What are the biggest WordPress security risks?
1. Unpatched Versions of WordPress
Unpatched or outdated versions of WordPress are a significant security risk for websites. Hackers often exploit security vulnerabilities in older versions of WordPress, which can potentially result in compromised website security. Therefore, it is crucial to keep your WordPress site up to date by regularly updating your WordPress core, themes, and plugins to the latest version. By not updating your WordPress site, you are at risk of using a version of WordPress that has known vulnerabilities.
According to W3tech, as of June 2023, about 43 percent of the 1.88 billion websites in existence today use WordPress, making it a prime target for hackers, malicious code distributors, and data thieves. This popularity makes it even more critical to keep your WordPress site updated and secure. The core team of WordPress works tirelessly to release updates that fix security vulnerabilities every time a security flaw is reported. However, if you are not updating your WordPress website, you are likely using a version of WordPress that has known vulnerabilities, leaving yourself open to attacks.
Using an older version of WordPress that is no longer supported can leave many backdoors open for attackers to take over the website. The same is true for plugins and themes. Some websites use many plugins and still have older theme files on their WordPress websites. It is best to remove unwanted plugins and themes and the ones that are deactivated to ensure website security. Hackers can exploit security flaws in older WordPress versions, plugins, and themes to gain unauthorized access to your website and potentially steal sensitive information.
Moreover, vulnerabilities found in plugins and themes are a relatively easy way for bad actors to get in. Although developers of high-quality themes release patches for those vulnerabilities in regular updates, not all WordPress users update their site frequently. Nulled or free versions of premium plugins and themes can also have backdoors embedded in their code, providing access points for hackers to remotely log into your site and do whatever they’d like.
To avoid these security risks, it is essential to regularly check for and install WordPress updates as soon as possible to eliminate vulnerabilities. Maintaining the most recent version of WordPress is critical because WordPress releases the problems and exploits from the previous version after each release, putting the WordPress administration area at risk if you don’t upgrade.
Unpatched or outdated versions of WordPress pose a significant security risk to websites. It is crucial to keep your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date to ensure website security and prevent potential attacks. By using a service that automates checking outdated plugins, themes, and WordPress core, you can easily update all your websites and maintain their security. Our WordPress security app, Patchstack, provides a centralized dashboard from where you can have complete control over multiple WordPress websites. Patchstack automatically scans and notifies you immediately if an outdated software version runs on your WordPress website, enabling you to take action promptly. You can also turn on the auto-update feature in Patchstack to apply any new updates to the WordPress core, themes, and plugins automatically. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your WordPress website remains secure and protected from potential security breaches.
2. Use of vulnerable plugins
Plugins are essential components of WordPress websites that add functionality and features. They are developed by both trusted and non-trusted developers, and while they can enhance website performance, they can also pose security risks if not properly vetted.
Here are some of the most common vulnerable plugins that can put your WordPress website at risk:
- RevSlider is a popular WordPress plugin used for creating sliders and banners. It is also one of the most exploited plugins, with hackers exploiting its vulnerabilities to gain access to websites. The plugin has been known to allow remote code execution, which can lead to complete website takeover.
- Gravity Forms is a widely used plugin for building forms on WordPress websites. It has been found to have several vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to execute arbitrary code and gain access to sensitive data.
- TimThumb is an image resizing plugin that has been found to have multiple vulnerabilities that can be exploited to upload malicious files and take control of the website.
- WP Super Cache is a caching plugin that speeds up website performance. However, it can be exploited by hackers to execute code and gain access to the website.
- W3 Total Cache is another caching plugin that has been found to have vulnerabilities that can be exploited to execute arbitrary code and gain access to the website.
Identifying and Avoiding Vulnerable Plugins
To avoid using vulnerable plugins, it’s important to conduct thorough research before installing any new plugin. You should only use plugins from trusted developers and check for reviews and ratings to ensure they are well-maintained and functioning properly. Additionally, you should regularly check for plugin updates and remove any unused or outdated plugins.
Another way to identify vulnerable plugins is by using vulnerability scanners such as WPScan and Sucuri SiteCheck. These tools can scan your website for vulnerabilities and provide recommendations on how to fix them.
Using vulnerable plugins in WordPress websites can lead to severe security risks and potential business losses. It’s important to be cautious when selecting and using plugins, and to regularly update them to ensure they are secure. By following best practices and tips for secure plugin management, you can greatly reduce the risk of being hacked. Remember that prevention is better than cure, and taking the time to properly vet plugins can save you from a lot of trouble in the long run.
3. Insecure Passwords
Strong passwords are essential in safeguarding your WordPress website from cyber threats. Weak passwords can lead to security breaches, which can compromise login credentials and result in unauthorized access to sensitive data. In this section, we will discuss the risks associated with insecure passwords in WordPress security.
- Brute Force Attacks: Weak passwords like “password” or “123456” make it easier for hackers to guess your login credentials and gain unauthorized access to your website. Brute force attacks use a trial-and-error approach to guess your password, and weak passwords make it easier for hackers to crack your login credentials. For example, in a survey conducted by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), over 23 million breached accounts were using the password “123456.”
- Compromised Login Credentials: Insecure passwords can lead to compromised login credentials, which can result in unauthorized access to your website. Hackers can use compromised login credentials to steal sensitive data or carry out malicious activities on your website. For example, a hacker can use compromised login credentials to install malware on your website or deface your website.
