WordPress is a versatile and diverse operating system that is almost incomparable. The CMS has undergone tremendous evolution, and so has its user base. It was once used primarily for operating small blog websites. Today, WP powers some of the biggest eCommerce websites, and news sites, among many others. Its versatility and ease of use have made WordPress a favorite choice among webmasters. Today, WordPress powers an enormous chunk of the web. According to data released by W3Techs, WordPress powers over 40% of the web.
Its popularity has also attracted villains. WP security remains a significant subject. You should note that the CMS is an open-source platform controlled by no one. This means that anyone is free to create a theme or plugin that can be adopted by thousands of users. The downside to this scenario is that it makes it extremely difficult for WP to secure its ecosystem.
Still not convinced over the WP insecurities? According to a Sucuri report released a few years ago, WordPress was the leading infected platform, contributing to 90% of cleanup requests.
The big question is how one can protect WordPress site from hackers. This article explores the WordPress security checklist, tips, and measures that you need to secure your WordPress website from attacks.
Move The WordPress Site to HTTPS
The Secure Socket Layer (popularly known by the abbreviation SSL) certificate is a web transfer protocol that helps to encrypt the transfer of data between web servers and users’ browsers. A website with an SSL certificate will run on HTTPS rather than the HTTP protocol. It is essential to move the WordPress website to HTTPS. Because of the encrypted HTTPS connection, nobody can successfully sniff into communication or eavesdrop on the communication between parties on the internet.
While on the quest to secure your WordPress site, an SSL certificate should appear top of your WP security checklist. SSL certificates are typically issued by certificate authorities. Their prices range from 10 dollars to hundreds of dollars. For a startup, this price might be almost unaffordable, and this might have been the reason why most websites continued using the insecure HTTP protocol even after learning about the essence of the certificates.
However, free, cheap, or expensive, all certificates offer the same level of encryption- 256-bit encryption. If you are low on budget, it is to recommend to go for the cheap positive SSL certificate, RapidSSL certificate, etc. With this certificate, your WP website will get to enjoy up to six years of coverage, HTTPS, a padlock symbol, Unlimited server licensing, and compatibility with most web browsers.
Keeping Up with WP Updates
WordPress updates are crucial for your website’s stability, functionality, and security. The updates come with enhanced security features that address security vulnerabilities in the older versions. By default, WordPress is set to conduct automatic updates for minor updates. But for major updates, you will have to initiate the update manually.
You must know that this content management system also comes with thousands of plugins, themes, and extensions, maintained by third-party vendors and developers. There will be frequent update releases to the themes and plugins, which you will also need to install. From the onset, installing all the updates on your WP might seem like a tedious task. But which one is better- Taking time to install the updates or living with software vulnerabilities that put you right at the jaws of hackers? For your information, 44% of website hacks are caused by outdated WP websites.
Login and User Authentication Strengths
Stolen login credentials are among the most common techniques hackers use to infiltrate WordPress websites. The best strategy will be to make your passwords and usernames hard to guess and unique to your account. The strong and unique password strategy should not only apply to the admin areas, but they should also extend to WP hosting accounts, custom email addresses, databases, and FTP accounts.
Most WP users find it a bit difficult to use strong and unique passwords because they find them hard to remember. But the good thing for users is that they do not have to remember the passwords by themselves. With so many password manager tools, users will have an easy time remembering passwords.
But what exactly does it mean to have a strong and unique password? Password strength is defined by the complexity of characters and length. A good and strong password should be eight characters or more and blend numbers, symbols, and special characters. A unique password is defined by its frequency of use. For it to be referred to as unique, a password should only be used once.
Secure and Reliable Web Hosting Company
The WordPress hosting provider you pick for your site will play a very crucial role in the security of your WP website. An excellent shared host such as Bluehost or SiteGround will take the extra measures to protect your WordPress website from common security vulnerabilities. Here is how an excellent web hosting provider will help secure your WP site from security threats.
- They will frequently monitor the network to discover and prevent suspicious activities
- They have sufficient tools and mechanisms to prevent large scale Distributed Denial of Service attacks
- They will frequently update their software PHP versions and hardware devices to prevent attackers from exploiting a known security flaw in the old versions
- They have adequate disaster recovery and accident plans to protect their data from major attacks.
