How to improve overall WordPress Website Security

WordPress-Website-security-changes

Are you wondering how to protect your WordPress Website? Well, you are not alone.

Thousands of businesses find themselves clueless when it comes to WordPress Website security. It becomes more challenging when you need to cater to other requirements like speed and scalability.

Every business owner wants to focus on how to improve their investment. However, there are few things that they need to monitor to ensure that their site offers an optimal experience to the users.

WordPress security is real. And your approach determines how well you manage it.

But why WordPress? Isn’t WordPress a secure platform? Of course, it is. However, few practices can make sure that your site remains as secure as possible. WordPress is very popular, and that makes it an easy target for hackers. That’s why it is your responsibility to secure your site.

In this article, I will go through the best way you can make your WordPress site secure. Apart from that, I will also cover a few good security plugins that let you harden your WordPress site security.

Before we get started with WordPress security, it is important to understand the WordPress vulnerabilities.

WordPress Vulnerabilities

Brute-force Login Attempts

Brute-force login attempts are designed to break sites that use weak passwords. It uses automated scripts that constantly try to break the site’s security. To stop the brute-force login attempts, you need to use plugins to limit logins from a single IP or source. The plugin will also monitor unauthorized logins and block IPs.

Denial of Service(DoS)

Denial of Service aims to disrupt the normal functioning of the site. DoS attacks are very common and are targeted towards popular services and sites. It deals with exploiting bad code and hence overwhelming access requests or data. The DoS attacks also work by sending tons of requests to the server and overwhelming it to either crash or deny service to legitimate users. The best way to overcome DoS is to use the latest WordPress version and ensure that your site is protected with a proper firewall.

Cross-site Scripting(XSS)

In Cross-site scripting, the hackers use malicious scripts and inject them into a website or application. By doing so, the hacker gains access to the website — which can mean further uploading bad scripts to the site. It can be used to make a site malfunction or steal end-user data. It is also one of the most common vulnerability attacks on WordPress.

Backdoors

As the name suggests, a backdoor is a way to gain access to a website through a backdoor attack. Here, a trusted plugin, theme, or data when used to install the vulnerability to the site. The backdoor may not work right away and can’t wait for a few days to months before it activates itself. Hackers use backdoors to gain control of the site and then install more malicious scripts to the site. 

How To Improve Overall WordPress Website Security

If you look at the statistics, almost 100K websites are hacked every single day. That’s a lot! If you want your site not to become part of the statistics, you need to follow the security standards I discuss here! By following these, you will have a secure website!

Let’s get started.

1. Get a secure WordPress hosting

At the core of WordPress site security is your WordPress hosting. Hosting offers an ecosystem where your site is loaded for visitors to request it. However, there is more hosting that needs to be done than serving your site to the users.

Technically, hosting takes care of four levels of security. A hosting that does not do the needful can risk a customer’s site, leading to data loss. These web-server securities are low-level and hence implemented by developers and server administrators. 

At Vebsiko Hosting, we take security very seriously. Our approach aims to do server hardening and ensure that every aspect of the hosting environment is optimized and secured in the best possible way. We also use OpenSSL security vulnerabilities and server-level firewalls to protect hosting sites from malicious actors.

2. Use Better Username and Passwords

123456, hiworld, password, 111111, ….. these passwords might be easy to remember but are equally bad when it comes to protecting your site. Security has both technical and user sides.

This means that users can opt to set a weak password which in turn compromises the whole ecosystem.

Clearly, that’s not how you want things to be! 

To solve it, you need to use a complex password. Creating a good password is easy! All you need to do is mix words, letters, special symbols, and numbers. Also, make sure that your password is at least eight characters long.

If you are not confident in creating a strong password or don’t know if your password is strong enough, then you can use online password generators.

If you have multiple WordPress sites, make sure that you create unique passwords for each one. Now that you have created strong passwords, you also need to store them, right? Well, you can use online password managers such as LastPass and 1Password.

One more thing that goes with passwords is the username. By default, WordPress sets your username as admin or administrator. It’s better to change it to something else. Or better, you can simply delete the default admin account and create a new administrator account.

3. Keep WordPress Core, Themes, and Plugins Updated

The WordPress ecosystem is diverse and comprises developers all over the world. Its vastness makes it hard to manage. Also, just like any other software service or solution, WordPress is also updated frequently. The updates fix bugs and security loopholes while adding new features. 

To keep WordPress free from any exploits, you need always to keep your WordPress core, themes and plugins updated. By doing so, you are saving your site from zero-day exploits that are pushed into release by developers when new vulnerabilities are found.

Plugin updates are the most critical as they make up to 55% of the reported exploits on a website. That’s why it is crucial to update plugins.