- Unauthorized Access to Sensitive Data: Weak passwords can also result in unauthorized access to sensitive data, such as customer information, financial data, or intellectual property. This can have serious consequences for your business, including legal liabilities, reputational damage, and financial losses. For example, a hacker can use compromised login credentials to steal customer information, such as credit card numbers or personal identification information, which can lead to identity theft and financial fraud.
Weak passwords can lead to potential security breaches in WordPress security. Brute force attacks, compromised login credentials, and unauthorized access to sensitive data are some of the risks associated with insecure passwords. Users and administrators should create complex passwords that are difficult to guess or crack to safeguard their website from cyber threats. It is also recommended to change passwords regularly and avoid using common keywords for login information. By following these best practices, you can help ensure the security and integrity of your WordPress website.
4. Outdated Plugins and Themes
Outdated plugins and themes pose a significant security risk to WordPress websites, leaving them vulnerable to cyber attacks. The potential for vulnerabilities, malware infections, and compatibility issues are just a few of the specific security risks associated with outdated plugins and themes. Hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to your site, compromising sensitive information and causing damage to your reputation. To maintain a secure WordPress site, it is essential to regularly update plugins and themes to their latest versions. This way, you can ensure that your site is protected against new viruses and malware, and your software is running smoothly without any compatibility issues.
5. Insecure Custom Code
Insecure custom code is a type of security vulnerability that can have a significant impact on the security of a WordPress website. Insecure custom code refers to any code that has been added to a website that is not part of the core WordPress platform, including custom themes, plugins, and code snippets. This code can introduce vulnerabilities that can be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to a website, steal sensitive data, or cause other types of damage.
There are several types of insecure custom code that can lead to security risks in WordPress websites. One common example is outdated plugins. When plugins are not updated regularly, they can become vulnerable to security risks, making it easier for attackers to exploit them. In addition, plugins created by non-trusted developers can be a potential source of insecure custom code, as they may not have been tested thoroughly for security vulnerabilities.
Another type of insecure custom code is outdated themes. Themes are an essential part of the design and functionality of a WordPress website, but they can also introduce vulnerabilities if they are not kept up to date. Themes that have not been updated can contain security flaws that can be exploited by attackers.
Custom code snippets are another potential source of insecure custom code. These code snippets may have been added to a website to provide additional functionality or customization, but if they are not properly coded, they can introduce security vulnerabilities. For instance, if a custom code snippet does not properly sanitize user input, it can be exploited by attackers to inject malicious code into a website.
Insecure custom code can compromise the security of a WordPress website in several ways. For example, attackers can exploit vulnerabilities in outdated plugins, themes, or custom code snippets to gain unauthorized access to a website. They can also inject malicious code into a website, steal sensitive data such as user credentials, or cause a website to crash or become inaccessible.
To mitigate the risks associated with insecure custom code, it is important to regularly update plugins, themes, and custom code snippets. It is also recommended to perform regular code audits to identify and fix any potential security vulnerabilities. In addition, website owners should only use plugins and themes from trusted developers and avoid using custom code snippets that have not been thoroughly tested for security vulnerabilities.
Insecure custom code can pose a significant risk to the security of a WordPress website. Website owners should be aware of the different types of insecure custom code, such as outdated plugins, themes, and custom code snippets, and take steps to mitigate these risks. By regularly updating plugins, themes, and custom code, and performing code audits, website owners can greatly reduce the risk of being hacked and protect their website visitors’ data and credentials. It is important to remember that no website can be 100% secure, but by implementing these security best practices, website owners can greatly improve the security of their WordPress websites. By staying vigilant and proactive, website owners can ensure that their website remains safe and secure from the most common security threats.
6. Unsecured WordPress Backups
Unsecured WordPress backups pose a significant risk to the security of your website. Backups are essential for risk mitigation, but if they are not secured properly, they can become a liability. Hackers can exploit unsecured backups to gain access to sensitive data or take control of your website. In this section, we will discuss the biggest security risks associated with unsecured WordPress backups.
Unsecured backups can be classified into different types, each posing its own unique set of risks. Some of the most common types of unsecured backups are:
- On-Server Backups: On-server backups are backups that are stored on the same server as your website. These backups are convenient, but they pose a significant risk if your server is compromised. If a hacker gains access to your server, they can easily locate your backup files and use them to gain access to your website.
- Local Backups: Local backups are backups that are stored on your computer or external hard drive. While they are convenient, they are vulnerable to theft or damage. If your computer or hard drive is stolen or damaged, you could lose all of your backup data.
- Cloud Backups: Cloud backups are backups that are stored on a third-party cloud service. While cloud backups are generally secure, they can still be vulnerable to attacks if they are not secured properly. If a hacker gains access to your cloud storage account, they can easily download your backup files and use them to gain access to your website.
- Outdated Backups: Outdated backups are backups that are not updated regularly. If you have an outdated backup, it may not contain the most recent changes to your website. If a hacker gains access to an outdated backup, they may be able to exploit vulnerabilities that have since been fixed.
Hackers can exploit unsecured backups in various ways. For example, they can use backup files to gain access to sensitive data, such as user information or payment details. They can also use backup files to inject malicious code into your website, which can lead to a variety of security issues, including website defacement, data theft, and malware distribution.
