WordPress is a significant contender in creating websites online, but understanding website security is just the beginning. Creating your website only to have it taken down due to malware or phishing attempts is catastrophic. Currently, Google blacklists nearly 50,000 websites for phishing and over 70,000 websites for malware every week.
Knowing how to keep your website security running smoothly isn’t just about customer experience; it’s about keeping your domain off the ever-growing blacklist.
As a whole, WordPress core software is incredibly secure. It’s audited regularly to ensure it’s performing and operating at an optimal level by hundreds of developers. That’s not to say having a WordPress site isn’t without risk; potential risk exists with every domain. Hackers can cause extensive damage to a business, including damaged reputation, loss of business revenue, or complete loss of your website. They can install malicious software, distribute malware, steal passwords or financial information from your customers, or all of the above.
Limiting the risk of your website being exposed to a potential hacker is the easiest way to protect your business. To help ensure your site is secure, stay on top of the following tips:
1) Always keep your WordPress Updated
As open-source software, WordPress needs to be regularly maintained. Typically, this occurs as regular updates to the software. Minor updates will be performed automatically. If there is a significant release, users will need to initiate the update manually. This update can be found on the backend of the domain, under the Home section.
Likewise, the themes and plugins currently activated through your website are maintained by third-party developers. They will often perform regular updates, fixing bugs, or making improvements for users. These themes and plugins will also need to be updated regularly to ensure the site’s smooth functioning, stability, and security.
2) Opt for Strong Passwords
Most hacking attempts will begin with stolen passwords, especially if individuals are using easy-to-guess sequences. Make sure that all passwords are unique and difficult to guess; include numbers, uppercase letters, lower case letters, and alphanumeric symbols. Update passwords for hosting accounts, admin areas, emails, and any FTP accounts. For complicated passwords, a password manager is recommended.
3) Invest in a WordPress Backup
It doesn’t matter how secure your website is; nothing is ever 100% secure. Having a website backup allows quick restoration of your WordPress site in case something were to happen. Make sure you save a full-site backup regularly to somewhere remote. You don’t want to keep your site backup on your website hosting (as this can be compromised too). Ideally, having a backup performed daily is ideal.
4) Have a Web Application Firewall
A website firewall brings malicious traffic to a complete stop, preventing access before it reaches your website. An application-level firewall examines traffic once it reaches the server but before it accesses most WordPress scripts. These methods may not reduce the server load typically found with malware. A DNS-level website firewall will route traffic through a cloud proxy server. This blocks all malicious attempts and only sends genuine traffic to your website.
5) Install a Security Plugin
Having a security plugin can keep you informed of any failed login attempts, malware, email alerts, and more. Some plugins are free, offering services without cost by simply generating an API key. This API key gives the plugin permission and control when performing the checks and evaluations.
6) Invest in Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
SSL encrypts data transfer from a user’s browser to your website. Encryption makes it difficult for hackers to obtain sensitive information. Any website using SSL will display HTTPS instead of HTTP. You’ll also see a padlock next to the website address in the browser.
7) Change Your Default Admin Username
Generally speaking, the default username for most WordPress accounts is ‘admin.’ As a hacker will use bother the username and the password to access sensitive information, it’s essential to change the defaulted name. If you happen to have a default name, create a new admin username and delete the old one.
8) Lower the Login Attempts
Currently, the default value for attempted login on WordPress is set to unlimited. This means a website can be vulnerable to brute force attacks by trying to crack passwords with different combinations. By limiting the failed login attempts, you’ll prevent this from occurring. Simply change the number of attempts before locking out of the account to a number less than five.
9) Always Enable Two Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication requires individuals to enter the username and password of their account on the website, followed by authentication using a separate device. This can be done under the two-factor Auth section in your WordPress admin section. You’ll want to attach either a Google authenticator or LastPass Authenticator to enable this function.
10) Monitor Registered Users on the Site
If you allow user registrations on the website, always review the subscribers carefully. Most individuals are going to carefully fill out the registration to continue accessing the site. If you notice any filler content (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org), consider removing the account. Likewise, if you happen to see the website is performing slowly after specific users are registered, complete a public data check on the individual.
Users offering their first and last names to the website can quickly be confirmed using a background check platform for security reasons. Not everyone needs to be validated (this would prove time-consuming and costly). If you notice a troublesome or difficult user, someone that seems to continuously post spam comments or has simply just zapped your server’s functionality, it may be worth the investigation.
11) Never give out your username or password to anyone
Most individuals who work with WordPress websites don’t need to log in to your website’s backend to perform their job. Even developers of themes don’t need the platform to create their coding. For most individuals, creating a new username and password is an easier, safer option.
Although some specific circumstances may require another person to use your username and password, be very selective on who has access to this information. It’s always a wise idea to change your password when they have finished performing the work required. Make sure to update your password manager after updating this information.