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How to Secure WordPress Site: Valuable Tips to Ensure Security

SEOSocial Outreach

21/08/2023

37

The benefits of securing your WordPress site

Before delving into how to secure WordPress site, you need to understand the benefits of these security procedures. Ensuring the safety of your website brings about the following benefits:

secure wordpress site

A secure WordPress site has many benefits

  • Protection from Cyber Threats: Security measures can safeguard your site from potential cyber threats, such as hacking attempts, malware injections, and DDoS attacks.
  • Maintaining User Trust: As users are more aware of online security, a secure website will instill confidence in your visitors. It will also assure that their data and personal information are safe while interacting with your site.
  • Smooth User Experience: A site that gains trust and confidence from users will naturally have a seamless user experience. Visitors on a secure site can comfortably browse without the fear of malicious content or scams.
  • SEO and Rankings: Great user experience will do wonders for a site, namely attracting more visitors and reducing bounce rates. These factors all play a role in your website’s search results rankings. This is why secure websites have a high potential to do well in SEO and enhance your online visibility.

Is WordPress secure?

WordPress has reached its status as one of the best CMS for good reasons. Generally, it is a secure platform, but the risks are always evident, depending on how you manage it. It is your responsibility to reduce the risks of attacks by reinforcing security measures and taking precautions.

It can be difficult because nearly half of the Internet runs on WordPress. So statistically, the platform is a frequent target for attacks. However, this is, by no means, WordPress’ fault, as there are numerous methods to protect yourself from being a target.

Common security issues of WordPress

The last thing you need to know before learning about how to secure WordPress site is the frequent issues that can affect your site’s security:

secure wordpress site

Beware of common website security problems

  • Outdated Software: Failing to update WordPress, themes, and plugins may allow hackers to exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Weak Passwords: Predictable passwords make it easier for attackers to gain unauthorized access.
  • Insecure Themes and Plugins: Using untrusted themes and plugins can introduce potential security risks.
  • Lack of Encryption: Without an SSL certificate, data transmitted between users and the site can be intercepted.
  • Brute Force Attacks: Attackers may try various login credentials repeatedly until they gain access.
  • SQL Injection: Unmonitored user input can lead to SQL injection attacks, allowing hackers to manipulate the site’s database.
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): XSS vulnerabilities enable attackers to inject malicious scripts into the site’s pages, affecting visitors or stealing data.
  • File Upload Vulnerabilities: Incorrectly configured file upload settings can allow attackers to upload malicious files to the server.
  • Inadequate User Permissions: Setting inappropriate permissions can give unauthorized users access to sensitive areas of the site.
  • Exposure of Sensitive Data: Leaking sensitive information through error messages, server responses, or publicly accessible files can be detrimental.
  • DoS Attacks: Denial of Service attacks overwhelm the server, making the site inaccessible to legitimate users.
  • Phishing: Attackers can mimic your site’s login page to trick users into revealing their credentials.
  • Insufficient Monitoring and Logging: Lack of proper monitoring and logging makes it challenging to detect and respond to security incidents.

How to secure WordPress site

Maintaining security for your WordPress site is no easy feat judging by the number of risks your site may face. In this section, you will find a series of tips ranging from general to advanced pointers to protect your website.

secure wordpress site

General tips to safeguard your website

General WordPress security tips

These general tips can help you reduce the risks of attacks on your WordPress site. However, these tips can only go so far, as they only scratch the surface of this content management system.

Update WordPress and PHP

Updating WordPress and PHP is a crucial step in securing your site and ensuring its optimal performance. Their latest versions may not bring about any notable changes, but they are still essential for your website’s overall functionality:

secure wordpress site

Install the latest updates timely to reinforce your website

  • Security Patches: Close security loopholes and protect your site from potential threats.
  • Bug Fixes and Improvements: Provide a better user experience for your visitors with timely fixes and patches.
  • Compatibility: Themes and plugins often rely on the latest versions of WordPress and PHP to function correctly. Outdated versions might lead to compatibility issues, causing certain features to break or not work as expected.
  • Performance: PHP is the scripting language that powers WordPress. New PHP versions generally offer performance improvements, making your site load faster and run more efficiently.

To update WordPress, log in to your dashboard, check for updates, and proceed with the update if available. Additionally, make sure to back up your site before updating and double-check all functions after.

For PHP, you will also see a notification on the WordPress dashboard. Then, you will need to head to your hosting account to update. If you do not have access to the account, contact your provider for more information.

Keep your login process secure

This sounds like a no-brainer, but this basic tip has to be on the list. Securing the login process is of utmost importance to maintain the security of WordPress sites.

