7 Measures to Secure Your WordPress Website

Website on desktop and mobile

Your website is a representation of your brand and it is your first contact point with many prospect customers. It may also be the place of customer monetary transactions and login portals, both which collect and store sensitive information. Securing your website is of high importance to protect your brand reputation and customer data.

WordPress powers more than 35 percent of all websites

WordPress is the simplest and most popular way to create a website and a blog. It offers unparalleled versatility that allows users to deploy it everywhere, from personal blogs to small company websites to powering Fortune 500s like BBC America, Sony Music, and TechCrunch blogs.

WordPress powers 35 percent of the web, or in other words, 74.6 million sites depend on the content management system. Out of every 100 domains registered in the U.S., 22 of them are run on WordPress. The technology also powers more than 38 percent of the top 10 million sites on the web.

WordPress depends heavily on plug-ins and add-on software. In effect, the most widely used open-source content management system on the web requires a rigorous security assessment and measures at every level.

Hackers deploy a wide range of tactics and tools to target WordPress websites to steal personal information and passwords and install malicious software on websites. A hacked WordPress website causes serious blowback to a brand’s online reputation. Google blacklists more than 10,000 websites every day for malware and around 50,000 for phishing every week.

What is the best way to secure your WordPress website?

WordPress security depends on whether you are safeguarding sites hosted on WordPress.com (hosting provider) or those running on the WordPress content management system (CMS), hosted on a different server. In either case, securing the two scenarios matters significantly due to WordPress’s considerable influence on the Internet. This article focuses on the broad WordPress-based sites instead of those hosted on WordPress.com. Here are some best practices to secure your site. 

1) Secure hosting service

Enterprises and individuals can install WordPress websites on a multitude of platforms. Getting a secure hosting provider is the first step towards securing WordPress websites. It is essential to ensure proper configuration of the operating systems and underlying web server hosting the site.

Different hosting service providers offer unique features and add-in services. WordPress administrators should understand plug-in features and how the hosting service providers support security capabilities.

2) Continuous WordPress patching

Organizations running web applications should take security more seriously, starting with protection against established issues like the OWASP Top 10. WordPress security assessment also calls attention to widespread security threats. The best way to mitigate common security threats is by updating the content management tool.

Since 2003, WordPress has undergone continual hardening to strengthen its core software to address and mitigate established security issues, including the Top 10 OWASP list. The WordPress Security Team collaborates with the WordPress global community and core leadership team to identify and resolve security issues in the core software available for installation at WordPress.org.

3) Updating third-party plug-Ins and themes

WordPress.org develops WordPress in popular languages like HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript. Some third-party plug-ins and themes integrate with the content management system for various purposes. Even though such add-ons are not inherently risky, users should perform prior checks while using them on their WordPress websites. 

Keeping up with patches for both the content management system and the plug-ins is an essential step towards keeping WordPress safe. Some plug-ins update automatically with plug-in managers. However, WordPress users need to update other add-ons manually. WordPress Security Team and the global community recommend and document security best practices for third-party plug-ins and theme authors.

WordPress administrators can also reduce vulnerabilities by only enabling and using plug-ins they need for their websites.

4) Assessing plug-in developers

In addition to updating and patching, WordPress developers and enterprise security teams should assess plug-ins’ provenance. Updating the plug-in with the latest version is necessary but does not guarantee the third-party supplied code’s integrity.

WordPress developers and admins should ensure that the plug-ins and templates used within the open-source content management system are trusted sources. Users can also examine comments and reviews from other developers and determine the number of times other peers have downloaded the plug-in or theme.

Additionally, administrators should consider the reliability of the support group for a plug-in. WordPress features numerous add-ons, requiring the collaboration of a large and active global community. Website administrators caution that vulnerabilities can take longer to discover and mitigate when few developers maintain the plug-in codebase. 

5) Administrative controls

In addition to keeping the software and plug-ins up to date, you should avoid running the WordPress services as an administrative user.

Administrators can use a set of functions and APIs available in WordPress to prevent unauthorized code injection and validate and sanitize data. WordPress.org provides best practices and documentation on using these APIs to protect, validate, or sanitize input and output data in HTML, URLs, and HTTP headers. Administrators can also apply filters to restrict the file types that users can upload.

6) Passwords and user permissions

Website admins should change default user credentials on the WordPress instance, as well as database passwords.

Developers should leverage functions that manage user accounts and authentication and details such as name, user ID, and passwords to enhance web service security. WordPress offers password security using salting and stretching techniques. It’s core software has a password strength meter providing additional information to users setting their passwords and hints on strengthening the credentials.

7) Install security tools

WordPress developers and enterprise security teams should install security-focused plug-ins to defend their websites. This includes security tools that provide malware scanning, configuration file hardening, login attempt limiting, web-application firewall, and core integrity checks. Advanced WordPress security plug-ins also integrate with DNS-level firewall and distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection service. 

Other security plug-ins focus on a specific WordPress vulnerability. For instance, vendors develop and distribute security tools for protecting authentication certificates, thwarting brute-force attacks by limiting login attempts or checking the status and version of other add-ons and themes for automatic updates and alerts. 

Whether you have a WordPress website for your company products or personal activities, securing your site is a topic of utmost importance. The above tips help you ensure total protection for your website and information. Further, following the recommendations will prevent data breaches and cyber incidents that destroy customers’ trust and damage brand reputation. 

Contact ISA today to learn how our security advisory and assessment services can help.

ISA Cybersecurity Inc. is Canada’s leading cybersecurity-focused company, with nearly three decades of experience delivering services and people you can trust. Our mission is to help customers achieve their privacy and security goals, and to be proactive in the fight against security threats.

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