4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication(2FA) helps you further secure your WordPress account. But, what’s two-factor authentication? It is a two-step process where you need another special code to log in. The special code can be set up to be sent by email or mobile number through SMS or phone call. 

2FA is very effective in cutting out brute-force attacks and making sure that even when someone knows your password cannot log in to your account without access to the special code. There are plenty of 2FA applications that you can use. As WordPress uses plugins to add features, here also, you need to use a 2FA plugin. Some of the notable 2FA plugins include:

  • Google authenticator
  • Duo Two-Factor Authentication

These authenticators also need their corresponding authenticator apps on the phone.

5. Secure WordPress Admin

One of the most vulnerable parts of your website is the WordPress admin. After all, you can use it to control every aspect of the website. The best way to approach WordPress admin security is to use obscurity. 

To reach obscurity, you need first to change the default wp-admin URL. But, why?

By default, the WordPress admin panel can be accessed by placing /wp-admin at the end of the site’s URL. With this knowledge, hackers can try different techniques, such as brute force to break into the site.

So, how do you change the WordPress login URL? You can do so by using plugins such as WPS Hide Login. Other plugins also allow you to change the login URL.

Another way you can secure your site is to limit login attempts. By limiting the login attempts, you can ward away bots and their related IPs. Limit login blocks IPs if it sees a pattern.

Obviously, you can achieve limiting login and login URL change manually, but that would require a lot of technical expertise to execute.

6. Use SSL and HTTPS

Securing your communication between the server and the end-user is crucial. Most businesses think that if they are not accepting credit cards, there is no need to secure lines.

To secure lines, you need to install SSL certification on your site. Once done, it will run your site over HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure(HTTPS).

To enable it, you need to visit your WordPress hosting backend. Most hosting providers offer free SSL certificates to their customers; otherwise, it is set to pay. In case you do not want to pay for it, there is another free option that you can use: Let’s Encrypt.

So, how do SSL certificates protect your site? Let’s list below:

  • Security
  • Trust and Credibility
  • SEO
  • Improved referral data
  • No chrome warnings
  • Improved performance

7. Harden wp-config.php file

One of the main WordPress files is the wp-config.php file. It includes key aspects of your site which directly affect WordPress security. For example, it contains security keys and database login information. If these get leaked, then your whole site can be compromised.

That’s why you need to protect it. 

  • Change the default location of the wp-config.php file from /public HTML folder to somewhere else.
  • Update security keys every few months and always after doing the migration.
  • Make sure that the wp-config.php file permissions are set to 440 or 400. By default, it is set to 644, which means that other users on the site can read the file — which is not desirable.

8. Hide WordPress Version

The WordPress version can also reveal a lot about your site. The information is only useful for developers or administrators. However, if the information is left public, hackers can utilize it to gain access to your system. That’s because hackers can easily determine that you are not running the latest WordPress version and start using exploits that work against unpatched systems.

To remove the version detail, you need to edit the functions.php file. Simply open it and add the following code.

function wp_version_remove_version() {
    return '';
    }
    add_filter('the_generator', 'wp_version_remove_version');

If you are not comfortable editing the theme’s function, then it is advisable to ask the developer for help. You can also use the perfmatters plugin as it makes the changes with just one click. 

9. Utilize WordPress Security Plugins

Security plugins can help you harden your site’s security. These security plugins are created to simplify the process of protecting the site. Many companies are offering excellent security plugins. You are free to choose anyone. However, our recommendation would be any of the following:

Each of the above plugins comes with a plethora of feature sets, including the ability to enforce strong passwords, two-factor authentication, malware scanning, WordPress security easy update, IP whitelisting and blacklisting, security firewalls, malware scanning, and much more!

10. Harden Database Security

The WordPress database is also a crucial part of your site. To protect it, you need to rename the database table prefix. Basically, try to change the default wp_ to more like a random string, 23xp_ or 12px — This will change the database name from wp_databasename to 23xp_databasename.

You also need to make sure that the database name is not matching to your site’s name as it will make it easy for hackers to guess the database name.

11. Make Backups

Even with tons of preparations and execution, things can go haywire. The same is true for security. The best way to counter unforeseen scenarios is to have backups. If you are using a good hosting platform, then they will backup your site themselves. However, it is also advisable to back your site yourself whenever needed.

Conclusion

WordPress security is a huge topic. In this post, I tried to give you a good head start to protecting your site against malicious actors. Also, securing your site is an ongoing process which means that you need to revisit your site’s security from time to time. If you are a serious business about your customer’s data, then it is always advisable to invest in a hosting that also cares about security from the onset.

We at Vebsiko® Hosting are serious about security! You can check out our plans here.

So, what security parameters are you going to fix after reading the article?

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