The login page is the primary point of entry for administrators and users, making it the first line of defense. Strong security measures will help safeguard your site and sensitive data from the get-go.

  • Use strong passwords: Similar to your accounts elsewhere, having a strong password is vital for security. Make sure that it has uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers for good measure. Avoid using guessable passwords like “password”, or your name and birth date.
  • Enable two-factor authentication: Add an extra layer of security to the login process by requiring users to provide a verification code. This can potentially thwart unwarranted login attempts.
  • Set a limit for login attempts: Speaking of unauthorized logins, enforcing a limit within a specific timeframe can be a viable solution for brute force attacks.
  • Change the default login URL: By default, the login page of WordPress is located at “/wp-admin” or “/wp-login.php,” If most users know that, so do the hackers. Change the URL to a custom one to make it harder for attackers to find the login page.
  • Avoid the “admin” username: The only remaining login credential is your username, and it should be unique as well. Change it from the default “admin” to a name exclusive to your site or business.

Use trusted themes for your site

There are predominantly two types of themes available to install: official and nulled themes. While official ones are generally unproblematic, nulled themes are complete opposites. They are bootleg versions of the licensed themes, or in other words, illegally distributed.

However, they have a very strong appeal to users, especially newbies, thanks to their affordable price tags. When searching for website themes, be sure to stay vigilant and verify if they are safe to use.

It is possible to use a live demo to see the suitability of your themes. In case they are not, you may find alternatives from WordPress official repository or reputable marketplaces.

On another note, removing outdated themes and plugins is a wise move. Since you are not using them anyway, removing them will eliminate potential gateways for hackers to take advantage of.

Install SSL and use HTTPS

Your website is going to welcome visitors from a variety of locations. For that reason, reinforcing the connection between websites and browsers is an absolute must. SSL will encrypt data transmitted between your users and the server to protect sensitive information. Not only will it create a perfect impression on users, but it is also a ranking factor in SEO.

secure wordpress site

HTTPS is a vital website element for both security and SEO

With WordPress, you need to enable SSL, either manually or with the help of a plugin, more on that later. Afterward, obtain an SSL certificate from your hosting provider or other authorities. When your website’s URL displays https instead of http, you have successfully made the switch.

Use a firewall

Everyone must have at least heard about the term “firewall,” since it has been associated with web security for ages. The way it works is exactly what its name suggests. A firewall establishes a barrier between your network and others to prevent unwarranted traffic, reducing the risks of attacks.

You may employ a web application firewall (WAF) plugin to erase that direct connection. Before installing a firewall, though, you will need to weigh your options and choose the most suitable firewall types and plugins for your website.

Back up your WordPress site

You can never be too safe despite all the safety precautions. Creating a site backup periodically allows you to recover after potential attacks seamlessly and minimizes the damage. Fortunately, it is possible to automate the backup process with the help of plugins.

Do frequent security scans

This is a relatively general tip, but it is still an essential pointer on how to secure WordPress site. Think of it as a virus scan on your devices. Most of the time, it will detect no problem at all. Once in a while, though, you may find potential problems that you would not see without a scan.

Similar to the solutions above, you can enlist the help of plugins for these routine checkups. Regularly scanning your site will point out vulnerabilities and malware for timely repairs.

Install reputable security plugins

As you can see, plugins can be instrumental in keeping your WordPress site secure. Yet, choosing the appropriate plugins is another story.

First, list out all your website’s needs that require plugins. The purposes for plugins can range from security to performance and other aspects of a website. Once that is done, you can proceed to find the most preferable plugins to install.

secure wordpress site

Plugins are instrumental in website operations

These plugins offer a helping hand in implementing security precautions, giving you some much-needed help for otherwise strenuous tasks.

Advanced techniques to secure WordPress sites

With the general tips out of the way, it is time to dig deeper and explore what else you can do to ensure security for your WordPress websites. For some of the precautions listed below, you may have to require help from professionals. Make sure to seek help from reputable establishments since you will need to disclose some of your site’s information.

Make a safelist and blocklist for the admin page

This is one of the features of a web application firewall (WAF) plugin. It enables you to create a safelist of trusted IP addresses that can access the WordPress admin page. Simultaneously, establish something called a “zone lockdown rule” for your admin page. This essentially puts your admin page in a bubble that only specified IP addresses may enter.

There is another solution available. Refer to your .htaccess file at the root directory to limit access to your login page.

Turn off PHP error reporting

PHP error reporting is a helpful feature if you do not look too deeply into it. However, it becomes a rather significant security flaw of WordPress due to it showing your site’s weaknesses on the backend.

