WordPress is one of the most user-friendly platforms for publishing websites, making it the most commonly used one as well. The reason for this is that it’s open-source and hence convenient for website developers to manage. With this ease, comes the security threats and vulnerabilities. Since WordPress powers so many websites, it has become a target for hackers who want to infect or control websites.
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In this article, we’ll be discussing some common approaches that can be used while managing your WordPress website and some most common security threats & vulnerabilities and its fixes. Read on to find them out!
Ensure these First
A Strong Password
Ensure that your password is a strong one. Include capitals, lower case, numbers and special characters. In fact, make it as complicated as you can. Hackers can use bots to try dozens of passwords in seconds and easily break into your site.
Try to update the password if you haven’t changed them for more than 6 months. Also, avoid using passwords that were used on multiple online accounts. You can make use of the “Generate Password” option in WordPress to generate a new strong password with combinations of special characters and numbers.
Updated WordPress, Plugins & Themes
Using the latest version of WordPress is the first thing to be ensured while running a website. Since WordPress runs on open-source code with a team specifically devoted to finding, identifying and fixing WordPress security issues that arise in the core code. Thus, each time the developers update WordPress, they come up with bug fixes and security fixes to help your WordPress site remain safe against common, easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities.
The same goes with WordPress plugins & themes, Update them. Every update intends to eliminate security flaws that existed in them which could have been used by hackers to break into your website.
Be selective while choosing plugins and themes for your website. Before installing them, read thoroughly about them from sources that have a review to share about these plugins and themes. Find if it’s the most sought after one by checking its number of downloads. The more downloads and recent updates indicate that it’s widely used as well as its being actively maintained by its authors, which means that if a vulnerability is found, it is likely to be fixed quicker.
Proper Quality Hosting
When it comes to hosting, spend some extra money for quality hosting. Such hosting basically offers extra security, 24/7 support, malware scans, and more for your WordPress website.
Proper quality hosting continuously monitors its network for suspicious activity. They will offer tools to prevent large scale DDOS attacks. Its server software and hardware are always kept up to date to prevent hackers from exploiting a known security vulnerability in an old version. Also, they are equipped with ready to deploy disaster recovery and accidents plans which allows them to protect your data in case of a major accident.
Also, try to avoid a shared hosting plan. Since all the accounts share the same server, you’ll be at the risk of cross-site contamination where a hacker can use a neighbouring site to attack your website.
Install WordPress Security Plugin
Installing a WordPress security plugin is an additional security measure to protect your WordPress website. It will handle technical aspects of your site’s security for you so that you don’t have to be a security expert to use one.
These can run regular scans/checkups to identify security threats and vulnerabilities instead of making you do that job separately. They can check if your password has appeared in a data breach. The data breach shows a list of usernames, passwords and often other personal data that was exposed after a site was compromised. Some of them can also help you with your website backup.
Set a Firewall, Block Suspicious IP Address, & Implement country Blocking
You might have protected your website using captcha, yet it is important to set your firewall protection. A firewall is an extra layer of protection for your website. It ensures that your website is protected from malicious traffic like bots from accessing your website by filtering them. It blocks such activity and allows only good traffic to access your website.
The security plugins usually identify the IP addresses of people trying to log into your website. You can then use it to block their IP addresses.
Do not just limit by blocking the IP address, you can block the country if you want. If you detect any kind of malicious activity from a country where you don’t provide your service, go ahead and block that particular country from accessing your site.
Set User Permissions & Remove Inactive Users
Any possibility for website security threat from inside should be taken as seriously as a security threat from outside. Sometimes, the ones who already have access to your site dashboard could abuse their power. Such a threat can be avoided by ensuring that each user is allotted responsibilities and power based on their job role.
WordPress by default offers six different roles to users, they are Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, Subscriber, and Superadmin. In this, the administrator is the most powerful role, whose access needs to be only given to trusted users. While the editor can manage & publish posts, the author can manage & publish only their own posts, the contributor gets the power to write and draft their own posts but can’t publish them, and the subscriber can only manage their own profile.
You can even remove inactive users since they have the ability to modify website content and cause harm to your website. But if you are in a position to keep inactive users in your WordPress database, you can change them to the role of “Subscriber”. And this is a relatively safer role to assign since the actions they could perform would be limited.
Enable WordPress two-factor authentication
To add an extra layer of protection, you can enable two-factor authentication for your WordPress login. In this, you require an additional time-sensitive code from another device such as your smartphone, in order to log in, along with your strong password. This ensures that your website gets protected from Brute Force attacks.
A Reliable Backup Plan
Although some security plugins offer the backup feature, you may have to go for a separate reliable backup plan. This is because the security backup provided by the plugin may not be foolproof. So, set up scheduled backups to run and make sure you’re sending your backups safely off-site to a secure, remote WordPress backup location.
Some Common Security Threats & Ways to Protect Your WordPress Website From Them
1) Zero-Day Vulnerability: A ‘zero-day’ is a security hole in WordPress websites which has the ability to let the hacker control a huge number of websites. The software vendor is unaware of the problem in such cases, thereby leaving them with “zero days” to fix it. The hackers can exploit it to adversely affect computer programs, data, additional computers or a network until someone finds it.
