A Comprehensive Look at the Best Practices That Will Help You Secure Your WordPress Website
Website security is a major concern for any business that runs their website on the WordPress platform. Nearly 20,00 websites are blacklisted by Google for malware counts and nearly 50,000 are added as phishing websites.
You need to adhere to WordPress best practices if you want to protect your website against malicious users and malware.
Granted, that the WordPress core software is a secure one, but due to the edits made by developers, websites on this platform are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. You need to eliminate the risks and at the same time try to mitigate them in the future.
How bad can a security breach be?
In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the best practices that you can follow to improve the security of your WordPress website. But before taking a look at them, let’s see the damage that a security breach can cause to your business:
- It occurs frequently through spam bots filling out forms on your website as they add false information to your database
- With one malicious file in the system, your confidential data and sensitive customer data are at risk
- In some cases, information like email ids, passwords, and credit card details can be leaked or in the worst-case scenario, your website can crash
- You also risk spreading malware to other websites related to your business
Here are some best practices to keep your WordPress website secure at all times:
Keep your WordPress version updated: Always remember that WordPress is an open-source software and it is updated regularly. While minor updates are installed automatically, you might need to initiate major updates manually. The platform also offers plugins and themes created by third-party developers and they release their own set of updates. These updates play a major role in maintaining the security and stability of your website, so install them regularly.
Create strong passwords: Majority WordPress hack attempts are made using stolen passwords. You should always create strong passwords that are difficult to steal and are unique. The authentication measures should not be restricted to the admin panel, but extended to FTP accounts, hosting accounts, email address, and database. An additional preventive measure is to restrict the admin accounts and keep an eye on guest author accounts.
Disabling XML-RPC: In order to connect the WordPress site with mobile apps, XML-RPC was a default feature in WordPress 3.5. The .XML Remote Procedure Call powers the following features in WordPress:
- Website connectivity with Smartphone
- Pingbacks and Trackback in case of referral from another site
The powerful nature of this tool can increase the chances of brute force attacks. These attackers can attempt to log into your website using ‘xmlrpc.php’ with multiple usernames and password combinations. Within the ‘xmlrpc.php’ is a method that allows these attackers to use the ‘system.multicall’ function to guess thousands of possible passwords in under 20-50 requests.
Pingback request through ‘xmlrpc.php’ can attack thousands of sites by herding them in a voluntary botnet. In such a case, the attacker can get almost limitless set of IPs to distribute a ‘Denial of Service’ attack to approximately 100 million WordPress based websites. (Learn more about it here)
Therefore, in case you are not using XML-RPC, it is strongly recommended that you disable it.
Run all plugins through CVE Details: Learn which plugins can put your website at risk by running them through CVE Details – a security vulnerability data checker website. If the plugin scores below 5, then it is safe to use the plugin and in case it exceeds 5.1, it is better to replace that plugin immediately.
Secure your WP-Admin directory: The number of IPs that can access WP-Admin directory should be restricted using ‘.htaccess’. Alternatives like 2-factor login can be implemented using plugins like Website Admin Two-Factor Authentication. You can also set up the username and password in the ‘.htaccess’ file. Note: When you are restricting wp-admin, do not do the same for admin-ajax.php. Restricting it may break Ajax calls on your website.
Install a backup solution on your website: Backups are a good defense against WordPress attacks. Any website can be hacked and in case your website was compromised you will still have full data backups stored on a remote location.
Use a security plugin: With backups in place, you can now shift your attention to setting up a monitoring system that can help you keep track of every action on your website. A security plugin can help keep track of login attempts, malware search and more. You can use plugins like Sucuri Scanner or Wordfence to protect your website against attacks.
Restrict directory browsing and indexing: Browsing directories is a common way used by hackers to get into your system. It can also be used by users to peep into your files, identify your directory layout, copy data and access sensitive information. You can locate the ‘.htaccess’ file using your FTP and disable the access from there or you can add a blank ‘index.php/index.html’ file in every directory that you create.
Change your default username: ‘admin’ has always been the default username. However, it is half of your credentials and it makes your website vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Although is it not possible to change your usernames by default, you can do so by following any of the three steps mentioned below:
- Delete the old username and create a new admin
- Use a plugin (Username Changer)
- Change it from ‘phpMyAdmin’
Rest API should be disabled: Rest APIs enable remote access to posts and data in the WP database. You should disable it if it is not used. To know more about disabling it, click here.
Disable WordPress feeds: The feed function is a feature of a special software that enables the feed users to look for new content automatically when they access a website. This is a good way to stay updated about the latest information posted on websites. If you are not using this function, then you should disable it.
Disable embeds: If you are not embedding any videos using a third-party website then it is best to disable it.
File editing should be disabled: WordPress contains an inbuilt code editor. You can use it to edit your theme and install plugins from the admin panel itself. It is best to disable it as it can cause a lot of harm in the wrong hands.
Limit the number of login attempts: In the default settings, you can attempt to log in as many times as you want. It is a vulnerable situation and your password can be compromised at some point. Limit the failed login attempts. In case you are using a web application firewall, then this issue will be taken care of automatically.
Choose a trustworthy domain and hosting service: A cheap website hosting service has frequent server outages and increased downtime. You can lose several viewers every day. Make sure you buy hosting from a trustworthy name to avoid such situations. (Learn more about it here)
Log out idle users: If a user has logged in and wandered away from their system, then there is a chance that someone can access your website from their session and make unwanted changes to their account. Adding a function to log out automatically can help you keep your website secure.
Using a secure server (HTTPS): HTTPS security protects your website from many hacking attempts and security breaches. However, HTTPS helps your website in more than one way. Some of them are:
- Better SEO: HTTPS improves your website’s search engine ranking to a great extent. Google’s algorithm picks up secure websites because it wants users to get information from a secured resource.
- Trust factor: Websites with HTTPS security are trusted by users. Nearly 77% of visitors on the internet are concerned about their data being misused and thus, they will visit websites that have HTTPS security.
- Get accurate traffic data: It is necessary to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS since the referral data option in Google Analytics is blocked for HTTPS to HTTP. Traffic that comes from an HTTPS website and ends at an HTTP website is not going to be visible under the HTTP website’s referral data. Only the traffic from HTTPS websites is considered direct.
Many WordPress users ignore the importance of maintaining backups or adding security to their website. Follow the aforementioned tips today and make your website absolutely secure against cyber-attacks. The process might sound time-consuming, but it is worth the effort. You can also hire a professional for this. Always remember, hackers often add a backdoor to your website and if they are not closed immediately then your website and data will be at risk.
Make your business website secure today!
We at Grazitti Interactive follow the best practices to keep WordPress websites secure and ensure that they are well protected against future attacks as well. To know more about our development services email us at [email protected] or visit our website.