Tips and guidelines on increasing the security of your WordPress site
This article will cover the following:
- Stronger logins
- Two-Factor Authentication
- Limiting the number of login attempts
- Hosting & WP security
- Be careful about who you trust
- Have a backup plan
After putting all the hard work in to getting your WordPress site built, nothing quite compares to the feeling when you see it live online for the very first time.
WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) platform out there and the driving force behind millions of websites, many super-popular such as the Microsoft News Centre, TechCrunch, The New Yorker and even Usain Bolt’s personal website!
However, WordPress’s incredible success hasn’t come about without any downsides and the bad news is that WordPress is a prime target for website hackers across the globe. The fact that WordPress is open source means that without the right tools and security measures in place, an experienced hacker can gain control of your website without much difficulty.
The good news however, is that by following some very simple techniques to beef up your website’s security (most of which us folks at Diffusion Digital will take care of for you) the likelihood of your shiny new website falling pretty to an attack will be very unlikely.
So, without further ado, let’s delve right into the topic of increasing the security on your WordPress website:
1. Avoid Using Admin as Username
Perhaps, this is the most basic measure you can take when it comes to securing your WordPress website! It does not cost a thing, and the process is so easy to execute. For the most part, attackers tend to target the wp-login/wp-admin access points by combining admin and a particular password. These kinds of activities are referred to as Brute Force attacks. Removing admin is the first step to hardening your WordPress and if you succeed, you’ll be able to kill these attacks.
Yes, an attacker may still enumerate a User ID to create a new username and there are chances this can occur. However, when it comes to securing WordPress, you need to remember that security is not entirely about eliminating risks, but rather minimizing the chances of risks from occurring.
Therefore, for the types of attacks where a hacker utilizes trial-and-error technique to gain access to your site, getting rid of the default administrator or admin username can be significant as far as securing WordPress is concerned. By so doing, although you’ll not be able to completely prevent a threat, you’ll at least make it challenging for attackers to guess your username. To eliminate any confusion, admin in this case specifically implies your username and not your role as the administrator. To remove default admin:
- Create a New user at Users > New User in your WP
- Make the New User a user with rights as an administrator
- Delete the admin user
The pages and posts created by the admin user should not worry you. WordPress will ask what to do with the content the admin owned, and you can either choose to delete or assign the content to the new user.
2. Two-Factor Authentication
Brute Force attacks can still be problematic, irrespective of what techniques you use to generate your password. A two-Factor Authentication is one way to ensure these kinds of attacks are reduced if not eliminated. Utilizing a Two-Factor authentication technique may seem like a hassle and a waste of time, but this will come in handy when attackers want to gain access to your WordPress. The essence of this technique is just as its name implies – two types of authentication. Having this kind of buffer in your site is standard and crucial for enhancing security at your points of access. Already, you are utilizing this technique in your PayPal and Gmail, so what’s the harm in having it in your WordPress?
If you want what to know more about Two-Factor Authentication, you can read this article by Ipstenu.
3. Limit the Number of Login Attempts
As mentioned earlier, attacks such as the Brute Force attack usually target the form of your login. For WordPress security, there is an All in One WordPress & Firewall with the option of changing the default URL for a login form.
Apart from that, there are other options that you can use to limit login attempts from specific IP addresses. Number of WordPress plugins are available to protect you from a multitude of login attempts in certain IP addresses.
4. Hosting & WP Security
There are no rules for selecting a WordPress host. However, when it comes to WordPress security, the type of hosting company you choose to work with matters.
Every guide or article that is written on hosting companies emphasizes that the cheapest company is not the best partner to work with. In most cases, this is usually true. Cheaper hosting plans usually lack the support to assist you in case your site is hacked. These kinds of plans usually incorporate fewer aspects of security. For instance, shared hosting implies that the server that hosts your site is also utilized by other websites. In such case, if these websites encounter security issues, there are chances the security of your website may end up being affected as well.
