WordPress, the most popular content management system so far, powers millions of websites that we visit. A big chunk of online websites is based on WordPress CMS. This open source platform is popular for many reasons. It is user friendly and even an end-user can easily manage and run it without prior technical knowledge. But, this benefit has its downsides too. There are cases reported when WordPress websites have been hacked and compromised. Hackers out there leave no chance untapped to intrude websites with vulnerabilities.
When 23% of websites running online are powered by WordPress, it’s no wonder why they are under constant threat of being compromised. Hackers out there try to exploit and intrude into this most popular web platform time and again. It would be disastrous enough if cons even inject a single line of malicious code into any of the hundred files that up a whole website.
How To Keep Your WordPress Website Safe?
If like many WordPress site owners, you take your website’s security lightly or not pro-actively looking at it, you’re inching close to your worst WordPress nightmare. Don’t ever think that it can’t happen to you. Regardless of the expertise you may have in handling this biggest CMS platform, a minor glitch could throw your websites in hacker’s net.
The crux of the intro is that you have to be pro-active about your site safety. I am putting here 6 straight ways that can help you in having your website safe from vulnerabilities and hacking attempts.
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1. Get your website verifies using Search Console:
It could be dreadful if your website is compromised and you don’t even know it. Thanks to Google’s Search Console (formerly Google Webmasters Tool) that notifies websites about the potential issues and the way they should be tackled.
If you haven’t yet done that, get your website verified with Webmaster Tools. When verified, you have complete access to GWT’s innovative dashboard. From the dashboard itself you can access real time data that can be used to find a potential issue such as traffic, queries, and manual action messages. The dashboard has a full-fledged section dedicated to security issues. The section lists issues where your website is experiencing problems.
2. Have Regular Website backups
I never suggest regular backups but having it on frequent intervals is a good idea. Website backup is something that becomes crucial when you have lost your data due to hacking. It helps to restore your website content including posts, pages, images and videos. You never know when an unexpected error or venerability could open up your website for the hackers. After all, prevention is better than cure. For that purpose, you can use free or paid versions of backup plug-ins available with WordPress plug-in gallery.
3. Limit Login Attempts
To crack the website password, hackers test multiple login attempts using numerous login combinations. This is called Brute Force. To prevent it, use plug-ins that limit failed login attempts from the single IP. These plug-in track the IP address that executes these attempts and bans it after a certain number of failed login attempts.
4. Avoid Using Admin As User Name
Most of the website owners choose 'Admin' as user name. This makes hackers' task even easier as they now just need to manipulate password combinations. On the contrary, if you choose a names other than 'Admin', you reduce the chances of your website being hacked. If you already have chosen 'Admin' as user name, WordPress development gives you the option to change it right from the dashboard.
5. Strengthen Up Your Password
With Brute force attack, hackers keep guessing the user id and password combinations to break into your website. If you use user name as 'Admin' with weaker passwords, your website could be hacked. Internet experts believe that almost 8% of websites come under threat due to the passwords that are weak or easy to guess. Change your habit to have simple or easy to remember passwords. Keep them complex using different alpha-numeric combinations. You should change your password to one that's tough to crack.
6.Don't Allow File Edit via Dashboard
You must have noticed that admin panel of WordPress gives direct access to the 'file editor', where codes of the theme files can be changed. Despite all your efforts, if hacker managed to access the admin panel, he can inject malware to the file. You may disable this method of file editing by adding the following code to your wp-config.php file.
Define (‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true);
7.Using Free Themes
I'm not of the thought that free themes compromise with quality and security. However, I'll not suggest going for them unless they are developed by a reliable and renowned theme developer. These free themes are loosely coded and prone to get altered with malicious codes. If you still look for a free theme for website, get one from trusted provider or choose from the official WordPress.org theme repository.
8.Use Security Plug-ins
Beyond all, you may also go for the WordPress security plug-ins to keep your website safe. These plug-ins offer several key security settings to prevent your website / blog against malicious threats and malware. Choose among the thousands of the plug-ins available in WordPress plug-in library. These plug-ins perform key functions to add more to your site security, such as:
- Blocking malicious networks
- Scans for file changes
- Malware scanning
- Disk space monitoring
- IP blocking
8. Don’t skip WordPress updates, it’s the key:
There are three components that together make WordPress a worth. They are WordPress itself, WordPress plugins and Themes. They need to be updated regularly for safety and security of your website.
The best thing with WordPress is its constant endeavor to patch secure ty holes and roll out fresh updates. With each update, WordPress constantly improves the platform. When a new update comes, WordPress notifies admins about the same via emails and with a notification within admin panel itself. As soon notification comes, update your existing WordPress version with the latest one.
Plugin Updates: Like the platform itself, WordPress plugins should also be updated with their latest version. A notification in this regard can be seen on ‘plugins’ tabs in admin area. I will also recommend you going with auto-update option available with some third-party plugins.
