The Complete WordPress Security Guide 2019
WordPress is one of the most popular CMSs in the world, with nearly half of the world’s website using it. Thus, it must come as no surprise that it is also the most popular CMS among hackers. WordPress has always been a target of choice, and sometimes ease, for hackers. And usually, it isn’t one person attempting to hijack your specific website by trying out a combination of passwords and usernames.
It is an automated attack that is computer generated using a program; this program identifies specific loopholes in WordPress websites across the world and then tries to circumvent these to try and get unauthorized access to your website’s backend and consequently, important/sensitive/private data.
Why WordPress Security is Important?
Not specific to WordPress, security of any website based on any CMS is of penultimate importance. Whether you write a blog just for fun or run a multi-million dollar eCommerce business, if your website gets hacked, it’s bad news. Hackers can use your website for a variety of reasons, some of them being –
- Linking back to spammy or bad websites to boost their Google ranking
- Obtaining a backdoor to your website for unethical purposes
- Stealing sensitive data like customer logins, payment information or contact details
- Spamming your website with radical propaganda
- Sending spam emails to your customers
- Forwarding traffic to their own websites
For these and many other reasons, it is of utmost importance that you take your WordPress site’s security very very seriously. To make things easier, WordPress offers numerous security plugins for backup and malware protection that can help you get started. First, let’s take a look at the types of attacks that your WordPress website is susceptible to.
Types of Hacking Attacks to Protect your WordPress Website From
There are different types of attacks that hackers use to target websites. Although they differ in terms of methodology or technique, the intention is essentially the same – getting unauthorized access to a website. Let’s look at a few examples.
This type of attack is by far the most sophisticated and the most dangerous. An SQL injection is when a hacker inserts a nefarious SQL query into an input data or entry field. This attack is commonly used in data-driven applications. If successful, the SQL can read and modify sensitive database information like payment details, login credentials or contact details of clients/customers.
Brute Force Attacks
As the name suggests, this type of attack is characterized by a hacker attempting to log into a WordPress website using brute force. He/she will attempt to gain access by trying out a variety of username and password combinations. Brute force attacks are relatively difficult and require expertise, but the availability of cheap resources to create these might lead to a spike in their occurrence.
You may have noticed this often on your website or blog; someone with a suspicious username and/or photo leaving an irrelevant and often spammy comment under one of your blog posts or pages. Hackers can take this to the next level by leaving hundreds or thousands of spam comments under a post, leaving the admin with no chance of deleting them all quickly or setting up safeguards on time, which can lead to a failure in the WordPress platform.
Attacking Outdated Versions of Plugins
Hackers can easily target old or outdated versions of plugins, or of WordPress itself. An older version is generally absent of new security updates, making it an easy target. Hackers can search for websites using such plugin versions and target them easily.
As mentioned above, WordPress offers a variety of plugins to prevent such attacks from harming your website. However, there are a few precautionary measures that you can take as well to enhance your WordPress website’s security further.
Precautionary Measures to Protect your WordPress Website
#1. Limiting Login Attempts
This essentially blocks out anyone who is trying to gain unauthorized access to your website by trying out various login credentials. One of the ways to do it is by using the Limit Login Attempts plugin, which is free and easy to use. You can set a limit to the number of login attempts that a person is allowed before the app blocks out the person for any given amount of time.
However, ensure that your IP is whitelisted so that you or any other site users are not blocked out by the plugin. Also look for any spammy or suspicious IPs you can come across on other websites, and blacklist them on yours immediately.
#2. Use Complicated Credentials
Reiterating the aforementioned point, always avoid using a username like ‘admin’ or your own name, your site name or any other identifiable credential. Also for the password, never use credentials like ‘abcde’, ‘12345’, your name or date of birth. Combine alphabets, alphanumeric characters and numbers in a random sequence. An example could be ‘$noOdlEs27*’. If you have trouble remembering passwords, then write it down someplace safe.
The more predictable or simple your credentials, the easier it is to hack your website. Hackers generally tend to try out the most popular combinations first. Always remember to go and change your login details once you have possession of your website, and keep changing this from time-to-time.
#3. Update Your Plugins Regularly
Remember what we said, that hackers tend to target outdated or older versions of plugins because they lack important security updates that WordPress enables with every new version. WordPress rolls out regular updates of plugins, and you will receive notifications once an update is out. Install these updates immediately so that your plugins are not vulnerable and are out of harm’s way.
#4. Use an SSL Certificate
The Secure Socket Layer certificate changes the http: at the beginning of your website URL to https: which indicates that the connection is secure and encrypted. You might have often received a notification from your browser that it has blocked a website because the connection was insecure. Using an SSL Certificate also prevents your website from losing its Google ranking due to a hacking attack.
#5. Safeguard the WP-Config.php File
This is the most important file in your website backend because it contains sensitive information about your website and credentials. If a hacker gets access to the WP-Config file, then they can crash your entire system, lock you out, or do pretty much anything else. Hence, always set a password for your config file. Make sure that the password is at least 15 characters long and has a random mix of alphabets and characters. Avoid using names, important dates or predictable sequences. Remember that this is the most crucial part of your website, and also the most vulnerable.
WordPress security is a pretty straightforward concept. However, there is no one solution for it; it is actually a combination of things. Right from using security plugins to ensuring that your credentials are unique, plugins are updated and WordPress themes come from a trustworthy source, every little thing matters. Remember that nothing has changed from 2018 to 2019; ensure that your website is secure and safeguarded!