In specialized WP hosting products, WP security is usually the main USPs being offered. For instance, WPEngine offers redundant firewalls, backups, DDoS protection, malware scanning, and automatic WP updates for affordable pricing. To learn why your site needs updating, click here.
You also need to be mindful of your host account. A common and major challenge for hosts lies in account configuration for owners of websites. As a website owner, you can configure various websites resulting in what is referred to as a soup kitchen environment. This aspect is problematic since it enhances the vulnerability of a website via what is known as the cross-site contamination.
In this case, a neighbouring website is used as a vector for attack. The best way to prevent cross-site contamination is to combine both the Functional Isolation and Account Isolation.
5. Be Careful about Who to Trust
Among the most amazing things about using WordPress is the availability of various third-party plugins you can download to improve the features and functionality of your site. The WordPress Plugin Directory indicates that there are more than 37,700 plugins you can install – that is quite a number!
However, the problems arise when you layer something on top of another platform as this could end up creating security holes and increasing vulnerabilities. For WordPress, most attacks occur as a result of the vulnerabilities present from the use of themes and plugins.
There are premium and free plugins. The choice of either of these options will depend on what you expect to get, but you also need to remember that each of these options works differently. Most people think that they are 100% safe with a paid plugin. While using a premium plugin can help prevent or fight attacks, it does not imply that you are eliminating an attack completely. Even when a known threat has been patched by the premium developer, you remain at risk until you have updated your plugin.
Before you can install a plugin on your site, here are a few pointers to have in mind:
- You need to ask yourself whether the functionality of the plugin is absolutely significant in offering the best experience. If not, do not install the plugin.
- Has it been recently updated? The WordPress Directory usually details a changelog for every plugin. A changelog refers to the list of alterations to plugins as well as the dates the changes are to take place. If it’s been a while since the plugin was last updated, then do not install it.
- If you are considering a premium plugin, is there support from developers? How do other users rate it? Only go for plugins with high ratings and developer involvement.
- Running fewer plugins is an excellent option if you want to minimize the chances of attacks. For that reason, you need to consider a plugin that can consolidate the features available in multiple plugins.
- NEVER install a plugin from a source that is unknown…ever!
6. Have a Backup Plan
To make your site effective, it is important to make sure your WordPress is backed up appropriately. The aspects of your WordPress that need backing include website database and files connected to your site. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to back up your website regularly. Depending on the graveness of the attack and how harmful it could be, a backup is often the only way out if you want to return your site to a semi-working state.
Hosting accounts usually have a way of backing up the files and databases of your sites. Apart from that, there are some plugins which are designed to back up the website files and database of your WordPress. Irrespective of how you choose to do it, you need to make sure your site is backed up on a regular basis.
Your host company may schedule for backups to take place daily, weekly, or even monthly. But the more these backups take place the better and secure your site is. However, you need to remember that websites backups usually take up space. Therefore, you may be limited to a certain number of backups depending on the amount of space you have paid for.
Another essential aspect you need to know is that a backup is not 100 percent guaranteed on your hosting server. If the server at your hosting company misbehaves, your backups can be lost. As a result, to avoid these incidents from happening, you need to ensure you have your databases and files backed up elsewhere on the local drive or via FTP so you are covered from any form of data loss.
While it is not possible to completely protect yourself from attacks, there are things you can consider combatting the probability of an attack from occurring on your site. It can be expensive and stressful to deal with an attack, and if you are not careful, you may end up losing your business. The security of WordPress is a serious matter, and with the presence of 82,000 malware threats each day, it is well worth your effort and time to implement these tips.
These pointers are not a full list of the steps you can take to secure your site. There are other aspects you can always consider that could improve the security of your WordPress. However, it is without a doubt that this article offers a practical list of the aspects to consider, as well as the steps you should take, to secure your first layer of defence when it comes to WordPress security. Remember, security is not absolute and it’s the responsibility of every webmaster to make it daunting for hackers to access their sites.
So, did you find this guide helpful? Are you looking to create a beautiful and secure WordPress website for your business? If so, do not hesitate to give Diffusion Digital a try.