I installed my website using an installer - fantastico for a quick install.

Just a few days ago, I started getting a weird error in w3tc plugin and it would ask me to update via ftp as you can see below:

w3tc error message

I found out the file permissions for htaccess have been changed to 444

No matter how many time I try changing it manually, it becomes 444 after a while (about 30 seconds or if I do something in wp dashboard)


permissions set to 444 :(

For a while, I am able to rewrite the rules and then the file gets reverted to what you see below:

htaccess reverts to this

I have Hostgator's shared hosting.

Is there a way to combat this issue?

Edit: I have tried adding ftp details to my wp config too. Didn't help

  • I don't think WordPress is changing the premissions of that file. Have you asked to Hostgator if their configuration is doing that? Have you tested deactivating all plugins and using a default theme?
    – cybmeta
    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:46
  • No worries, I can try that but they couldn't come to a resolution when I last talked to them. Willl try disabling all plugins
    – Anon
    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:48
  • It looks like WordPress is using the insert_with_markers() function to create the .htaccess file through @fopen( $filename, 'w' ) but I can't see any chmod() on that file in the core.
    – birgire
    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:49
  • Is there a way to stop it from doing that (automatically) without disabling the plugins' access to .htaccess file?
    – Anon
    Apr 28, 2015 at 9:57
  • It seems like the problem is there specifically with caching plugins on this site. I disabled w3 total cache and enabled super cache but the problem was back as soon as I enabled mod_rewrite in super cache.
    – Anon
    May 10, 2015 at 7:40

2 Answers 2


Your site has likely been hacked. My site had the Darkleech infection, which injected some malicious code into wp-includes/nav-menu.php, causing .htaccess to reset to 444 on any page load.

I'd recommend you install the Sucuri plugin and let it restore any files that have been corrupted. Assuming your site was hacked, use their Post-Hack tab to reset plugins, passwords, and keys. Also check to make sure another admin user wasn't created. Use their Hardening tab to secure as much as you can. You could also install Wordfence for more security.

If you make adjustments and the problem keeps coming back, you likely have a root-level breach on your server, and then you have to work with your hosting provider to try to clean out the infection.


@David , you are right about the wp-includes/nav-menu.php file. I spotted & removed it there but it did not help.

After weeks of research, I came across this post on Wordpress backdoor removal, followed the steps and voila, the issue was resolved. I also contacted my hosting company and they helped me tighten my wordpress security.

Here are some of the steps from the post I've mentioned above that I followed to get rid of this backdoor:

  1. Take your site offline as soon as possible & change the permissions of the site folder to 600
  2. Re-name the website’s folder (public_html or your domain name) to something else and create a different folder with the same name as the original. Put a file called .maintenence in this folder. this will put your website in maintenance mode. You can use any html you want in the .maintenance file.
  3. Download WordPress. Make sure you download an appropriate version. You can find the version of this wordpress install by viewing the version number in /readme.html (not recommended to keep this file).
  4. Delete the following directories: wp-includes and wp-admin and replace these with the directories from a freshly downloaded WordPress. This will clean up the core files. It is important to delete these folders instead of merging them as a merge will not get rid of the files that are not part of wordpress core.

  5. In the root directory, delete all files but from wp-config.php.

  6. Replace these with the files from the freshly downloaded wordpress instance.
  7. Rename your original directory back to it's original name.

I now use a wordpress plugin string locator to quickly check my wordpress installation for the malicious functions mentioned in this post.

Also, I am using wordfence sucuri and cloudflare for extra layers of security.

Hope this helps someone facing a similar issue.

Resources: http://oziti.com.au/case-study/wp-security-removing-wordpress-backdoor

  • 1
    I believe all of those steps are things Sucuri can effectively do for you with the click of a button.
    – David
    Jul 3, 2015 at 6:05
  • @David and how would you do that if you can't access the WP admin? :P Dec 18, 2020 at 17:08
  • @Rodrigo Ha, if you can't access the WP backend, then you have bigger problems on your site than just this issue!
    – David
    Dec 19, 2020 at 19:40

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