13 Best WordPress Security Plugins to Keep Your Site Safe

Your website is key to your business, and it needs to be maintained and secured. High-value websites require security beyond what web hosts can provide, and WordPress security plugins are the most effective way to secure your website.

There is a malware attack every 39 seconds on the web. Hackers can steal data and identity information, deface your website, divert your traffic, destroy SEO rankings, and cause so much damage. Malware has caused millions in losses, and business owners have had to bear the brunt of it. Therefore, it is critical to ensure that your site is secured with the right WordPress security plugin.

But how do you know which security plugin for WordPress is the best?

We have compiled the 13 best WordPress security plugins and tested them, so that you can make an informed decision and rest assured that your site is safe. 

OUR RECOMMENDATION: After days worth of testing, and throwing every kind of a curveball at these security plugins, we were convinced that MalCare is the best WordPress security plugin. MalCare not only identified every single trace of malware on our test sites, but also cleaned it up in a matter of minutes. Secure your site with MalCare for the most comprehensive website security ever.

Best WordPress Security Plugins in 2022 (Comparison and Recommendation)

When we tested these top WordPress security plugins there were three primary factors that we considered—malware detection, malware cleaning, and firewall. These three factors are the most crucial parts of a security plugin, and they decide the fate of your website security.

We used three test sites and researched all the plugins for every feature that they marketed. We considered features such as brute force login protection, vulnerability detection, two-factor authentication, etc. But if the essential factors aren’t met, the rest don’t make much of a difference anyway. Based on our tests and research, we realized that these WordPress security plugins are the best for your website security.

1. MalCare – Best WordPress Security Plugin

MalCare WordPress security plugin

MalCare easily won this race on all accounts. MalCare detected all the malware on our test sites within minutes. It was one of the only WordPress security plugins that managed to scan our sites thoroughly, and the cleanup process was flawless. While it may seem like we’re tooting our own horn, these tests were conducted by team members who hadn’t worked on the product or tried it before. So the findings were objective and allowed us to appreciate the level of security MalCare provides to WordPress sites. 

What to expect:

  • Deep scanning for malware
  • Scheduled automatic scan
  • One-click auto cleanups
  • Intelligent firewall
  • Login protection
  • Excellent support
  • Emergency cleanups
  • Vulnerability detection
  • Bot protection
  • Uptime monitoring
  • Scheduled reports
  • Activity log
  • WordPress backups
  • Staging and migration
  • Geo-blocking IPs
  • IP whitelisting

Pros:

  • Thorough on-demand malware scanning
  • Accurate malware detection
  • Flawless cleanups
  • Does not affect server performance
  • Automated scans
  • Real-time alerts
  • No false alarms

Cons:

  • The free version has a scanner and firewall, but no cleaning
  • The free scanner does not show the location of malware

Price: Free/ Starting at $99 a year

MalCare Site Clean dashboard

MalCare not only stayed true to all its promises, but the plugin is also super easy to work with. Malware gets worse with time and can cause a lot of damage to your site. So a WordPress security plugin needs to be quick when it comes to cleanup. When we tried the auto-clean feature, all three sites came back squeaky clean in a matter of minutes. We recommend MalCare for complete security of your WordPress site!

What was pleasantly surprising, however, was that we received accurate alerts for malware and vulnerabilities as soon as the scans were done. MalCare offers a lot of other features that enhance WordPress security such as WordPress hardening, backups, staging, migration, and more. At $99 a year, MalCare is an absolute steal.

2. WordFence Security Plugin

WordFence security plugin

We had high hopes from Wordfence, given how strong the brand is. The first impressions were great. The installation and configuration were smooth sailing. The first malware scan took a while, but the consecutive ones were faster. But we noticed that the free version only scans 60% of your site. Which makes no sense given that malware could hide anywhere on your site and if you leave out the rest 40%, it is as good as not cleaning up at all.

