Make your business website more secure and less susceptible to being hacked or exploited with these tips on how to secure your WordPress website.
Many companies today rely on WordPress to claim their own space on the Internet. For many years now, WordPress has been a platform for both businesses and individuals.
WordPress, in fact, is one of the top Content Management Systems (CMS) in the world. There is no question that it is an excellent choice for beginners and experts in the industry alike. It has great features and has powerful Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
As an incredibly popular CMS, WordPress is exposed to high risks. The success of any application catches the attention of many hackers all over the world. Hackers will try to infiltrate the system and exploit whatever data they may find onsite.
According to Hackmageddon’s “June 2019 Cyber Attacks Statistics“, malware attacks are the most common form of cyber-attack on websites today. Of particular note is ransomware, which accounted for 37.4% of all website attacks in May 2019.
Other forms of attacks that can be directed against your website include account hijacking attempts, cyber-espionage, script injections, brute-force attacks, DDoS attacks, and more.
Why You Should You Secure Your WordPress Website?
We know website security is important. But do we really have to take it so seriously?
Yes you should always take your WordPress security seriously. For business and website owners, any malicious attack on their WordPress site by exploit brings a question to their credibility and competence. Not to mention, recovering your website can cost a lot of money – money that could have been spent elsewhere within the business.
And it is for this reason that you need to think about website hardening, which is beefing up your site’s security by adding layers of protection to reduce the risk of website attack.
Cybersecurity experts also refer to website hardening as “defense in depth.” Multiple defensive mechanisms are set up to protect your site, so even if one measure fails, another layer is still active to thwart the attack.
And with that, here are eleven tips on how to (better) secure your WordPress website:
1. Keep Your Site Updated
There’s a big reason why content management systems (such as WordPress) release updates on a regular basis. The same goes for pieces of software, plugins, extensions, themes, and other applications.
For security purposes, it’s important to update your CMS along with any third-party components. A lot of these updates are designed to fill in gaps in security or patch up certain vulnerabilities that might have been discovered.
Remember, your server, Apache, and PHP must be up-to-date as well.
2. Reduce the Surface of Attack
Access to your site may be achieved through a number of ways: your control panel, your FTP/SFTP, hosting, database, and content management system are all entry points that might be exploited.
So you should harden your website access points. Only allow public access to public areas of your application, and deny everything else by default. This can be accomplished with server configuration rules, setting file and folder permissions, and through the use of a web application firewall.
3. Use Input Sanitization Techniques
Limit the kind of data a user can enter. By cleansing and scrubbing user input, you prevent them from exploiting possible security holes.
You can eliminate unwanted characters from the input, limit the maximum length or size, or limiting the use to just numbers or just letters.
As a rule, never trust the user and always accurately filter what is sent to your application. Accidental damage can be just as harmful as intentional damage.
4. Limit Log-ins
Some hackers may try to employ a brute force attack to hack your WordPress website. The best way to prevent a hack through this method is to enforce a login limit.
Install a WP limit login plugin to prevent attempts like this. This plugin works by blocking IP addresses that exceed the threshold you have set. For instance, you may set 3 failed login attempts before an IP address gets blocked. It is an easy yet effective way to prevent any unauthorized logins.
5. Remove Unnecessary Extensions or Components
Take away all plugins, themes, or apps that you are not using on your site. Delete them– disabling them is not the same as removing them.
Each additional piece of code in your application is a potential gateway for an attacker, so by limiting the number of dependencies, you also minimize the risk of an attack.
6. Have Granular Permission Control
You don’t have to give every team member or user administrative access. Restrict permissions only to certain designated people, and make sure you don’t give away privileges to other users that aren’t necessary.
So in the case of your site, you probably should only have a couple of admins, maybe a few editors. Authors or other contributors certainly should not have administrative privileges.
7. Use Multi-Factor Authentication
2FA measures help restrict access even further. 2FA stands for two-factor authentication. It simply means that for every login, you will be required to pass through two steps: first step is entering the password, second step is another factor.
2FA tools ask for a token of sorts after the initial authentication method. This second step can be a generated code sent to an authorized user’s mobile phone or some other similar measure. It can be an answer to a pre-selected question. This feature may be enabled by installing a Google authenticator plugin.
This simple measure can thwart many attacks simply by making sure that someone accessing your site is not just a random individual.
8. Use Secure Passwords
Using long and complicated passwords is your first step of defense against hackers.
- Do not use any information available to the public as your WordPress password. For instance, if your website is “http://johndoe.com,” do not use a password like “johndoe1”.
- Don’t use birthdays or home addresses either.
- Avoid using common passwords, such as password123, 1234567890.
- Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols to make your password extra secure.
There are password management tools (such as Password Generator) to help you employ strong unique passwords. Go ahead and enforce a minimum level of strength for your passwords– use a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and at least one special character.
It is also vital to regularly change your password every few months. For even added security, set an expiration date so passwords always stay strong and fresh.
9. Allow Secure Access Only
This is where your HTTPS comes into play. This layer of security ensures that all traffic is encrypted. This can be easily confirmed by checking for an unbroken padlock right there on the URL window just before the web address.
Secure access prevents direct access from public hotspots, and only allows access to restricted areas when using a secure channel such as a VPN or proxy. Make sure all your site administrators are accessing your business website from safe devices.
10. Reduce Verbosity and Exposure of Information
No need to get specific when someone enters a wrong username or password. So, instead of “Your password is incorrect”, the prompt should say something like “Login credentials invalid.”
Reducing verbosity in this manner can diminish the chance of a successful brute force attack just by introducing doubt about whether the username is correct or not.
In addition, sensitive data must not be written on application logs and neither should these logs be publicly accessible. This is the reason why you should be employing internal error codes– you can reduce the amount of information displayed while still allowing for easy debugging.
11. Monitor Your Website and Keep Up With its Log Activity
Remember, there’s no rest for the wicked. Make sure you scan through your logs to check for anomalies. Tampering with your files is one way by which hackers can harm your website.
To avoid this risk, make it a habit to track any changes that happen in your data. By installing plugins such as Sucuri or Wordfence, you will be notified of any changes if there are any. You can then review if this is a legitimate change or an unauthorized one. Be sure to install one of these two programs as an added layer of protection.
This way, you spot important information concerning application misconfiguration, malfunctions, attack attempts, and other important status information right away before it does any serious damage.
Bonus Tip: Make Backing up Files a Habit
There is truth in the saying, “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” If there is someone dedicated to hacking your website, there is a reasonable chance that they will eventually get in.
To mitigate this disaster-in-the-making, backing up your files is a must. You can never predict the intention of a hacker, and they might go on a cleanup spree and delete all of the relevant data you have accumulated over the years.
Having an off-site back up for your files is a must!
A Final Word on Website Hardening
While there is a risk in using a platform like WordPress, we’d like to point out that it’s still one of the best content management systems around, and protecting your website from hacking attempts is not impossible. The steps we outlined above are actually pretty good security tips– probably even more than what a typical WordPress user might do.
Web security issues are more common than you think, but by taking a more proactive stance when it comes to hardening your business website, cyber-attacks can be avoided.
One of the best ways to harden your website is through a web application firewall. When used in conjunction with good security habits like proper password management and limiting privileges, you’ve already secured your site, giving you the much-needed peace of mind to focus on your business.
Website security is something you should take seriously. As far as hardening and securing your website goes, we here are LOJO are always happy to help!
Go right ahead and request a free, no-obligation WordPress Security Checkup from our web security team, so we can have a look at your site and share with you our recommendations to better secure and harden your website.