To protect against potential security breaches, it is important to secure your WordPress backups properly. This can be done by using a reliable backup plugin like VaultPress or BackupBuddy, which offer secure off-site storage options. Additionally, it is recommended to schedule regular backups and to keep them up-to-date to ensure that they contain the most recent changes to your website.
Unsecured WordPress backups can pose a significant risk to the security of your website. Various types of unsecured backups, such as on-server, local, cloud, and outdated backups, can be exploited by hackers to gain access to sensitive data or take control of your website. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial to secure your backups properly by using reliable backup plugins and scheduling regular backups. By taking these steps, you can ensure that your website is protected against potential security breaches. Remember, backups are essential for risk mitigation, but only if they are secured properly.
7. Malicious Code and Hacks
Malicious code and hacks are serious threats to the security of WordPress sites. When a hacker gains unauthorized access to a site, they can inject malicious code that can steal user information, passwords, and install malware. This can lead to a loss of credibility, revenue, and potential customers. Here are some of the biggest WordPress security risks related to malicious code and hacks:
- SQL Injection (SQLi) is a type of attack that forces the system to execute malicious SQL queries and manipulate data within the database. Hackers can use this vulnerability to steal sensitive information, modify or delete data, and even gain administrative access to the site. To prevent SQLi attacks, it is important to use parameterized queries and input validation to ensure that user input is sanitized before being processed by the database.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a type of attack that injects malicious code into a website, which can then be executed by unsuspecting visitors. This can result in cookie theft, planting trojans, keylogging, phishing, and identity theft. To prevent XSS attacks, it is important to keep WordPress and all plugins up to date, use trusted plugins, and sanitize user input.
- Brute Force Attacks are a type of attack where a hacker tries to gain access to a site by guessing the username and password. This can be done manually or through automated tools that can try thousands of combinations in a short amount of time. To prevent brute force attacks, it is important to use strong, complex passwords and limit login attempts to a certain number before locking out the user.
- Malicious File Uploads are a type of attack where a hacker uploads a file to the site, which can then be executed to gain unauthorized access or steal data. This can happen through vulnerabilities in plugins or through file upload forms that do not properly sanitize user input. To prevent malicious file uploads, it is important to use trusted plugins, limit file types and sizes, and sanitize user input.
- Backdoor Exploits are a type of attack where a hacker creates a hidden entry point to the site, which can be used to bypass security measures and gain unauthorized access. This can happen through vulnerabilities in plugins or through weak passwords. To prevent backdoor exploits, it is important to use strong, complex passwords and limit access to the site to trusted users.
Failing to address these security risks can have serious consequences for a WordPress site. It can lead to loss of data, credibility, and revenue, as well as legal liabilities if user information is compromised. In addition, Google and other search engines blacklist sites that are deemed unsafe, which can result in a significant drop in traffic and revenue. Therefore, it is crucial to take proactive steps to protect WordPress sites from these security risks, such as keeping WordPress and plugins up to date, using trusted plugins, implementing strong passwords, and limiting user access. By doing so, site owners can ensure the security and integrity of their WordPress sites and protect themselves and their users from potential harm.
8. Lack of Security on Web Server Level
Web server security is paramount for WordPress websites to prevent cyber attacks and protect sensitive information. Poor security practices like granting unnecessary site access and using weak passwords make it easier for hackers to infiltrate your website. In addition to these, there are several security risks that stem from a lack of security on the web server level. These include Cross-site request forgery (CSRF), Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, Authentication bypass, SQL injection (SQLi), Cross-site scripting (XSS), and Local file inclusion (LFI). CSRF forces users to execute unwanted actions in a trusted web application, DDoS attacks incapacitate online services by flooding them with unwanted connections, Authentication bypass gives hackers access to your website’s resources without verifying their authenticity, SQLi forces the system to execute malicious SQL queries and exploit data within the database, XSS injects malicious code that turns the site into a transporter of malware, and LFI forces the site into processing malicious files placed on the web server. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial to implement security practices against the largest and most common threats, update WordPress and its components regularly, and avoid common errors in access management.
What are some best practices for WordPress security?
1. Use a strong password and change it often
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve your WordPress security is by using strong passwords and changing them regularly. Weak passwords make it easier for hackers to gain unauthorized access to your website, putting you, your users, and your website at risk. In this section, we’ll outline the steps you can take to create strong passwords and how often you should change them.
Steps to create a strong password:
- Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like @ or _.
- Avoid common words or phrases, such as “password” or “123456”.
- Use a password manager to generate and store strong passwords for you.
How often should you change your password?
It’s recommended to change your WordPress password every 3-6 months. This helps ensure that even if your password is compromised, the attacker will only have access for a limited time.
Using a strong password and changing it regularly is a simple yet effective way to improve your WordPress security. By following the steps outlined above, you can create strong passwords that are difficult for hackers to guess and protect your website from unauthorized access. Remember, your website’s security is only as strong as your weakest password.
2. Keep WordPress up to date
Keeping WordPress up to date is one of the best security practices for WordPress websites. Updating WordPress core files to the latest version is crucial to keep your site safe from outside interference. WordPress regularly issues updates and patches to minimize security threats. Outdated WordPress versions can make a website vulnerable to security breaches. In this section, we will discuss the steps to keep WordPress up to date.