What to expect:

  • Malware scanner
  • End-point firewall
  • Login protection
  • Country blocking
  • Reputation checks
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Brute force protection

Pros:

  • Thorough malware signature database
  • Easy installation
  • Priority support for premium members
  • Repair option on the free version

Cons:

  • File matching for malware detection, which is not an effective mechanism
  • False positives in malware scans
  • No activity log
  • No bot protection
  • High impact on server resources

Price: Starts at $99/year, Premium cleanups at $490 per site

WordFence’s free version pleasantly surprised us. It is definitely the best free security plugin after MalCare.The scanner found all the file-based malware on our sites and helped us repair the sites. However, it could not detect malware in the database or scripts in premium plugins and themes. The premium version had some flaws that we could not overlook. For one, the cleanups of WordFence are based on signature matching. This means that if WordFence has come across the malware previously, it will clean it up. However, if the malware is new, it won’t. While their signature database is thorough, you can’t count on hackers to stick to tried and tested methods. Additionally, their premium cleanups are exorbitant. WordFence charges $490 per site, and if the hack reoccurs, you will have to pay the amount again. WordFence does offer a one-year guarantee, but only if you follow all their instructions to the letter. We don’t have to tell you how much the amount can pile up.

WordFence also does not provide an activity log or bot protection, and their impact on server resources is quite high. This is why several web hosts ban the use of WordFence on the sites they host. Security should not be a compromise you make with server usage, therefore, WordFence cannot be relied on completely for your security issues. And finally, the WordFence firewall, while effective, has a big gap. It loads after WordPress, which means that it does not block out all the malicious traffic as it is supposed to. 

Overall, WordFence is a great choice if you want a free plugin for a low-traction site. But if you want premium security, you need to prioritize your requirements wisely.

3. Sucuri Security Plugin

Sucuri Security plugin

Sucuri offers a wide range of features. So many, in fact, that it is confusing. We were very excited to test Sucuri on our sites, given that we often recommend Sucuri’s free scanner as a first-level diagnostic. And while the sheer number of features stay true to their claims, the actual Sucuri experience was slightly different. The initial installation was very easy for the free version of Sucuri. 

What to expect:

  • Server-side scanner
  • Firewall protection
  • Brute force attack protection
  • Whitelisting IPs
  • Bot protection
  • Geo-blocking
  • Activity log
  • Vulnerability detection
  • Unlimited malware cleanups
  • Good support

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Manual cleanup was quick and flawless

Cons:

  • Malware scanner not effective
  • Difficult to configure firewall
  • Constant alerts
  • Complicated settings
  • No auto cleanup
  • Inadequate brute force protection

Price: Starting at $199/year

The free scanner, which is called Sucuri SiteCheck, only scans the publicly visible parts of your site. Which is a good starting point, but given that malware can hide anywhere, it is not a complete diagnostic tool. With the premium version, the configuration got more complex. Setting up the server-side scanner required SFTP details, which may not be a user-friendly requirement, given that most people aren’t too hands-on with technicalities. The scanner also proved to be inaccurate, as it didn’t detect any of the malware on our test sites. 

When it came to the firewall, the configuration was so complex that it seemed like more effort than necessary. However, it was effective at blocking out threats once we had it configured. Sucuri also allows for a wide range of options when it comes to alerts. And if you do not configure the alerts properly, your inbox is sure to get flooded with Sucuri emails. This is a counterproductive feature, given that important alerts can get buried in the pile very easily. 

Sucuri does not offer auto-cleanups. However, they have a premium cleaning service that you can opt for. We were impressed with the fast turnaround and accuracy of their cleanups. However, it still takes them around 4-10 hours per site, whereas auto cleanups can repair your site instantly. To say the least, Sucuri, while a functional WordPress security plugin, is extremely confusing.

4. Jetpack

Jetpack

Jetpack enjoys a strong presence in the security sphere, but most of it is attributed to its makers – Automattic. Jetpack was previously known as VaultPress, which was a backup plugin. It is now bundled with added features like security, performance and migration; and has been rebranded as Jetpack.

