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Is Your WordPresswebsite secure?

BY White Label IQ

According to a report, cybercrimes will cost around $10.5 trillion each year by 2025. You do not want to be a victim. In this blog we will share the strategies you can use to improve your WordPress website’s security.

Common types of attacks on WordPress websites

WordPress websites all over the world face certain types of common attacks. Let’s see the most common types attacks your website is likely to face in 2022.

Brute force attacks

Brute force attacks are among the earliest kinds of attacks that have evolved with time. Under the brute force attack method, the hacker tries multiple combinations of usernames and passwords. This is a trial and error method, and sophisticated computers are deployed to conduct brute force attacks on multiple websites at once.

The brute force attack method happens to be one of the simplest ways to get access to a WordPress website. WordPress does not limit login attempts, and brute force attackers exploit this vulnerability of WordPress. It is estimated that hackers can log in to around 30,000 websites in a day using brute force attacks.

Even if a brute force attack is unsuccessful, it can cause damage to your WordPress website by slowing it down.

XSS (Cross-site scripting)

Cross-site scripting or XSS is a hacking method under which the hacker inserts a malicious script into a trusted website or application. The idea is to use this trust and catch unsuspecting users. An XSS attack works something like this.

The attacker gets the victim to load web applications that are infected. Then infected javascript is used to steal valuable data from the users’ browser. Using an infected form to steal user data is one of the most common XSS attacks.

According to a report, around 47% of all WordPress hacking attempts are XSS attacks.

Denial-of-Service attacks

One of the most dangerous forms of WordPress attacks is the denial of service (DOS) attack. Under the DOS attack, the hacker blocks the site admins and visitors from accessing the website. The hackers usually do this by sending many requests to the targeted server. Due to multiple requests, the server crashes, crashing the reputation of the website along with it. The DOS attack has cost companies like PayPal millions of dollars.

Super-sophisticated hackers usually conduct a DOS attack. These hackers compromise outdated websites of big businesses and use botnet chains to attack these websites. This kind of botnet chain-enabled attack is known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

Phishing attacks

Phishing is a kind of cyber attack that gets its name from the actual practice of fishing. In fishing, a fisherman casts his net, hoping to catch some fish out of the multiple fishes available in the ocean. Likewise, in phishing, the hacker sends out multiple links infected with malicious code. The hope is that at least some people will click on these spammy links. Most internet users might have heard of or clicked on such links that seem to be from legitimate sources.

Phishing is a kind of cyber attack that gets its name from the actual practice of fishing. In fishing, a fisherman casts his net, hoping to catch some fish out of the multiple fishes available in the ocean. Likewise, in Phishing, the hacker sends out multiple links infected with malicious code. The hope is that at least some people will click on these spammy links. Most internet users might have heard or clicked such links that seem to be from legitimate sources.

According to research, on an average, Phishing attack costs businesses around $4.65 million.

Database injections

Normally a WordPress website uses a MySQL database to operate its day-to-day functions. A database injection happens when a hacker infects your database by gaining access to it.

A hacker can even create admin-level user accounts and gain full access to your WordPress website through database injections. The hacker could even insert new forged data into your database and lead unsuspecting users toward malicious websites.

Backdoors

A backdoor in a WordPress website is malicious code that allows the attackers unauthorized access to the server. An infected plugin or a malicious file hidden in the code is often the culprit. Security analysts find new WordPress back doors every month.

Over the years, multiple plugins have been found whose main intent was to act as a WordPress backdoor. Once a WordPress backdoor is identified, it is difficult to revive this backdoor.

This is why preventive measures should be taken to control the damage caused due to WordPress backdoors.

WordPress security guide 2022

More than 100,000 websites are hacked every day all over the world. It would be best to take certain security measures to ensure that your WordPress website does not get hacked. We have identified certain security measures for you here.

Acquire a secure WordPress hosting service

Your WordPress host is responsible for the web server-level security of your WordPress website. Choose a trustworthy host, or else you need to have some technical knowledge if you are hosting WordPress on your own VPS.

Your WordPress website will require multiple layers of hardware and software security. These layers are required to ensure that the WordPress website’s IT infrastructure can defend against any cyber attack.

The hosting service provider should ensure that all the servers that host your WordPress website are updated with the latest security measures.

Ensure that the servers where you host your website are equipped with intrusion detection systems and server-level firewalls. Your servers should also use SFTP(secure file transfer protocols) to encrypt sensitive data.

Always use updated PHP Version

Using the latest version of PHP is important from a security perspective. PHP supports every major release for two years. During this time, the team at PHP regularly checks for security vulnerabilities and issues patches and fixes regularly.

At the time of writing this blog, PHP will provide security support for its 7.4 version until 28 Nov 2022. After the date expires, WordPress websites running PHP version 7.4 will be exposed to unpatched security vulnerabilities.

According to the official WordPress stats page, around 45% of sites use PHP versions below 7.4. This is an open invitation to hackers.

Apart from security issues, running your WordPress website on outdated versions also negatively impacts your website’s performance.

Use strong usernames and passwords

You can significantly improve your WordPress website security through simple means like using strong usernames and passwords.

Most people make the mistake of using weak passwords that can be easily hacked, even by a five-year-old. We have prepared a list of the most commonly stolen passwords.

123456
password
123456789
12345678
12345
111111

Surprising, isn’t it? The most common password is 123456. Choose a strong password that is at least eight characters long and includes one uppercase letter, one small case letter, one number, and at least one special character.

If you find it hard to generate a strong password yourself, use tools like Strong Password Generator.

