Are you a lucky owner of a WordPress website? Then you will need to learn how to keep your WordPress theme and plugin code secure, sooner or later. Regardless of how much you know about web development at the moment, you will be able to make use of the tips we are about to present in the comprehensive step by step WordPress plugin security and WP theme security guide below. Once implemented, these tips will maximize your WP security measures and they will keep your WordPress website out of harm’s way for years. So, let’s stop burning daylight and get down to the bulletproof security business of WordPress sites, shall we?
There are many reasons why it makes sense to start taking care of the security of your WordPress website. For starters, WordPress hosting attracts more attention from hackers worldwide than other content management systems. Such as brute force attacks trying to force login, sql injection, and other forms of malicious code that are trying to hack WordPress, WordPress database and database backup for their security vulnerabilities. This attention is a natural negative by-product of the WordPress popularity. If you were a hacker, would you try to find a key to more than 19,000,000 WordPress websites existing at the moment? That is right, you would.
In addition, a WordPress website can be an easy target for hackers if you build it with a WordPress theme that is not properly secured in the first place. The only way to make sure that your future website is safe would be to follow best security practice and that is to buy a WordPress theme from a renowned theme house. It goes without saying that the longer a theme house is on the web market, the better WordPress themes it offers. In other words, a professional WordPress theme considerably lowers the chances (but does not rule out the possibility!) of your website being hacked.
How to Keep Your WordPress Theme and Plugin Code Secure?
1. Adjust User Roles with Caution
As you probably know, all WordPress themes allow you to manage user roles. Every user role, i.e. administrator, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber, implies a certain set of permissions on the operations that a user can or cannot perform.
Truth be told, for a beginner, it is advisable to stick to five default user roles mentioned above. But if it is absolutely necessary to customize user roles, follow these simple rules. Firstly, install a reliable plugin, like User Role Editor, to smooth the adjustment process. Secondly, adjust user roles with caution. One tiny mistake can cost you the whole content of your WordPress website. The stakes are high, aren’t they?
2. Disable File Editor
One of the most common security problems with a WordPress theme is the vulnerability of your File Editor. Once a hacker gets access to your files, they can undergo different changes, including deleting or reorganizing. That is why disabling the Editor may be beneficial for your WordPress website. There are at least two reliable ways to disable the File Editor. They are:
- Install MalCare. This security plugin can help you to disable the File Editor within seconds. Offering you the full spectrum of security services, MalCare is a universal plugin that allows you to scan, clean, and protect your WordPress website easily. In addition, this plugin gives you the ultimate control over preventing various suspicious operations, e.g. numerous failed login attempts for login security, the execution of third-party PHP files etc. In simple words, if you are not a web development guru and do not have MSc in Computer Science, then MalCare should be your #1 choice when it comes to the security of your WordPress website.
- Insert this line of code below at the bottom of your the wp-config.php file:
3. Disable PHP Error Reporting
PHP errors are truly informative and can help you to diagnose lots of web issues. When error logging is enabled any plausible errors or warnings can giveaway key information about the code or directory structure which can be used to compromise. For instance, a PHP error can demonstrate the path where this error took place. As a result, a hacker can track the error in order to get access to the directory structure of your WordPress website. Nobody would want that, right? That is why it makes sense to disable PHP error reporting by inserting this code into your wp-config.php file:
4. Remember to Update Your WordPress Theme and Plugins
Every bug in your old version of a WordPress website is like a welcome mat for a hacker, perfect foundation for security risks. A lot of time, developers release updates when they find a vulnerability in themes or plugins or even the WordPress core. When a website owner skips an update, it means the vulnerabilities are not fixed. This makes the WordPress website easier to breach. If you update your WordPress theme and all plugins on a regular basis, you automatically minimize the possibility of being a target.
Truth be told, to update your WordPress theme alongside with the installed plugins, your File Editor has to be activated. Otherwise, your WordPress website will get stuck with all the unfixed bugs.
This leads us to the next question, and namely “Does it really make sense to disable the File Editor for the sake of security and then activate it in order to update my website?” The answer is “Yes”.
Let’s visualize the idea and think of your WordPress website as if it were a house, shall we? Then, figuratively speaking, disabling the File Editor would be like locking the front door whereas updating can be compared to cleaning. To live happily in your house, you need to close the front door to protect the house from break-ins and then open the same door to get inside and keep things tidy regularly. The same methods work for a WordPress website. First, you disable the File Editor to keep your website “burglar-proof”. Then you enable File Editor to update your theme and keep your code clean. Then you “lock” the website again by disabling the File Editor to keep it safe. It sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?
5. Revisit the Plugins List
It is a typical mistake for a newbie to install dozens of plugins for WordPress with an aim to create a super engaging WordPress website. But as it often happens, some of the plugins turn out to be unnecessary, overlapping, or malfunctioning. Some develop vulnerabilities which can be exploited by hackers to access your site. That is why you need to know how to choose the best WordPress plugins for your site in the first place. Also, make it a habit to perform an exhaustive examination of all plugins on your WordPress website biannually, i.e. every six months. Sort these plugins into those to be kept and those to be deactivated or deleted.
Nota Bene: Make sure that you understand the difference between deactivating and deleting a plugin –
- When deactivated, a plugin remains a part of your WordPress toolkit. It means that you can activate this plugin whenever you feel like it.
- If deleted, a plugin disappears from your admin panel. As a result, all the data associated with this plugin disappears along the way.
But since deactivated plugins can be exploited too, the advice is to simply remove the plugins that you don’t use.
6. Validate Data for Web Forms
Web forms are important tools that help you to get in touch with your target audience. Sadly enough, they can also be used to mess up your WordPress website. How exactly? A hacker may inject a harmful code into a box in a web form. If received and validated by your website, the code can do lots of harm – from displaying unwanted ads on your website to compromising the sensitive data. The easiest way not to let it happen is to install data validation plugins.
Security has become a burning issue for most WordPress websites. The good news, however, is that you can secure your WordPress theme and plugins yourself. To do so, you may need to take the steps that fall into either of the two categories below. The first category contains one-time measures that you can apply right now to increase your WordPress website security level. The latter category will demand your constant attention as long as you own a WordPress website.
One-Time Security Measures:
- Opt for professional WordPress themes from reliable theme houses.
- Install all-in-one security plugins, like MalCare.
- Customize user roles carefully.
- Hide the current WordPress version.
- Disable the File Editor.
- Disable PHP error reporting.
- Install data validation plugins.
Regular Security Measures:
- Update your WordPress theme, plugins, and WordPress core as often as needed.
- Delete all unused plugins.
Hopefully, this post will help you to master the art of keeping your WordPress theme and plugin code secure to the fullest!