When you build a WordPress site, website security might not be something you think about very often. However, it is actually a very important aspect of your website.
Did you know that in 2018, over 90,000 hacking attacks per minute struck WordPress sites around the world? Hackers not only target large corporate websites packed with sensitive data, but also sites belonging to small businesses, independent entrepreneurs, and personal blogs. For owners of WordPress sites, statistics like that might raise worries about WordPress security.
No platform is ever completely safe from malware, hacking, and other kinds of cyber attacks. But WordPress security includes protections on the source code itself. And it is the responsibility of the hosting provider and site owners themselves to take precautions when it comes to website security. In this article, we’ll walk you through the general information on website security. Then, we’ll discuss how you can make your site more secure. Keep on reading!
Is WordPress secure?
As you read this blog post, you may be wondering, “Is WordPress secure?”. The fact that WordPress is a free and open-source software makes it especially vulnerable to any skilled hacker who can insert a snippet of malicious code into the WordPress core.
Although WordPress is a product of developers and designers around the globe working to update and keep it stable, it’s quite strict when it comes to WordPress security. WordPress has a dedicated team of developers who monitor the platform for security vulnerabilities. They are responsible for developing patches as soon as an issue becomes known. WordPress releases frequent updates to the software, which includes those security patches. Hence, it’s important for users to install updates whenever they become available.
WordPress developers are the first line of defense for your website, but they aren’t the only ones. Both hosting providers and site owners have jobs to do in keeping up their WordPress site security.
The role of website hosting in WordPress security
A self-hosted WordPress website should be setup with a reliable WordPress hosting provider. This is because a provider plays a role in keeping users’ sites secure, whether they’re powered by WordPress or some other content management system.
Trusted, quality website hosting providers like Bluehost have protocols in place to protect WordPress and other sites they host. It’s the hosting provider’s job to maintain the security of hosting servers. And they also need to implement essential security monitoring features. For instance, Bluehost offers complimentary data backup and easy restoration for hosted websites.
When it comes to security, dedicated hosting designed for WordPress sites tops the list because you have the most control over your server. It allows for extensive customization, giving you the ability to optimize your server settings. But dedicated hosting is definitely not for everyone. In fact, most personal and business websites should do fine with a shared hosting plan.
So, we’ve talked about the role of WordPress and hosting providers for website security. Now, let’s discuss what site owners can do to protect their beloved websites.
Secure your website connection with HTTPS and SSL certificates
One of the basic things you can do for your website security is to secure the connection between your website and your visitor’s browser. When you visit a website with a secure connection, you’ll see a grey padlock icon at the beginning of the website’s URL. You can get this padlock on the login page of your site by installing an SSL certificate on your web server. Let’s quickly go over some definitions and discuss why your site needs an SSL certificate.
What are HTTPS and SSL?
HTTP, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is the protocol used to load web pages using hypertext links. It is actually a foundational element of the World Wide Web. But it usually gets ignored because not many people pay attention or understand what it does.
When you visit a website that uses HTTP, the exchange of information between your browser and the website server is done in plain text. If a hacker eavesdrop on this information exchange, they could easily steal sensitive information, including names, addresses, and credit card numbers.
Secure HTTP (HTTPS) adds a layer of encryption to that information. Hence, the conversation between your browser and the server is encrypted. That way, even though hackers can still listen in on conversations between browsers and servers, they won’t be able to make sense of the information because it’s not readable.
To create that secure connection, you need to install an SSL certificate on your website server. SSL certificates are what enable websites to move from HTTP to HTTPS.SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it’s the authentication protocol that encrypts the information between client (browser) and server. A majority of websites nowadays use HTTPS, which you can see with the ‘https://’ at the beginning of a website URL. Actually, most of the time, your browser hides the ‘https://’ from the address bar. Instead, you’ll see a grey padlock that indicates a secure connection.
Why you need to use HTTPS
Every website can benefit from using HTTPS, even if you just run a personal blog. And HTTPS is especially critical for an eCommerce website. Customers want to know their information will stay private if they check out on your website!
A website that shows “not secure” in the address bar raises concerns from customers. They won’t feel safe on your website, and you’ll look unprofessional. Even if you don’t exchange any data, customers might feel unsafe and avoid your website.
And more than just security, a lack of HTTPS could also hurt your SEO efforts. Google takes HTTPS into account in its ranking process. So, you should use HTTPS protocols to get your website ranked by search engines.
Are you interested in installing an SSL certificate for your website? We have this in-depth article that walks you through how to add HTTPS to your domain. Check it out!
If you’re using Bluehost hosting, we’ve simplified this process to make it easier for you. And we also offer free SSL certificates for dedicated IP addresses.
Securing the WordPress Core
The core WordPress code is an open source software with a general use license. This means that, in theory, any user can modify the code, and use it or share it in any way they choose. Now, you might be thinking: That doesn’t sound safe!
Luckily, WordPress is aware of how dangerous this could be. That’s why the WordPress core developers are ultimately responsible for keeping the core code stable and secure. This includes vetting any proposed changes, and constantly working to fix any vulnerabilities with patches and interim updates.
So what if there is a security issue? The development team will step in to repair it, and notify all WordPress users that an updated version is available. Although there’s no guarantee that WordPress itself is completely secure, any security problems that do appear are generally resolved by downloading the latest version of the software.
