Just like everything online, WordPress sites are also prone to cyber-attacks. Being open-source with its code available to the public, WordPress is even more exposed to many different attacks, exploits, and hacks. Having this in mind, it is very important to keep your WordPress site security up to date and up to the latest industry security standards. Many dangerous breaches like data leaks, identity theft, ransomware, server crashing, etc. can happen if this is not done. Aside from these negative consequences, your website’s Google rankings can go down.
As we mentioned, different cyber-attacks can happen if the website is not kept secure. The most common attacks happening on WordPress websites are brute-force login attempts that utilize automation to enter many login combinations in a short time to get the right combination, cross-site scripting with malicious code injection into the website backend, database injections (or SQL injection) which happen when a string of harmful code is submitted to a website through user input fields (mostly in forms), DDoS attacks that prevent authorized users from accessing their website by overloading a server with traffic, phishing which prompts the target to give personal information or download malware, and many more.
Generally, WordPress is a very secure content management system, but bad user practices make it the most hacked target. Since WordPress is open-source software, it is highly customizable but also highly vulnerable to security issues if not configured correctly. To configure the website correctly, some best practice procedures are put in place for users to keep up with.
- Enable SSL/HTTPS
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is used to secure transactions between the server and the browser while securing information being sent between them. Not having SSL and HTTPS enabled on your website means that any data and traffic going through your website and to the server will not be encrypted and readable as plain text. WP Force SSL is an excellent plugin that helps keep track of SSL and if it is enabled. With this plugin, you can enable SSL, switch from HTTP to HTTPS traffic, handle and fix any SSL errors, keep track of SSL certificates, monitor all purchases, sites, and monitors through a unified dashboard. Installation and activation of the WP Force SSL plugin are done in just one click. We highly recommend considering and eventually using this plugin.
Figure 1 Content Scanner
Figure 2 SSL Certificate
- Secure login procedures
Using secure login procedures is one of the fundamental steps to securing user accounts. This implies using strong passwords with at least 10 characters including numbers, symbols, upper case, and lower-case letters. Two-factor authentication required users to verify their login with a second device, providing another layer of security. Limiting login attempts and adding captcha verification prevents brute-force login attempts.
- Update WordPress and PHP versions
Outdated versions of any software are often left out from updates which makes it more vulnerable to attacks. Regularly checking and installing WordPress updates eliminates those vulnerabilities. Do not forget to back up your website before updating WordPress and check the compatibility of your plugins with the latest version of WordPress. Similar to the WordPress version, the PHP version has to be upgraded and up to date to keep your WordPress website secure.
- Use secure and verified plugins
WordPress has thousands of plugins available, but not all plugins are secure. It is essential to double-check before installing any plugin if it is secure and implemented with the latest security practices and compatible with the latest WordPress version. Reputable security plugins help keep track of this, while also scanning the website for any attack attempts.
- Back up your website
Although it seems very bad, being hacked is not the end of the world. The worst part is potentially losing access to your information and data collected on the website. To avoid this from happening to you, aside from implementing all of the previous steps, have your website backed up at all times. By doing this regularly, in case of an attack that may cause data loss, you will be able to restore your data or migrate it to a new website in case the old one cannot be recovered. As before, different plugins from reputable publishers are available for installation that will keep track of backups and do them automatically for you. Ideally, these backups are performed and stored “offsite” in another location away from your primary web server.
Keeping your cyber security at a high level at all times is a must. As cyber-attacks constantly evolve, so must your security measures. Keep in mind that your reputation and customer data are the most important part of your website. The list of best practices goes far beyond these essential ones we mentioned above, and they include special character filtering in user input, limiting user permissions, logging user activity, disabling file editing in the dashboard, changing database file prefix, etc. Finally, being hacked is something everybody will face eventually. In case this happens, it is great to have a contingency plan. First of all, keep calm and do not panic, have maintenance mode turned on on your website, create an incident report, reset permissions and access credentials, diagnose the issue, alert customers and stakeholders, and check if your website is blacklisted by Google.
There you go, you are all set and ready to increase security on your website. Lastly, do not forget to update your security measures regularly and do not panic in case of a cyber-attack.