WordPress Website Security Checklist: Protect your website from Cyber Criminals

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WordPress Website Security
Image Credit: Doki7 / Pixabay

For building a website, WordPress is one of the best content management systems (CMS). Rich in features and easy to scale, make it a popular CMS powering some of the biggest eCommerce websites. WordPress’s popularity has attracted cybercriminals who aim to exploit WordPress Website Security vulnerabilities.

WordPress does not have a poor security system. Security breaches typically occur due to poor configuration or misconfiguration. It is essential to take preventative security measures so that your website doesn’t become a hacker target.

Here, we explore WordPress website security, covering types of attacks, measures, and a WordPress website security checklist that will help secure your website from attacks.

Common WordPress Website Security Breaches

Although many people don’t know the different types of WordPress breaches, it is vital to be familiar with them to protect your website.

A breach is when hackers have discovered a security flaw in your website, which could lead to your data could be stolen.

Let’s look at the most common ways website security can be compromised and what you should expect to protect your site.

  • Malware: Malicious software harms a website, computer, server, or application.Several malware types include computer worms and Trojan horses, spyware, ransomware, and traditional viruses.
  • SQL Injection: SQL injection is used for targeting database-driven programs. In this scenario, malicious SQL queries are “injected into” the database, allowing attackers access to information they wouldn’t usually be allowed to see.
  • Backdoors: Backdoor security breaches can occur via unsecured backends to a website. This allows cybercriminals access to your WordPress instance.This could compromise any data or information stored on the website.
  • Malicious Redirects: This security breach is often called “redirect,” which redirects a visitor to a malicious website when they click on an innocent-looking URL link. This is done by creating backdoors within WordPress installations, such as FTP or SFTP, and could expose you and your customers and damage your brand reputation.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (“XSS”): Cross-Site Scripting involves inserting malicious code into a reputable website, application, or program.The cybercriminals may send malicious code to the user unbeknownst to them once this breach has occurred.This will enable the attacker to access session and cookie data or rewrite page HTML.
  • DDoS Attack: A distributed denial of service (DDoS) intends to interrupt the regular traffic on a target server. It does this by overloading the server with requests from multiple unidentified sources, thereby overwhelming the server and shutting it down.

10 Point WordPress Website Security Checklist

Investing in WordPress security is the best way to guarantee long-term sustainability and growth for your WordPress-based website investment. Here is a WordPress Website Security Checklist that small and medium businesses should follow:

Install SSL on your WordPress Site

The Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate is a web transfer protocol that helps encrypt data transfer between web servers and users’ browsers. A website with an SSL certificate will use HTTPS instead of HTTP.

Because the HTTPS connection is encrypted, nobody can listen in on or “sniff” the communication between parties on the internet.

An SSL certificate should be prioritized when protecting your WordPress site. Prices can range from $10 to hundreds of dollars.

However, all certificates, whether free, cheap, or expensive, offer the same level of protection – 256-bit encryption. With an SSL certificate, your WordPress site will be protected for up to six years, have HTTPS, a padlock symbol, and will continue to work with most web browsers.

RELATED: Understanding the benefits of an SSL Certificate for your Website

Maintaining WP Updates

Updates to WordPress are essential for your website’s stability, functionality, and security. Updates have better security features that fix problems with security in older versions. WordPress is set up so that minor updates happen automatically by default. But you will have to start updates for significant changes manually.

You should know that this content management system comes with thousands of plugins, themes, and extensions that third-party vendors and developers maintain. You will also need to install updates for the themes and plugins, which will come out often.

At first, installing all the updates for your WP might seem like too much of an effort. But the effort far exceeds the consequence of hackers exploiting a website vulnerability.

Improve Login Security

A common way hackers breach WordPress sites is by using stolen login information. Ensuring your passwords and user names are hard to guess and unique to your account is a quick way to improve your website’s security.

Strong and unique passwords should not only be used for admin areas but also for WordPress hosting accounts, databases, custom email addresses, and FTP accounts.

The characters’ length and complexity make up a password’s strength – a strong password should include numbers, symbols, and other special characters and have at least eight characters.

RELATED: 15 Tips for improving password security

Use a Secure and Reliable Webhosting Provider

The WordPress hosting company you choose for your site will significantly impact your website’s security. An excellent shared host like Bluehost or WP Engine will take extra steps to protect your WordPress site from typical security holes.