What to expect:

  • Malware scanning
  • Activity log
  • Brute force protection
  • Downtime monitoring
  • Vulnerability Detection
  • Two-factor authentication

Pros:

  • Seamless support
  • External dashboard
  • Integrated with WordPress.com account

Cons:

  • Free plan only offers brute force protection
  • Scans only for file modification, dangerous plugins, and vulnerabilities
  • Inadequate vulnerability detection
  • No auto-cleanups
  • No firewall

Price: Starting at $150/year

Jetpack offers malware scanning, brute force attack protection and an activity log as a part of its security features. When we tested the scanner, it detected some of the hacked files, but not all. Similarly, it was not able to detect all the vulnerabilities on our sites. But the fact that they don’t offer cleanups makes Jetpack an incomplete solution. Jetpack’s dashboard offers external access to your website, which is a good feature if you get locked out of your site. Jetpack security also offers backups, and we are big proponents of backups as an overall addition to security. Although at the premium prices that Jetpack charges, it seems like we are getting the short end of the stick.

5. All-in-one WP Security and Firewall

All-in-one WP security and firewall

All-in-one WP security often comes up as a strong contender for popular WordPress security plugins, because it is completely free, with no upsells whatsoever. It attracts a lot of people who do not know WordPress security well, but the million-dollar question is: does it work? Because for a security plugin, being free is secondary to its efficacy.

All-in-one has a security scanner, which is basically a file change detection scanner and alerts you if it notices any changes in your WordPress files. Given that hackers can change timestamps, or hide changes, this scanner is not adequate for security at all.

What to expect:

  • Security scanner
  • Spam security
  • Brute force protection
  • Firewall protection
  • User account security

Pros:

  • Aesthetic interface
  • IP blacklisting
  • Graphs and charts to display data
  • Core files backup

Cons:

  • No malware scanning
  • No cleanups
  • Plugin can interfere with indexing

Price: Free

All-in-one also does not offer any cleanup services. Although it does offer firewall protection, All-in-one only protects your .htaccess files with the firewall. This is not complete protection, because if a plugin has a vulnerability, for instance, securing just the .htaccess file will do you no good. 

While All-in-one has some strong features for a free plugin, it suffers from some major flaws. Multiple users have reported that the plugin interferes with googlebot indexing your website, which means that the bot protection is not well implemented. Given that All-in-one has a partial scanner, no cleanups, and incomplete firewall protection, we would not recommend it as a security choice for your website.

6. Astra Security

Astra security

Astra security is one of the few WordPress security plugins that offer a ton of features with a strong focus on the UI. The dashboard is well designed and the installation is very easy. With Astra’s price tag, that is the least we can expect from them. Astra’s biggest strength is their firewall—many of their customers pay the hefty fee for the firewall alone. But is Astra security good enough for your website security?

What to expect:

  • Malware scanning
  • Bot protection
  • Firewall protection
  • IP blocking
  • Login security
  • Spam blocking
  • Blacklist monitoring
  • Manual malware cleanups

Pros:

  • Easy installation
  • Strong firewall
  • Security audits
  • Intuitive dashboard

Cons:

  • No auto cleanups
  • Too many notifications
  • Complicated features

Price: Starting from $228 a year

Astra security’s website claims that they use a machine learning-based malware scanner, which means that the scanner learns more as it scans more. So Astra clearly has 2 out of 3 necessary features right. The last feature, cleanups, is where Astra falls short. At $228 a year, we expect the plugin to have auto-cleanups, but Astra only offers manual cleanups. Depending on your plan it could take anywhere between 4 to 12 hours for the cleanup, and given that time is crucial when it comes to malware removal, it does not instill confidence.

Overall, Astra security is a decent WordPress security plugin if you can afford the price tag, but if you are to invest the amount in website security, you have several other options which are far better.

