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WordPress Security Guide

Prioritizing security is vital for any business or brand with an online presence. WordPress provides a secure CMS; however, different vulnerabilities can be affected by it being open-source. WordPress already powers more than 43% of total websites online. With thousands of plugin combos and themes, it doesn’t come as a surprise that WordPress vulnerabilities exist.

wordpress Mar 08, 22 by Nisal N 7 min Read
WordPress Security Guide

Fortunately, the platform has a great community that works 24/7, ensuring that WordPress security is one of their top priorities. Since 2017, WordPress’s security team has grown from 25 to about 50 experts. 

The team comprises security researchers and lead developers, half of them working in web security and the others working for Automattic. Achieving security on WordPress is simple, as long as you follow the proper steps. 

Here are some common vulnerabilities and a guide on hardening your site’s security.

WordPress website security vulnerabilities

1. Backdoors

This vulnerability gives hackers hidden passages, bypassing security encryption, thus gaining access to WordPress websites. Some of the abnormal access methods are SFTP, FTP, and Admin. 

After exploiting the backdoors, hackers can cause massive disruption to hosting servers through cross-site contamination attacks. That compromises several sites hosted on such a server.

2. Brute-force login attempts

These vulnerabilities exploit weak passwords and gain access to a website using automated scripts. The most effective ways to block brute-force attacks are through two-step authentication, blocking IPs, using stronger passwords, and limiting logins.

3. Denial of Service

A DoS is by far one of the most menacing vulnerabilities. It exploits bugs and errors in the code to overwhelm the operating systems’ memories. Over the years, hackers have had a field day compromising millions of sites and raking in millions by using DoS attacks on outdated WordPress software versions. 

Mostly, cybercriminals will compromise smaller buggy websites to create botnets which they then use to launch attacks on bigger firms.

Other than these three, you also have pharma hacks, cross-site scripting, and malicious redirects.

Top WordPress security steps

Improving your site’s security can seem intimidating, especially for not techy beginners. Here are some easy steps to take in hardening your security.

1. Install backup 

An effective backup solution is your first go-to defence against any attack. Remember that nothing’s 100% secure, and if a government website can get hacked, yours can too. Backups enable you to restore your site quickly if something were to happen. 

You can choose to use free or paid backup plugins, and luckily, there are several in the market. The most vital part of using backups is ensuring that you regularly save them to a remote location.

It is advisable to store your backup on cloud services like Dropbox, Stash, and Amazon. Depending on how frequently your site is updated, the best setting would be once every day or in real-time. Some of the plugins in the market allow you to do this easily without requiring any coding knowledge.

2. Use Web Application Firewall (WAF)

An easy way to protect your website and remain confident in its security is through using WAF. A Web Application Firewall will block malicious traffic before it gets to the website. There are two kinds of a firewall. 

The DNS level website firewall routes your traffic via their cloud proxy servers. By doing so, only genuine traffic is allowed into your server. 

The other kind is known as an application-level firewall. It works by examining your traffic once it arrives on the servers before loading most WordPress scripts. It is important to note that the latter is less efficient than DNS in reducing the load.

3. Add two-factor authentication

The two-factor authentication process involves site users logging in using a two-step authentication process. The first step requires you to provide a username and password, while the second step entails authentication using a separate device or app. 

Most major sites online, including Google and Twitter, allow users to enable this function for their accounts. WordPress also allows you to add this functionality to your site. 

You first have to install and activate the plugin for this to work. Once activated, click on the link ‘Two Factor Auth’ in your admin sidebar. After opening the link, install an auth application on your smartphone and open it. 

Several two-factor authentication options are available, such as Authy and Google Authenticator. All of them bear similar instructions. 

Open the app, then click on the Add icon, after which you will be given the option of scanning a barcode or scanning a site manually. Click on the ‘scan bar code option,’ then point your camera towards the QR code displayed on your settings page. 

This is the last step, and your app will now save this info. The next time you open your site, you will do so using the two-step authentication process.

4. Move your site to HTTPS/SSL

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a protocol that works by encrypting data transfer between your WordPress site and user browsers. It makes it harder for anyone to poke their nose and steal your data. Once SSL is enabled, your site will no longer use HTTP, but instead, it will begin using HTTPS. You will also notice a padlock sign next to your site’s address on the browser. In the past, SSL certs were issued by specific certificate authorities, and the costs ranged from about $80 annually. 

Because of the extra fees, most owners opted for the insecure protocol. An NGO called Let’s Encrypt started offering free certificates to site owners to remedy this. Their project is backed by giants such as Meta (formerly Facebook) and Google Chrome. Now, website owners can easily access SSL.

Take away

WordPress security is something that you should put more attention to. Many users don’t give much thought to web security until their WordPress site is hacked. Cleaning up after you’ve been hacked is daunting and time-intensive, and if it has already occurred, it is best to work with a professional. If you have been lucky enough not to have fallen victim, you should try some of the outlined measures to uphold your site’s security to ensure business continuity.

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Nisal N

Computers has always fascinated me since I was a kid and here we are. I love travelling for 2 reasons: the first one to see a new part of the world and second (the most important one) to experience the rich culture hidden among the country and people. I'm pretty good at cooking but very poor when it comes to baking.

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