attack the websites through PHP files. Accordingly contain PHP functions. Now, searching for such malicious PHP functions is easier said than done. But we have tried our best to break it down for you in the following segment.

Related Guide – PHP Hack Removal

Detecting PHP Pharma Hack On Your Website

It is rather difficult for a website owner to identify a PHP pharma hack on his website. One might miss the minute modifications on their website. Thus, we suggest you start by checking for these 15 hacked signs on your PHP website.

Alternatively, you can just do a quick search like ‘buy viagra’, ‘buy cialis’, ‘buy levitra’ and skim through the pages to see if your website pages are there.

Source: Getastra

Another reason why it’s hard to detect a PHP Viagra hack is because of the tactics involved.

Hackers start altering content and advertising products long after hacking into the website. Meanwhile, they introduce backdoors on the website. Backdoors, as the name suggests, provides an alternate entry for hackers to the website without going through the security walls and encryption.

You can scan your PHP website for Pharma hack by using an SEO spam scanner. Or by using a security plugin. Luckily, Astra provides a machine learning-powered malware scan that detects ongoing PHP Pharma hack campaigns on your websites in addition to other hacks, if there are any.

PHP Pharma hack
SEO Poisioning detected by Astra’s Malware Scanner

With our 24*7 available malware scanner, you can also review file differences and even delete malicious files with just a click.

File difference as shown by Astra’s Malware Scanner

How to Get Rid Of Pharma Hack On Your Website?

1) Scan for Malware

Hacked files related to PHP Pharma hack can be detected by a malware scan. You can use online malware scans or install an application. Among the many, one of the best malware scans and removal programs available is the Astra Security Suite.

2) Restore Backup

Always backup the data on your website. Always! It is extremely essential for the smooth running of a website. Whenever a hack is identified, restore backup without delay.

3) Identify and Clear Hack Files

As mentioned before, PHP Pharma hacks have PHP functions in them. Therefore, you can search for files like eval() or base64_decode().

4) Scan for Backdoors and Remove them

Backdoor is a threat to the security system. Using a backdoor, a hacker can compromise security measures easily. Therefore, you should scan for backdoors and remove them periodically.

How to Prevent the Hack?

Since it is quite difficult to identify these hacks, you should be prepared and take essential steps to prevent them. Here is what you should do:

  1. Update your site periodically. Ensure to update all the plugins to the latest versions.
  2. Use only strong passwords. Make sure they are at least 12 characters long and contain a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters(!,@,#,..).
  3. Install security plugins.
  4. Scan for malware periodically.
  5. Set file permissions in a manner to reduce external access


PHP Pharma hacks and similar SEO poisoning attacks can bruise your website’s SEO severely. Further, the continued existence of the pharma hack on your PHP website can eventually push your website to the point of getting recognized as a potential threat and being blacklisted by search engines eventually.

Identifying PHP Pharma hack early on is necessary to save your hard-earned SEO results and reputation as a website. However, it is not very easy to know if your website has been hacked or not. Nevertheless, if you followed the steps mentioned in this article it will help you to a great extent in recognizing and removing the Pharma hack.

For professional assistance, a complete security suite like Astra is there to help you.

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Aakanchha Keshri

Aakanchha is a technical writer and a cybersecurity enthusiast. She is an avid reader, researcher, and an active contributor to our blog and the cybersecurity genre in general. To date, she has written over 200 blogs for more than 60 domains on topics ranging from technical to promotional. When she is not writing or researching she revels in a game or two of CS: GO.
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