- Check for updates: WordPress notifies users in their Dash when a new version is released. You can also subscribe to the WordPress Releases RSS feed for this information. Additionally, there are plugins available which keep your site automatically up to date.
- Install updates: Once you have checked for updates, it’s time to install them. You can either click on the “Update Now” button in the WordPress dashboard or use a plugin to automatically install updates.
- Keep plugins and themes up to date: In addition to updating WordPress core files, it’s essential to keep plugins and themes up to date. Version updates often have important security patches and bug fixes, so it’s important to always run the latest version of WordPress and any themes or plugins you’re using.
- Regularly update your passwords: Routinely updating your passwords is another crucial step in maintaining website security.
- Routinely audit your sites: It’s important to audit your sites regularly for plugins, themes, and users that aren’t being used, and remove them. Unused themes and plugins pose a security risk since they will eventually get outdated, making them vulnerable. As a rule of thumb, if you’re not using it, delete it.
- Backup your site: ALWAYS have a recent WordPress backup. Having a backup of your site can not only save you time if something does go wrong, it can also save you a costly experience. Use a WordPress backup plugin like BackupBuddy to create automatic WordPress backups and store backup files off-site in a secure destination.
- Use tools to make WordPress maintenance easier: If you manage multiple WordPress sites, there are tools to help make WordPress maintenance easier like iThemes Sync. Instead of logging into each individual website to run updates, you have one central dashboard to run multiple websites at once. iThemes Sync also can send notification emails when new updates for your WordPress site are available so you never miss an important security update.
Keeping WordPress up to date is crucial to maintaining the security and stability of your site. Outdated WordPress versions can make a website vulnerable to security breaches. By following the above steps, you can ensure that your WordPress website is up to date and secure. Regularly checking for updates, installing them, keeping plugins and themes up to date, updating passwords, auditing your sites, backing up your site, and using tools to make WordPress maintenance easier are all essential steps in keeping your WordPress website secure. Remember, the best way to prevent security breaches is to keep your WordPress website up to date at all times.
3. Disable WordPress features you don’t need
WordPress security is a critical aspect of maintaining a website. One best practice for enhancing website security is to disable unnecessary features. These features can pose potential security risks if left enabled. Here are some features that can be disabled to improve website security: XML-RPC, pingbacks, and trackbacks. XML-RPC is a protocol that allows remote access to WordPress. However, it is also a common vulnerability that can lead to exploits, making it important to disable it. Pingbacks and trackbacks can also be exploited by hackers to launch DDoS attacks. To disable these features, add the following code snippet to the functions.php file:
or use a plugin like Disable XML-RPC. Similarly, disable pingbacks and trackbacks by going to Settings > Discussion and unchecking the options. It is crucial to regularly review and disable unnecessary features to maintain strong website security.
4. Limit login attempts
Limiting login attempts is a crucial measure to enhance the security of your WordPress website. By default, WordPress allows unlimited login attempts, leaving your site vulnerable to brute force attacks where hackers try different password combinations until they find the right one. However, you can add an extra layer of security by limiting login attempts against an account through a plugin or web application firewall.
One effective way to limit login attempts is by using a plugin like Limit Login Attempts Reloaded, WP Limit Login Attempts, or Loginizer. These plugins allow you to configure the number of failed attempts for specific IP addresses, add users to the safelist or block them entirely, and inform website users about the remaining lockout time. For instance, Limit Login Attempts Reloaded automatically blocks IP addresses that reach the login attempt limit and adds them to a deny list.
Limiting login attempts is an effective way to secure your WordPress website against automated brute force attacks. By setting rules on your login page to block anyone that fails to login in after a certain number of attempts, you deny access to automated bots. For example, you can block an IP address if it fails to login in after three attempts. This measure also helps monitor any suspicious activities on your site since most users only need a single try or a few failed attempts .
One of the risks of implementing this WordPress security measure is getting a legitimate user locked out of WordPress admin. However, you shouldn’t be worried about that, as there are many ways to recover locked-out WordPress accounts. Additionally, you can whitelist certain IP addresses to avoid blocking trusted users.
Another advantage of limiting login attempts is that it helps to increase WordPress security by preventing hackers from brute-forcing their way into your website. By limiting the number of login attempts a user can make in a certain amount of time, you reduce the chances of a successful brute force attack.
Limiting login attempts is a simple yet effective way to enhance the security of your WordPress website. By using a plugin or web application firewall, you can configure the number of failed attempts, block suspicious IP addresses, and monitor any suspicious activities on your site. By implementing this security measure, you can significantly reduce the risk of your site being hacked.
5. Use WordPress two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security feature that adds an additional layer of protection to the login process on your WordPress website. It requires users to provide two forms of identification before gaining access to their account. The first form is the traditional username and password, while the second form is a unique code generated by an authentication app that is installed on a separate device.
Enabling two-factor authentication on your WordPress website is crucial for enhancing the security of your site. Hackers use various methods to gain unauthorized access to websites, including brute-force attacks, phishing scams, and social engineering. By implementing 2FA, you can significantly reduce the risk of these attacks and protect your site’s sensitive data.
