Do you know that over 90,000 hacks are attempted each minute on WordPress sites globally? Well, if you own a WordPress-powered website, that stat should worry you. It doesn’t matter if you are running a small-scale business. Hackers don’t discriminate based on the size or importance of the websites. They are only looking for any vulnerability which can be exploited to their advantage.
You may be wondering – why do hackers target WordPress sites in the first place? What do they gain by indulging in such nefarious activities?
Let’s find out.
Why Do Hackers Target WordPress Sites?
Be it on WordPress or any other platform; no website is safe from hackers. Being the most popular CMS platform, WordPress sites are hackers’ favourite. Here’s what they do:
- Discover new security vulnerabilities, which are relatively easier to find on smaller sites. Once the hacker learns about any weakness or vulnerability, they can use their knowledge to target larger websites and cause more damage.
- Redirect your incoming traffic to unsolicited websites. This is a common reason for targeting high-traffic sites, as a result of which a genuine website can lose all its users to another suspicious website.
- Make money or generate revenues from selling contraband products on genuine sites or through malware variants such as ransomware or crypto mining.
- Gain access to intellectual or confidential data such as customer data, private business data, or the company’s financial records. Hackers can go on to sell this stolen data for money or use them for any unfair competitive advantage.
Now that we know how hackers can benefit from a successful hack or compromise, let’s go on to discuss the ten tried-and-tested methods of securing a WordPress site.
10 Proven Methods of Securing Your Site
Luckily for WordPress, there are various methods you can use to elevate website security. The best part about these methods is that most of them are not complex and can be implemented by any novice WordPress user. So, let’s get started.
Step 1: Update Your Core WordPress and Plugins and Themes
Outdated WordPress versions, along with old plugins and themes are among the common reasons for WordPress sites getting hacked. Hackers often exploit security-related bugs in previous WordPress and plugin/theme versions still running on a majority of WordPress sites.
Your best guard against this threat is to regularly update your Core WordPress version along with updating to the latest versions of the installed plugins/themes. To perform this, either enable the “Auto Update” functionality in your WordPress admin account or take stock of all your currently installed plugins/themes.
Step 2: Use Firewall Protection
Hackers frequently deploy automated bots or IP requests to gain access to WordPress sites. If they are successful through this method, hackers can inflict maximum damage on any site. Website firewalls are built to identify IP requests from suspicious IP addresses and block such requests even before they reach the web server.
You can implement firewall protection for your website by opting for:
- In-built firewalls – from your web hosting company
- Cloud-based firewalls – hosted on external cloud platforms
- Plugin-based firewalls – that can be installed on your WordPress site
Step 3: Scan and Remove Any Malware
Hackers keep coming up with innovative malware variants to compromise a site. While some malware can instantly cause considerable damage and completely cripple your website, others are more complex and are difficult to detect even for days or weeks.
The best protection against malware is to regularly scan your complete website for any infections. Top WordPress security plugins like MalCare and WordFence are good for early detection and clean-up of malware. These security plugins are easy to install and execute even for non-technical users.
Step 4: Use a Safe and Reliable Web Host
In addition to outdated WordPress versions and plugins/themes, the web hosting setup has a significant say in your website security. For instance, hackers often target websites on a shared hosting platform that shares the same server among multiple websites. Although shared hosting is cost-effective, hackers can easily infect one hosted website and then spread the infection to all the other websites.
To be on the safe side, opt for a web hosting plan with integrated security features. Avoid shared hosts and, instead, go for VPS-based or managed WordPress hosting.
Step 5: Take a Complete Backup of your WordPress Site
Website backups can be a lifesaver if something goes with your website. WordPress backups store a copy of your website and database files at a safe location. In the event of a successful hack, you can easily restore the backup files to your website and normalize its operations.
WordPress backups can be performed in various ways, but the best technique for non-technical users is through backup plugins like BlogVault or BackupBuddy. Easy to install and use, these backup plugins can automate backup-related activities so that you can stay focused on your daily tasks.
Step 6: Protect your WordPress Login Page
Among the most common website pages targeted by hackers, your WordPress login page can provide easy access to your most confidential accounts. Using brute force attacks, hackers deploy automated bots that repeatedly try to gain access to your WordPress “admin” account through the login page.
There are several methods of protecting your login page. For instance, you can hide or change your default login page URL, which is typically www.mysite.com/wp-admin.
Popular WordPress Login page plugins like “Theme My Login” enable you to hide (or change) your login page easily.
Step 7: Uninstall any Unused or Inactive Plugins and Themes
As mentioned earlier, plugins/themes can provide an easy gateway for hackers to create havoc with your WordPress site. This is equally true for any unused or inactive plugins and themes. If you have installed a large number of these on your site and are no longer using them, it’s advisable to remove them or replace them with more functional plugins/themes.
How do you perform this? Login to your WordPress account as an admin user and view the list of currently installed plugins/themes. Delete all plugins/themes that are no longer active.
Step 8: Use Strong Passwords
Shouldn’t this be obvious? Yet, we still have weak passwords like password and 123456 being used. Hackers commonly exploit weak passwords to execute a successful brute force attack.
For all your WordPress users, enforce some guidelines.Use passwords of at least 8 characters, with a combination of uppercase and lowercase, alphanumerics, and special characters. An additional safety measure should be to change your WordPress passwords at least once every three months.
Step 9: Get an SSL Certificate for Your Website
Short for Secure Socket Layer, SSL certification is an absolute must for every website, including WordPress sites. Why is it considered safer? Every SSL-certified website encrypts the information being passed between the web server and the user’s browser. This makes it tougher for hackers to intercept and steal this confidential data. What’s more? These websites are also favored by Google and receive a higher Google ranking.
You can obtain an SSL certificate from your web host provider hosting your site. Else, you can install tools like Let’s Encrypt on your website for the SSL certificate.
Step 10: Use WordPress Website Hardening
The final measure is to deploy website hardening measures prescribed by WordPress. WordPress Website hardening comprises of several steps that include:
- Disabling the file editing feature to prevent the entry of malicious code in your important WordPress files
- Disabling PHP file execution that prevents hackers from executing PHP files containing any malicious code
- Hiding the WordPress version that prevents hackers from finding out your WordPress version and searching for any vulnerability
- Hiding the wp-config.php and .htaccess files that are commonly used by hackers to damage your WordPress site
No WordPress site, big or small, is completely safe from hackers and malware. However, you can surely improve your security score by following each of these ten measures outlined in this article. These steps are easy to execute and don’t require any advanced technical knowledge.
To make things easier, most security plugins integrate many of these features, like firewall protection, scheduled scanning, malware removal, and website hardening in their product. We highly recommend making website security an integral part of your website maintenance checklist.
Let us know what you think of this list. Have we missed out on any crucial safety measure that is an absolute must? Let us know in your comments.