- Using pattern matching could help you find such a vulnerability. In this, the vulnerabilities are identified by pattern matching with the known ones.
- Next approach is to use the statistical technique where the normal activity on a network is observed, and any deviation from this is alerted.
- Behaviour-based defences can be implemented using Honeypot. Honeypot is a machine that was purposefully made less secure to detect the presence of hackers by monitoring any unusual changes.
2) Brute Force Attacks: Hackers using trial and error method of entering multiple usernames and password combinations repeatedly till they find the exact combination is known as Brute Force Attacks. This method is the simplest of all since it directly gets access to the website through the WordPress login page.
This happens since WordPress doesn’t limit login attempts making it easy for bots to attack your WordPress login page. Even if the hacker is unsuccessful, it can still affect the website adversely. The unusual number of login attempts eats up the bandwidth, affects the server, overloads the system, and slows down the website. Not just this, it could even lead the host to suspend the account especially when the website is under a shared plan.
- This security threat can be stopped by installing a security plugin. There are plenty of plugins for this purpose, Limit Login Attempts Reloaded, Wordfence, MalCare are few of them.
- These plugins stop hackers from a brute force attack and completely lock an IP out of the site for attempting too many passwords in a short amount of time. Depending on your website requirements and your budget, choose the one that best suits your website.
- Another way to protect your website from Brute Force attack is to use the .htaccess password protection. But it is better to try the plugin first and then use this if your website is still being attacked. Also, changing the default admin name protects the site.
3) File Inclusion Exploits: A WordPress website runs on PHP code along with the plugins and themes. Any vulnerabilities inside the code can be used by the hackers to load remote files, allow them to gain complete access to the website, or execute arbitrary command codes to break the website. The “wp-config.php”, a WordPress’s core file containing information about the database, including the name, host (typically localhost), username, & password, can also be accessed and exploited by hackers through this.
- To protect your website from such attacks, always keep your plugins, & themes updated.
- Plugin & theme developers update it when they discover security flaws that could be exploited by hackers to allow arbitrary code execution on a WordPress website. Updates could be their effort to patch up their plugin’s flaws. So, when you skip updating them, it increases the chance for hackers to break in.
4) SQL Injections: Every WordPress website uses an SQL database to carry all of the website data. Since it uses SQL databases, it also will use PHP server-side scripts. This makes the site open to URL insertions. SQL injections happen when hackers access the website database and attempt to create a new admin-level user account. Hackers can further use it to login and get full access to the WordPress website. They can add new data into the database, include links to malicious/spam websites making the database respond to reveal sensitive information that could allow the hackers to change the content on the site.
- SQL injections can be prevented by updating your website with the latest version of WordPress. This is because old versions can be vulnerable to SQL injections.
- You can regularly check your website using sites like WordPress Security Scan which identify vulnerabilities and fix them for you. You can identify common errors using the free basic scan, and upgrade if you require a premium version to check for lesser-known vulnerabilities.
- Updating your PHP is the next thing that you can do to protect your site from SQL injections. Again, the reason is just that the latest versions are less prone to vulnerabilities.
- Finally, update all the plugins and themes that are being used on your website. Also, have a check on the last time the creator updated the plugins & themes. If you see that they no longer offer an update, go for another plugin that comes up with updates regularly.
There are user input fields for site search, comment form, contact form, login pages, etc which are enabled by a plugin or the theme which is active on the website. Hackers use these input fields to insert malicious codes into the website. For instance, if a search field isn’t restricted to accept only plain text including letters and numerals, the hackers could easily take advantage of it by entering malicious scripts. When these scripts are sent to the database, it will run a malicious activity since it’s an executable code instead of plain text data.
- Ensure a strong firewall to prevent this from happening.
- Or use security plugins to prevent Cross-Site Scripting attacks. Plugins will constantly run deep scans and manage all updates on your WordPress site. Some of them can also back up your WordPress site, making it convenient to restore it to normal quickly.
6) Malware: Malware is a malicious software program which gains unauthorized access to a website to gather sensitive data. Backdoors, Drive-by downloads, Pharma hacks, Malicious redirects are some common types of WordPress malware. These can be easily detected by looking at recently changed files. Identifying and removing malicious files can be done by using the latest version of WordPress or by restoring the WordPress site from a previous, non-infected backup.
- Just like most types of security threats, to prevent malware attacks on your WordPress website, keep your site updated with the latest version of WordPress, its plugins and themes.
- Secure your login page from attacks by installing security plugins.
- Also, do not forget to backup your website regularly.
A hacker usually tries to find a security hole in the individual software that runs on each website, or on the most popular software used by websites and infect using all of them. This flaw could be a popular theme or plugin used by WordPress or maybe WordPress itself. So, always keep your plugins, themes, and even WordPress updated. Keep your website backed-up regularly including the database.
Do not take your website security lightly, implement the most effective ways to protect your website from any kind of threat mentioned above.
For more assistance on this, please feel free to connect with our team of web developing experts. They’ll be glad to help you out!