7. SecuPress

SecuPress

SecuPress only entered the WordPress plugin space in 2016, after which it has quickly made a name for itself. It is known for its ease of use and aesthetic interface. These features, while useful, are not what is required in a security plugin. SecuPress has a malware scanner but it is not thorough enough to detect all the malware on your site. It only looks for malware in your uploads folder and ‘bad files’ in FTP. They do not clarify what bad files entail. 

What to expect:

  • Malware scanning
  • Firewall protection
  • IP blocking
  • Security audit
  • Geoblocking
  • Scheduled scans
  • Backups
  • Security logs

Pros:

  • Great interface
  • Security report generation

Cons:

  • Inadequate scanning
  • No cleanups
  • Bad support
  • Complicated configurations
  • Few updates

Price: Starting at $59 a year

SecuPress offers a basic firewall to its users and offers decent brute force protection. It does not have cleanups. Additionally, SecuPress has a number of reviews on the WP repository that complain of bad support and very few updates in the last several months.

So while it seems like a functional, albeit incomplete security plugin, we would not recommend it for a high-traction website.

8. BulletProof Security

Bulletproof security

BulletProof security is one of the most popular security plugins for WordPress websites. It offers a lot of features, even in its free version. But they are not easy to use for someone who is not aware of each one of them. The installation and configuration can take some trial and error for the novice user, and the interface is better designed for advanced users.

What to expect:

  • Malware scanner
  • Firewall protection
  • Security logs
  • Database backups

Pros:

  • One-click setup
  • Maintenance mode
  • Several customizations available

Cons:

  • No auto cleanups
  • Firewall limited to plugin files
  • Repair options allow for file deletion—dangerous
  • UI is not beginner-friendly

Price: $69.95

Their scanner and firewall have basic functionalities, which may keep out most of the malicious traffic and malware attacks. BulletProof security does not offer cleanups, but allows users to delete suspicious files (like the WP-VCD malware). This can lead to website breaking down, extensions not working, or making matters worse than they already are.

Additionally, their firewall, while effective, is limited to protecting plugin files. This is obviously not enough for a security firewall. The upside with BulletProof security is that it is cost-effective. They offer a lifetime license including updates at about $70. 

9. CleanTalk Security

CleanTalk security

Another security plugin that is widely used in the WordPress community is CleanTalk. They offer all the basic features for a functional security solution, including a malware scanner, a web application firewall, and cleanups. CleanTalk is widely used for its spam removal, which is known to be one of the best.

What to expect:

  • Malware scanner
  • Brute force protection
  • IP blocking
  • Geoblocking
  • Audit logs
  • Login security
  • Web application firewall
  • Two-factor authentication

Pros:

  • Scheduled auto-scans
  • Easy spam removal

Cons:

  • Complex configuration 
  • Automatically deletes infected files
  • Basic UI
  • Inadequate support

Price: Starting at $9 a year

However, they do not offer cleanups in the most conventional sense. If their malware scanner detects infected files, the plugin automatically deletes the files. It may seem proactive, but automatic deletes can lead to your website breaking if the plugin accidentally deletes the wrong file. 

With automatic deletion, complaints of delayed support, and complex configuration, CleanTalk may not be the best WordPress security plugin out there. However, at $9 a year, it can be a good enough option if you are on a budget, or just starting a small business or a hobby site.

10. Cerber Security

Cerber security

Cerber Security offers a few features but they are well designed. This reasonably priced security plugin has an advanced scanner that is able to detect most malware. The scanner can also be automated to schedule daily scans to watch out for any suspicious activity. Cerber Security offers auto-cleanups as well.

What to expect:

  • Malware scanner
  • Auto-cleanups
  • IP blocking
  • Login security
  • Two-factor authentication

Pros:

  • Automated scheduled scans
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Automatic deletion of files
  • Affects website performance

Price: Starting at $99 a year

However, auto-cleanups mean automatic deletion of suspicious activity on Cerber, which can be dangerous for your website. Additionally, they provide no firewall protection, which leaves a huge gap in the website’s security. Cerber is also not easy on the usage of server resources and can slow down your website. Cerber is still a well-designed security plugin and worth considering.