Note that you share the server with many other websites on a shared hosting plan, and this opens up your WordPress website to cross-site contamination where a hacker could use a neighboring website to attack your website. It would be wise to adopt the managed WordPress hosting service to avoid such cases. Managed hosting services offer so many benefits, such as automated backup systems and updates as well as more enhanced configurations that protect your website.
WordPress Backup Solutions
Backups are the last line of defense against WP attacks. Always remember that in cybersecurity, nothing is 100% guaranteed. Even the most elaborate and strongest security systems have always fallen victim to attacks. If complex government systems can be hacked, so can your small business blog.
A well-defined WP backup system will allow you to restore order and data if things go wrong. And there is always some great news with WordPress and its plugins. You can leverage the many free or premium WordPress backup plugins to do the work for you. But always remember to regularly save your full-site backups at a remote location other than your hosting account. Cloud Service providers such as Amazon, Dropbox, or private clouds like Stash would be excellent secondary storage locations for your backup files.
Have the Web-Application Firewall Enabled
Using a web application firewall is one of the easiest ways to safeguard your WordPress website and be confident about its security. The web application firewall acts as an intermediary between your internal network and external traffic. It helps to monitor malicious attempts by hackers to enter your system. It will block all malicious traffic and prevent it from ever reaching your website.
There are two firewall levels that are relevant to your WordPress website. The first is the DNS level website firewall, which helps route your website traffic through cloud proxy servers. And this allows them to only send genuine traffic to your website servers. The second is the application-level firewall, which is a plugin that monitors a site’s traffic when it reaches the servers but before the traffic loads the WP scripts. A web application firewall like Sucuri will be an excellent option you can rely on to safeguard your website from vulnerabilities.
Change the default admin username
‘admin’ is often the default username for WP. User names make up half of the login credentials, and this leaves hackers with an easy job of having to guess passwords only. Therefore, the default admin user makes it easy for hackers to conduct brute force attacks on your website. Thanks to WordPress, users now have to select a custom username when installing WP.
But most users still prefer using ‘admin’ as their default username. There are three ways you can use to change the username. First, you can create a fresh admin username and delete the old one. Secondly, you can update your username from your phpMyAdmin panel. And lastly, you can install the username changer plugin.
Limit Login Attempts
By default, users can try logging into their WP accounts as many times as they want. This leaves your WP website vulnerable to dictionary and brute force attacks. Hackers will try several username and password combinations to try and guess their way through your WP. To prevent this scenario from happening, limiting failed login attempts would be a great idea. If you have the web application firewall installed on your servers, this would automatically be taken care of. If you do not have the firewall, you can install the Login Lockdown plugin to help you out.
Use the Two-Factor Authentication
Usernames and passwords might fail you. Brute force attacks have been successful in the past, and they still could be on your WP website. Two-factor authentication is where a second authentication factor is used in addition to usernames and passwords. With 2FA, even if a hacker succeeded in bypassing your username and password, the hacker will still not access your account for lack of the second authentication factor. For enhanced WP security, you will need to employ the 2-FA feature.
You will have to install the two-factor authentication WordPress plugin and activate the plugin. Upon activating the plugin, you will have to click on the “Two Factor Auth” link on the WP sidebar. There are several 2-FA authentication options, such as using one-time passwords, secret codes, or biometric authentication features.
Regularly Scans for Malware and other Security Vulnerabilities
Malware infections are rampant threats in the cybersecurity sphere. They will infiltrate your website to deface it, interfere with its normal functioning and do all sorts of harm to your website. You should consider using antimalware software that will scan through your WP website to detect and stop malware from causing any damage to your website. Just remember to keep your antimalware scanners up to date to make them efficient.
WordPress is a popular Content Management System that now powers a significant chunk of the web. Its popularity also makes it a hotbed for hackers. Today, there are lots of WP security issues and vulnerabilities that ought to be addressed keenly. Users should know some of the WordPress security tips and tricks that would help them protect WordPress sites from hackers. In this 10-point WordPress security checklist, you will learn some of the proven WP security measures that are vital for protecting your site from attacks.