If we put aside the major flaw, the report is perfect for you to keep an eye on PHP scripts. Since you can learn about PHP errors from the report, the attackers will have little trouble accessing that same information.

secure wordpress site

Disable PHP reporting

To disable the reporting feature, edit your PHP file and add the following code:

error_reporting(0);

@ini_set(‘display_errors’, 0);

Eliminate special characters from user input

Ensure that user inputs are free of special characters to mitigate the risk of code injection attacks. By filtering user input, you minimize the chances of malicious code being executed on your site. A plugin can assist you with this procedure so you need not worry about digging through all the entries manually.

Specific areas on your website that require your attention regarding this are forms. It can be a contact form, payment form, newsletter signups, and even the comment section.

Manage user permissions

Most WordPress sites undoubtedly have more than one user account. Let’s say you have three, with each having full permissions on the site. If attackers target one account at random for a brute-force attack, they will have access to everything when succeeded. Assigning different roles appropriately to each user account will likely reduce the damage of a compromised account. You can choose from six pre-determined roles: super admin, administrator, editor, author, contributor, and subscriber.

secure wordpress site

Keep track of accounts with access to WordPress and their permissions

Keep track of user activity

Logging user activity allows you to address any problematic or suspicious activities from all accounts. As a precaution, it helps you respond swiftly to any suspicious activities and reinforce site security measures.

In an unfortunate event of an attack, you can refer to the activity log and find affected areas. This can save you valuable time for recovery and let you resume activity swiftly.

Disable editing in the WordPress dashboard

WordPress permits administrators to edit their files without much difficulty. On the surface, it is convenient for webmasters as they can quickly rewrite codes effortlessly.

In turn, attackers can do the same thing should they gain control of your user accounts. A plugin should be able to disable this feature easily, if not, you can do it manually.

Find the wp-config.php file and enter this code to prevent hackers from altering critical information on the site:

// Disallow file edits

define( ‘DISALLOW_FILE_EDIT’, true );

Avoid keeping the default database prefix

If these security measures have a pattern, it is changing all default configurations if possible. The database prefix begins with “wp_” and hackers can easily exploit this opening for a breach.

Patching this hole should be easy, all you need to do is change it to something else. Another good news is that there are plugins to do the job for you. It is the supreme choice compared to doing it manually because any configuration mistakes will be detrimental.

Disable the XML-RPC file

XML-RPC was once the protocol to help your WordPress sites interact with external web and mobile apps. After the implementation of REST API, the protocol sees significantly less usage. Unfortunately, that does not take away its capability to initiate attacks.

secure wordpress site

Remove XML-RPC files to eliminate more threats

This technology is an extremely proficient catalyst for brute-force attacks, letting hackers input hundreds of commands. It is also not as safe as REST API, which explains its inferiority.

So, if XML-RPC is not necessary for your site, consider removing it altogether. Check if your site is employing the technology before using your security plugin to disable it.

Hide your WordPress version

One of the basic tips was updating your WordPress to its latest version. It is difficult, however, to stay on top of things at all times, so you may not be able to install the update immediately.

Your WordPress version number is relatively public information, at least for professionals. If individuals with malicious intent find out that your site is vulnerable, they will turn their attention toward you.

In order to fly under the radar if you are running an outdated version, you can hide the indicator. Tinker with PHP files if you wish to do so by yourself or install a plugin, whichever is feasible.

Move to a different web host

The final solution is also the absolute last resort for security issues. Preemptive methods can only take you so far if your hosting environment is dangerous.

Keep your eyes peeled for potential cyberattacks on your sites and others with the same provider. If it reaches an alarming number, consider moving your site to a less hostile space.

secure wordpress site

Website migration may seem excessive but it is a viable solution for website security

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a hosting provider with four notable ones being: web hosting type, security, features, and support. Remember, unless it is critical, give the other solutions a try before opting to migrate your website.

Learn more: The comprehensive guide for beginners about bounce rate.

Final thoughts

On Digitals hope that you can learn a thing or two about how to secure WordPress site from the article. Security is an indispensable aspect of a successful website, so you must maintain a safe online environment for both yourself and your visitors. Remember, safeguarding your site is an ongoing process, so regularly update your measures to stay ahead of evolving threats.

Do you want to know more about website design? Check out more of these articles on our website. If you are looking for a capable digital marketing agency in Vietnam, On Digitals can provide a helping hand with our digital marketing services and more. Contact On Digitals today for an effective marketing campaign tailored to your needs.


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