11. Security Ninja

Security Ninja

Security Ninja is another popular security plugin that offers scans, firewall protection, and auto fix. The reasonably priced security solution offers several features that can help you protect your WordPress site. Security Ninja’s malware scanner uses a method similar to Wordfence’s file matching to identify malware. The issue with this method is that the scans are only as good as their malware signature database. If a new malware infects your site, the scanner will not detect it. 

What to expect:

  • Malware scanning
  • Firewall protection
  • Auto-fix issues
  • Events log
  • Backups
  • Vulnerability detection

Pros:

  • Good malware detection
  • Good customer service
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Affects server performance
  • Inadequate vulnerability detection
  • Inadequate malware removal
  • No automated scans

Price: Starting at $49.99 a year

Security Ninja offers auto-fix instead of cleanups. It offers fixes like changing weak passwords or moving the wp-config file. These fixes are band-aids at most, and cannot really replace a cleanup. If you need a comprehensive solution for your website security, MalCare is a much better option.

12. Defender security

WP Defender

WP Defender has both free and premium versions, and is a good security plugin if you are on a budget. Defender offers malware scanning and firewall protection, but no cleanups. The free version offers limited malware scanning  by looking for for modifications and unexpected changes, but the pro version only adds known vulnerabilities to the mix. 

What to expect:

  • Malware scanning
  • Web application firewall
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Login security
  • Geoblocking
  • Bot protection

Pros:

  • One-click configuration
  • Reliable support
  • Easy to use

Cons:

  • Inadequate malware detection
  • Too many alerts
  • No cleanups

Price: Starting at $60 a year

The malware detection is inadequate at best, and dangerous at worst. Although they do have a good support team that can help you out if you have any issues. Overall, without cleanups, and adequate scanning, Defender is not our first choice.

13. iThemes Security Plugin

iThemes Security

Even though we are covering the 10 Best WordPress security plugins in this article, we do not believe that iThemes is one of them. However, iThemes is one of the more popular security plugins for WordPress and is used widely. Therefore, we decided to cover it so that we could share our testing experience. iThemes security uses a lot of complex language and makes a ton of claims on their website. So imagine our shock when we discovered that the security plugin is almost entirely pointless. 

iThemes has a ‘site scanner’—they carefully avoid the term malware scanner on their site. The reason for this is that iThemes does not scan for malware on your site at all. Instead, the site scanner only checks if your website is on the Google blacklist. When we tested our sites on iThemes, it showed no signs of malware at all.

What to expect:

  • Site scanner
  • Login protection
  • IP blocking
  • Brute force protection
  • File change detection
  • Database backups

Pros:

  • Strong two-factor authentication
  • Good user management

Cons:

  • No malware scanning
  • No cleanups
  • No firewall
  • Brute force protection inadequate
  • Overall bad security

Price: Starting at $58 a year

iThemes also monitors your site for changes in the files, but unless you know what to look for, this feature is also useless. They do not offer cleanups or a firewall. Really, the only feature that works on iThemes security is their two-factor authentication. The brute force protection is also insignificant. When you can get a free plugin for 2FA, it makes no sense to pay $58 a year. 

Factors to consider in choosing the best WordPress Security Plugin

When you are choosing the best WordPress security plugins, you may want to choose them based on more than just what they claim. Some plugins talk a big game but deliver very little. You don’t want your website to fall prey to false marketing. So when you say yes to WordPress, these are the features that you should look for in your security plugins: 

Essential security features

  • Malware scanning
  • Malware cleaning
  • Firewall

These features are absolutely necessary. Without a good scanner, you cannot detect all the malware on your site, and that is as good as useless. Malware cleaning is like a medic’s kit, you hope you never have to use it but it still is essential for sticky situations. And a firewall keeps out most attacks, preventing the need to deal with malware. If a security plugin can manage all three well, the rest are just frills.