A good web host will help protect your WordPress site from security risks.

  • They will monitor the network frequently to detect and prevent any suspicious activity
  • They have enough tools and mechanisms to stop large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attacks
  • They will frequently update their PHP software and hardware to stop attackers from exploiting security flaws in older versions
  • They have disaster recovery and accident plans to protect their data against significant attacks

In a shared hosting plan, your server is shared with many other websites. This makes your WordPress site vulnerable to cross-site contamination, where a hacker could use a neighboring website to attack yours.

To avoid this, it would be wise to use a service like managed WordPress hosting. Managed hosting services have many benefits, like automatic backups, updates, and better settings that keep your website safe.

Backup your WordPress Website

Regular backups are the last line of defense against WP attacks. Always keep in mind that nothing is 100% sure when it comes to cybersecurity.

Attacks have always been able to get through even the most complicated and robust security systems. If hackers can get into complex government systems, they can also get into your small business blog.

If something goes wrong, you’ll be able to fix things and get your data back if you have a good WP backup system.

Fortunately, there are many cost-effective backup plugins for WordPress. However,  don’t forget to save your full-site backups regularly external to your hosting account.

Cloud service providers like Amazon, Dropbox, or private clouds like Stash are great places to store your backup files.

Enable Web-Application Firewall

A web application firewall is easy to protect and ensure your WordPress website’s security. The web application firewall sits between your internal network and traffic from the outside world.

It helps you keep track of when hackers try to break into your system. It will stop all bad traffic from getting to your website and block it from ever getting there.

Your WordPress site needs two levels of firewall protection:

  1. A website firewall at the DNS level helps your website traffic go through cloud proxy servers. This means that they can only send real visitors to your website servers.
  2. An application-level firewall plugin will watch your site’s traffic when it gets to the servers before the traffic loads the WP scripts. A web application firewall like Sucuri is an excellent way to keep your website safe from vulnerabilities.

Change default usernames and passwords

The default username for WP is “admin.” User names are half of the login information, so hackers only have to guess passwords.

So, the fact that “admin” is the default user makes it easy for hackers to use brute force to attack your website. When installing WP, users now have to choose a unique username. The username can be changed in three ways.

  • First, you can make a new username for “admin” and eliminate the old one
  • Second, your phpMyAdmin panel lets you change your username
  • Lastly, you can install the plugin that enables you to change your username

Limit Login Attempts

By default, WordPress users can try to log in as many times as they want. This makes dictionary and brute force attacks on your WP website possible. Hackers will try different combinations of usernames and passwords to get into your WP.

Putting a limit on failed login attempts would be a great way to stop this from happening. If your servers have the web application firewall installed, this would be taken care of automatically. If you don’t have a firewall, you can help yourself by installing the Login Lockdown plugin.

Use Two-Factor Authentication

Your user names and passwords could let you down. In the past, brute force attacks have worked, and they could still be on your WP site. Two-factor authentication is when a user’s username and password are used as a second way to prove who they are.

With 2FA, a hacker won’t be able to get into your account even if they know your username and password. This is because they don’t have the second authentication factor. You will need to use the 2-FA feature to make WordPress more secure.

RELATED: How Two Factor Authentication (2FA) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) keep businesses secure

You must install the WordPress plugin for two-factor authentication and turn it on. After you turn on the plugin, click on the “Two Factor Auth” link in the WP sidebar. There are different ways to use two-factor authentication, like using one-time passwords, secret codes, or biometric authentication.

Regularly Scan for Security Vulnerabilities

Malware infections are prevalent. They will get into your website to change its look, stop it from working, and do other harm. You should think about using anti-malware software.

This software will scan your WP website for malware and prevent it from doing any damage. Just remember to keep your anti-malware scanners up to date if you want them to work well.

RELATED: Website Security: Essential Best Practices all Businesses should follow

Conclusion

the popularity of WordPress also makes it a target for hackers. Such cybercriminals are looking for weakly secured with a host of vulnerabilities that they can exploit.

WordPress does not have a poor security system. Security breaches can also occur due to users’ inexperience.

The WordPress security checklist above provides some valuable pointers for securing your website, such as using a secure and robust hosting provider such as Bluehost.

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