DIY security best practices for your WordPress website
Along with efforts by WordPress itself and responsible web hosting providers, owners of WordPress sites can also take many steps to tighten security and thwart cyberattacks of all kinds. Of course, securing your website connection is just one of the steps you have to take for your website security. Below are some more WordPress security best practices:
Keep WordPress updated
Many cyber attacks on WordPress sites strike smaller ones. Next to that, those running older versions of WordPress that haven’t been updated are also vulnerable. Owners of these sites might not expect that their sites might be targets, but they may be even more vulnerable than larger sites. Installing all of the frequent updates released by WordPress is a key step in keeping a website secure. And that also includes updates to themes and plugins installed from WordPress and from third-party developers.
Keep your devices secure
WordPress security won’t help if the devices used to manage the site are compromised. Security experts recommend making sure that all computers and mobile devices used for accessing and managing a WordPress site be regularly monitored and updated with effective firewalls and malware scans.
Secure passwords and permission
Hackers often attempt to get access to a site by “brute-force attack” — entering usernames and passwords again and again until one works. The default username for a WordPress website is “Admin,” which is an easy one to guess. So, you must change that to something unique as soon as possible.
Restricting permission to access the site and its directories and disabling file editing can also help. This is because WordPress code can easily be edited by anyone who can open it. WordPress has several levels of permission, so only assign the highest permission to the few people who need it. Likewise, you should limit login attempts and set notifications for excessive logins. Excessive failed login attempts is a sign that someone is trying to hack into your website using brute force tactics.
Enable two-factor authentication
We’re all familiar with the concept of two-factor authentication by now. This is one of the easiest things to secure your login procedure. Even in the unfortunate event of your password being exposed, hackers will not be able to log in because they don’t have your second device to verify the attempt.
Install WordPress security plugins
There are a lot of plugins for security and site monitoring available from WordPress and from numerous third-party designers and developers worldwide. You can install these plugins on any compatible WordPress website for added security that’s specific to a site’s unique functions. Any WordPress security plugin that is installed to protect your site will need to be updated as recommended.
These security plugins can be broadly categorized into two groups: full security suites and single-issue security plugins. Full security suites encompass multiple security needs within a single plugin. Some popular options include:
These tools cover everything from bot-driven brute force attacks to manual blocking of malware injection attempts and other hacks. They represent a great choice for beginning WordPress owners who want a solution to cover multiple needs.
Backup your WordPress site
Backing up your WordPress website is always a good idea in case of accidental loss or errors when editing WordPress. It also makes good sense from a security standpoint to back up your website. You should do this at least once, and preferably multiple times. If a site is compromised with malicious code or viruses, a clean backup can be restored at any time, or the site can be moved to a new host if necessary using the backup versions.
Stay on top of spam
New WordPress sites and those that aren’t regularly maintained are prime targets for spam comments. Such spam can easily infect a site with malware. Hence, you should set tight spam filters and keep them updated with the latest version. Next to that, it’s essential to monitor comments carefully and block questionable comments from your site’s Admin WordPress dashboard.
Common questions related to WordPress security
To secure your WordPress website, follow these key steps: (1) Keep your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date. (2) Use strong, unique passwords for all user accounts. (3) Limit login attempts and implement two-factor authentication. (4) Utilize a reliable web hosting service. (5) Install a reputable security plugin, such as Wordfence or Sucuri. (6) Regularly backup your website and monitor for any suspicious activities.
WordPress offers several reliable security plugins to enhance your website’s protection. Some popular options include Wordfence, Sucuri Security, iThemes Security, and All In One WP Security & Firewall. These plugins provide features such as malware scanning, firewall protection, login security, and activity monitoring. Choose a plugin that aligns with your specific security needs and regularly update it to benefit from the latest security enhancements.
Creating strong passwords is crucial for WordPress security. Follow these guidelines: (1) Use a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. (2) Avoid easily guessable information like names or common phrases. (3) Make the password at least 12-14 characters long. (4) Consider using a password manager to generate and store unique passwords for each account. Remember, strong passwords significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
Some common vulnerabilities in WordPress include outdated software, weak passwords, insecure plugins/themes, and unsecured hosting environments. Protect against these vulnerabilities by: (1) Keeping your WordPress core, themes, and plugins up to date. (2) Using strong, unique passwords. (3) Regularly auditing and removing unused plugins and themes. (4) Choosing reputable plugins/themes from trusted sources. (5) Opting for secure hosting environments with good security practices.
To maintain better security in your WordPress installation and plugins, follow these best practices: (1) Enable automatic updates for the WordPress core, themes, and plugins whenever possible. (2) Regularly check for updates manually if automatic updates are not available. (3) Backup your website before performing updates. (4) Remove or replace unsupported or outdated plugins/themes. (5) Stay informed about security news and vulnerabilities in WordPress and its ecosystem.
Final thoughts on WordPress website security
Due to its nature and massive popularity, WordPress can appear vulnerable to hacking and other kinds of cyber attacks. But no worries, your WordPress site can be secured if you pay attention to it. WordPress itself and your hosting provider both work hard to bring certain levels of protection to your website. So, it’s your job to put in the effort to further improve your site’s security. Start by securing your website connection by installing an SSL certificate. Then, implementing the best security practices, regular updates and correct plugins can keep WordPress sites of all kinds secure.
If you need a reliable hosting solution for your website, check out Bluehost for affordable packages today.