Good-to-have security features

  • Vulnerability detection
  • Brute force login protection
  • Activity log
  • Two-factor authentication

These security features bolster the overall security of your website if the security plugin has the essential features down. These features can allow you to detect vulnerabilities before they lead to hacks, stop brute force attacks, help you diagnose the website thoroughly, and offer added login protection. Together, these features are a great addition to have. 

Potential problems

Some security plugins like Sucuri use up your website server resources to run their scans. This can impact your website performance if your servers get overwhelmed with activity. Security should not be a tradeoff for performance, and therefore, you need to pick a WordPress security plugin that does not eat into your server resources.

Do I need a security plugin for WordPress?

With over 60% of all the websites being hosted on WordPress, it is the most popular CMS in the world. This means that WordPress attracts more attention than any other CMS—good and bad. Hackers are more driven to attack WordPress sites, because the returns are greater. This also means that WordPress sites are not invulnerable to attacks, and need to be well secured. 

While there are several ways to secure your WordPress site, the easiest, smartest, and most cost-effective way to secure your website is to use a WordPress security plugin that has a good firewall, can detect malware, and can clean up your website effectively.

Final Thoughts

A WordPress security plugin is important not only to take care of a malware attack in the present, but also to protect your website from any future attacks. Depending on your budget and specific requirements, the right fit can differ, but a security plugin like MalCare can proficiently handle all your security woes and keep malware at bay.

We hope this article helped you choose the best WordPress security plugin for your website. We endeavored to collate all the relevant factors required to make this decision, so that you don’t have to research every single security plugin out there. 

Need more help? Feel free to reach out to us.

FAQs

What security plugins do I need for WordPress?

WordPress security plugins are required to prevent malware attacks, detect malware on your site—if any, and consequently clean up the malware. A security plugin can help you prevent a lot of stress and losses in the future. We recommend MalCare for its top-of-the-industry scanner, flawless cleanups, and an intelligent firewall. MalCare also offers login protection, WordPress hardening, vulnerability detection, and more.

Are these security plugins legit?

Yes, all the plugins that we have listed have been thoroughly researched and tested. While they may differ in efficacy, their legitimacy is not doubtful. You can use these plugins and find if it is a good fit for you.

Will installing multiple security plugins make security better?

The answer is no. Multiple plugins may do different things well. But you want a security solution that offers complete security that interacts with its own features well. Using multiple plugins can also overload your server resources and affect your website performance.

What is the best free WordPress security plugin?

As far as free WordPress security plugins go, WordFence is undoubtedly one of the best. However, its scanner only works at its 60% capacity. On the other hand, MalCare’s free version allows you to scan your website and determine if you have malware on your site. It is undoubtedly the best free scanner available today. If you need to locate the malware, or clean it up from your website, upgrade to MalCare’s premium version. 

Is a security plugin necessary for WordPress?

A security plugin allows you to focus on the important parts of your business rather than firefighting malware attacks as they occur. Installing a security plugin will also help you avoid the following:

  • Revenue loss
  • Loss of visitors
  • Cleanup costs
  • Legal costs
  • Plummeting SEO rankings
  • Hit to brand value

So, to summarize, yes. A security plugin is absolutely necessary for your WordPress site.

I have a security plugin and still got hacked. How did that happen?

No website can ever be foolproof. Hacks can occur even with a security plugin. However, a good security plugin will reduce the likelihood of getting WordPress hacked by several degrees, and in the event of a hack, notify you quickly of the same. This helps mitigate the damage caused by the hack.

How do I make WordPress more secure?

The best way to secure your WordPress site is to install a security plugin such as MalCare, which will protect your website from oncoming malware attacks, bad bots, and other security threats. In addition to this you can undertake the following measures to secure your WordPress site:

  • Harden WordPress
  • Use two-factor authentication
  • Use strong passwords
  • Monitor user privileges
Preeti,

Preeti is a WordPress enthusiast, and enjoys sharing their experience with fellow enthusiasts. On the MalCare blog, Preeti distils the wisdom gained from building plugins to solve security issues that admins face.

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