Starting a website can help your business stand out from the crowd. However, there are numerous considerations when it comes to choosing the right platform – one of them being security.
When researching a secure content management system, you might have come across statistics showing an extremely high number of WordPress sites getting hacked. While this is true, that shouldn’t deter you from creating your business site with WordPress.
This article will cover why WordPress is considered a secure CMS, why WordPress sites tend to get hacked, and how to secure a WordPress website if you have one. Let’s get started.
Why WordPress is Secure
There are reasons why WordPress is considered to be one of the most secure platforms to build a website.
WordPress releases security updates regularly to keep up with the latest cybersecurity trends and fix the previous version’s vulnerabilities.
It has a world-class security team that ensures the core of WordPress software follows the best security practices. Therefore, it’s safe to say that WordPress is secure when users continuously update to the latest versions.
WordPress also has tons of security plugins to choose from. They often come with dozens of features, from running a malware scan and hardening your login security to detecting file changes and performing automatic backups.
Additionally, updating your installed WordPress hosting tool can also help to keep your WordPress website safe.
Reasons Why WordPress Sites Get Hacked
One of the main reasons WordPress sites are hackers’ targets is the content management systems’ massive user base. However, there are steps you can take to ensure your WordPress website stays safe.
In this section, you’ll learn the three most common causes for WordPress sites getting hacked.
Outdated Themes and Plugins
Expired themes and plugins are two of the biggest culprits that allow website hijacking. They often carry vulnerabilities that hackers can insert their malicious code into.
The reasons for outdated themes and plugins may come from both developer and user sides.
Responsible developers will continuously patch software updates. When they stop working on the extensions, the code becomes irrelevant over time. Then, the themes or plugins will get to the point when they have too many security loopholes hackers can take advantage of.
However, there are dozens of trustworthy developers that have followed the code standard. The bad news is that users often ignore the plugin and theme update notifications. As a result, their WordPress websites may become easy targets for cyber attacks.
Compromised Login Credentials
A brute force attack is a popular hacking method in getting access to your WordPress site. It’s about running through thousands of username and password combinations to guess the correct one.
Suppose you use a weak username and password. In that case, you make it easy for hackers to log in to your WordPress account. Therefore, taking good care of your FTP client and hosting account’s login credentials is a necessity.
To improve your login security, activate two-factor authentication. It’s a security process in which users need to provide two kinds of information to verify their authenticity.
Here’s an example of how 2FA works:
- A user types in their credentials and proceeds to log in.
- The platform asks for authentication by sending a one-time password to the user’s phone.
- The user enters the OTP to the platform and gets verified as legitimate.
- Login is successful.
Poor Hosting Environment
A reliable web hosting service won’t take website security threats lightly. However, not all web hosts are equal, and choosing wrong may put your WordPress website at risk.
Here’s a checklist for some features to look for when researching a hosting provider:
- Robust DNS firewalls. Block suspicious IP addresses from disrupting a web host’s nameservers.
- On-site security system. Makes sure suspicious activities won’t go unnoticed. If needed, on-scene guards can help solve any security issues more quickly.
- Availability of free SSL certificates. Checking if a provider offers this feature may tell you how supportive they are of your website’s health. This certificate encrypts the data transferred from your site’s visitors’ browser to the host’s server.
- Antivirus and anti-malware software. Prevent malicious content from infiltrating a web host’s system.
- NGINX web server. Provides a reverse proxy, which is a layer of protection behind a firewall protecting a web host’s backend servers.
- PHP 7.3 or higher. Stay away from older PHP versions as PHP 7.2’s security support ended at the end of 2020.
5 Security Measures to Avoid Website Hacking
This section will talk about the five WordPress security measures to help solve the potential security threats.
1. Use Strong Login Credentials
Strong login details help prevent brute force attacks and unauthorized logins. Both of those attacks allow hackers to scan through thousands of username-password combinations until they guess the right one.