To enable two-factor authentication on your WordPress website, you need to install a login security plugin like Two-Factor or Google Authenticator. Once installed, follow these steps:
- Go to the plugin page on your WordPress admin dashboard and navigate to the Two-Factor Authentication tab.
- Scan the QR code or enter the activation key using the authentication app on your mobile device.
- Enter the code generated by the app to the available field under the recovery codes section.
- Click the ACTIVATE button to complete the setup.
It’s essential to download the provided recovery codes in case you lose access to the device that contains the authentication app. These codes serve as a backup method for logging in to your WordPress account if you can’t generate the 2FA code using the authentication app.
Enabling two-factor authentication on your WordPress website is a crucial step in enhancing the security of your site. It adds an extra layer of protection to your login process and significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to your site. By following the simple steps outlined above, you can easily set up 2FA on your WordPress website and protect it from hacking attempts. Remember to choose a reliable and frequently updated plugin for the best results.
6. Scan for and remove WordPress vulnerabilities
Ensuring website security is of utmost importance for any website owner, and this is especially true for WordPress websites. Identifying and fixing vulnerabilities is crucial to maintaining a secure website. In this section, we will provide a step-by-step guide on how to scan for and remove vulnerabilities in WordPress.
- Use Security Plugins: There are several security plugins available for WordPress that can scan for vulnerabilities in WordPress core files, plugins, and themes. They also notify you by email when new security vulnerabilities are found. Install a trusted security plugin and configure it to scan your website regularly. We detail some available options later in this post.
- Update WordPress and Plugins: Outdated software can leave your website vulnerable to attacks. Make sure to regularly update WordPress and all installed plugins to their latest version. This will ensure that any known vulnerabilities are patched.
- Remove Unused Themes and Plugins: Unused themes and plugins can be a potential security risk. Delete any themes and plugins that are not in use, as they can be a target for hackers.
- Look out for Common Vulnerabilities: Common vulnerabilities to look out for include weak passwords, unprotected access to the wp-admin directory, and outdated plugins. Always use strong passwords and limit access to the wp-admin directory to authorized users only. Regularly check for plugin and theme updates and remove any outdated ones.
- Check for Malware: Malware can be harmful to your website and can also compromise the security of your visitors’ data. Use a malware scanner to scan your website for any malicious code. If malware is detected, take appropriate action to remove it.
Regularly scanning for and removing vulnerabilities in WordPress is crucial to maintaining a secure website. By using security plugins, updating WordPress and plugins, removing unused themes and plugins, looking out for common vulnerabilities, and checking for malware, you can ensure that your website is protected from potential attacks. Don’t wait until it’s too late to take action. Prioritize website security and take the necessary steps to keep your website safe.
7. Make use of a Website Firewall
One crucial aspect of enhancing WordPress security is the implementation of a reliable website firewall. A website firewall acts as a protective barrier, shielding your site from malicious attacks, hacking attempts, and unauthorized access.
There are different types of website firewalls available, including cloud-based firewalls and plugin-based firewalls. Cloud-based firewalls, such as Sucuri or Cloudflare, provide a comprehensive security solution by intercepting malicious traffic before it even reaches your website. On the other hand, plugin-based firewalls integrate directly into your WordPress installation and actively monitor and filter incoming requests.
By deploying a website firewall, you fortify your WordPress site’s defenses, minimizing the risk of security breaches and offering an additional layer of protection against potential vulnerabilities.
8. Monitor your website and be aware of changes
Maintaining vigilance over your WordPress website is a crucial part of securing it. Regular monitoring enables you to detect any unauthorized activities or suspicious changes, allowing you to take immediate action before they escalate into significant security concerns.
Start by keeping an eye on your website’s access logs, server logs, and error logs. These logs provide valuable insights into user activities, potential security threats, and errors that may arise. Additionally, consider utilizing security plugins or monitoring services that offer real-time alerts for suspicious behavior, file modifications, or failed login attempts.
Being aware of changes on your website enables you to identify potential security vulnerabilities promptly, helping you stay one step ahead and mitigate any risks effectively.
9. Install a Security Audit Plugin
To maintain a secure WordPress site, it’s essential to install a reliable security audit plugin. These plugins enable you to assess the overall security posture of your website, identify vulnerabilities, and take necessary remedial actions.
A security audit plugin typically performs various tasks, such as scanning for outdated themes and plugins, checking for weak passwords, identifying file and directory permissions, and examining the integrity of core WordPress files. We detail some available options later in this post.
By installing a security audit plugin, you gain access to powerful tools that streamline the security assessment process, making it easier to identify and address potential vulnerabilities proactively.
10. Block suspicious IP addresses
A proactive approach to WordPress security involves blocking suspicious or malicious IP addresses that pose a threat to your website. By implementing IP blocking, you can prevent unwanted traffic, brute-force attacks, and malicious bots from accessing your site.
To block suspicious IP addresses, you can use security plugins or firewall configurations that allow you to set up rules for denying access based on IP addresses or IP ranges. Additionally, some security plugins offer reputation-based IP blocking, which automatically blocks IP addresses known for malicious activities.
Regularly monitor your server logs or utilize security plugins that provide IP blocking functionality to identify and block IP addresses associated with suspicious behavior. By promptly blocking malicious IP addresses, you reduce the risk of potential security breaches and protect your WordPress site from various types of attacks.
