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Improve Your WordPress Site Security with 4 Simple Practices

Did you know that 60,000 WordPress websites are hacked every day?

As much as we all love to use WordPress, this worrisome statistic should not be ignored by any website owner! 

Let’s consider a scenario where you are an e-commerce entrepreneur. Your revenues are soaring, thanks to the seamless user experience you provide for your customers. Now imagine a scenario where your website gets hacked. Can you fathom the adverse effects it can have on your business?

  • You could potentially lose your loyal customers forever
  • The SEO ranking of your website would drop drastically
  • Google may even blacklist your site to protect other online users from getting infected

In fact, did you know that Google blacklists over 10,000 suspicious websites each day, and each blacklisted site loses almost 95% of its incoming traffic?

Thus, as a website owner, securing your WordPress website must be a top priority. You do not want to wake up one morning and find out that your site has been hacked!

Common security practices often get neglected and it important to know how to implement them better. Here are the four leading security issues that result in WordPress website compromises and how you can prevent them! 

1. Outdated WordPress Plugins and Themes

There’s no doubt that plugins and themes enhance the functionality of a WordPress website. But they also add considerably to its security concerns. According to WPScan, 52% of WordPress website vulnerabilities are caused by outdated plugins, while 11% are caused by outdated themes.

updating WordPress plugins

However, not all plugins and themes are harmful. So how can you be sure of safety when installing them? Firstly, only download plugins and themes from trusted sources. The official WordPress plugins directory is a good place to start. Secondly, check when the plugin or theme was last updated. 

Plugins and themes from reliable sources are regularly updated with security fixes by the respective developers so that hackers cannot exploit them.

However, many website owners end up downloading free plugins and themes from unreliable sources, because they are, well, free! However, these plugins and themes may have numerous loopholes in them. Once they are installed on your website, hackers can easily exploit these vulnerabilities to gain access to your site. 

Unlike reliable plugins and themes that are regularly updated with security patches, free plugins and themes are never updated.  One of the most common hacking practices employed by hackers is the “File inclusion” method. In this method, hackers exploit a vulnerability present in unreliable plugins by including a file that can act as a backdoor to your site once installed. This  allows them to upload corrupt or malicious PHP files to your web server. 

2. Login Page Vulnerabilities

Do you know that WordPress does not limit the number of failed login attempts aimed at assessing its user account? Hackers exploit this vulnerability by creating automated bots that keep on attacking login pages by trying out various combinations of account credentials (username and password). This is referred to as a brute force attack, which exploits weak login passwords and use them to gain illegal access to your website.

WordPress login screen
Unfortunately some of the weakest passwords still used globally are “123456,” “password,” and “qwerty”

According to industry reports, brute force attacks increased by over 400% in the year 2017. Remember the 2018 Magento attack where automated bots compromised the user accounts of over 1000 admin users? 

Now that you know how login page vulnerabilities are exploited to launch brute force attacks, let’s see how they canaffect your website. Hackers use such attacks to install malicious code in your website, including backdoors and malware, or even steal confidential information from your account. The result? A successful hack that can result in the slowing down (or even shut down) of your WordPress hosting server.

A serious matter, isn’t it? Luckily, you can prevent them! Here’s how:

  • Use long passwords (that exceed 8-10 characters) or passwords that use a combination of uppercase, lowercase, alphanumeric, and special characters.
  • Try using a CAPTCHA tool, which is effective in distinguishing between a human user and an automated bot. Unsuccessful login attempts are restricted to a maximum of 3 attempts, beyond which the user must use the CAPTCHA tool.
  • Block all suspicious IP addresses, including requests made from bad IP addresses typically used by hackers.

An easy and effective way to incorporate these security measures for your WordPress site is to use a WordPress security plugin

3. Improper User Management

Did You Know? Hackers can gain access through your WordPress account login page and can also use your admin credentials to inflict website damage?

And how is that possible? It all starts with poor user management. With admin credentials, hackers have easy access to the critical backend files of your WordPress website.

You can easily prevent a scenario mentioned above by avoiding admin rights to the majority of your users. Each of your website users should have access based on their role in your organisation.

WordPress user admin display

To understand this in detail, follow the WordPress guideline that defines the following six user roles with different privileges:

  • Super admin has complete access to website administration on multiple websites with all privileges. 
  • Admin (or administrator) has complete administration rights but is usually restricted to a single website.
  • Editor can publish authored posts on the website or manage posts submitted by other users but has no admin rights.
  • Author can only publish or manage their submitted posts.
  • Contributor can write and manage their website posts but does not have “publishing” rights.
  • Subscriber can only create or manage their profiles.

Judiciously managing your user roles can help improve your website security. Even if they gain access to a user account with contributor or subscriber rights, the damage they can inflict is limited.

4. Web Hosting-related Problems

Are you bootstrapped with limited resources and using an inferior shared web host for your website? A shared web host may seem like the best option, but surprisingly, using substandard hosting does more harm than good for your business!  

Do you know that hackers host websites on shared hosting platforms to gain access to other websites on the same web host server?

Shared web hosting is definitely the more affordable method of hosting. However, it presents a lot of security-related risks to your WordPress website. This is because, on shared hosting platforms, your website shares its server resources with other websites on the same platform. So, even if you have taken adequate measures to protect your website from malware attacks, it’s not certain that other website owners on the server would do the same. The result – even if one website on the shared platform is compromised, the resources of the entire server will be affected. This can hamper the performance of all the other websites on the server..

While shared web hosts do perform malware scanning, the tools they use do not protect your website from getting attacked. Additionally, if your website has been compromised, in order to protect other sites on the server, your web host may suspend your account and block your website. 

Given the severe risks that inferior shared web hosting poses to your website’s health, it is highly recommended that you choose a good web host that provides security, good customer support at good rates. To migrate your website to such a host, without any negative impact on your site, you could opt for a free tool like Migrate Guru. 

Migrate Guru enables you to seamlessly migrate your entire WordPress website without any impact on the live website. Also suited for multi-site networks, this free plugin can handle the migration of websites with over 400GB of data.

In Conclusion

It is true that you can never protect your site against hackers all the time because they keep coming up with new and innovative ways to compromise your site. However, you can significantly improve your site’s security by taking care of the above-mentioned vulnerabilities. 

Safety measures like using strong login credentials, timely updates of your installed plugins and themes, and managing user roles are some of the ways by which you can prevent successful attacks on your website.

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About Akshat Choudhary

Akshat ChoudharyI'm Akshat Choudhary, the founder and CEO of BlogVault, MalCare & MigrateGuru. I love building products that solve real problems for real people, and have been building systems and products since 2005. My core belief behind building any product is to make sure the end-user doesn't need assistance... and to assist them in the best possible manner if they need it.

Exclusive 7 Day Course

Defend your site from hackers, improve your website speed, get free uptime monitoring and learn tactics used by WordPress experts

Many thanks for subscribing.

Something's not right.