Using strong login credentials is vital as anyone can try to access your website through the /wp-admin or /login. Here are some tips to get a powerful username-password combo:
- Change your username. By default, the WordPress username is Admin. If you don’t change it, hackers can breach your account more easily.
- Make your password long. An excellent password should contain at least eight characters. However, a more future-proof password needs to be longer than 12. This is because eight characters only give you 221 trillion password versions, which hackers can easily guess in just a matter of hours.
- Mix up the characters. From lowercase letters and uppercase letters to numbers and special symbols, involve all of these components in your password. This is essential to bring complexity to your password combinations.
- Use random strings of characters. Hackers can run a dictionary attack to get your password. Make sure not to use actual words for your password, even if you’ve combined all the characters mentioned in tip 3.
- Take advantage of passphrases. Bring together some unrelated words and make a unique phrase. A multi-word passphrase with mixed characters, for example, BuoyantW4LL5SpiritCake:Hexagon, outsmarts the dictionary attack as it’s hard to pre-compute.
2. Regularly Update Your WordPress Version
Not only does the latest WordPress update bring improved CMS performance, but it also offers upgraded security patches.
Developers will release a note on what improvements they made to the software. Hackers can use this note to decide an effective entry point. If you don’t update your WordPress, your website will be more prone to cyber-attacks.
This also applies to plugins and themes, as you’ve learned in the previous section. Therefore, make sure to always hit the Update button when available.
3. Assign User Roles Correctly
User roles determine the users’ permissions to perform specific tasks. There are five user roles you can find on WordPress:
- Administrator. The most powerful user in WordPress. They can add, edit, publish, and delete posts written by any user. Administrators are able to install and delete extensions. More importantly, they can also register new users, edit and delete users’ credentials.
- Editor. Has complete control over content-related matters, such as creating, editing, publishing, and deleting content written by other editors or writers.
- Author. Can add new posts, edit, publish, and delete their own content.
- Contributor. Is only able to add new content and edit their own pieces.
- Subscriber. Assign this for users who need to log in to your WordPress account to read your content. Subscribers can update their profiles and change their passwords.
As an administrator has complete control over the whole site, never grant admin power to every user. This is to prevent hackers from breaking into one of the admin accounts and tearing down your WordPress website from within.
4. Install an SSL
SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer. Its job is to:
- shift your WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPS environment
- encrypt the data transferred from the browser to the webserver.
In today’s eCommerce world, an SSL certificate is vital to boost your business’ success. Without it, your target audience may not be confident in making a transaction as their sensitive information, like credit card details, will be at risk.
There are dozens of web hosting services that offer a free, one-click SSL installation. However, reach out to a reliable SSL provider, such as Cloudflare and Let’s Encrypt, if you have to do it yourself.
5. Utilize a Security and Firewall Plugin
A firewall refers to a security device that monitors and analyzes a website’s incoming and outgoing traffic. It will block access to suspicious IP addresses that violate your site’s security rules.
Most computers these days have access to the internet. This makes it easier for hackers to stealthily place their malicious code into vulnerable ones, introducing backdoors. When that happens, hackers can perform dangerous activities without the victim’s knowledge.
Add a layer of protection to your WordPress website by installing a solid security and firewall plugin. Some of the best ones include Sucuri and Jetpack. The former offers advanced DDoS attack protection, while the latter focuses on securing your website from brute force attacks.
All in all, WordPress is a safe platform for creating websites. However, that doesn’t mean that we can take it for granted. There are security measures to adopt as hackers get more and more creative in deploying cyber attacks.
Let’s recap the five WordPress security measures that can help you protect your website:
- Use strong login credentials.
- Update WordPress core software and extensions.
- Be mindful when assigning users.
- Install an SSL certificate.
- Utilize a security and firewall plugin.
That was it! You are now ready to take your WordPress site’s security to the next level. Implement the tips you’ve learned throughout this article, and your site will be in good shape to prevent cyber attacks.