Theme updates: Likewise, themes are also prone to exploits and attacks. Theme de-velopers should be vigilant to roll out patches and introduce version upgrades whenever vulnerabilities are reported.
9. Don’t trust suspicious installations:
What I like the most with WordPress is its massive plugin directory which has over 50k plugins at one place. You can install / activate and use them to add additional features and function to your website. The only disappointment is that they come from unknown third party sources and therefore can’t be trusted. They can create security holes and vulnerabilities. This is a known fact that most WordPress exploits and attacks happen through vulnerabilities found in plugins and themes.
It’s an evident myth that premium themes and plugins are secured and already pro-tected against attacks. Undoubtedly, paid plugins are developed with features that thwart vulnerabilities, yet they can’t guarantee protection against possible attacks. It’s recommended not to install unnecessary plugins unless you have an idea about its source and authenticity.
10. Scan website regularly:
Don’t forget to scan your whole website on frequent intervals. There are tools available that you can use to scan your entire WordPress site for malware, added code and suspicious SQL injection codes. You can use both free and paid versions of these tools. They are extremely helpful in locating files and folders on your website that may have been infected due to malicious codes. When installed and activated, they can be configured to automatically scan your site in the background and notify if immediately if it finds anything suspicious.
11. Customize Your Login:
Usually WordPress offers a default user name 'admin' to every account created with it. In case you continue with the same account, hackers may get a chance to attack your website. What I will suggest you that as soon you receive your default user ID and password to login your WordPress account, change it without delay. During the Application Migration Process it plays a significant role.
12. Choose A Secure WordPress Plug-in:
As a professional WordPress development, I know a number of places inside a WordPress website that may convey the WP version to the hackers. In most of the cases Dedicated Web Developers miss the point and pay a big price in the form of the information loss. This is therefore important to choose secure WordPress plug-ins to elevate the security level of your website. Using a security plug-in helps to remove a number of bottlenecks that may later demolish the fort.
- It removes any error info on login page
- Removes WP-version (not applicable for admin panel)
- Hides core update information for non-admins
- Conceals plug-in information for non-admins
- Hides URL version
- Blocks bad queries
13. Act Smart With WP-config.php:
If you are familiar with WordPress, you must have the knowledge of WP-config. PHP file. This is a location where comprehensive and every minute information about database connection is placed and accessed from anywhere. To protect the information breach you should move the file to your WordPress root. WordPress will easily find it from the location when the need arises. Only a user with FTP or SSH access can be able to access your server to read the file.
14. Alter Database Prefixes:
WordPress takes 'wp_' as default prefix when it comes to using tables. Since WordPress is a well-known open source application, hackers can attack the site using loopholes in the tables. I will therefore suggest you to change the table prefixes to reduce the gravity of the threat. During the development of database solution, it also helps to keep the structure of database integration with WordPress.
15. Regular Version Updates:
It is always a good practice to update the version with available patches and version updates. Update older versions of WordPress with latest versions. It will secure your application and prevent it from any potential security breach.
16. Taking Data backups Regularly:
This is the last but not the least. Despite all the precautions what if your site is hacked? You can't afford such a disastrous breach and information loss. It's very important to have regular backups of important data and other WordPress resources.
17. Restrict login attempts:
To exploit and gain unauthorized access to your website, most hackers attempt “brute force” attack. Brute force, in technical terms, is a script that uses multiple random usernames and passwords in order to gain access to your website. To combat such attacks, block IPs responsible for multiple login attempts. Blocking IPs locks out a user from being able to access your site if failed login attempts reach a certain limit.
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18. Avoid using ‘admin’ user name:
Brute force attack acts behind an idea that most webmasters set their administrative id as ‘admin’. This makes attacker’s task halfway done. As they already know admin being the user ID, all they need to guess passwords using multiple login attempts. If you’re still using ‘admin’ as your default user ID, change it right now.
If you have just started your own site / blog, you might have concerns about its online security and safety. But needn't to worry, as WordPress already has almost unbreakable security mechanism that will keep your website safe. All that I have discussed here is to give you knowledge about possible online hacking threats and their respective remedies.
I too endorse all this and other positive mentions anyone submits in support of WordPress during the Open Source Development. In contrary, the easy attitude of WordPress becomes a dismay and threat for the programmers on a number of occasions. Among other threats, hacking comes on the top. I do believe that you folks are quite friendly with this term and I too am is not very keen to illustrate the term.
Tarun Gupta, CEO of Brainpulse Technologies, is a prolific author and digital marketing specialist. His insightful writings span SEO, content marketing, social media strategy, and email campaigns, offering invaluable expertise to businesses worldwide. Tarun’s contributions continue to shape the digital marketing landscape, guiding success in multiple niches.