The internet and online world has undergone a revolution in the last decade or so. On the one hand, it has enabled us to increase our reliance on the digital medium. On the other hand, it has made us vulnerable to the shenanigans of cybercriminals. It is worth mentioning that the world of cybercrime has evolved in proportion to technological progress. Hackers today are more well-versed and equipped in exploiting online users than those in the past.
Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for targets on which they can inflict damage. In this context, WordPress sites are no exception. Being the largest CMS, WordPress hosts almost one-third of all live websites on the internet right now. WP websites’ collective volume increases the probability of any single WordPress site to get targeted by veiled cybercriminals.
Online Security and WordPress Websites
One research study that surveyed over 40,000 WP websites has indicated that almost 73% of all those WordPress platforms have exploitable vulnerabilities.
If you use a WordPress-powered website to run an online business or establish the digital front of your enterprise, you need to be extra diligent with its security. Poor web security means you fall victim to cyber attacks. Cyber attacks can disrupt a business’s workflow and create downtime resulting in huge losses. They also leave a stain on the reputation of an enterprise in a competitive market.
In short, you need to proactively take care of your WP website’s security to protect your business. In the following sections, we will discuss some of the most critical WP security issues you need to watch out for. We will also shed light on the pertaining solutions.
1. Outdated and Pirated Themes and Plugin
The most recurring cyber security issue WP websites face is the poor management of themes and plugins. By poor management, businesses continue to use outdated themes and plugins, or worse, use ones obtained illegally. Whether it is a WP theme or plugin, any coded program develops vulnerabilities over time and with extensive use.
Developers of commercially and publicly available themes and plugins remain diligent and roll out security patches and updates for their products. However, that’s not all that is needed for protecting a website. The webmaster or the hosting entity running a WP website also needs to be on top of their game. They need to update the given themes and plugins as the new security patches come out.
We want to share one example of how a theme/update vulnerability can bring down an entire website. Contact Form 7 is one of the most popular plugins to manage contact forms on a WP website. It can let you manage multiple contact forms at once and enables customization of the content with simple markup. Some time ago, it developed a security vulnerability that was promptly identified by its developers. Subsequently, they also released the security update.
However, many WP site owners remained oblivious to the release of security patches and did not update. As a result, they fell prey to cyber attacks. The Contact Form 7 vulnerability is so extensive that it allowed hackers to get complete access to websites.
Pirated Themes and Plugins Is Not a Light Security Issue Either
Using a premium theme or plugin without spending a single penny seems like a great deal. This is why many people bank on pirated versions of popular WP themes and plugins called “nulled” add-ons. A pirated plugin or theme has already been hacked and exploited, and that’s how it can be used for free in the first place. These pirated themes and plugins contain backdoors that transport to your WP website when you install them.
These backdoors provide hackers unauthorized access to the WP website. If a WP website is getting hacked time and again despite regular malware scanning and cleaning, it’s very likely that pirated themes and plugins are behind the repeated hacks.
Apart from exposing your website to unknown threats, a pirated plugin can’t integrate any security updates and patches released for it. This flaw makes them a security risk for your WP website. This twofold security lapse is why pirated plugins and themes are responsible for infecting hundreds and thousands of websites through wp-feed.php infection. This PHP infection often causes malicious ads displayed on websites.
Solution for Outdated and Nulled Themes and Plugins
Most WP site owners fail to keep up with updates and security patches because they are preoccupied. They don’t get time from managing their core business operations. A dedicated third-party WP hosting service can resolve this issue. A good WP hosting expert offering a “hack protection guarantee” runs routine checks to identify common plugin and theme vulnerabilities and fix them.
You need to invest some money in original and licensed themes and plugins instead of risking your website using pirated ones. Readymade WP theme and plugins are not expensive anymore. You can easily get a robust WP plugin with sustained updates and patches routine without breaking your bank. If you don’t have budget issues, you can also mull over getting customized themes and plugins because they boast great security features.
2. Poor Hosting Services
Many WP hosting services market themselves as a solution to all problems. A well-reputed and experienced hosting service can live up to that reputation. However, most obscure and new hosting providers can’t provide the required service quality. Hosting services that are hired without being assessed properly can prove to be dangerous for your business’s website and, ergo, your business. WP hosting services can be classified into different categories. You need to be aware of them for understanding their weaknesses and strengths.
- Dedicated and VPS Hosting: In dedicated hosting, your website is hosted on an exclusive server that only takes care of your web traffic. VPS hosting is similar to dedicated hosting because it provides a separate dedicated virtual hosting environment to your WP website with 100% unshared CPU, Storage, and RAM.
