WordPress is a popular online platform designed for creating websites and blogs. It is a content management system (CMS) where users, regardless of their technical expertise, can easily design and publish their own websites. It is widely used due to its versatility, offering thousands of website templates, plugins, and features that are customizable for the needs of individual sites, from business websites to personal blogs.
WordPress is also open-source, meaning its code is accessible and modifiable for advanced users or developers who want to customize their websites further. Open-source platforms are typically more popular amongst developers but are often exploited by hackers, posing potential security risks for those with minimal knowledge of the platforms.
WordPress is exceedingly popular, with a market share of more than 63% among content management systems as of July 2023, according to w3techs.com. This represents about 40% of all websites that are online, meaning nearly 2 in every 5 websites that you visit are likely to be powered by WordPress.
Yes, WordPress' popularity does pose security risks. Since it powers a significant portion of the web, it becomes an attractive target for hackers looking to exploit vulnerabilities. The security risk is not inherently due to WordPress itself, but it is due to poorly maintained sites, weak usernames and passwords, lack of regular updates and backups, and unsafe plugins or themes. However, these risks can be mitigated through proper website maintenance and security best practices.
Before setting up a WordPress website of your own, it is important to understand these 10 best practices to protect your data from hackers:
The hosting provider handles a significant portion of website security, especially around server-level security and configurations, namely:
Therefore, when choosing a hosting provider, do not focus solely on the cost. Also focus on providers that have a solid reputation for security and reliability.
The concept behind a table prefix is quite similar to the concept of a surname used in family names. Just as the surname helps differentiate people from different families, the prefix helps to uniquely identify and differentiate tables belonging to different applications or WordPress installations in a database.
When WordPress is set up, it creates a series of tables in your database that store data such as posts, comments, users, and configuration settings. There are default names for these tables, like 'wp_posts' or 'wp_comments.' The 'wp_' part of these names is the database table prefix.
Using a complex database table prefix can significantly improve the security of a WordPress website. The standard table prefix for WordPress installations is "wp_." This means if hackers target your website using SQL injections, they can easily guess the names of your database tables and potentially exploit them.
If you change the table prefix to something more complex and unique, it makes it more difficult for hackers to guess the names of your tables. This alone can deter many types of automated attacks. The less information potential hackers have about the internal structure of your database, the better.
Implementing complex database table prefixes in your website gives it an extra layer of defense against possible attacks. It is worth noting that changing the database table prefix will not make your site completely invincible and should be used in conjunction with the other security measures mentioned in this post.
An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate maintains the security of your data as it flows from your browser to the server and back by:
Many people think of keeping WordPress itself up-to-date, but they often forget about the various plugins and themes installed on the website, as well as OS level patching. All software contributes to the overall security of your website and should be kept up-to-date for several reasons:
Security plugins provide protection against various potential security threats, adding additional layers of defense to your website besides simply up-to-date software. They conduct regular scans on your website for any suspicious activity. If they detect malware, these plugins either eliminate the threat or alert you to take appropriate action.
Depending on the security plugin used, it can:
A strong, lengthy password is the first line of defense in protecting sensitive data from cybercriminals who often employ techniques such as brute force attacks to guess passwords until the right one is found.
If your password is weak, short, or a commonly used word, a brute force attack can often identify it in hours, if not minutes, paving the way for unwanted access. Moreover, if the WordPress website you are managing has multiple users, the risk exponentially increases as each user’s login could potentially serve as a point of entry for a security breach. As such, ensuring password strength is not just applicable to administrators but to all users as well. It is not merely about the privacy of the data, though. The website's integrity is also at stake, as hackers can change the site structure, inject malware, or send spam.
When it comes to user accounts, always apply the principle of ‘Least Privileged’, which means granting users only the privileges required to fulfill their roles, and no more. For example, a contributing author does not need the same level of access as an admin.
By limiting each user’s privileges in this manner, we limit the impact to the security of the site if that user’s account was compromised or breached. If that occurred, the attacker would still only have access to the limited functionality of the compromised user - not access to the website and administrator functionality as a whole. Moreover, we also limit the potential impact of misuse, whether intentional or accidental, by the relevant user during their day-to-day work.
2FA (Two Factor Authentication) adds an additional layer of protection to the login process that ensures the right person is accessing the website by requiring two forms of identification. The first piece of identification is usually a password, and the second could be a temporary code sent to or viewed on a personal device, such as a phone.
Given the rise of cybersecurity threats and the sophistication of hackers in capturing or guessing valid passwords, using just a username and password is no longer sufficient to protect sensitive information. Many popular security plugins allow site administrators to enable 2FA for users, eliminating the need for an additional 2FA plugin and adding an extra layer of security and peace of mind.
Plugins from untrusted sources may contain malicious code, including backdoors, malware, spyware, or even ransomware. This could render the entire site inaccessible or make the site an infection point to spread the malware to site visitors. Even if a plugin is not outright harmful, it might contain coding errors or bugs that can introduce vulnerabilities in your site’s security.
Additionally, plugins from untrustworthy sources may not be regularly updated. Regular updates are not only necessary to fix potential bugs and vulnerabilities, but they are also necessary to remain compatible with the latest version of WordPress, which itself is frequently updated for similar reasons.
Last, but not least, when a plugin from an untrusted source is installed, you permit it to access information on your website. This raises privacy concerns as unscrupulous developers could misuse personal data collected through their plugins.
Therefore, using plugins from trusted sources ensures they have undergone proper security audits and quality checks. Trusted sources will also offer better support if there are compatibility issues or bugs and are more likely to offer regular updates. This will improve the website's functionality and assist in maintaining the website's security.
In today's digitized world, securing your WordPress website should be a top priority. Cyber threats are ever-evolving and present a real risk to businesses of all sizes. PEN Consultants offers an effective solution with our service, "WordPress Vulnerability Scan."
This targeted service rigorously scans your WordPress websites, probing for potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit. It is a proactive line of defense, enabling us to identify before they cause harm. We understand WordPress and stay updated on all its latest features and updates so you can rely on our extensive expertise.
Our top priorities are mitigating risks, protecting your brand reputation, and safeguarding your customers' trust. Choosing PEN Consultants will not only secure your online presence, but it will also fortify the future of your business. Reach out to us today. Your business, your brand, your future - secure it with PEN Consultants.
WordPress is a popular and versatile platform that allows users to create and manage their own websites. Despite its popularity, it poses various security risks due to its open-source nature and the many websites it powers. Collaborating with cybersecurity companies like PEN Consultants can offer an additional layer of security and help identify potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. For more helpful cybersecurity information, check out our blog.