One of the most important investments that should be made immediately after creating a website in WordPress is security. As unprotected WordPress sites are usually believed to be vulnerable to attacks, hardening a WordPress website should be seen as a necessary task soon after the website is created.
Unfortunately, many ignorant WordPress users see no need in hardening their website security until they begin a victim of cyber-hack . Some also wait until they get popular before hardening, popularity that may not be made possible by hackers.
What is WordPress Website Hardening?
WordPress hardening is the application of necessary security measures to a WordPress website, to protect it from website hackers.
Hardening a WordPress website will not need an expert, but some time and knowledge. You have the time, and the knowledge is what you will be learning in this article.
Types of WordPress Vulnerabilities and Threats
Most vulnerabilities explored to wreak havoc on WordPress websites are usually the user’s faults. Here are the most threatening recent attacks in WordPress.
- Brute Force Attack – Brute Force Attack involves the use of multiple trials and errors to correctly guess a password. The guesses are made using powerful algorithms that guess passwords according to some rules. Though difficult to execute, a Brute Force Attack has a success rate and is one of the most practiced threats in WordPress.
- DDoS Attacks – Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are enhanced forms of Denial of Service (DoS) attacks that work by sending voluminous requests to the website server simultaneously. Once the server receives more requests than it could handle, it becomes slow and finally crashes.
- Outdated WordPress/PHP versions – WordPress patches security vulnerabilities in new updates, which means users on the old versions are vulnerable to unpatched fixes.
- SQL Injection – SQL injection is one of the worst hacks to fall victim to. It is the act of manipulating SQL queries through a web form, such as contact forms and login forms. Although SQL injection has a low success rate, some amateur hackers still practice it, and sometimes, someone falls prey.
Benefits of WordPress Security
What are the advantages of a hardened site? When you take the right security measures on a WordPress site, here are the benefits you should expect:
- Optimize Performance: Hackers never break into a website for a good reason. DDoS attacks for example flood a website with traffic so legitimate users have no access. With good security measures, DDoS attacks can be prevented, hence, optimum performance.
- Avoid Google Penalty: When a website gets hacked, offensive content is usually published or malicious links injected. These may go against Google guidelines and subsequently lead to a penalty.
- Protect user information: Website users trust the website owner and give out their emails. Would it be good if the web owner paid back by leaving the website unprotected, and the users at great risk? Surely no.
Ways to Hardening WordPress website Security
Hardening a WordPress website is not a five-minute task like the WordPress installation. It is a process that goes on forever. The moment one refrains from securing the website, the website is dead.
Here are the steps that must be practiced while hardening a WordPress website’s security.
Update WordPress Frequently
The core WordPress and most of its themes and plugins are extremely safe and are no-go areas for hackers. However, hackers choose to find other minor vulnerabilities that they can exploit to compromise a website’s security.
In a certain study, it was discovered that 54% of all security vulnerabilities in WordPress are caused by outdated plugins, including the core WordPress, themes and important plugins.
This calls for frequent updates of the CMS. Apart from updating the WordPress CMS, the plugins, themes, and all installed extensions. The PHP and server must be the latest versions, and extremely secure.
Use, and Enforce Strong Credentials
Everyone likes to create easy to remember, specific passwords. These passwords are good and serve their purpose except that a hacker can easily attack it. Using Brute Force, these passwords can be cracked without many efforts.
To avert the dangers that might arise from the use of a weak password, you must use a strong password, and other users on the site are to also use strong passwords likewise.
To enforce the usage by other users in the site, a plugin like “Force Strong Passwords” does this perfectly.
Use a Web Application Firewall
Using a web application firewall makes it easy to identify and block out hackers before they get to reach a website, to cause harm. It does this by tracking out IP addresses, which is an identifier that has an attachment to every internet-enabled device. It checks if the IP address has been formerly used for malicious purposes, if it had, access to the website will be disallowed.
For a Web Application Firewall, Sucuri Firewall is a popular choice. Apart from filtering IPs, Sucuri Firewall also provides all-round security tips that make you spend fewer on other security tools that already cost a fortune.
Disallow Plugin Installations
Sometimes, users install plugins to complete an instant task without worrying or caring to know the lasting effects it could have on website security.
To achieve this, you should start by editing the config.php code or using a plugin.
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Use a Secure Protocol
The use of the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) makes a WordPress website more secure because every information that passed over SSL is has an encryption.
This is important when transporting sensitive information like credit card details, usernames, and passwords over the internet. Once the SSL implementation is available on a website, it loads with HTTPS instead of HTTP. Thus making the webpage more secured.
Use Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Enabling 2FA should be a mandatory process, as it is very effective in locking hackers out. 2FA involves providing another information, exclusively available to the users before they have the main login access.
With 2FA enabled, even a hacker with the username and password gets no access to the account. To use 2FA with WordPress, a 2FA plugin must be installed. Some popular WordPress plugins for 2FA include:
- Google Authenticator
- Rublon 2FA
Backup the Website Regularly
No matter how much effort is put into hardening WordPress security, you can not overestimate the importance of regular backups . A backup gives the relief. You have the assurance that you can recover all your website data safely if the website suffered from a hack.
It is very easy to backup WordPress, and there are instructions on how it could be backed up, available on the official WordPress website. If that looks burdensome, a plugin like BackupBuddy is highly recommended.
Some plugins backup the website every day, while others have to be manually configured.
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The above steps is vital to ensure WordPress security is no match for the pain that is if one falls victim to an attack. Many website owners assume their website is too small to fall prey, or hope they will never get hacked.
However, hackers would target the easiest and not the best. Instead of hoping one never gets hacked, why not try all the steps of hardening a website’s security and get an obvious increase in the level of security.
The iThemes Security plugin will handle most, if not all, of these for you (and then some). And it’s free. I’ve been using it for years.`