Do not store passwords online and store passwords in your local computer after encrypting them. Another good way to secure your websites is to use different passwords for different websites. Free tools are available to help you set different passwords for different websites.

Security of administrator names is also important apart from password security. Never use the default admin username and create a unique WordPress username for the administrator account of your website. By default, there will be an Admin account and it will have the username ‘admin’. Delete it and create your administrator account.

Use the latest versions of plugins and themes

A common excuse given by businesses to not update their WordPress plugins and themes is that the plugin would “break.” On the contrary, most WordPress websites break because of outdated plugins. A Wordfence study found that plugin vulnerabilities are responsible for 56% of attacks done by hackers. Update your plugins to ensure robust security for your WordPress website.

Always install only trusted plugins from the “featured” and “popular” categories. Never use nulled WordPress plugins and themes.

Some tools can help you detect malware in plugin or theme files. When you install a new WordPress plugin, look at the last updated date and check the number of ratings that the plugin has. Stay away from old plugins that have bad ratings.

Lock down the WordPress admin

Lock down your WordPress admin area and login area to substantially boost your security. The idea is to make your WordPress website harder to hack.

Two ways to lock down your WordPress admin and login area are:

  • Limit the login attempts
  • Change your default WordPress admin login URL

The login URL of your WordPress website is domain.com/wp-admin by default. All the hackers, malicious bots and scripts know this. Change the default URL and secure your website against brute force attacks.

There are free tools like the WPS hide login plugin that help you change your WordPress login URL.

Put a limit on the login attempts to beef up your security. Free plugins set up lockout durations, IP whitelists, and blocklists and limit login attempts. Other free plugins will log every failed login attempt with IP address and timestamp. These plugins will disable all requests from a particular IP range if they detect more than a threshold limit of failed login attempts.

Another effective way to lock down the admin is to add an Htaccess authentication.

Use two-factor authentication

A strong password is a good start but ensure to use two-factor authentication because smart hackers can break even strong passwords. Under two-factor authentication, we have a two-step process in which, along with the password, the WordPress website uses a second method to authenticate the access.

The second method is normally a one-time password (OTP), a phone call or a text message. The two-factor authentication method proves effective in stopping brute force attacks. This is because it is next to impossible for the hacker to have your password and cell phone.

To integrate two-factor authentication into your website, you can use the Android Google authenticator app, Authy or two-factor authentication plugins.

Once you configure any of the plugins mentioned above, you will have an additional field for entering the security code on your WordPress website.

Get an SSL certificate

Add a layer of security to your WordPress website by installing an SSL certificate. With an SSL certificate, you will also need to run your website on HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure).

This is a mechanism that helps your browser securely connect with other websites. You will need an HTTPS mechanism, especially if running an e-commerce website.

HTTPS will ensure that the login information of your users is encrypted. Thus an HTTPS mechanism helps prevent hackers from gaining access to your website data.

Apart from security, HTTPS also helps you gain better SEO rankings. This is because Google has officially said that it considers HTTPS an important ranking factor.

A survey states that 77% of internet users are worried about their data while they surf the internet. The HTTPS padlock ensures that customers have more peace of mind.

Chrome 68 and higher versions have started marking all non HTTPS websites as “not secure.” By not going for an HTTPS mechanism, you risk being seen as an insecure website, driving off users.

Utilize the power of WordPress security plugins

There are a lot of good WordPress security plugins available that can help you better protect your WordPress website. Here are a few honorable mentions.

  • Sucuri Security
  • WordFence Security
  • iThemes Security

Here are a few benefits of using these WordPress security plugins.

  • Ability to build strong passwords
  • Regular password expiraton and reset
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Malware scanning
  • Simplified security key updates
  • IP whitelisting and blacklisting
  • Blocking of malicious networks
  • Logging of user actions
  • Viewing of the WHOIS information

WordPress security plugins inspect your WordPress website regularly and check for modifications on the core WordPress.org files. Security plugins will alert you if there are any modifications to these files, as this could indicate a hacking attempt.

Use secure connections

Use secure connections to boost the security of your WordPress website. When selecting a WordPress hosting provider, ensure that the WordPress host provides you with SSH or SFTP network protocols. The SFTP is a much more secure file transfer protocol than the standard FTP protocol.

Go a step further and choose a hosting provider that provides randomized ports for SFTP.

If a hacker gains access to your home network, they gain access to sensitive data. Hence, it is important to ensure that your home router is secure.

Here are a few tips that can help you secure your home network

  • Do not manage your VPN remotely
  • Use a different IP range like 10.9.8.7 and not the default IP
  • Use the highest level encryption for your Wi-Fi
  • IP white list your Wi-Fi
  • Update the firmware on your router
  • Verify the network SSID before you connect to the network
  • Encrypt your internet traffic by using a third-party VPN service
  • Be careful while logging into Wi-Fi in public locations

Disable file editing

Giving file editing access to multiple authors or contributors is a bad security practice. A lot of enterprise-level WordPress websites have multiple admins and contributors. Always give correct permissions and rules to users according to their work profile.

A good way to ensure that the file editing problem does not occur is to disable the “appearance editor” in WordPress. It would be ideal for you to edit the file locally and upload it via FTP protocol instead of enabling the appearance editor.

Hackers normally try to edit a PHP file or a theme through the appearance editor once they are on your website. This is a very quick and simple way for hackers to execute malicious code on your website.

Closing thoughts

As we have seen, there are multiple ways to ensure robust security for your WordPress website. Security is important as many businesses depend on the smooth functioning of their WordPress website. Deploy the strategies mentioned above to build watertight security for your WordPress website.