Organizations rely heavily on websites for providing information to the public about their products and services, marketing and advertisements, and business operations. Developing a website requires time, money, and effort. However, a single security vulnerability could jeopardize business operations. Cyber adversaries have enough resources available today to exploit a security vulnerability and bring a website down, steal information, or cause damage to your reputation in no time. Hence, security is an essential aspect no website developer or enterprise owning the website can afford to ignore. This cybersecurity guide intends to share all important security tips that can help protect a WordPress website.
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What is Hacking?
In cybersecurity, hacking means breaching security by exploiting security vulnerabilities and gaining unauthorized access to any confidential information stored in any application, website, network, or information system. In other words, a cyberattack for compromising confidentiality, integrity, or availability of information can be termed hacking.
WordPress leads the CMS market, which essentially makes it a treasure trove of information for malicious actors to exploit. Even if the security of WordPress is strong, adversaries can find some alternative loophole through plugins and other third-party components.
Why Do Cyber People Hack Websites?
There are numerous reasons behind threat actors targeting a website. Some of the common reasons behind hacking are:
- Stealing, destroy, or destruct the information
- To install malicious software(malware) or spyware
- To cause damage to a brand and business reputation
- Sometimes due to curiosity or for the thrill
- Revenge or to blackmail by stealing personally identifiable information (PII)
- Blackmailing and extortion
- Corporate espionage
- In extreme cases, state actors try to bring down another nation’s critical information infrastructure (CII)
What Are The Different Types of Cyberattacks?
Malicious actors employ various strategies and hacking methods to gain unauthorized access to WordPress information. Some of the most common hacking types or cyberattacks on websites are:
- SQL Injections Attacks
This type of cyberattack involves exploiting the SQL vulnerabilities on the website to run malicious code to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data. For instance, a threat actor can go to a WordPress website’s search box and type a code or a malicious URL to access the website’s usernames and passwords (if they have been left unprotected).
- Brute Force Attacks
This is where malicious actors try to guess the login password by attempting to input various combinations of passwords. It involves employing multiple techniques, including exhaustive key search, dictionary attacks, etc. until the correct password is found. Malicious actors use advanced algorithms for this purpose. You can prevent such attacks by implementing time delay between sets of a specific number of attempts or using a captcha answer system.
- DDoS Attacks
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is an extension of the DoS (Denial of Service) attacks that involve disrupting the traffic to the WordPress website server. Hackers flood the server with enormous internet traffic that can bring the site to a standstill. In simple words, a DDoS attack is similar to an unexpected heavy traffic jam on a highway. Malicious actors employ various compromised systems as sources for it.
DDoS attacks are mainly carried out through a massive network of machines connected to the internet. To disrupt large commercial website servers, hackers may even use hundreds of devices connected to the network. Such attacks are mainly carried out to shut down a website or make a dent in the reputation of a business.
Recovering From a Hack
Sometimes, when a WordPress site is hacked, it could be obvious, but the indications could be subtle in some cases. When one suspects that the site is compromised, follow the below steps to recover it.
- Restore the original site from the backup.
- Check all external and third-party plugins and programs, and remove any suspicious ones and those rarely used.
- Update all the third-party plugins to their latest version.
- Change the admin passwords for all users.
- Contact web host or seek professional help if required.
- Thoroughly test all the critical sections of your website once it has been restored.
Expert Tips to Enhance WordPress Security
To improve the security measures for a WordPress website, you can follow these practical tips, some of which are readily available by default, while some others can be activated using an external plugin:
- Use of Strong Passwords
One of the most straightforward security measures anyone can provide for their WordPress website is using strong passwords. The use of strong passwords is not limited to WordPress admin login, but you also need to employ stronger passwords for FTP accounts, database logins, hosting accounts, etc.
The main reason for people to use weak passwords is that they are easier to remember. However, today, you don’t need to remember all the passwords anymore. Instead, you can use the help of a reliable password manager.
Furthermore, If you find it challenging to coin strong passwords, you can always use various password-generating tools to create strong passwords. Remember that the more random a password, with a combination of letters, numbers, and characters, the more secure it will be.
- Keep WordPress Updated
WordPress is an open-source content management system (CMS) and needs to be updated regularly. Also, WordPress comes loaded with many themes and plugins that one can use for the websites. Most of the plugins and themes are released by third-party developers and require regular updates as well. Hence, it is essential to keep WordPress updated regularly and all the plugins and themes for the safety and stability of the WordPress website.
- Enable SSL Protocol
Whether you have e-commerce transactions on your website or not, it is advisable to have SSL protocol enabled on your website for added security. With SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), the website automatically transfers data between the WordPress website server and the user’s browser in an encrypted format. This technique makes it challenging for malicious actors and adversaries to steal information during data transfer.
Once SSL protocol is active, the website URL will start with HTTPS instead of HTTP, and additionally, one can see a padlock sign next to the website URL on the browser.
- Employ Two-Factor Authentication
Applying Two-factor Authentication (2FA) is one of the best security practices for WordPress websites as it helps prevent unauthorized access to a great extent. It is one of the quickest, easiest, and cost-effective security measures one can install on a WordPress website. With 2F Authentication, users can only gain access to the admin panel after satisfying an additional authentication apart from the website login. It is an extra layer of security to ensure that people who log in to the website are the ones who are authorized to do so.
Creating and managing a WordPress website is much straightforward compared to other Content Management Systems. However, security is one aspect many WordPress admins overlook, which can lead to the website getting hacked, or worse, business operations coming to a standstill (if it’s a business-related website). Merely following cyber hygiene best practices for WordPress security can go a long way in keeping threat actors at bay. Hope this security guide has provided you with the information you were looking for to enhance the security of your WordPress website. If you have any suggestions, queries, or need any clarification or help regarding WordPress security, you can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect me on Linkedin.
- WPBeginner. (2021, January 1). The Ultimate WordPress Security Guide – Step by Step (2021).
- Cyber Sophia. How to Secure Your WordPress Website. https://cybersophia.net/articles/how-to/how-to-secure-your-wordpress-website/
- Fortinet. What Is Hacking?
- Imperva.Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). https://www.imperva.com/learn/ddos/denial-of-service/