- Cloud Hosting: With cloud hosting, your WP website is not hosted by a single physical server. Instead, it is spread on multiple nodes on an online network.
- Shared Hosting: This is the most economical way of getting your website hosted. Shared hosting entails a single server hosting multiple websites.
Deciding the Right Hosting Platform Based on Security
- Dedicated or VPS hosting boasts better intrinsic security because it creates an isolated environment for your website. If a cyber exploit is not particularly directed towards your website, a dedicated hosting environment can protect your website from any infection.
- Cloud hosting is great for its flexible nature and scalability characteristics. However, a website can become a cyber attack victim if the data center managing the hosting cloud gets infected. The upside with cloud hosting is you can get back your website online very quickly.
- Shared hosting is great for your pocket. However, it makes your WP website most vulnerable to cyber threats among all the hosting environments. Since your website shares the same network and web traffic routes with other websites, any website with insufficient security puts the integrity of all the websites on the hosting platform in jeopardy.
Solution for Poor Hosting Services
It is essential to understand that hosting service quality is not entirely dependent on a hosting method. If your WP hosting partner does not have adequate experience, even dedicated hosting won’t be enough to save your WordPress website from a cyber attack. Therefore, enterprises need to be very attentive in choosing their WP hosting contractors. Managed WP hosting service providers usually offer all the hosting environments mentioned above. On the other hand, conventional web hosting works through shared servers and networks.
While it is always better to get a dedicated hosting plan for your website, ensure that your WP hosting partner is known for providing good security-maintained services. You can review their portfolio to determine their legitimacy. Online reviews and testimonials can also give you some idea of their services’ capabilities.
3. Poor Login Practices
How you maintain your login credentials also plays an integral role in determining the level of your website’s security. Ultimately, a WP website works as a personal account that the administrator can access using a username and password. If WP administrators are using easy-to-remember passwords just for their own convenience, they risk the security of the entire website.
Hackers have developed many ways, such as keystroke logging and brute-force attacks, to exploit poor password practices among users. Cybercriminals hack many social media, banks, and other personal accounts by tapping into this fault line.
A full-fledged WP website boasting valuable content and offering different services is a more lucrative prospect for cybercriminals than individual accounts. Therefore, many cybercriminals are now focusing on exploiting WP websites’ poor password security.
Hackers primarily use brute-force techniques to break password barriers and get unauthorized administrative access to the website. Brute-force attacks are usually carried out through bots that use hundreds of credentials on an account within a couple of minutes. The permutations used by those bots often cover the most used passwords. A WP website protected by passwords such as “password,” “admin,” “abcd,” “1234,” “abcd1234,” and other similar convenient combinations doesn’t stand a chance against brute-force attempts.
Brute-force attacks are also bad for your website because they take a toll on your bandwidth. When hundreds of login attempts are made within minutes, it can lead to a server crash and 503 errors.
Solution for Poor Login Practices
You need several things to consider for improving the login security of your WP website.
- First, set a long password with a mix of alphabets, numbers, and symbols. It may take some time to get used to those long credentials. However, this effort is worth it in terms of your WP website’s cyber security.
- Don’t provide admin privilege generously. Properly define the role of people accessing your WP website’s backend. Not every user has to be an admin.
- You can prevent brute-force attacks by limiting the number of login attempts made in a particular timeframe. You can find a WP pluginthat enforces the login attempt limitation.
- Using CAPTCHA protection is another way to ensure that bots can’t succeed in brute-forcing their way into your website.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA) has become a standard for preventing unauthorized login attempts. You can also enable 2FA for your WP website’s login credentials.
Some Final Thoughts
Three main security issues make any WP website vulnerable to a host of malicious cyber elements. From SQL injections to unauthorized popups and keylogging scripts, your WP website gets infected by a range of security issues that can spoil user experience, exploit user data, and subsequently dent your bottom line and reputation.
If you have assigned a seasoned hosting service for your WP website and have installed security plugins on your platform, you can protect yourself from the majority of cyber security issues. Also, adopt better login habits to ensure that criminals can’t break in from the website’s main door. You also need to devise a WP website hardening regimen. It will keep the attacks and exploits at bay. This regimen includes installing an SSL certificate, changing file permissions, disabling file editors, and renaming database table prefixes.
Regular backups are also essential for keeping yourself prepared for a worst-case scenario. Regular offsite backup routine ensures you can get your website online in a very short time after a cyber attack.