Unfortunately, website security is something that website owners need to take seriously. A Clark School study at the University of Maryland reported that, on average, there is a cyber attack every 39 seconds.
No website can be absolutely secure. That goes for any website, including WordPress websites.
However, there’s good news. By following a few simple steps, you can make your WordPress website reach a high level of security.
WordPress security: many attackers, but many defenders
If you’ve decided to use WordPress as your website platform, you’ve made a good choice. And you’re not alone. Nearly a third of the world’s websites are built on the WordPress platform. This popularity makes WordPress a prime target for hackers and sometimes gives WordPress a bad name in terms of security.
But the reality is that an army of programmers help maintain WordPress security, constantly looking for security vulnerabilities and creating security patches whenever they discover a hole in the wall, so to speak. Usually, by the time a vulnerability is made public, a security patch has already been created to protect against it.
Securing your WordPress website
Use only high-quality themes and plugins
Themes and plugins can be a source of vulnerability in WordPress. But like WordPress itself, there are many good plugins and themes available that are continually monitored and updated with security patches when vulnerabilities are discovered. These security patches are then made readily available and easily updated to your WordPress website.
So when you’re looking at plugins or themes to download, choose ones with high ratings and regular updates with a large number of current installs. The regular updates keep them safe from tampering, and the large number of current installs shows that loads of sites are using them safely. Also, always choose plugins from the WordPress Plugin Directory. Plugins in the WordPress Plugin Directory have been closely reviewed and validated, so you know you can trust them.
Update plugins regularly to maintain security
Once you’ve downloaded some plugins, make sure to keep them up to date. Attackers are always trying slightly different attacks to weasel past WordPress’s defenses, but many developers continually update their plugins and themes to keep them safe. By always updating to the latest version of WordPress and the latest version of the themes and plugins, you’ll have a site that’s ready for the latest type of attack. Also, remove any themes or plugins you no longer need, even deactivated ones.
Add an SSL certificate
As in any type of website, installing an SSL certificate is a must, especially for websites involving sensitive customer information. This allows for secure transfer of data between the web server and the web visitor’s browser.
Adopt these common brute force defense strategies
A good password may be enough to keep out the average person, but many hackers use brute-force attacks to try to get past them. A brute-force attack is like a virtual battering ram: Hackers use a malicious program to try a massive number of character combinations over and over again until it stumbles on a correct password.
You can help combat brute-force attacks with a few common strategies:
- Most brute force attacks prioritize common, simplified passwords like admin, password123, 123456, and so on. Using strong passwords with unusual words, number strings, and special characters decreases the likelihood your password will ever be discovered.
- Limit the number of failed login attempts to thwart brute-force attacks from having the chance to try all of their potential username and password combinations.
- The use of captchas—images that people can easily interpret but most computer programs cannot—helps keep out the vast majority of non-human intruders, protecting your site from most brute force attacks.
- Consider using two-factor authentication, which requires some kind of personal information as well as a password. To break through a two-factor authentication, a brute-force attack would have to compromise both factors— the user’s password and the second piece of required information—to get in.
Use a firewall to protect against DDoS attacks
Brute-force attacks are not the only type of attack your website may face. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a cyber attack that floods a website server with numerous fake requests. Your website can get so overwhelmed and overburdened with these fake requests that it cannot handle any real visitors. How can you keep out the fake requests? A good firewall is crucial to prevent these types of attacks. A firewall will automatically analyze all the incoming data in order to block malicious attacks to your site.
Run security scans
Running regular security scans of your website and database are important. These regular scans detect unauthorized changes, identifying potential attacks and empowering you to take corrective actions.
Automatic frequent backups
Have you ever wanted to go back in time, but just, like, a tiny bit? Like if you hit another car while you’re backing up in a parking lot, wouldn’t it be great if you could rewind to you putting the key in the ignition and trying it again? You can totally do that with your website if you have a system of automatic backups, previous versions of your website that are automatically saved over time. If a cyber attack does manage to penetrate your defenses, you can quickly revert to a recent, clean backup of your entire site, allowing you to get back up and running in no time.
Choose the right hosting provider and hosting plan
Choosing a reputable hosting company with strong security is critical. Before you choose a hosting company, do some research: What kind of firewall does your hosting company have in place? What malware scanning and removal capabilities does it have? What automated backups does it provide?
The type of hosting plan you choose can also affect your site’s security. A shared hosting plan, which shares a server with other sites, is often the cheapest option and may be enough for your site. However, on a shared hosting plan, you run the risk of your site being infected through another website on that same server. Think about using a Virtual Private Server (VPS hosting) instead, which is similar to shared hosting, but you share a server with fewer sites. An even more secure option is dedicated hosting, in which a server is dedicated to your site and your site only.
Individual plugins vs. All-in-one plugin solutions
WordPress gives you two main options to address security issues: install a different WordPress plugin for each security issue, or just install an all-in-one security plugin that tackles all the issues. The latter is a simpler solution that helps you make sure all your bases are covered. A few of the most popular all-in-one security plugins that are worth considering are Sucuri, iThemes Security Pro, and Wordfence Security.
WordPress is an efficient and flexible Content Management System, as shown by its popularity. Developers are constantly adding and updating it, making it easy to keep your site safe and secure. By taking advantage of WordPress’s many defenses, you can launch and maintain your site with confidence.