Secure WordPress sites: Big or small, your website will be a target! Contrary to what many site owners believe hackers like to target small websites as many big ones. If your website is built on WordPress, you will have a target on your back. This is because WordPress is the most popular website building platform and has been ranking as the number one CMS for eight consecutive years. There are more than 60 million WordPress websites on the internet right now. Evidently more people are using WordPress than any other CMS. And it is this popularity that is responsible for drawing the attention of hackers. That is why one must take active steps to secure WordPress sites from hackers, bots and the rest.
Although security is an immediate concern, there is no one silver bullet to take care of a site’s security. Instead one must do many things that’ll ensure the security of the site at different fonts. But instead of taking random steps of security, experts advocate taking an approach called layered protection.
The best way to understand layered security is through the following anecdote. Think of a king sitting inside a chamber of his castle. He is manned by armed guards standing right beside him. Not just that, there are guards outside his chamber, and guards at the doors of his castle and an army surrounding the castle. One can say, he is being protected by several layers of guards. That’s layered protection. An assassin will have to penetrate through all these layers to reach the king. And there’s a good chance that the assassin will be caught by one of the guards before he could reach the king. Likewise, imagine your website as a king who’d require layered security to keep himself safe. The site would need to have a number of security measures in place. Here we are going to discuss what those measures are and how exactly do they secure WordPress sites.
How to Secure WordPress Sites?
Below we have listed down points that’ll help provide layered protection to your WordPress site. Each one is as significant as the other and will help secure your site. Here we go:
Keep Site Up-to-Date
WordPress website owners are notorious for skipping updates. The reason being, there are too many updates notifications coming every other day, and many sites owners are not aware of how these updates are crucial to their site’s security.
Many sites owners don’t know that besides adding new features, developers also issue updates to patch vulnerabilities. When WordPress site owners skip those security updates, the vulnerability remains. Due to the open nature of the WordPress community, news regarding vulnerabilities doesn’t remain a secret for too long. Hacker groups launch hack attacks on WordPress sites hoping that a few of the sites will have an outdated, vulnerable plugin. It makes breaking into the website easy. Therefore to secure WordPress sites, keeping its plugins, themes, as well as the WordPress core updated is significant.
Use Plugin and Themes From Secure Sources
Building websites using WordPress is pocket-friendly. Thanks to WordPress, creating a website has never been easier nor cheaper which, although a good thing, puts people into a certain type of mindset. Some site owners want to spend the minimum amount possible in building the site, while others don’t want to spend anything at all. Such users tend to download premium themes and plugins for free and that too from shady websites. Not only is the activity illegal but it also poses a security risk to your site. Pirated plugins are perfect places to hide malicious codes. When you install the plugin in your site, it becomes a gateway for hackers to access your site. Therefore, it’s recommended that site owners buy WordPress add-ons (plugins & themes) from reputed resources.
Migrate to HTTPS
Google’s drive to making the internet a safe space has prompted it to urge websites to use an SSL certificate. Without an SSL certificate, it is not recommended to pass sensitive data like financial information and login credentials. Previously the only log in pages and e-commerce sites had to use HTTPS. But since Google’s announcement that having HTTPS on your site is a ranking factor all kinds of websites are migrating to HTTPS. Today HTTPS not only makes your site more secure but also embeds a sense of trust amongst your visitors. Here’s a handy guide on how to migrate to HTTPS. Take a look.
Protect Your Login Page
Trying to log into someone else’s site is like cracking someone else’s safe. One only needs to find out what the password is. Hackers program bots to try out common username and password on random WordPress site login pages. This is called a brute force attack where the bot forces their way into someone else’s site. For precaution, site owners are urged to avoid using common passwords like password123 or p@ssw0rd. But how does one know which passwords are common knowledge? When it comes to username and password, what is easy to remember is common. Hence, set up a unique username and password that is hard to remember. Also, use a login protection plugin that deploys CAPTCHA after a few failed login attempts because bots can’t read or solve a CAPTCHA.
Limit Access to Your Site (Using .htaccess)
Restricting access to some of the areas in your site can really make a difference. After breaching a site’s security, one of the first things a hacker does is that he creates a hidden backdoor that’ll enable him to access the site even after it’s cleaned. Hackers often hide these backdoor in plugin directories. In the light of this information, restrictifng access to the directory will keep your site safe. One popular method of preventing access to the directory is by password protecting it using the .htaccess file. It’s one of the most important files of WordPress. And it allows you to enable password protection on the entire site or a specific section of it. Anyone trying to access it will require to log in using specific credentials. To lock down a plugin directory, you’ll need to go to File Manager and find the directory. After that, lock the directory using a password. Here’s an excellent guide on how to password protect a directory with .htaccess.
Use a Security Firewall
Websites firewalls help to fortify a site. It acts like a high boundary wall that is hard to topple. And it’s the oldest way of protecting a system against attacks from outside. A website firewall is used to secure WordPress sites by filtering the incoming traffic that wants to access the site.
There are three major types of website firewalls – plugin-based firewall, a cloud-based firewall and an inbuilt firewall. As the name suggests, plugin-based firewalls can be installed into a site like any other plugin. It sits close to the site and protects it. Whenever someone requests to access the site, the firewall checks existing rules to determine if the request is a valid one. Cloud-based firewalls, on the other hand, sits away from the site but provides efficient protection none-the-less. When a visitor requests to access to a site, the request is sent to the cloud where it’s validity is examined. And finally, web hosts use a built-in firewall to protect the sites they are hosting. This kind of firewall is more focused on protecting the infrastructure of the hosting provider.
Take Regular Backups
Backups are the foundation of website security and an essential step towards securing WordPress sites. Since security so interdependent, it’s not absolute. Therefore the risk of a security breach is always looming. Website owners can rely on backups if anything goes wrong with the site. Suppose your WordPress site gets hacked today and the attacker modifies some of the files which delete several of your latest posts. Months of work will go to waste unless you have backups of those posts that can easily be restored. And in this way, backups are your safety net in times of disaster.
Harden Your Site
WordPress recommends that you harden your site’s security. But unfortunately, it requires a bit of technical knowledge to perform site hardening functions. In that case, an automated tool like MalCare can enable users to do the same with just a few clicks and without the need for technical expertise. Using our security plugin, users can execute the following functions: Blocking PHP execution in untrusted folders, disabling file editor, changing database prefix, blocking installation of theme or plugin, resetting passwords, and changing all security keys.
Use Malware Scanner
Scanning your site daily is an effective way to secure WordPress sites. Like we mentioned earlier security is interdependent and therefore never an absolute thing. Even after taking all these precautions if your site gets hacked a good scanner should be able to pick that up and alert you. There are tons of website scanners and not all scanners function in the same way. The quality of their scan is the determining factor behind a good scanner. Most scanners follow a procedure called signature matching. In this procedure, they have a list of known existing malware, and they look for this malware on the website they are scanning. But a good scanner should come equipped with a technology that not only finds known malware but also new and relatively unknown ones. Hence when you are searching for a malware scanner, be sure to find out how they function.
Over to You
These are the essential steps that’ll help you secure WordPress sites. Therefore skipping one or two steps are not an option. Our goal with this post was to inform you not just how to secure WordPress sites but also to illuminate why these steps are required. If any question comes to your mind while reading this article, please don’t hesitate to shoot us a message. We’ll clear all your doubts as soon as possible.