11. Run security checks on your WordPress files
Performing regular security checks on your WordPress files is essential to maintain a secure website environment. By scanning your files for malicious code or unauthorized modifications, you can identify potential security vulnerabilities before they cause harm.
Security plugins offer file scanning capabilities, allowing you to detect any suspicious or compromised files. These plugins compare your files against a known set of secure files, helping you identify discrepancies or modifications. We provide some plugin options for you to consider later in this post.
Additionally, keep your WordPress installation, themes, and plugins up to date, as outdated or vulnerable files can become easy targets for hackers. Regularly update your WordPress core files, themes, and plugins to ensure you have the latest security patches and bug fixes.
By running security checks on your WordPress files, you actively defend your website against potential threats and maintain a secure environment for your visitors.
12. Use strong file encryption
File encryption is a crucial component of WordPress security, as it adds an extra layer of protection to sensitive information stored on your website’s server. By encrypting your files, you render them unreadable to unauthorized individuals even if they manage to gain access to the files.
To implement file encryption, consider using strong encryption algorithms like AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) or RSA (Rivest-Shamir-Adleman). These algorithms provide robust encryption mechanisms that are difficult to crack.
One effective way to implement file encryption is by utilizing secure file transfer protocols such as SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) or SCP (Secure Copy). These protocols encrypt the data during file transfer, ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of your files.
By employing strong file encryption techniques, you safeguard your sensitive data and protect it from unauthorized access, enhancing the overall security of your WordPress site.
13. Limit hotlinking
Hotlinking refers to the practice of displaying images, videos, or other media hosted on your WordPress site directly on external websites. While it may seem convenient, hotlinking can have security implications, increase server load, and potentially lead to copyright infringement.
To mitigate the risks associated with hotlinking, you can limit or disable it completely. This can be achieved through various methods, such as modifying your server’s configuration files, utilizing security plugins, or using content delivery networks (CDNs) that provide hotlink protection.
By limiting hotlinking, you reduce the strain on your server, maintain control over your content, and prevent others from directly linking to your media files without your permission.
14. Use a security-centric web hosting provider
Choosing a WordPress web hosting provider that prioritizes security is vital for maintaining a secure WordPress site. Opt for hosting companies that have a strong emphasis on security measures and offer robust features to protect your website.
Look for hosting providers that provide features such as regular backups, server-level firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and malware scanning. Additionally, ensure that the hosting provider keeps their server software and hardware up to date with the latest security patches.
Furthermore, consider the reputation and track record of the hosting provider regarding security incidents and customer support. Read reviews and seek recommendations from trusted sources to ensure you select a reliable and security-centric web hosting provider.
By partnering with a security-focused web hosting provider, like Simple Source Solutions, you establish a solid foundation for your WordPress site’s security, minimizing the risk of potential vulnerabilities and attacks.
At Simple Source, we implement many of these best practices and solutions, while also providing custom solutions, processes, and workflows that provide our hosting customers with best-in-class security for their WordPress websites.
How to implement best practices for WordPress security
1. Regularly audit WordPress plugins & themes
To implement effective WordPress security practices, it’s crucial to regularly audit your installed plugins and themes. Outdated or poorly coded plugins and themes can introduce vulnerabilities to your website, making it an easy target for hackers.
Audit your plugins and themes by following these steps:
- Review all installed plugins and themes: Go through your WordPress admin dashboard and make a list of all the plugins and themes you have installed.
- Evaluate their reputation and ratings: Check the plugin or theme reviews and ratings in the WordPress plugin repository or theme directory. Look for plugins and themes with positive reviews and a good reputation.
- Verify plugin/theme compatibility and updates: Ensure that your plugins and themes are compatible with the latest version of WordPress. Check if they receive regular updates from the developers to address security vulnerabilities and ensure optimal performance.
- Remove unnecessary plugins and themes: Delete any plugins or themes that you no longer use. Reducing the number of active plugins and themes reduces the potential attack surface.
- Update plugins and themes: Update all your plugins and themes to their latest versions. Developers often release updates to patch security vulnerabilities and enhance functionality.
By regularly auditing and updating your plugins and themes, you minimize the risk of security breaches and ensure the overall stability and security of your WordPress site.
2. Use WordPress monitoring
Implementing WordPress monitoring helps you stay informed about your website’s performance, security, and potential issues. Monitoring your WordPress site allows you to detect and address security breaches, performance bottlenecks, or other anomalies promptly.
Consider the following monitoring practices:
- Uptime monitoring: Utilize uptime monitoring services or plugins to receive alerts if your website goes offline. This helps you quickly identify any server or hosting-related issues.
- Security monitoring: Install security plugins or utilize services that offer real-time monitoring for potential security threats, malware infections, or suspicious activities. These tools can alert you to unauthorized access attempts, file changes, or blacklisting.
- Performance monitoring: Monitor your website’s performance metrics, such as page load time, server response time, and resource utilization. Identify any performance bottlenecks and optimize your site accordingly.
- Error monitoring: Configure error monitoring to track and log any PHP errors, database errors, or other issues that occur on your WordPress site. This helps you identify and fix potential vulnerabilities or bugs.
By implementing WordPress monitoring, you gain valuable insights into your site’s performance and security, allowing you to proactively address any issues and ensure a smooth user experience.
