If you own a WordPress website, you should be aware of potential WordPress security vulnerabilities. Just like locking the doors of your house, investing in an alarm system and paying for insurance, your website should have security and safety measures in place.
The truth is, most WordPress security issues can be prevented if site owners simply follow WordPress security best practices. In this post, we’ll cover some of the most common website vulnerabilities that can compromise your WordPress website and the steps you can take to strengthen the security of your site.
1. Poor Hosting
Not all web hosts are created equal and choosing one solely on price can end up costing you way more in the long run with security issues. Most shared hosting environments are secure, but some do not properly separate users accounts.Your host should be vigilant about applying the latest security patches and following other important hosting security best practices related to server and file security.
Choose a reputable host for your website with a solid security record. Finding WordPress hosting that you can trust is the first of the WordPress security vulnerabilities you should try to mitigate.
2. Your WordPress Login
Your WordPress login is the most commonly attacked WordPress security vulnerability because it provides the easiest access to your site’s admin page. Brute force attacks are the most common method of exploiting your WordPress login.
A brute force attack is an attempt to correctly guess username and password combinations to gain access to the backend of your WordPress site. Brute force attacks can be effective because WordPress doesn’t limit the number of login attempts someone can make.
You can strengthen the security of your WordPress login by using a WordPress security plugin like iThemes Security Pro to limit the number of login attempts. Limiting login attempts is just the first step in WordPress brute force protection.
Being mindful of your WordPress password security is also essential in securing your WordPress login, and this is why you should use a password manager to generate random strong passwords and securely store them. Forcing every WordPress user on your site to use a strong password will greatly decrease the effectiveness of a brute force attack.
In addition, adding WordPress two-factor authentication is one of the best methods to secure your site’s logins. Two-factor authentication requires users to use an authentication token in addition to their username and password to login to WordPress. Even if a correct username and password are phished directly from a user’s email, the malicious login attempt can still be prevented if the user is using the mobile application to receive their authentication token. Two-factor authentication adds an incredibly strong layer of security to your WordPress site, and can easily be added using a plugin like iThemes Security.
3. Outdated Software
When your WordPress site is running outdated versions of plugins, themes or WordPress, you run the risk of having known exploits on your site. Updates are not just for new features or bug fixes; they can also include security patches for known exploits. Even though this is the easiest of the WordPress security vulnerabilities to prevent, most successful hacks use exploits that are found in outdated software.
You can automate updates on your site Using the iThemes Security Pro WordPress version management feature. Automating your updates ensures you get the critical security patches that protect your site against WordPress security vulnerabilities and as a bonus, it reduces the amount of time you spend maintaining your WordPress site.
4. PHP Exploits
The PHP code on your WordPress site should also be included in the WordPress security vulnerabilities list. Exploiting PHP code is a common method used by hackers to gain access to your WordPress site, so it is crucial you reduce the risk by limiting exploit opportunities. Uninstall and completely delete any unnecessary plugins and themes on your WordPress site to limit the number of access points and executable code on your website.
In addition, avoid using abandoned WordPress plugins. If any plugin installed on your WordPress site has not received an update in six months or longer, you may want to make sure it hasn’t been abandoned. A plugin not having any recent updates doesn’t necessarily mean it has been abandoned, it could just mean it is feature complete and will only receive updates to ensure compatibility with the latest versions of WordPress and PHP.
5. Installing Software From Untrusted Sources
Only install WordPress plugins and themes from trusted sources. You should only install software that you get from WordPress.org, well known commercial repositories or directly from reputable developers. You will want to avoid “nulled” version of commercial plugins because they can contain malicious code. It doesn’t matter how you lock down your WordPress site if you are the one installing malware.
If the WordPress plugin or theme it isn’t being distributed on the developer’s website, you will want to do your due diligence before downloading the plugin. Reach out to the developers to see if they are in any way affiliated with the website that is offering their product at a free or discounted price.
Bonus: Running a Non-SSL Website
When someone visits your WordPress site, a line of communication between their device and your server begins. The communication isn’t a direct line, and the information passed between the visitor and your server makes several stops before being delivered to its final destination.
To better understand how encryption works, consider how your online purchases get delivered. If you’ve ever tracked delivery status, you have seen that your order made several stops before arriving at your home. If the seller didn’t properly package your purchase, it would be easy for people to see what you purchased.
When a visitor logs into your WordPress site and enters payment information, this information isn’t encrypted by default. So just like your unpackaged purchase, there is an opportunity for the login credentials and credit card details to be discovered at every stop between the visitor’s computer and your server.
Luckily, unencrypted communication is one of the easiest WordPress security vulnerabilities to mitigate. Adding an SSL certificate to your is a great way to encrypt and package the communication on your site to ensure that only the intended recipients can view the sensitive information being shared. Your host may provide a service to add an SSL certificate to your WordPress site or you can add the SSL certificate on your own.
If you decide to go the do-it-yourself route, I would recommend using certbot. Certbot makes it very easy to add a Let’s Encrypt certificate to your site as well as set it up to automatically renew your SSL certificate. You can also check out our WordPress HTTPS training to learn how to add an SSL certificate to your website.
A Simple WordPress Security Checklist
Most WordPress security vulnerabilities can be mitigated by taking a proactive approach to WordPress security. To recap, here’s a simple WordPress security checklist to follow:
- 1. Choose quality hosting.
- 2. Secure your WordPress login with a strong password and two-factor authentication.
- 3. Keep your plugins, themes and WordPress software updated.
- 4. Delete unused and abandoned plugins and themes.
- 5. Only use trusted software distributors.
- 6. Add SSL to your website.
A WordPress Security Plugin Can
Help Secure Your WordPress Website
iThemes Security Pro, our WordPress security plugin, offers 30+ ways to secure and protect your website from common WordPress security vulnerabilities. With WordPress two-factor authentication, brute force protection, strong password enforcement and more, you can add an extra layer of security to your website.