3. Update to the latest version of PHP
Keeping your PHP version up to date is crucial for WordPress security. PHP is the scripting language that powers WordPress, and outdated versions may have security vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
To update your PHP version, follow these steps:
- Check your current PHP version: In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Tools” > “Site Health” > “Info.” Look for the PHP version listed.
- Verify compatibility: Ensure that your theme and plugins are compatible with the latest PHP version. Visit the developers’ websites or contact their support for confirmation.
- Update PHP version: Contact your web hosting provider and request an update to the latest stable PHP version. Many hosting providers offer a control panel or support documentation that allows you to change your PHP version.
- Test website functionality: After updating PHP, thoroughly test your website to ensure that all features, themes, and plugins are working correctly. Monitor for any errors or compatibility issues that may arise.
By updating to the latest PHP version, you take advantage of security enhancements, performance improvements, and bug fixes provided by the PHP development community.
4. Install one or more security plugins
Installing security plugins is an essential step in fortifying your WordPress site against potential threats. These plugins offer a range of security features and functionalities, helping you monitor, detect, and prevent security breaches.
Consider the following security plugins for your WordPress site:
- Wordfence: A comprehensive security plugin that provides firewall protection, malware scanning, login security, and real-time threat intelligence.
- Sucuri Security: Offers website firewall, malware scanning, security hardening, and activity auditing features to enhance your site’s security.
- iThemes Security: Formerly known as Better WP Security, this plugin offers a wide range of security features, including malware scanning, brute-force protection, and two-factor authentication.
- All In One WP Security & Firewall: A user-friendly security plugin that incorporates features such as file integrity monitoring, firewall protection, login lockdown, and database security.
- Or install a security plugin that aligns with your specific security needs and preferences. Configure the plugin settings according to best practices and regularly update it to benefit from the latest security enhancements.
By installing a security plugin, you add an extra layer of protection to your WordPress site and gain peace of mind knowing that your site is being actively monitored and safeguarded.
5. Enable SSL/HTTPS
Enabling SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) on your WordPress site is essential for ensuring secure communication between your website and its visitors. It encrypts the data transmitted between the user’s browser and your server, preventing unauthorized access and data interception.
To enable SSL/HTTPS on your WordPress site, follow these steps:
- Obtain an SSL/TLS certificate: Contact your web hosting provider or utilize a reputable certificate authority (CA) to obtain an SSL/TLS certificate. Some hosting providers offer free SSL certificates through services like Let’s Encrypt.
- Install and configure the certificate: Follow the instructions provided by your hosting provider or CA to install the SSL certificate on your server. Some hosting providers have a simplified process through their control panel.
- Update your WordPress settings: In your WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Settings” > “General” and update both the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” to start with “https://” instead of “http://”.
By enabling SSL/HTTPS, you establish a secure connection for your website visitors, instilling trust and protecting sensitive information exchanged between the user and your WordPress site.
6. Back up your website
Regularly backing up your WordPress website is essential for disaster recovery and quick restoration in case of security incidents, data loss, or website malfunctions. Having up-to-date backups ensures that you can restore your site to a previous working state with minimal disruption.
To back up your WordPress site effectively:
- Choose a backup solution: Research and select a reliable backup plugin or service that meets your requirements. Popular options include UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, and VaultPress.
- Configure backup settings: Set up the backup frequency and select the files and database tables to include in the backup. It’s advisable to choose an off-site storage option or cloud service for storing your backups securely.
- Test your backups: Periodically test the restoration process by performing a trial restoration of your backup files. Ensure that the backup files are intact and that you can successfully restore them.
- Automate backups: Set up automatic backups to ensure that your website is regularly backed up without manual intervention. This reduces the risk of data loss due to missed backup schedules.
Remember to store your backup files in a secure location and periodically verify the integrity of your backups to ensure their reliability.
By regularly backing up your website, you can quickly recover from security incidents or data loss, minimizing the impact on your WordPress site and its users.
7. Conduct regular WordPress security scans
Regularly conducting security scans on your WordPress site is crucial to detect and mitigate potential vulnerabilities or malware infections. These scans help identify security issues before they can be exploited by attackers.
There are two primary types of security scans you should consider:
- Malware scanning: Use a security plugin or an external malware scanning service to scan your WordPress files for malicious code, suspicious patterns, or known malware signatures. If any malware is detected, follow the instructions provided to clean your site.
- Vulnerability scanning: Conduct vulnerability scans to identify potential security weaknesses in your WordPress installation, themes, and plugins. Some security plugins offer this functionality, or you can use online vulnerability scanning tools like WPScan.
To conduct regular security scans:
- Install a security plugin: Choose a reputable security plugin that includes malware scanning and vulnerability assessment features. Popular options include Wordfence, Sucuri Security, or iThemes Security.
- Configure scanning settings: Set up the scanning frequency, scope (files and directories to scan), and notification preferences according to your requirements. Configure the plugin to automatically scan your site at regular intervals.
- Review scan results: Regularly review the scan reports generated by the security plugin and investigate any identified vulnerabilities or malware infections. Take appropriate actions to address the issues and secure your WordPress site.
By conducting regular security scans, you proactively identify and resolve security issues, strengthening the overall security posture of your WordPress site.
8. Hide your WordPress version
Hiding your WordPress version is a simple yet effective technique to add an extra layer of security to your site. By concealing the WordPress version number, you make it harder for potential attackers to target known vulnerabilities specific to that version.
To hide your WordPress version:
- Update to the latest WordPress version: Before implementing any security measures, ensure that your WordPress installation is up to date with the latest stable version. This reduces the risk of known vulnerabilities.
- Remove or modify the generator meta tag: By default, WordPress includes a generator meta tag in the website’s HTML source code, which reveals the WordPress version. You can remove or modify this tag by adding code to your theme’s functions.php file or by using a security plugin that offers this feature.
- Check for version disclosure in themes and plugins: Some themes or plugins may unintentionally disclose the WordPress version in their code or templates. Review the code or settings of your active themes and plugins to ensure they don’t expose the version information.
Remember to test your website thoroughly after making any changes to ensure that the modifications do not affect its functionality.
By hiding your WordPress version, you make it more challenging for attackers to exploit known vulnerabilities, increasing the overall security of your WordPress site.
9. Delete the default WordPress admin account
One of the crucial steps in securing your WordPress site is to delete the default “admin” account created during the installation process. Attackers often target this account as it is commonly used and represents an easy entry point to your site.
To delete the default WordPress admin account:
- Create a new administrator account: Log in to your WordPress admin dashboard with your existing admin account or any other account with administrator privileges. Create a new user account with a unique username and a strong password.
- Assign the new account to the administrator role: In the WordPress admin dashboard, go to “Users” > “Add New.” Enter the necessary details for the new user account and assign the “Administrator” role to it.
- Log out and log in with the new account: Log out of your WordPress admin dashboard and log back in using the newly created administrator account. Ensure that you can access all the necessary functionalities and features.
- Delete the default “admin” account: Go to “Users” > “All Users” in the WordPress admin dashboard. Locate the default “admin” account and delete it. Assign all its content and posts to the newly created account or another appropriate user.
By removing the default “admin” account, you eliminate a common target for attackers and enhance the security of your WordPress site.
10. Backup Your WordPress
Regularly backing up your WordPress site is a crucial step in ensuring the safety and recoverability of your data in case of security incidents, data loss, or system failures.
To effectively back up your WordPress site:
- Choose a backup solution: Research and select a reliable backup solution or plugin that suits your needs. Popular backup plugins include UpdraftPlus, BackupBuddy, and VaultPress (Jetpack).
- Determine backup frequency: Decide how often you want to back up your site. The frequency depends on factors such as the frequency of content updates and the criticality of the site. Daily or weekly backups are common practices.
- Store backups securely: Ensure that backups are stored in a secure location, separate from your live site. Cloud storage, external drives, or secure FTP servers are popular choices. Consider encryption and access controls to protect the backup files.
- Test backups regularly: Periodically verify the integrity and recoverability of your backups by performing test restores. This ensures that the backup files are complete and usable when needed.
- Automate the backup process: Configure your backup solution to automate the backup process according to your desired frequency and retention policy. This minimizes the risk of human error and ensures consistent backups.
By regularly backing up your WordPress site, you have a reliable mechanism to restore your website to a previous state if necessary, safeguarding your data and minimizing potential downtime.
Remember, implementing these WordPress security best practices collectively strengthens the security posture of your WordPress site and helps protect it from potential threats.
Summary: Securing Your WordPress Website
Securing your WordPress website is of utmost importance to protect it from unauthorized access, data breaches, and other security threats. In this comprehensive guide, we have covered various aspects of WordPress security and provided best practices to enhance the security posture of your website.
We started by emphasizing the significance of keeping WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date to ensure you have the latest security patches and bug fixes. Additionally, we discussed the importance of using strong and unique passwords, limiting login attempts, and securing the WordPress login page with techniques like reCAPTCHA and two-factor authentication (2FA).
Furthermore, we explored the role of reputable WordPress security plugins in scanning for vulnerabilities, monitoring suspicious activities, and providing firewall protection. We highlighted some popular security plugins such as Wordfence, Sucuri Security, iThemes Security, and All In One WP Security & Firewall.
Regularly backing up your website and storing the backups securely off-site emerged as a crucial practice for data protection and quick recovery in case of security incidents. Enabling SSL/HTTPS encryption, disabling file editing via the WordPress dashboard, and removing unnecessary themes and plugins were also identified as effective security measures.
To safeguard your WordPress website from hackers, we advised keeping WordPress updated, using strong passwords, securing the login page, implementing a web application firewall (WAF), monitoring the website for suspicious activities, and staying informed about the latest security practices.
Additionally, we discussed securing the WordPress database by changing the table prefix, using strong credentials, restricting database access, updating WordPress and plugins, implementing backup and recovery procedures, and monitoring database activity.
Finally, we provided guidance on updating WordPress security settings, which involved installing a reputable security plugin, configuring its settings, enabling 2FA, setting up firewall rules, monitoring security logs, and keeping the plugin updated.
By implementing these best practices collectively, you can significantly strengthen the security of your WordPress website and minimize the risk of security breaches and data loss.
Remember, maintaining a secure WordPress site is an ongoing process that requires diligence, regular updates, and staying informed about emerging threats. By prioritizing security and following these guidelines, you can ensure the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of your WordPress website and protect it from potential security risks.